The Worthy but Troubled Continental Service of Capt. Barent J. Ten Eyck

Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge (Library of Congress)

With the clash of arms that began the American Revolution, Capt. Barent J. Ten Eyck, of the Albany County Militia, served as courier for the Committee of Safety, Correspondence, and Protection in Albany, NY. The first week of May 1775, the “worthy” Ten Eyck delivered a letter of solidarity to the Massachusetts Committee of Safety in Cambridge.[1] A week later, following the fall of Fort Ticonderoga to Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, he delivered the Albany Committee’s written concerns of a British counter attack to the Committee of Safety in New York City.[2] On June, 21, 1775, the Committee of Safety, Correspondence, and Protection of Albany resolved that Ten Eyck again be engaged to deliver letters. This time it would be for both the Provincial Congress in New York City and the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.”[3]

Finally upgraded from messenger duties, Ten Eyck was named the first adjutant of the newly formed 2nd New York Regiment, commanded by Col. Goose Van Schaick, on June 30, 1775.[4]

On July 19, 1775, Barent J. Ten Eyck was commissioned third captain of the new 2nd New York Regiment. A replacement for one Peter Roseboom, who declined his appointment, Ten Eyck was given command of the third company, which was recruited in Albany County.[5]

Following the disastrous assault on Quebec on December 31, 1775, the Congressional forces were getting pretty thin. Back in November 1775, the New York regiments in Canada had extended their enlistments until spring,[6] but they were woefully under strength. The enlistments of the Connecticut men had just expired and the Green Mountain Boys had already gone home.

The Continental Congress and the Colony of New York did what they could to stop the flow of troops out of Canada. In early January 1776, the 2nd New York’s field officers were pulled from their regiment and assigned to a new un-numbered battalion.[7] Known as Van Schaick’s Battalion, this regiment is often confused by researchers to be the old 2nd New York from 1775, which was still on the books. Serving in the Lake George/Champlain area (known as “the Lakes”) and out of the Saratoga barracks, Colonel Van Schaick’s new battalion was nearly all new recruits, but a number of the officers were from the 1775 2nd New York, whose commissions were not extended beyond 1775.[8]

Congress had also resolved to allow New York to form what became known as Nicholson’s Battalion. Commanded by a former captain from the 3rd New York, Col. John Nicholson, it was an under-strength regiment made up of veterans of the previous campaign, still in Canada, whose extended enlistments were expiring in the spring of 1776.[9]

Ten Eyck’s old 2nd New York company was one of those still on the books. Like the others it was under strength, but it was still there, including all its officers.[10] Come February 28, 1776, Ten Eyck himself was rated the third highest captain the New York Line stationed in Canada.[11] Considering the Line started out with over forty captains the previous spring, this was quite an evaluation. In fact, for the initial arrangement of Nicholson’s new regiment, per a general order from Lt. Col. Frederick Weisenfels, Major of the New York Brigade, Ten Eyck was to command the first company. The officers named in the arrangement, so inclined to serve, were to apply for enlisting orders. [12]

There is no official explanation for this, but Ten Eyck was, ultimately, not included in the final arrangement of the new battalion.[13] Instead, on or before April 24, 1776, he was appointed to captain a schooner as part of the Continental Army’s St. Lawrence River Squadron. He and his schooner were ordered to Pointe aux Trembles to support the agent, Hector McNeil, and check on suspicious vessels.[14] However, the siege of Quebec was soon broken and things began to turn. Ten Eyck’s schooner was driven ashore on May 7, 1776, at Point au Plauton by the British brig HMS Martin and frigate HMS Surprise. Luckily he and his crew escaped ashore.[15] With that, Ten Eyck’s brief Continental Army “naval” career was over.

Since the original four New York Line units were no longer active, and there were no longer any positions in the two current infantry battalions (Nicholson’s and Van Schaick’s), it would be logical for Ten Eyck to get a position in one of the four new regiments being raised in accordance with the new establishment of the Continental Army ordered by Congress.[16] This did not happen. Like it has occurred for so many military officers throughout time, he was passed over and not included in the new arrangement. He did find himself, though, as the lieutenant colonel of something called the Albany Draft Militia.[17]

With the coming third establishment of the Continental Army, near the end of 1776, New York was looking to form five new regiments. They needed dedicated officers willing to serve for the duration of the war, and not the shorter one-year terms of the previous two establishments. So, on October 22, 1776, a meeting was held at Saratoga with the Albany Committee of Safety, along with Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler and Lt. Col. Peter Gansevoort, to analyze the situation. In their report, they listed eight “officers who served in Canada & are not provided for.” Six of them were rated “v.g.” (very good), one was rated “good” and another was listed as a “drunkard.” That drunkard was Barent J. Ten Eyck.[18]

Obviously not being one to take things lying down, Ten Eyck petitioned Jacob Cuyler, a leading member of the Committee of Safety, Correspondence, and Protection in Albany, as to why he was passed over for the new arrangement. Cuyler describes this meeting in a letter to William Duer, New York Provincial Congressman and a member of the Committee of Arrangement:

Dear Sir:

The bearer hereof is Mr. Barent J. Ten Eyck, who has, in a very serious manner, applied to me why he was not on the last arrangement of officers for the State of New-York. I candidly told him that his character and conduct during the last campaign was of such a nature as that he could not with propriety be appointed as an officer, and that he had been too frequently drunk, and was too apt to pursue such a scandalous practice. He frankly acknowledged it was in a great measure too true, but begged of me to mention his name to some of my friends of the Committee of Arrangement, and has made me all the promises to a reformed life, and that he will accept of a company, which I believe he will soon be able to fill. He certainly is brave, and a very strict officer, and is remarkable to keep his men in the best order. His connexions are great and very well attached to the American cause. From those motives I am chiefly induced to comply with Mr. Ten Eyck’s request, to write you upon the subject, and leave it to the consideration of the Committee….[19]

Ten Eyck’s lobbying worked, and he got his wish. New York’s Committee of Arrangement resolved, on December 25, 1776, that Ten Eyck was appointed a captain in the new 1st New York, commanded by Col. Goose Van Schaick, his former commander from the old 2nd New York. The commission was back-dated to June 28, 1775, when he technically started, even though he was actually named captain on July 19, 1775. This gave Ten Eyck seniority within the New York Line. So, under the circumstances, it could not have gone any better for him.[20]

About three months later, things turned around again for Ten Eyck. After receiving a letter from Capt. John Copp of the 2nd New York, the Committee of Arrangement passed a new resolution that sent Captain Copp to the 1st New York and removed Capt. Ten Eyck from the 1st to the 2nd Battalion and gave him command of its fifth company.[21] There was no known explanation for this officer swap, but as it is likely that Colonel Van Schaick would have known of Ten Eyck’s alcohol problems, one has to wonder if he did not want to deal with the issue and arranged it.

If this supposition is true, Van Schaick’s concerns were valid. The unfortunate Ten Eyck once again drew the short straw. Instead of being stationed in the north with the 1st New York, near his home, the new 2nd New York, which was part of Enoch Poor’s brigade of the first division of the main Continental Army, was sent to winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.[22]

Ten Eyck was not with the regiment that long. On January 20, 1778, he wrote directly to General George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Army:

Sir,

As my Constitution has been so much impaired and Debilitated by the last three Campaigns so as to render me incapable of bearing the Fatigues of a fourth, I therefore in Justice to my Country and myself earnestly request your Excellency to discharge me from the duties of a Service which my health prevents me to perform—

Barent J. Teneyck Capt 2d Battn [23]

His request was endorsed by both Major Nicholas Fish and the regimental Paymaster.[24] It was approved, as records indicate Ten Eyck was out of the Continental Army on January 22, 1778. These records vary as to whether he resigned or was discharged,[25] but the above letter makes it clear he did resign.

Ten Eyck’s promise to reform after being labeled a drunkard, in 1776, is a classic response. It suggests the accusation was correct. For him, being essentially trapped at the Valley Forge encampment had to have been a living hell. Short of committing suicide, resigning because he was “impaired and debilitated” was probably his only option.

It was a tragic end to a career of a very worthy and capable Continental Army officer.

 

[1] Massachusetts Committee of Safety to the Committee of Safety, Correspondence, and Protection of Albany, May 7, 1775, Peter Force, ed., American Archives (Washington, D.C., 1837-53), 4th Series, 2:523-524.

[2] Albany Committee to the New York Committee, May 12, 1775, Force, American Archives, 4th Series, 2:605-606. William Bell Clark, ed., Naval Documents of the American Revolution (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964), 1:320. Meeting Minutes, May 12, 1775, Minutes of the Albany Committee of Correspondence 1775-1778 (Albany, NY: The University of the State of New York, 1923), 1:31.

[3] Resolution of the Albany Committee of Safety, Correspondence, and Protection, June 21, 1775, Minutes, 1:95.

[4] Berthold Fernow, ed., Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York (Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons and Co., 1853–1887), 15:13. Minutes, 1:120-121. Force, American Archives, 5th Series, 3:954.

[5] The New York Line on the Continental Establishment of 1775, Fernow, Documents, 15:528. Meeting Minutes, October 13, 1775, Minutes, 1:269-272. Ten Eyck is also listed as replacing Peter Vrooman.

[6] James Van Rensselaer, aide-de-camp, Handwritten general order dated November 15, 1776, MacPherson, Quebec March, Miscellaneous Manuscripts, Montgomery, Richard, New-York Historical Society Library, Manuscript Department, New York, NY. At Montreal, in order to continue the campaign onto Quebec, Brig. Gen. Richard Montgomery offers winter clothing to the troops willing to extend their enlistments six months until April 15, 1776.

[7] Resolution of the Continental Congress, January 9, 1776, Worthington C. Ford, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906), 4:43. Fernow, Documents, 15:46.

[8] Resolution of the Continental Congress, January 8, 1776, Ford, Journals, 4:40. Fernow, Documents, 15:45. Muster Roll of the Field, Staff, and other Commissioned Officers in Col. Goose Van Schaick’s Battalion…, December 17, 1776, Revolutionary War Rolls 1775-1783, War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, Records Group 93, (Washington: National Archives Microfilm Publications, M246), Roll 77, Folio 163.

[9] Resolution of the Continental Congress, January 8, 1776, Ford, Journals, 4:40. Fernow, Documents, 15:45. This resolution did not specifically name Nicholson.

[10] Capt. Barent J. Ten Eyck, Company Muster Roll, February 8, 1776, New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections, (N)M1524.

[11] General Schuyler’s List of Officers who served in Canada last Campaign, February 28, 1776, Calendar of Historical Manuscripts Relating to the War of the Revolution, in the Office of the Secretary of State (Albany, N.Y.: Weed, Parsons and Company, 1898), 2:37. A List of Officers of the 4 Regiments raised by New York in 1775, now in Canada, as they rank, February 28, 1776, Fernow, Documents, 15:77.

[12] General Orders, March 26, 1776, Doyen Salsig, ed., Parole: Quebec; Countersign: Ticonderoga, Second New Jersey Regimental Orderly Book, 1776 (Teaneck, NJ, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1980), 54-55.

[13] Memo from Quebec Headquarters listing officers in Col. John Nicholson’s Regiment, April 15, 1776, Revolutionary War Rolls, Roll 75, Folio 131. This document shows the alterations to the initial arrangement of officers in the regiment.

[14] William Bell Clark, ed., Naval Documents of the American Revolution (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969), 4:1244. A common opinion is that Ten Eyck’s schooner may have been the Isabella, which was one of the vessels under the command of Massachusetts’s Brig. Gen. Oliver Prescott. Force, American Archives, 4th Series, 3:1693-1694. Frances B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783, Reprint of the New, Revised, and Enlarged Edition of 1914, With Addenda by Robert H. Kelby, 1932 (Baltimore MD: Genealogical Publishing company, 1982), 451-452. In fact, Ensign Philip Ulmer, of the 25th Continental Regiment, after arriving in Canada following Montgomery’s defeat, was detached to command that schooner. He states in his federal pension file that the Isabella had eight guns and he commanded it on the St. Lawrence and Sorel Rivers until the defeat in Canada. Thereafter, he returned to the army, where he received a 1st lieutenant’s commission in the 1st Massachusetts Regiment in 1777. Pension application of Philip Ulmer (S.19963), (National Archives Microfilm Publication M804, Roll 2434), Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900, Record Group 15, National Archives Building, Washington, DC. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers, 553.

[15] Journals of HMS Surprise and HMS Martin, May 7, 1776, Bell, Naval Documents, 4:1432-1433.

[16] Resolution of the New York Provincial Congress, January 19, 1776, Fernow, Documents, 15:47.

[17] Rank of the Officers in the 5 N. Y. Continental Regiments in 1775, 1776, and 1777, Calendar, 2:51.

[18] Minutes of Meeting of the Committee with General Schuyler & Lt. Col. Gansevoort at Saratoga, October 22, 1776, Calendar, 1:503. “Not provided for” meant that the officer was passed over and did not receive a current commission.

[19] Jacob Cuyler to William Duer, December 14, 1776, Force, American Archives, 5th Series, 3:1221.

[20] Calendar, 2:8. Here, the “new” 1st New York was part of the newly formed 3rd Continental Army Establishment and “old” 2nd New York was part of the 1st Establishment. Rarely were officers, who missed time, given commissions back-dated to earlier service. Since the New York Line was started on June 28, 1775, this meant Ten Eyck now had seniority (baring rating within rank) as high as any New York captain could have.

[21] Resolution of the Committee of Arrangement for the State of New York, March 17, 1777, Calendar, 2:10.

[22] Valley Forge Legacy, The Muster Roll Project, last modified August 28, 2016, http://valleyforgemusterroll.org/muster.asp.

[23] Joseph Lee Boyle, Writings from the Valley Forge Encampment (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 2003), 4:36.

[24] Boyle, Writings from the Valley Forge Encampment, 4:36.

[25] Fernow, Documents, 15:191. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers, 536. List of officers erased from list on account of promotion, resignation, or death, Calendar, 2:43. Though undated, the list was in the book’s 1777 section about the Arrangement of the New York Continentals.

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18 Comments

  • Mr. Weaver, I’m curious; was Barent Ten Eyck related to Captain Tenedor Ten Eyck, Eighteenth U.S.Infantry of Ft. Phil Kearney/Fetterman Massacre fame? Tenedor Ten Eyck (1819-1905) was born in Freehold, NJ. He also had an alcohol problem and was court martialled for drunkenness on duty.

  • Steve,
    I have wondered that too. The Ten Eycks of Albany have been around a long time. In researching his birth and death, I ran into various roadblocks I hope to knock down in the future. I was not able to resolve it for the article. As I remember it, there was actually another Barent Ten Eyck, who was an Albany silversmith in the same era.
    As a point of consolation, I have heard his fellow captain in the 2nd New York (1775), Christopher P. Yates, is related to Capt. George W. Yates of Custer’s 7th Cavalry.

  • Phil:

    I enjoyed your succinct article. Prior to his miserable trip to Valley Forge, what part did Captain Ten Eyck play in the 1777 campaign with Colonel Philip van Cortlandt’s 2nd New York Regiment?

    Stephen Gilbert

  • Hey Steve,

    I am glad you enjoyed the article and that is a very good question.
    Since my sources had no specific details on this period, I did not venture down that road in order to complete the project. Though now, thanks to you (Why do we do this to each other all the time?), I am thinking maybe I should have.
    It is safe to presume that unless he and/or his company were on command somewhere, he clearly would have been involved with the 2nd New York at Saratoga, before traveling to Valley Forge. However, considering his obvious condition, that has to be a question. Besides, as you know, tracking individual companies is extremely difficult, as muster rolls were snapshots in time and any after-action reporting almost never mentions companies.
    So, there are always questions. Did you know there were at least some elements, if not more, of the 1st New York at Saratoga? I have read several references among the pension files that tend to suggest this very fact.
    One thing I did learn about Ten Eyck, after publishing the article, was found in the diary of 1st Lt. John Fassett Jr., of the Green Mountain Boys. On October 26, 1775, an officer’s meeting at Longueil decided to send Major Safford (GMB) and Captain Ten Eyck to Fort Chambly for cannon. Safford returned three days later with a 4-pounder following close behind. No further mention is made of Ten Eyck…

  • Steve,
    I took a look at the four National Archives’ copy of the muster rolls of Ten Eyck’s 2nd New York company from 1777-78. The first two show no locations. The third was completed in camp, on September 5, 1777, at a place called Loudon Ferry, near Stillwater, New York. The fourth and fifth were completed in January 1778, before and after Ten Eyck resigned at Valley Forge.
    The company was vastly under strength. It took a further hit when sixteen of men deserted over the summer of 1777. By the time Ten Eyck resigned, the fifth roll showed the company was down to two other officers, three sergeants, one drummer, and ten private soldiers on the books. A fourth sergeant and the company fifer had just deserted. So, clearly, with so few men, they could afford to lose their captain.
    The only Federal pensioner I was able to find among the members of the company was Pvt. Tobias Wygant (W.2203). His claim was that he was a corporal in the company and “at the capture of Bugoyne.” (Pensioners almost never cite Saratoga, Freeman’s Farm, or Bemis Heights, instead they usually just refer to “the taking of Burgoyne” or some such.) This would indicate the company was at the Battle of Saratoga.
    However, this would be a neat trick as Wygant was one of the sixteen who had deserted the previous summer. Now, he may have returned and even been promoted to corporal, as such things did happen in the Continental Army, but there appears to be no record of it.
    Nevertheless, with the company being near Stillwater and other records I am aware of, though not privy too, I think it is highly likely the 2nd New York took part in the Saratoga campaign of 1777.

  • My father’s family is mostly Ten Eycks and Elmendorfs. The family believed that it was Barent T. Ten Eyck who was the express rider. The Society of the Cinncinnati, which both my father and grandfather were members, apparently thought that this Barent then married Anna Hoffman from which union we are descended. Other records show Barent T marrying a Conklin and a Codwise. It is confusing, in part, because Barent T’s parents named two other sons who didn’t survive childhood Barent. And there were a lot of Barents in the family. The silversmith is a generation above. Barent T in one record was born in 1740 and died in 1810. There was another younger Barent T who was born in 1766 and died in 1796 which makes him a little young. i really enjoyed your article. In my ancestor’s defense, lots of officers got out of the winter in Valley Forge. I think Barent T went back to war later.

  • Jill,
    I definitely think “Barent T.” and “Barent J.” are the same guy. In period handwriting found on original documents, the letters I, J, and T can easily get readers confused. Once transcribed incorrectly, it goes forward thru time. In my research I do not specifically remember seeing “Barent T,” but I definitely remember finding him listed as “Barent I” in transcribed muster rolls, etc., when it was clearly meant to be “Barent J.” As a little aside to this little reply keep in mind that in 18th century alphabet samplers there is no “J” and they have to use the “I.” Confusing, isn’t it? And yes, I think he did go back to the militia in Albany, NY and might have seen some action against Loyalist and Indian raids, but with so many missing/vague records it just not clear. In this case, I chose not to deal with it, as I was only concerned about his Continental service.

  • Thank you for your response. I assumed it was a confusion of letters, t,j,l. There is still confusion in the records I have though, about when he was born. He is described as Captain, Adjutant, Lt Colonel in the Revolution. Also his brother Henry Ten Eyck was apparently a Captain, also on Washington’s staff.

    Your article brought to life a person I has only known about from genealogical records. Alcoholism is not uncommon in the family (they were called dipsomaniacs in the 19th century), although Barent seems to have prospered and had a successful marriage and numerous children. Thank you again for the article.

  • Jill, do you know that the Ten Eycks and the Gansevoorts were connected by various marriages? Herman Melville’s mother, you may know, was a Gansevoort. Melville did not know he was kin to Benjamin Franklin. Did you know that as a Ten Eyck you are probably kin to Herman Melville?

    • I did not know about the Melville connection but this article has spurred me on to find the connection that my great great uncle Dwight Elmendorf had with Teddy Roosevelt, (they were cousins) with whom he went to the Spanish American war and took almost all of the pictures of that part of the war that are in the National Archives. I have seen some Gansevoorts in the lineages that I can find online (oh, the wonders of the modern world!) I also found that the connection with the Van Rensselaers was through the Hoffmans (another eminent family) and it was Barent (this one) who married a Hoffman. And of course the Elmendorfs and the Ten Eycks married through the centuries culminating in my great grandparents and grandparents who were Ten Eycks and Elmendorfs on both sides.

  • Wow, this is fun… I am very glad my little story has inspired so much interest, but when you touch on Teddy Roosevelt and the SpanAm War, things may be getting a bit far afield. Albany, NY, at the time of the Revolution, was a relatively small town. Inter-marriage among the predominate families was common. In studying the members of the 2nd New York (1775), I have found that names like Ten Eyck, Yates, Lansing, Gansevoort, Visscher, Van Schaick, Schuyler, and Van Rensselaer are frequently linked by marriage. Maj. Peter Gansevoort, Barent J. Ten Eyck’s superior in the 2nd NY (ca. 1775), married the sister of the regiment’s commander, Col. Goose Van Schaick (and yes, Gansevoort was Herman Melville’s grandfather). Beyond that, there was quite a lot of inbreeding among New York’s well-to-do Hudson River manor families, such as the aforementioned van Rensselaers, the van Cortlandts and the Livingstons. I am not sure how involved the downstate pro-British Delanceys and the DePeysers got involved with this practice. As an example, I do know Henry Beekman “Harry” Livingston, son of one of the drafters of the Declaration of Independence, brother-in-law of the martyred Gen. Richard Montgomery, and colonel of the 4th New York in the mid-war period, created a firestorm among his family when he apparently married the sister of Peggy Shippen, the wife of Benedict Arnold! … This was an example. Let us not get side-tracked with Arnold/Shippen, as we could be bantering about that one all winter.

    • When I stopped and thought after sending that, I regretted the sidetrack. One of the pleasures of reading your research is its depth into a little known area. The subject of the Dutch and their role in the Revolution, their concept of tolerance and value of formal education is, of course, another subject that your article stirs up in me. Your article brought me to this Journal and I am enjoying it immensely. Thank you again. Finis.

  • Phil, “inbreeding” strikes some of us as a little harsh. Us North Carolina Scots-Irish prefer to say our folks are keeping the bloodlines pure or else that some cousins are on a branch that does not fork.

  • Count me along with cousin Hershel Parker as being among those whose ancestors preferred to play in the shallow end of the gene pool

  • Hershel, please forgive my apparent harshness. Political correctness has never been my strong suit. (…but I am much better now.) Though not Scotch-Irish, this New Yorker is actually 50% North Carolinian. Obviously, I am on a branch from that half of the family tree that did fork!

  • Phil, now I get to confess that I got the line about the branch that did not fork while on the phone with another double descendant of Robert Ewart, the Committee of Safety man. The modern man is a water management expert in West Texas who descends not only from the Revolutionary Thomas Bell, a King’s Mountain man and an Ewart son-in-law, but also from the Thomas W. Bell who wrote his own Mier Captivity narrative. An author in the family! Telling the black bean story!
    C. Leon Harris was a hero of mine for a couple of years because of his work with Will Graves on the Pension Applications under the 1832 law before it emerged that we were Cockerhams. As far as I know we are not double or triple Cockerham cousins, but having him identify me in a post as “cousin” has set me up for a proud December.
    Thanks for mellowing out on kinship, Phil.

  • To add a little. This Barent must have died in 1796 because his wife, the Hoffman, remarried and started having children with someone else by 1798. There could have been divorce as this was not uncommon in the families.
    On the subject of cousin marriage, to the author, if they give you a hard time about “interbreeding” just call it endogamy.
    I am enjoying all of these exchanges. They educate and elucidate and drag me to my computer to investigate, to use the 21st century style. (Hamilton eat your heart out when we start rhyming Arriantje and “Now we can see…etc.)

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