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


The military forces of the Colony and State during the Revolutionary struggle, were divided into three classes.

The Line; which regiments were in the United States service under General Washington. There were also regiments of artillery and an organization of " Green Mountain Boys " in the Line.

The Levies; which were drafts from the different militia regiments, and from the people direct as well, and which could be called upon to serve outside the State during their entire term.

The Militia; which (then, as now, could only be called out of the State for three months at a time.

Of the Line, 9 organizations are traced by these records; of Levies, 7 organizations; of Militia, 68 organizations; in all 84 organizations. [See additional note in second edition, p. 15.]

Records are found of four privateers in the service and pay of the State-the schooner " General Putnam," the sloop " Montgomery," the sloop " Schuyler," and the frigate " Congress." These armed vessels took many prizes, and records are found of the division of the spoils.

Associated Exempts were a unique class and wire authorized by an act of April 3, 1778. They comprised: "All persons under the age of sixty who have held civil or military commissions and are not or shall not be reappointed to their respective proper ranks of office, and all persons between the ages of fifty and sixty." They could only be called out "in time of invasion or incursion of the enemy."

The Militia regiments were designated, first by the colonels' names and next by their counties, as " Fisher's Regiment, of Tryon County." Instances crop up, here and there, in which a number was given to a regiment; as, for instance, " The Sixth Albany County," but it is a moot question if such was the general practice. Be that as it may, the name of the colonel is found to be quite sufficient for full identification.

The Militia was called out when wanted; kept as long as wanted, and the soldiers then sent to their homes. Sometimes a regiment or a part of a regiment would be called out half a dozen times in the course of a year, and for half a dozen days at a time, and again it might not be needed in the entire year. Officers and men seem to have served in different organizations almost indiscriminately. At one call, they were in one regiment or company, and at another call, in another regiment or company. It is, therefore, very difficult to keep trace of them on the different pay-rolls or "pay-books," as they were sometimes called. Nepotism, or family influence, was most marked, and some regiments contained as many as five and seven officers of the same family. (See Colonel Brinkerhoff's regiment, and the Millers', in Colonel Thomas' regiment.)

Counties were divided into districts, and the colonel of the regiment in each district was given almost unlimited jurisdiction in military matters. He was required to see that every male between the ages of sixteen and fifty was enrolled. Later, the age limit was extended to sixty. If an able-bodied man, he must serve when "warned" under penalty of fine and imprisonment; but if incapacitated, he must contribute toward furnishing and equipping another man - any person furnishing a substitute being exempt for the time that substitute served. Quakers, Moravians and United Brethren were enrolled, but exempted from service upon payment of money, which varied in amount as the war progressed until, in 1780, they were obliged to pay -£160 per year. One miller to each grist mill, three powder makers to each powder mill, five men to each furnace, three journeymen in each printing office, and one ferryman to each public ferry, were also exempt. Each soldier must present himself armed, and with a blanket, a powder-horn and a flint, and sometimes even a tomahawk was required. All officers in the cities of New York, Albany and Schenectady were ordered to wear their swords during divine service under a penalty of twenty shillings.

Rum, sugar and tea were regular rations, and the amount was gauged by the rank. A major-general was deemed to require, and was allowed each month, four gallons of rum, six pounds of sugar, and half a pound of tea. A brigadier-general, three gallons of rum, four pounds of sugar, and six ounces of tea. A colonel, a lieutenant-colonel, and a major, two and one-half gallons of rum, and the same amount of sugar and tea. A chaplain, ditto as to sugar and tea, but only two gallons of rum. The scale was continued until a noncommissioned officer and a private received one pound of sugar, two ounces of tea, and one pound of tobacco, but no rum. A colonel's pay was $75 per month, or one York £ per day; a lieutenant-colonel's pay was $60 per month; a major's pay was $50 per month; a captain's pay was $40 per month; an adjutant's pay was $40 per month; a lieutenant's pay was $26 2-3 per month; an ensign's pay was $20 per month; a sergeant's pay was $8 per month; a corporal's pay was $7 1-3 per month; a private's pay was $6 2-3 per month.

Nor was this, by any means, always in money. It was sometimes in State notes and sometimes in authority to "impress" articles or animals under supervision of some designated officer, who should give a receipt, in the name of the State, to the impressee. As late as 1784, the large majority of the soldiers were still unpaid for their services in 1776-7-8-9-80-81-82. On April 27 of 1874, the legislature passed "An act for the settlement of the pay of the Levies and Militia for their services in the late war." This statute provided that abstracts and pay-rolls of the different regiments and separate commands should be certified by the State auditor; he deducting for advances made to officers or privates by "impressing" or otherwise, and an allowance be made for the depreciation of the pay of such as had been in captivity, for the time they were in captivity. Upon receipt of these accounts from the auditor, the treasurer of the State was required to issue to persons, to whom pay should appear to be due, or to their legal representatives, certificates of indebtedness bearing five per cent interest, and such certificates should be receivable for purchases of forfeited estates, or in payment for waste or "unappropriated lands," taxes, etc. Officers could not "throw up or quit" their commissions until they had served fifteen years.

All slaves killed in the service were to be paid for. In time of invasion, any slave, not in the military service, found one mile from his master's abode, without a certificate from his master showing his business, might be "shot or otherwise destroyed without fear of censure, impeachment or prosecution for the same." In 1781, it was provided that any slave who should enlist and serve "for three years, or until discharged," should be declared a freeman of the State.

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