History From America's Most Famous Valleys
SHORT BIOGHAPHICAL SKETCH
OF THE LIFE OF
MAJOR ANDREW FINCK, JR.
Donated by Barbara Vosburgh
His ancestor - and great-grandfather of his father - was Herr Andreas Von Finck, the patentee of the Stone Arabia Patent, located in Montgomery, formerly Tryon Co., who come from Hesse Cassel, Germany, in 1709. He was a High German by birth and belonged to a noble family; a man of means, education and intelligence. In the year 1700-8 he went to England and purchased this tract of land of several thousand acres of Queen Anne, and, returning to Germany, prepared a colony to settle upon his possessions in the wilderness and among the the Mohawk Indians. This colony consisted of 28 North German families, one of whom was the Rev. Dr. Rosekranze, their clergyman. They set out with stores and implements for this country, arriving here in the spring of 1709, going immediately to their new home, where they commenced to fell trees, build houses and clear up the land.
This Andreas Finck belonged in the Fatherland to a wealthy and eminent family, and one of his brothers was a noted general under Frederick the Great. Gen. Finck was not only a great military chieftain of that day, but one of the ablest diplomatists of those trying times, when nearly every nation in Europe combined to crush Frederick the Great. He was also a member of his court, and was ever held in high esteem by him. The closest friendship existed during life between the two, as will be seen by reference to German history.
The Fincks have a noble and eminent record from the earliest period of German history, as well as in this country. They rank among the noted clergy, military heroes, jurists, scholars and premiers. To the latter high positions they have been frequently called by the Kings of Prussia and North Germany. One of the Prime Ministers of Denmark bore that name.
They took an active part in the early settlement of this State and country are found highly enrolled in the Southern and Western states and in every part of this land, where they are highly esteemed and very patriotic, having filled positions from General down to the ranks. Among the first to strike for American Independence was Andrew Finck, Jr., Brigade-Major of the regular army. He was one of the eminent men of that memorable struggle, as well as an active and leading public man after the formation of this Government. He was born at Stone Arabia, N.Y., in 1751, and was the grandson of Andreas von Finch, the patentee, and according to English law, inherited the landed estates. He was sent to a German school in his native place until he was 12 years of age, when he was placed in a select school in New York City, where he prepared for and entered early in his teens, the King's (now Columbia) College, and graduated before he was 19, an accomplished scholar and linguist. After graduating, he read law and was admitted to practice. He father, a very pious gentleman, was opposed to his son's devoting himself to a profession, the practice of which he did not think fitted a man very well for heaven. The son, however, differed in mind with his father about the legal as well as the military profession, for which he had a great preference. His subsequent life and career stamped him as eminent for both. His fondness and talents for the military showed itself before he was 11 years old. His father was an officer of distinction under the British Government, in the French and Indian War of 1755. Troops were frequently drilled and reviewed in an open field fronting his father's house and this young lad was noticed by an officer, while drilling his men, behind a tree, with a wooden sword, making the same movements as the soldiery did. In that way he learned the tactics then practiced and was put under the care and education of Captain Du Bois of New York, a friend and relative, who was a wealthy and polished gentleman and who stood high in the British Army for past services and for many years held a high official position in New York under King George the Fourth of England. Captain Du Bois was anxious to secure the services of his young protégé to the British Army, and offered him a captaincy if he would enter that service. It cost $1,500.00 in hard money in those days to secure such an appointment in the British army, and none but the sons of wealthy and influential families, well trained and skilled in military tactics could secure them at that. But the young patriot refused to lend himself to the tyrannical government that was oppressing the people of his native land. Capt. Du Bois was greatly surprised at the stand the young man had taken, and tried very hard to win him over to his standpoint. He had no children, was strongly attached to young Finck, whom he called his adopted son, and offered to make him sole heir to his immense estate if he would join the King's service. But the lad was filled with the love of Liberty and Freedom which caused his grandfather to leave Germany and come to the New World, and persistently refused. While his adopted father was planning to get him into the British service he was receiving military training from the highly skilled Prussian General Baron Steuben, who was so filled with sympathy and friendship for the struggling colonists that he resigned his high position as General in the Prussian Army and Chief-of-Staff to the King of Prussia, and came to this country and threw his fortune, energy and skill into the scale of American independence. He was the best tactician and accomplished military officer in the service of this country in those days. In generalship and worth he stands in history next to Washington, and by the side of Lafayette. Brigade-Major Finck of the Regular Army was among the very first to take steps for inaugurating the Revolution in the City and State of New York. A Committee of Safety was organized in the City of New York for the purpose of bringing about a concert of action with all the Colonists, and a general organization of all the Patriots, or Whigs of this State. This Committee of Safety appointed a delegation from their own number to go up the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys and appoint acting secretary of that important embassy. After traveling the State over and completing arrangements for the bloody struggle, he went to his native country to help his relatives and friends organize meetings to push the work vigorously on. A meeting was called in 1774 or 1775, in which he was made temporary chairman of the convention, when Christopher P. Yates, Esq. was chosen president. Speeches were made by Nicholas Herkimer (afterwards General Herkimer), Major Finck and others. A committee was appointed of some of the most eminent men of the times, with Major Finck as chairman, who drew up with his own hand one of the most stirring and patriotic addresses and series of resolutions issued to the people of those days. See "Annals of Tryon County". The First Continental Regiment of the State of New York was principally mustered, organized and equipped by and through his personal efforts and influence, and joined General Montgomery's expedition to Quebec and Montreal, where he commanded and led it when they scaled the heights, for which gallant conduct he was appointed Brigadier in the Regular Line, and the Continental Congress passed a vote of thanks in commendation of his conduct from General Washington.
When the Marquis de LaFayette came to this country to proffer his services to the Continental Congress, by whom he was appointed a Major General in the Continental Army and sent to General Washington to be assigned to active duty, he having been trained in a different mode of warfare from that to be practiced in and among the forests of the New World, of which he had no practical knowledge, General Washington thought it advisable to secure some young officer acquainted with the country as aid; that honor fell to Andrew Finck, Jr., who was then attached to Washington's army. General Washington personally introduced General LaFayette to the young American officer, by whom he was appointed Aide-Camp and Chief-of-Staff to this patriotic French Nobleman,. In this capacity he acted until LaLayette became acquainted with the topography of the country and accustomed to the mode of warfare here, when he requested his superior to assign him to an active command and was appointed Brigade Commander. As such he participated in most of the important battles of the Revolution and much of the time thereafter he was attached to LaFayette's division, having fought under Washington at the battles of Valley Forge, Trenton, White Plains, Monmouth and Saratoga. At the latter battle the fight became so very fierce and, desperate that the charge of bayonets was made several times by his command without accomplishing anything decisive. Several of the men began to falter, when he came forward in person, infused hew zeal and courage into his men, called upon them to follow him, and drove the enemy back in great consternation and confusion, riding his horse across some of their artillery pieces to do it. The evidence of this personal heroism was furnished to his superior by the officers and soldiers under his immediate command.
He commanded our forces at Johnstown, which was one of the most desperately contested battles of the Revolution, both armies going into the fight with but one piece of artillery between them, and that held by the British and Tory side when the conflict began. During the fight which lasted three days, it changed hands more than a dozen times and was finally held by the Continental forces when the battle ended and they became masters of the field. The British were so badly beaten and demoralized that they broke in dismay for the Canadas, from whence they were never able thereafter to organize in a body. This battle ended all formidable strife between the British Tories and American Patriots and decided who should hold possession of the promised land. Johnstown was the home of Sir William Johnson (who was a great favorite with King George the Third of England), a gentleman of fortune, culture and rank, who by his pleasing manners had called around him a powerful army of settlers and Mohawk Indians, who were greatly attached to him, and, on his personal account, to the British Government. Sir William and his followers believed the Colonists would be utterly destroyed and gibbeted.
The Tories had large tracts of land there, hence they fought with tiger determination to conquer and hold those possessions, but the battle of Johnstown decided otherwise. After the struggle for American Independence and Liberty was ended, General Finck removed from the City of New York back to his large estate, situated at Stone Arabia, N.Y. He inherited by birth and the sword a very large landed estate, which he increased very materially and was known as one of the wealthiest gentlemen of that day. He also took an active and prominent part in public affairs. His means were used during the was as freely as his sword. As a finished scholar and statesman he was a central figure as a leader in the western district of the State of New York. He was elected to the Senate of New York in 1782, where he continued till the year 1790, ranking among the ablest members of that Honorable and August Assembly, as it was then known and acknowledged. He was also one of the first Judges of the Supreme Court of this State. He exerted himself very much to introduce the English language among the Mohawk Germans against which they were greatly prejudiced at first. They carried it so far as to set fire to and burn up the first English Academy ever erected at Stone Arabia. They believed in fighting English men and their language. They yet expected to hold on to their own language. The General foresaw that the language of this country was to be universally English and eventually turned their minds to that way of thinking. They seemed at first to think that it would make Yankees of them, a being they little fancied in those days, but finally they became reconciled to it, some still thinking their old leader in arms had turned Yankee-Dutchman. Only two beside himself could be persuaded to aid in building the Academy. He furnished the balance, built it of brick, fitted it up and placed three English teachers in it, then issued circular letters inviting the inhabitants to send their children to learn English at the Academy and was nicely under way when the prejudiced Germans set fire to and burned it to the ground. At this time he was running for Congress and subsequently for Governor, and his defeat to both of these high positions was attributed to his advocacy and introduction of the English language; but they only defeated him by the small number of 11 votes. He then set to work and established the Fairfield Academy in Herkimer County, which soon became widely known and has flourished ever since. He was a polished, and high-toned gentleman of the old school and was one of the founders of the Cincinnati Society, which had its origin in this country immediately after the Revolutionary War.
The prime mover of this patriotic literary order was the noble Baron Steuben, who called a meeting of all the officers of the army above a certain grade, for the purpose of completing that organization. The meeting took place at the City of New York. Baron Steuben. was chosen President and William Wilmerding, Secretary - both Germans. To this Society Washington belonged, and subsequently became its President. Its headquarters were changed to Washington City, it being more centrally located. Gen. LaFayette became one of its first members and carried it with him home to France, and he, with other Republicans, organized and established orders all aver the Empire, where it lived and flourished for many years. To this Order Napoleon I belonged.
Of Gen. Finck, it was said by those who associated with him and knew him intimately, that he was a gentleman of great dignity, polished and courtly manners, an able orator, fluent and commanding with pointedness and power the English, German and French languages - one of the most cogent and finished writers of the times in which he lived and figured to such an eminent degree. In 1820 he was accidentally injured, from which he did not recover.
No author indicated for this piece. ajberry
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