Peggy – Schuyler Sister

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Margaret “Peggy” Schuyler is a bit of a third wheel to her older sisters, Angelica and Eliza, in the Tony winning,  Hamilton: An American Musical. She doesn’t quite make it as far as Act II when the actress portraying her switches roles to play Maria Reynolds. A footnote in the recently published book, “Hamilton: The Revolution,” simply tells us, “Poor Peggy. She married well and died young.”

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Schuyler Mansion – Peggy’s home

There is, however, a bit more to her story. She was born Margarita Schuyler on September 25, 1758, the third of the eleven children of Philip Schuyler and his wife, Catherine “Kitty” Van Rensselaer (three did not live to adulthood). As a young woman, she would’ve have met such notable figures of her era, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, James Madison, and “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne when the British General was a prisoner-guest at her father’s mansion after the Battle of Saratoga.

Peggy was described by her contemporaries as a charming young woman who was, as one of her mother’s biographers, stated “destined to further distinction.” In 1783, Peggy married the young Patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer III. The marriage took place in Saratoga where the Schuyler’s had a country house and was apparently an elopement. A good friend of the groom described it as “precipitate,” a “source of surprise,” and a “momentary impulse of youthful Passions.” Some felt that Stephen Van Rensselaer, who was just 19 and would take possession of the vast family estates until the age of 21, was simply too young to enter into any marriage, even though Margarita Schuyler was by no means an objectionable bride (despite being six years his senior). Her wedding dress, described a mauve silk with a brocade of “bright bouquets” and old point lace,” survived at least until 1893 when a brief account of it was published in a Niagara Falls newspaper.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz13233100_1007499685964960_6571754916468899130_nBy all accounts, the marriage was a success. Stephen celebrated his majority with grand celebrations at the Manor. The young Mrs. Van Rensselaer was known for being a pretty, charming figure in society. She and her husband were frequent guests at the New York City home of her sister, Elizabeth, who had married Alexander Hamilton in 1780. Peggy had three children, but only one – Stephen Van Rensselaer IV (known as the Last Patroon) – lived to adulthood.

Margarita Schuyler Van Rensselaer died on March 14, 1801. She was laid to rest in a private family vault on the grounds of the Van Rensselaer Manor House. In 1802, Stephen Van Rensselaer married Cornelia Paterson, daughter of William Paterson. In 1848, the old vault (which stood near modern day North Pearl and Pleasant Streets) was demolished. By then, it had received a century’s worth of burials, including Peggy’s parents and husband, as well as General Abraham Ten Broeck and several generations of Van Rensselaers. They were all removed to an underground vault in Lot 1, Section 14 at the Rural Cemetery. Above the vault is a large white marble monument. The east face of the monument bears the inscription “Margaret Schuyler Wife of Stephen Van Rensselaer Died March 14th, 1801.”

 

( from Paula Lemire’s  Albany Rural Cemetery – Beyond The Graves)

The Mark of the Tomahawk.. the Schuyler Mansion Raid – August 7, 1781

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13876142_1051054354942826_8880993652076140849_nIf you were one of the thousands of children who passed through the Schuyler Mansion for about 80 years your biggest takeaway was probably the story of the Indian Raid and the very cool mark in the banister of the main staircase made by a tomahawk. It turns out, not so much.

Here’s the compelling version we learned as kids. According to the Schuyler Mansion Facebook page, “The legend developed from conflicting versions of the story told immediately after the event, as well as another version told in 1859 by the granddaughter of Philip and Catherine Schuyler’s youngest daughter, Catherine.”

In the story we were told as children, the attackers were: 2) Iroquois Indians allies of the British, or 2) Tories dressed as Indians, a la the Boston Tea Party, or 3) both. In any event, the family fled upstairs, but inadvertently left the youngest child, Catherine, behind in the tumult. Peggy (Marguerite), the youngest of the Schuyler sisters (the other 2 were Angelica and Elizabeth- married to Alexander Hamilton) ran back to rescue the infant. As Peggy ran up the stairs clutching her sister, one of the attackers flung his tomahawk. It sliced through her gown, tearing off a piece of the skirt and embedded itself in the staircase banister. If you were a kid, that was the most thrilling story. And you could touch the mark made by the tomahawk 200 years later, probably enlarged by the small hands of at least 4 generations of kids running their fingers across it.

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Now here’s the real story.

13934622_1051054381609490_2634052363573860262_nIn summer 1781, as the Revolutionary War wound down, there were a number of Tory loyalists and the British in Canada who concluded desperate times called for desperate measures. They hit upon the idea of kidnapping key patriot leaders, in an effort to demoralize the War effort, with a view to “trials” of the traitors and possible hanging. One of those targeted was Major-General Philip Schuyler of Albany. By July the plot was already in motion.

However, information about the proposed kidnapping soon reached the patriots and Schuyler was warned of the imminent danger, but he and his family remained at the Mansion, near the southern border of the City in an unpopulated area, with a minimal guard.

13934622_1051054381609490_2634052363573860262_nOn the night of August 7, a raiding party including British soldiers and Tories broke through the Mansion gates and launched an attack within the house itself while the family was eating dinner. Two white soldiers and one black servant (probably a Schuyler slave) attempted to repel the intruders. The household, which included Catharine Schuyler, the General’s wife, their daughter Margaret, several other children and a number of servants descended into chaos during what was a bloody and fierce attack. Schuyler went upstairs to find his pistol and faked out the attackers as they reached the second floor. He yelled “Come on my lads. Surround the house; the villains are in it”. Thinking they were outnumbered, the attackers retreated, leaving behind several of their own who were wounded, but captured two of the Schuyler guards and made off with some of the house silver.

Brigadier General Barry St. Leger, a British Officer in Canada, subsequently wrote: “The attack and defense of the house was bloody and obstinate, on both sides. When the doors were forced, the servants fought till they were all wounded or disarmed. The uproar of Mrs. Schuyler and the cries of the children obliged them to retire with their two prisoners being the only persons that could be moved on account of their wounds.”*

13882298_1051055374942724_1421897216117813669_nIn any event, we will never know how the gouge was made in the staircase, but it probably happened that night in 1781. And you can see it yourself. The Mansion is a NYS Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark, located at 32 Catherine St. in Albany NY. It was built in the 1760s by the Schuylers and is a wonderful example of Georgian architecture and design, interpreted in Colonial America. Its guests included Ben Franklin, British General John Burgoyne (defeated at the Battle of Saratoga). George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. It was in the Mansion’s parlor that Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler 8 months before the raid in December, 1780. The Mansion is open May thru October, Wednesday- Sunday – 11AM to 5PM, with tours on the hour. A special tour, “When Alexander Hamilton Called Albany Home,” is held at 2 p.m. Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at the Mansion.

*Fryer, Loyalist Spy, The Experiences of Captain John Walton Meyers during the American Revolution (Brockville, Ontario: Besancourt Publishers, 1974),
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More local connections to Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Elizabeth (Eliza) Schuyler

President Fillmore’s wife, Abigail, died not long his term ended. In 1858, Millard Fillmore married charming widow Caroline Carmichael McIntosh. Her late husband, Ezekiel McIntosh, was a wealthy merchant and president of the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad. In 1844, Ezekiel McIntosh had purchased the Schuyler Mansion from John Bryant (whose old 1824 property marker can still be seen at the edge of Academy Park) who, in turn, had purchased the Mansion from the heirs of General Philip Schuyler. So Millard Filmore married his second wife in the exact same parlor where Alexander and Eliza had married seventy-eight years earlier.

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Why we don’t have a Queen and sing Rule Britannia

zzOn October 18, 1777 General Burgoyne (“Gentleman Johnny”), the British commander at the Battle of Saratoga, surrendered to the American General, Horatio Gates. Approximately 5,800 troops were taken prisoner, mostly British and Hessians. The Hessians were mercenaries- soldiers from the German State of Hesse-Cassel, furnished to the British for the American war under a financial agreement between with the Landgrave (sort of the Prince) of Hesse-Cassel) and the English government.

This was the turning point of the Revolutionary War, since the defeat of a massive British invasion force not only buoyed the confidence of the patriots, but was such a resounding victory it convinced the French they should assist the Americans and come to our aid. This proved to be a critical factor in our ability to win the War.

zzzzzzzzOn the same day about 5,000 British and German troops set off for Boston where they were to be held as prisoners of war. They became known as the “Convention Army” – based on the conventions (terms) of the surrender. They marched south to Kinderhook, bypassing Albany, and then east to Massachusetts. There are many stories about British and Hessian soldiers falling out of line along the route of march and becoming part of the population of Columbia County (where there was a large Palatine German population) and along what is Route 20 in Massachusetts today. (America has a rich and diverse gene pool.)

About 500 sick and wounded British and Hessian soldiers were transported to Albany to the colonial hospital (at about where Pine and Lodge streets intersect today). Even 4-5 months later, in March 1778 when the Marquis de Lafayette arrived in Albany, there were still British soldiers under care in Albany.

zzzAfter the surrender General Schuyler offered the hospitality of his Albany home to General Burgoyne and Baron von Riedesel (commander of the Hessian troops), as well as the Baroness and their 3 children who had accompanied him into the fight (The Baroness was quite astonished at such kindness, since British troops had burned Schuyler’s Saratoga home to the ground during the Battle). They left Saratoga on the 17th of October under a guard of 200 men led by Colonel Quackenbush and after 2 days reached Albany.

 

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zzzzzzzGeneral Burgoyne (more than a bit of a bon vivant) enjoyed his stay at the Schuyler Mansion after his long trek though the wilderness from Canada and was impressed by General Schuyler’s wine cellar and the graciousness and geniality of the General and Mrs. Schuyler. Some even say that the charms of General Schuyler’s daughter Eliza, who would later marry Alexander Hamilton, caught the eye of the well-known playboy and sophisticate. Accounts vary on the length of his stay; it could have been as short as several days or as long as fortnight before he was on his way to Boston along with the Baron. The Baroness remained longer at the Mansion and departed with her children around the end of October.

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Note: there is a plaque at SUNY Plaza, State and Broadway, marking the spot where Burgoyne made his entrance into Albany.

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Happy 260th Birthday to Eliza Schuyler Hamilton

Happy 260th Birthday to Eliza Schuyler Hamilton

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz20638402_1395903533791238_6113372414879897798_nShe was born August 9 in Albany in 1757 on the southeast corner of State and Pearl, in the heart of the City to General Philip Schuyler and Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler, in the ancestral home that had been built 100 years prior.

 

 

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz20746107_1395903553791236_3537085446982887756_oThe family moved into a new house, the Schuyler Mansion in the Pastures, at the south end of the City limits when she was about 8.

 

 

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz20729076_1395903600457898_2562277596429461261_oIn early 1780, while on a visit to her aunt in Morristown , N.J. she and Alexander Hamilton became a “thing”.

 

 

 

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zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz20643251_1395903680457890_5642000104105953377_oAfter a swift and intense courtship, they married later that year when she was 23 In December in the parlor of the Mansion.

 

 

 

Although Hamilton was killed tragically in the duel with Burr in 1804 Elizabeth lived another 50 years, devoted to charitable works and preserving her husband’s legacy.