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A Brief Biography of Lt.-Col. Cornelis van Dyck, 1740-1792
His Family and Early Life
The Canadian Campaign - 1775/1776
The Relief of Fort Stanwix - 1777
Valley Forge and Monmouth - 1778
The Onondaga Raid - 1779
Yorktown - 1781
The End of the War - 1783
After the War
References mentioning Lt.-Col. Cornelis van Dyck
Lt.-Col. Cornelis van Dyck (to use the Dutch form of his first name) was baptized in Schenectady, New York, on 3 October 1740. He was the son of physician Cornelis van Dyck and his second wife Margaret Bradt. He married Thanna (familiarly Tannaka) Yates on 20 February 1762. She was the daughter of Joseph Yates and was born (baptized?) on 29 April 1739.
He must have been early versed in the military art since he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the militia on 22 March 1760 and was promoted to Captain in 1762. According to a display at the Schenectady Historical Society he was active in the Sons of Liberty demonstrations in the turbulent years prior to the Revolution.
A. W. Lauber summarizes his revolutionary career in the following words: "throughout the Revolution he had an honorable military career and was especially valuable on the frontier."
Perhaps his family background contributed to his value as a frontier leader. His father was of purely European descent. However, his father's first wife was 1/4 Mohawk and the second wife (Cornelis van Dyck's mother) was 1/16 Mohawk. So Cornelis, being 1/32 Mohawk and having older half-siblings who were 1/8, must have had easy access to the nearby Indian castles during his youth. This developed his skills in dealing with the natives. [top]
On 27 May 1775 he was appointed Captain of the militia by the Committee of Safety of Albany County. The salary commensurate with this post was 6 pounds per month. On 29 May he was given orders for recruiting a company for the defense of Fort Ticonderoga, and on 28 or 29 June he was commissioned Captain by the provincial congress and assigned to the Second New York line.
On the 13th of July 1775 orders were sent from General Schuyler to Captain van Dyck to march his company immediately to Lake George. But at this time both he and his first lieutenant were absent recruiting. The committee therefore advised the company to proceed to Lake George on the following day under the command of Lt. Lansing. But from the minutes of the committee we find that the members of the company refused to march without their captain. The committee therefore sent an express requesting Capt. van Dyck to return to Schenectady to lead the men. A letter was sent to General Schuyler advising him of the reason for the delay.
He served with distinction under General Montgomery during the Canadian campaign in the fall of 1775. The Regiment took part in the battles of St. Johns, Montreal, and Chambly in September through November 1775. But the regiment was in garrison at Chambly covering the lines of communication when Montgomery was directing the siege and assault of Quebec. After that brave officer was killed in the assault upon Quebec on New Year's Eve, 1776, Capt. van Dyck served during the remainder of the campaign as a military aide-de-camp.
He returned to Schenectady and on 7 May 1776 was elected a
member of the Committee of Safety. He was commissioned a Colonel
of the New York militia on 1 July 1776. But, on 21 November 1776,
he was commissioned a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Continental Army
and was assigned to the First New York Line. This "Second
Establishment" First New York was constituted from those who
had served in Canada to give them precedence in the Army lists.
During this year he was at one time acting as commandant at Fort
On 21 August 1777 he was a member of a council of war held at
German Flats under the presidency of General Benedict Arnold. The
regiment helped raise the siege of Fort Stanwix under the command
of General Arnold. The regiment remained in garrison at Fort
Stanwix and various other smaller forts up and down the Mohawk
Valley until November. Then it went into winter quarters in
Schenectady. Thus the First New York Regiment missed the battle
of Saratoga and the defeat of Burgoyne.[top]
In late March 1778 Gen. George Washington ordered the regiment to join him at Valley Forge. It left Albany in early April and arrived at Valley Forge 5 May 1778. There it mounted a picquet guard post at Cuckold's Town, three miles to the southwest of the main camp. During the battle of Monmouth (28 June 1778) the First New York was on the left flank and took a spirited part in the action. Lt.-Col. van Dyck was placed in charge of the burial detail the next day after the British slipped away. His report is the basis of the casualty figures cited for that battle made famous by Molly Pitcher.
That summer the regiment provided garrisons on both sides of the Hudson. In October it was decided that the regiment should return to the upper Mohawk Valley. The regiment arrived at Fort Schuyler (Stanwix) in early December 1778. Col. van Schaick returned to Albany, leaving the command of the regiment to Lt.-Col. van Dyck until the next April. [top]
In February 1779 an outlying fort was built at the Oneida Castle. This was called Fort van Dyck and garrisoned through April.
None of the officers or men of the First New York Regiment appear on the roster of the Sullivan expedition of May through November 1779. However, Col. Goose van Schaick, commander of that regiment, led a raid against the Onondagas in April of 1779 which preceded Sullivan's expedition. He left Fort Stanwix and in a march of 180 miles in five and a half days destroyed the Onondaga Castle of about 50 houses, took 37 prisoners, killed between 20 and 30 warriors, picked up 100 muskets, and returned without losing a man. For this achievement Col. van Schaick, his officers, and the soldiers, were voted the "Thanks of Congress" on 10 May 1779. He was in command at Albany during the period of Sullivan's expedition. [top]
The First New York Regiment was at the siege of Yorktown. Lt.-Col. Cornelis van Dyck and the Marquis de Lafayette were officers-of-the-day there for 29 September 1781. On the storming of the redoubts late in the afternoon of 14 October 1781 the regiment was divided to excite a spirit of emulation. One half was committed to the French under Baron de Viomesnil and the other half to the Americans under the Marquis Lafayette. These troops assaulted the works with such rapidity and daring that the redoubts were carried with inconsiderable loss. [top]
He continued in the Continental Army after the surrender at Yorktown. By the Resolution of Congress of 30 September 1783 he was brevetted to the rank of Colonel. This rank was held but a short time since General Washington ordered the army disbanded on 3 November 1783.
He was with the Army on 8 June 1783 since he signed a discharge then for John Peters, a private with seven years' service. However, he does not appear to have been with those who congregated in Fraunces Tavern on 4 December 1783 for Washington's farewell to his officers. Instead, his presence at a meeting of St. George's Lodge of Freemasons in Schenectady on 6 December 1783 has been documented.
His services during the Revolution as a militia officer, civil official, and Continental Army officer span the period from before the Battle of Bunker Hill to the disbanding of the army. The scenes of his service spanned the territory from Canada in north to Virginia in the south. He was an original member in the Society of the Cincinnati and endorsed his name on the parchment roll of the Society.
T. W. Egly, Jr., in his history of the First New York says:
Over the eight years of its existence, the First New York was to enjoy a reputation as one of the best drilled and disciplined regiments in the Army.
... this Regiment was not surpassed by any in the Army for full Ranks, or thorough Discipline.
... for extended periods Colonel Van Schaick was compelled to
be in Albany, away from the regiment, devoting his attention to
the affairs of command in the northern department. [top]
He returned to peaceful pursuits in Schenectady. His fellow citizens demonstrated their esteem for this old soldier by electing him to represent Albany County to the New York legislature in 1788. His name appears on the half-pay roll of the army.
He was a charter member of St. George's Lodge of Freemasons in Schenectady. He is named as the junior warden in the original charter dated 14 September 1774. He is noted as being present on 14 December 1779 and at several meetings between 6 and 20 December 1783. He was the master of the lodge in 1787 and 1788.
He appears as the head of family in 1790 Census of Schenectady. The family comprised one male over 16 and two under 16, two females, and four slaves. Peggy Jackson, former slave of Tannaka van Dyck, is known from her will probated 11 August 1835.
Congress initially promised to each Lt.-Col. 450 acres at the end of the war. New York added generously to this amount and he was allocated a total of 2,700 acres of former Indian land. On 24 July 1790 he received a bounty land warrant for this land in partial payment for his services during the Revolution. On this record he is termed Lt.-Colonel. He apparently did not use his brevet rank of full Colonel. He sold this land to Levi Jerome on 20 October 1791.
He and his wife had no children baptized in either Albany or Schenectady, and various references state that he died without issue. His will, dated 19 October 1791 was probated in the Schenectady Surrogate's Court on 2 June 1829. This will mentions brothers, nephews, and a niece, but no children. The will was given to his nephew Henry van Dyck by his widow. He kept the will until 1829 when called upon to testify in an action filed by other heirs of Cornelis van Dyck against Eva Wendell, who was thought to have the will. So his will was probated in 1829, even though all his legacy to his wife had been bequeathed in 1812 to Eva Wendell. Tannaka (Yates) van Dyck's will is dated 4 August 1812. The date of probate is not known. She left the bulk of the estate to Eva Wendell who was the daughter of Eva (Yates) Peek, Tannaka (Yates) van Dyck's sister, and wife of Jan Peek. Neither will mentions any slaves.
Lt.-Col. Cornelis van Dyck died on 9 June 1792 and is buried in Vale Cemetery in Schenectady. The tombstone states his age as 51 years and 9 months. His wife died 16 June 1813, aged 73 years, 2 months, and 23 days. The grave of this venerable couple is on the right as you enter from State Street, in the plot of the First Reformed Church, about 300 feet from the State Street entrance.
In 1920 the 'Col. Cornelius van Dyck' chapter of the Sons of
the American Revolution and St. George's Lodge F. & A. M.
mounted a bronze plaque on the old tombstone briefly noting the
principle achievements of his military and civil careers. [top]
1. John Sanders, A Centennial Address Relating to the Early History of Schenectady, Albany, 1879, pages 37, 120, 294
2. Austin A. Yates, Schenectady Co., N. Y., Its History to the Close of the Nineteenth Century, 1902, page 94
3. Howell and Munsell, History of the County of Schenectady, N. Y., 1886, page 40
4. Willis T. Hanson, A History of Schenectady during the Revolution, 1916, pages 22, 26, 52, 93, 109, 234-235
5. Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of the Officers of the Continental Army, 1914, pages 43, 556, 669
6. W. S. Thomas, Members of the Society of the Cincinnati, 1929, page 151
7. Jonathan Pearson, Contributions for the Genealogies of the Descendants of the First Settlers of ... Schenectady, 1873, page 299
8. Joseph N. van Dycke, "Notes on the van Dyck Ancestry," Dutch Settlers' Society of Albany Yearbook of 1956-1958, page 13
9. Amasa J. Parker, Landmarks of Albany County, 1897, page 74
10. Howard A. McConville, private communication to James Churchyard, 17 March 1973
11. M. F. Hoyt, Index of Revolutionary War Pensions, 1966, page 1197
12. New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Volume 73, page 54 (marriage record of Cornelis van Dyck and Tannaka Yates)
13. Ibid, Vol. 40, page 15 (record of bounty land sale)
14. Almon W. Lauber, Orderly Books of the Fourth New York Regiment, 1778-1780, the Second New York Regiment, 1780-1783, by Samuel Tallmadge and others with diaries of Samuel Tallmadge, 1780-1782 and John Barr, 1779-1782, published by the University of the State of New York, 1932 pages 25, 32, 594, 613, 618, 679
15. John P. Schuyler, Institution of the Society of the Cincinnati. . .of the New York State Society, 1886, reprinted 1998, page 323
16. Public Papers of George Clinton, Vol II, page 912, Volume IV, pages 417 and 492. These contain copies of letters written from Fort Schuyler on matters relating to the Indians there. These letters were written by Lt.-Col. van Dyck. They are dated 23 December 1778, 18 January 1779, and 3 July 1780.
17. Albert Hazen Wright, The Sullivan Expedition of 1779, Regimental Rosters of the Men, 1965
18. Mark Mayo Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, David McKay Co., page 1140-1141
19. Frederic Gregory Mather, The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut, reprinted by the Genealogical Publishing Co., 1972, page 95 (discharge dated 8 June 1783, signed by Adjutant Corn. v. Dyck, Lt.-Colo.)
20. St. George's Lodge in the Revolution, printed by order of the lodge, 1917, copy in the Sons of the Revolution library, Glendale, CA.
21. T. W. Egly, Jr., History of the First New York Regiment 1775 - 1783, Peter E. Randall, publisher, 1981
22. Alexander C. Flick (ed.), Minutes of the Albany Committee of Correspondence 1775-1778, Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Correspondence 1775-1779, State of New York, Albany, 1925
23. Anon, The Balloting Book and other Documents Relating
to Military Bounty Lands of the State of New York, Packard
& Van Benthuysen, Albany, 1825