Thursday, May 12, 2016

Snake Hill - Ceremonial Site for the Continental Army?

Tuesday, June 3, 1783 - Snake Hill, New Windsor, New York

On this date, Andrew Campbell was discharged from the Continental Army at Snake Hill.

The relationship of Andrew to Joel Campbell (namesake of this blog) is not proven, but very likely. Andrew was in the 1775 Hanover militia company of Captain Peter Hill.  Joel and many of his brothers lived in Hanover at this time.  Joel's brothers, Nathan and Samuel, both "turned out" as minutemen in the Hanover company of Captain William Jackson.  In 1776, Captain Jackson obtained an officer's commission in the regular army, and Andrew Campbell enlisted in his company. The close proximity of these Campbells gives some credence to a relationship.

Andrew was a soldier for all eight years of the War for Independence.  His regimental duties took him from New York's Finger Lakes to the battlefields of Yorktown, Virginia. In 1783, his regiment was part of the last cantonment of the army at New Windsor, New York. He recalled this period thirty seven years later when he was deposed for a pension at the age of seventy three. He stated that he was discharged by the commander of the New York Second Regiment, Colonel Phillip Van Cortlandt, "... at Snake Hill and received a discharge signed by George Washington."

The encampment was at the southwest foot of Snake Hill. Perhaps this is what Andrew meant when he described the location of the discharge. However, there were many other ceremonial spots near the encampment for discharge, such as the parade grounds or the temple. If the discharge had been at one of these locations he would have certainly named it as such.  I tend to believe that Andrew is stating that the discharge occurred on the top of Snake Hill.  It is a grand place and could easily be envisioned as a ceremonial location for the army.

Dewitt map of New Windsor Cantonment.  The settlement of New Windsor on the Hudson River is shown on the right.  The encampment of the NY, NJ, and NH regiments (red line) was west of a swamp.  The current New York Thruway (I-87) passes just to the west of this location. Two MA regiments were encamped east of the swamp (purple line).  Just up the hill to the east of them was the Temple of Virtue (green circle).  Snake Hill is shown to the northeast of the camp, but the ridge that comprises it extends all the way down to the encampment (see terrain map below). Washington's Headquarters is shown by the red square in the upper right hand corner.

Current terrain map.  Ridge of Snake Hill extends down to encampment. ©2016 Google

Snake Hill rises 700 feet above the Hudson River.  It drops off precipitously to the east, giving unobstructed views of the Hudson River, the cities of Newburgh and New Windsor, Storm King Mountain to the south and the mountains of Beacon and Breakneck to the east.

View from Snake Hill to southeast.  Hudson River flows around Storm King mountain.

A small parking area off Union Ave leads up a gated road to the overviews.

Signage at gated road to Snake Hill off Union Avenue.

Same view as above, but on a rainy fall day.
View east to Beacon.

With these panoramas as a backdrop, Corporal Andrew Campbell received a certificate signed by Colonel Van Cortlandt, Major (Nicholas) Fish, and General George Washington.  He also ”at the same time received the badge of merit, being a stitch of worsted – brown and yellow- which he wore on his left arm three years.”  The Badge of Merit was a recognition of long service. The award was a chevron, one for every three years of service, worn on the left sleeve.  Its colors matched the facings of the recipient's corps, meaning that Andrew sported a brown coat faced with yellow.  The colors of the Second Regiment's uniform may have evolved over time, mainly due to the availability of fabric of a particular color.  At the regiment's provincial creation, it appeared to wear blue coats faced in red.  The 1781 depiction, as the regiment would have appeared at the Battle of Yorktown (shown below), is brown faced with green. [the source is from signage on the Rochambeau Trail in Greenburgh, NY]. Whatever the colors, Andrew received two chevrons, now lost to history.

Depiction of private in Second New York Regiment in 1781.

Andrew's certificate is recreated below based on surviving certificates.

By His Excellency
General and Commander in Chief of the Forces of the
United States of America
THESE are to CERTIFY that the Bearer hereof

Andrew Campbell, Corporal

in the    Second N York    Regiment, having faithful-
ly served the United States   Seven Years and
6 months    and being inlisted for the War only, is
hereby DISCHARGED from the American Army.

GIVEN at Head-Quarters the

G Washington

By His Excellency’s

J. Trumbull Jun[Washington’s secretary]

REGISTERED in the Books
of the Regiment,

N Fish Major  Adjutant

THE above     Andrew Campbell
has been honored with the BADGE OF MERIT for    Eight
Years faithful Service.

P. Cortlandt Colo.

[On Reverse Side]

Head-Quarters, June  3rd   -1783
THE within CERTIFICATE shall not avail the
Bearer as a Discharge, until the Ratification of the definitive
Treaty of Peace; previous to which Time, and until Proclama-
tion thereof shall be made, He is to be considered as being on



Andrew placed the certificate in the hands of Samuel Patterson of Livingston Manor, New York for safe keeping.  Unfortunately, the house burned, and another priceless family heirloom was lost.