and the Tories
by Benson J.
The Tories of the Revolution were the most bitter and annoying foes of
the patriots who were struggling for their independence. The relation of
the Whigs and Tories was that of belligerents in a civil war—cruel and
General Philip Schuyler, whose sleepless vigilance acquired for him the
title of "the Eye of the Northern Department," was the terror of the
Tories in Northern New York, from Sir John Johnson down to Joe Bettys.
Schuyler was, for a long time, commander of the Northern Department. In
1781 he was not in military command. He lived at his country-seat at
Saratoga a part of the year, and the rest of the time at his fine
mansion situated in the southern suburbs of Albany. The British, under
Burgoyne, having destroyed his mansion at Saratoga, and that place being
exposed to incursions of the British and Indians, he made his residence
permanently at Albany.
Early in August, 1781, an attempt was made by some Tories and Indians to
capture him, that he might be used in exchange for some prominent
British prisoner, and also to get rid of the watchfulness of that
dreaded "Eye." In Saratoga lived a man named Walter Myers, who knew
Schuyler well. He had eaten at his table in Albany, and knew the
character of his house and its surroundings. Myers had joined the Tory
Rangers of Colonel Robert Rodgers—a famous partisan on the northern
frontier. The British authorities in Canada employed Myers, who had
become a captain under Rodgers, to seize General Schuyler, Governor
Clinton, and other prominent patriots in the region of the Hudson River,
as far down as Poughkeepsie. Myers was at the head of the party of
Tories and Indians above alluded to, who attempted to carry off
Schuyler. I will let the General tell the story of that attempt in the
following letter to General Washington, dated "Albany, August 8, 1781."
I copied it from the original:
"On Saturday, the 29th, while with the commissions for detecting
conspiracies, I received information that a certain Captain Myers,
of Rodgers's Rangers, from Canada, lurked in the vicinity of this
place, with an intent to take or assassinate me. This corroborated
intelligence given to General Clinton by a person escaped from
Canada. On the Monday following I was informed by a Tory (whose
gratitude for favors received surmounted the influence of his
principles) that a reward of 200 guineas had been offered by the
government in Canada to bring me there.
"On Sunday last, Major McKinstry wrote me by express from Saratoga
that a party under Captain Jones had ambushed some time about
Saratoga, that he had certain intelligence that I was their
object, and that another party was down here with the same
intentions. I took every precaution, except that of requesting a
guard from General Clinton.
"Last night, about nine o'clock, Myers, with about twenty others,
made the attempt. He forced the gate of a close court-yard, and
afterward my kitchen door, from which servants, who had taken
alarm, flew to their arms, and by a gallant opposition at the door
of my house, afforded me time to retire out of my hall, where I
was at supper, to my bedroom, where I kept my arms. After having
made prisoners of two of the white men, wounded a third, and
obliged the other to make his escape out of the house, some
surrounded it, and others entered it. Those in the quarter exposed
to my fire immediately retired. Those who had got up into the
saloon to attempt, I suppose, the room I was in, retreated with
precipitation as soon as they heard me call, 'Come on, my lads!
surround the house; the villains are in it.' This I did to make
them believe that succor was at hand, and it had the desired
effect. They carried off two of my men, and part of my plate. The
militia from the town and some of the troops ran to my assistance,
and pursued the enemy, but too late to overtake them."
Thirty years ago, Mrs. C. V. R. Cochrane, of Oswego, the youngest child
of General Schuyler, told me the story substantially as it is told here.
Her father also related that when the family fled up stairs from the
hall, in affright, the baby was left behind in the cradle. Mrs. Schuyler
was about to rush down stairs for the child, when the General
interposed, saying, "Your life is more valuable." Her daughter
Margaret, then about twelve years of age, hearing this, ran down for the
baby, snatched it from the cradle, and started up the stairs with it. An
Indian threw a tomahawk at her. It grazed the infant's head, cut a hole
in Margaret's dress, and lodged in the mahogany stair rail. That infant
became Mrs. Cochrane, and Margaret became the wife of Stephen Van
Rensselaer, the Patroon, at Albany. The mansion yet stands; and well up
the stairway may be seen the scar made by the keen blade of the tomahawk
in the rail.