Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

New York In The Revolution as Colony and State
by James A. Roberts, Comptroller
Second Edition 1898


In the same year, a bounty of "Land Rights"-so-called-(a "Right" being 500 acres) was offered to officers and men for two regiments then to be raised, for the defense of the State. To a colonel, lieutenant-colonel and major, four Rights. To a captain and a surgeon, three Rights. To a lieutenant, ensign or surgeon's mate, two Rights, and to a noncommissioned officer or a private, one Right. Any master or mistress who should deliver an able-bodied slave to serve, one Right. By an act of April I, 1778, each Militia regiment was divided into " classes" of fifteen men each. When soldiers were needed to recruit the line regiments, each class must, within nine days, furnish a man fully armed and equipped. In case they neglected so to do, the designated officer proceeded, at once, to draft one of the number by lot. By an act of March' n, 1780, every regiment was again divided into " classes;" this time of thirty-five men each, and when soldiers were required as before, these " classes " were also called upon to furnish a man as before, and in case of failure so to do within fifteen days, were fined a sum equal to double the amount of the highest bounty which had then been given. This fine was collected by distress and sale of goods and chattels of those refusing to pay, or, if not possessed of property, they were committed to jail " without bail or mainprize " until the sum was paid. If a " class " furnished a man as the law required, it received a money bounty, sometimes as much as £80. As the war progressed, and the needs of the government became more pressing, land "Rights" were added to the money bounty, and on March 23, 1782, an act was passed providing that any " class " or any person who furnished an able-bodied man to serve " for three years or during the war," should be entitled to 600 acres; or 350 acres for a two years' enlistment; and any person or " class " who should deliver a man within twenty days from the time of notification, 200 acres extra.

The meaning of Militia is - " The military force of a nation."

In this connection it may not be out of place nor uninteresting to trace this branch of the public service from its inception to the commencement of the Revolutionary War. The Militia of this continent had its origin in a law promulgated in 1664 by James, Duke of York and Albany; the owner, by a grant from Charles the Second, of a large territory, which included the territory which is now eastern and southern New York. " The Duke's Laws," as they are still called, covered numerous subjects and were most paternal and creditable. As to militia, they provided that: "All males above the age of sixteen shall be enrolled and be subject to military duty. Each person must provide himself with a good, serviceable gun to be kept in constant fitness, with a good sword, bandoleer and horn, a wormer, a scourer, a priming wire, a shot bag, a charger, one pound of good powder, four pounds of pistol bullets and twenty-four bullets fitted for the gun, four fathoms of serviceable match for match lock gun and four good flints for the fire lock gun."

Four local and one general training days per year were prescribed for each " Ryding" and once in two years, a general training day "for all the soldiers within the government." The Militia were to be taught " in the comely handling and ready use of the arms, and in all postures of war and in all words of command." In case of failure of anyone to appear for duty, he was to be fined, and the fines were to be divided; one-third going to the commanding general and the remaining two-thirds to be divided amongst the other officers. Ample power was given the general for collecting the fines. This code seems to have held, in most of its features, until 1702, when Queen Anne modified and amended it. She ordered that all males between the ages of sixteen and fifty be liable for military duty and, in case of an invasion, all between fifteen and sixty. She generously allowed, even ordered, each captain to furnish drums, bugles and colors for his company, and emphasized the order by a fine of is for each month he was in default.

This was also provided: " Every soldier belonging to a troop of horse shall appear twice a year (or a drill and muster, provided with a good, serviceable horse, not less than fourteen hands high, covered with a good saddle, housings, breast-plate and crupper, a case of good pistols, a good sword or hanger, one-halt a pound of good powder and twelve sizable bullets, a pair of boots and suitable spurs, and a carbine well fixed with a belt, swivel and a blanket, under penalty of ten shillings for the want of a sizable horse, and ten shillings for want of each or either of the other articles." " New York County Horse " must have blue coats and breeches and scarlet waistcoats, and their hats laced with gold. "Albany County Horse" must have blue coats, but their hats laced with silver. " Every foot soldier must provide himself, and appear and muster with a good, well-fixed musket or fuzee, a good sword, belt and cartridge box, six cartridges of powder, a horn and six sizable bullets. At home, he must always have on hand one pound of good gunpowder and three pounds of sizable bullets." For want of these articles a fine of twenty shillings and prison charges were imposed till the fine was paid. At his discretion, the captain was allowed and authorized to levy upon and sell the delinquent's goods. " In case the offender be unable or refuse to pay, and he have no goods to distress, he shall ride the wooden horse, or be laid by the neck and heels in a public place for not to exceed an hour."

For seventy-three years, or until 1775, nearly the same law was reenacted each year, the title almost invariably being: "An act for settling the Militia of this Province, and the making of it useful for the security and defense thereof." No mention of compensation for military service was ever made, and when the number of articles which each soldier must furnish are taken into consideration, it will be seen that the tax was, by no means, an inconsiderable one.

This was the condition of the Militia when the cloud of the Revolutionary War threw its shadow over the land.
ALBANY, N. Y., November, 1897. Comptroller.


While numerous sources have contributed to the perfecting of the work, yet the main source of information, in this latest inquiry, has been the Land Bounty Papers. Of these, a word should be said in addition to what has preceded on page 12. The usual form of a "Class Right" for a Land Bounty was this:

"We, the subscribers belonging to Daniel Cantine's class in Col. Jesse Woodhull's regiment of Orange county militia, do hereby transfer and assign to Hezekiah White, of the precinct of Cornwall, in Orange county and State of New York, carpenter, and to his heirs and assigns forever all our right and title to the annexed certificate and the gratuity or bounty of 200 acres of land to which we are entitled by reason of an act entitled ' An act for raising troops to complete the line of this State in the service of the United States, and the two regiments to be raised on bounties of unappropriated lands and for the further defense of the frontier of this State,' passed the 23d day of March, 1782. As witness our hands and seals."

Not only did the signers affix elaborate seals, but the witnesses to the signatures and sealings were required to make affidavit that the signatures and sealings had been made in their presence. Accompanying every Class Right is a certificate of the Muster Master of the United States troops that the head of the class had delivered to him an able-bodied man (usually mentioned by name) " duly armed and equipped." The man, so mustered, was certified to have been enlisted for either the Line or the Levies; and, usually, the regiment in which he served was designated. The names of all men mustered in this way have been added to the several regiments as they appeared in the first edition of this book.

But the case of the militiamen who signed the Class Rights is somewhat different. They signed directly before the close of the war, and there is no evidence in these documents to show that they ever saw actual service. They were, however, ready to serve; and the fact that they may not have been called upon to serve should not detract from the credit due them. Still it would be unfair to incorporate their names in the regiment proper; and so, with this explanation, they are now placed on pages 221-268 of the book, to count for whatever they are worth. Among the names so placed there are some that, perhaps, should appear as full members in active service; but the real standing of all cases of this sort must be settled by consulting the original documents, and tram additional proof.

A very important subdivision of the Land Bounty Rights relates to the applications for locations of the land. The applications were worded " In consequence of a certificate and transfer herewith delivered, and agreeable to the law of 1782 [noted above"), I do locate the following tract." The name of the county in which the land was situated was generally named in the application; but this referred to the ten counties as they were at the time of the Revolutionary War. Many valuable maps are filed with the applications.

" Deserter" written after a name, in the original documents, must not be taken too seriously. Frequently a man absented himself to gather crops, to attend a sick wife, or to bury a child; but it is found that the soldier generally returned, and was again taken up on the rolls. In the case of the Land Bounty Rights it is often a question whether the word "deserted" applies to the soldier or to the claim.

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