New York

The Dutch founded New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island in 1624. The English captured the city in 1664, and the newly renamed New York boomed as a remarkably diverse port, moving people and goods from the interior of the colony across the globe. By 1775, New York was the third largest city in British North America, with a population of over 20,000. The population was concentrated on the tip of Manhattan, leaving the rest of the island as farmland and countryside.

New York City’s location at the juncture of rivers, ocean, and roads also made the city militarily important. General Thomas Gage used New York as the headquarters of the British military in America from 1763 until his arrival in Boston in May of 1774. New York’s revolutionaries were active, and the remaining British garrison was finally withdrawn from the restless city in June of 1775.

As soon as Boston was retaken in March of 1776, both armies refocused on New York City. New York’s geography forced General George Washington to divide his troops between Manhattan and Brooklyn, where most of the Continental Army was located. The British assembled an overwhelming force, and by midsummer almost 25,000 troops and over 100 ships choked the harbor, the British military’s largest operation in America to date. Beginning in late August, in a series of well executed maneuvers, General William Howe’s British forces beat Washington’s men out of Brooklyn, then landed on Manhattan, pushing the Americans off most of the island and securing British control of the city for the rest of the war.

New York remained in British hands longer than any other place in the 13 colonies. British commanders orchestrated the war from New York, sending ships and troops up and down the Atlantic coast. On November 25, 1783, the British finally evacuated. Nearly 75,000 British soldiers, German auxiliaries, American loyalists, and formerly enslaved men, women, and children who had sought protection behind British lines fled from the city and were forced to make new lives across the world. Following the war, New York City became the first capital of the United States.

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The Dutch founded New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island in 1624. The English captured the city in 1664, and the newly renamed New York boomed as a remarkably diverse port, moving people and goods from the interior of the colony across the globe. By 1775, New York was the third largest city in British North America, with a population of over 20,000. The population was concentrated on the tip of Manhattan, leaving the rest of the island as farmland and countryside.

New York City’s location at the juncture of rivers, ocean, and roads also made the city militarily important. General Thomas Gage used New York as the headquarters of the British military in America from 1763 until his arrival in Boston in May of 1774. New York’s revolutionaries were active, and the remaining British garrison was finally withdrawn from the restless city in June of 1775.

As soon as Boston was retaken in March of 1776, both armies refocused on New York City. New York’s geography forced General George Washington to divide his troops between Manhattan and Brooklyn, where most of the Continental Army was located. The British assembled an overwhelming force, and by midsummer almost 25,000 troops and over 100 ships choked the harbor, the British military’s largest operation in America to date. Beginning in late August, in a series of well executed maneuvers, General William Howe’s British forces beat Washington’s men out of Brooklyn, then landed on Manhattan, pushing the Americans off most of the island and securing British control of the city for the rest of the war.

New York remained in British hands longer than any other place in the 13 colonies. British commanders orchestrated the war from New York, sending ships and troops up and down the Atlantic coast. On November 25, 1783, the British finally evacuated. Nearly 75,000 British soldiers, German auxiliaries, American loyalists, and formerly enslaved men, women, and children who had sought protection behind British lines fled from the city and were forced to make new lives across the world. Following the war, New York City became the first capital of the United States.

Objects in the NEW YORK case

Engraved print titled Die Zerstörung der Königlichen Bild Saule zu Neu Yorck/La Destruction de la Statue royale a Nouvelle Yorck,

One of the most dramatic events in New York’s Revolutionary experience was the toppling of a statue of King George III on July 9, 1776. The gilded lead representation of the King, modeled after the 2nd-century statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, had only been erected in 1770 as a tribute to the repeal of the hated Stamp Act. When the Declaration of Independence made its way to the city, New Yorkers and some Continental soldiers assembled at the statue’s location at the Bowling Green. There they symbolically toppled the King’s rule and carried off the lead to be cast into musket balls for the army to use against the King’s troops.

News of this event made its way to Europe, and this print was produced in Germany. Nothing about the scene is accurate to New York: the buildings are central European, the statue is standing instead of mounted, and those tearing it down are all Black, perhaps a reference to the enslaved population of America. However, the event’s significance as a symbol of America’s assertion of independence remains clear.

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One of the most dramatic events in New York’s Revolutionary experience was the toppling of a statue of King George III on July 9, 1776. The gilded lead representation of the King, modeled after the 2nd-century statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, had only been erected in 1770 as a tribute to the repeal of the hated Stamp Act. When the Declaration of Independence made its way to the city, New Yorkers and some Continental soldiers assembled at the statue’s location at the Bowling Green. There they symbolically toppled the King’s rule and carried off the lead to be cast into musket balls for the army to use against the King’s troops.

News of this event made its way to Europe, and this print was produced in Germany. Nothing about the scene is accurate to New York: the buildings are central European, the statue is standing instead of mounted, and those tearing it down are all Black, perhaps a reference to the enslaved population of America. However, the event’s significance as a symbol of America’s assertion of independence remains clear.

32-lb Bar Shot

As many as 42 massive 32-pound cannon were positioned around New York City as the Americans built up its defenses in 1776. These guns, the largest cannon used during the war, fired a solid iron ball weighing 32 pounds, hence their name. The American army’s challenges weren’t just with the volume of supplies it needed but with the quality of the supplies it had. Despite the number of guns present in the city, in March of 1776 only about 20 were fit for service, and carriages were available for just five!

Many of the 32-pounders were mounted to guard the harbor and river. Bar shot like this example, found in New York City, was intended to be fired at British ships to cut masts, spars, and rigging. However, the Royal Navy was ultimately able to sail past New York’s batteries, and British troops landed on the eastern shore of Manhattan Island in mid-September. The American army lost much of its equipment during the dangerous retreat.

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As many as 42 massive 32-pound cannon were positioned around New York City as the Americans built up its defenses in 1776. These guns, the largest cannon used during the war, fired a solid iron ball weighing 32 pounds, hence their name. The American army’s challenges weren’t just with the volume of supplies it needed but with the quality of the supplies it had. Despite the number of guns present in the city, in March of 1776 only about 20 were fit for service, and carriages were available for just five!

Many of the 32-pounders were mounted to guard the harbor and river. Bar shot like this example, found in New York City, was intended to be fired at British ships to cut masts, spars, and rigging. However, the Royal Navy was ultimately able to sail past New York’s batteries, and British troops landed on the eastern shore of Manhattan Island in mid-September. The American army lost much of its equipment during the dangerous retreat.

Fragment of Chevaux de Frieze from off New York City

Early in the Revolutionary War, Americans developed a number of innovative ways to defend their harbors and cities. One was the creation of the massive underwater Chevaux de Frieze. Derived from terrestrial barriers consisting of sharpened stakes, Americans scaled up the idea using whole logs, sharpened and tipped with iron barbs, which were then placed underwater facing the direction of the enemy’s approach. These defenses were attempted in the harbors and rivers of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, and New York, where this example was recovered. Ultimately, they failed to stop the British, but they may have bought time and certainly gave the Americans more confidence against Britain’s overwhelming naval power.

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Early in the Revolutionary War, Americans developed a number of innovative ways to defend their harbors and cities. One was the creation of the massive underwater Chevaux-de-Frieze. Derived from terrestrial barriers consisting of sharpened stakes, Americans scaled up the idea using whole logs, sharpened and tipped with iron barbs, which were then placed underwater facing the direction of the enemy’s approach. These defenses were attempted in the harbors and rivers of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, and New York, where this example was recovered. Ultimately, they failed to stop the British, but they may have bought time and certainly gave the Americans more confidence against Britain’s overwhelming naval power.

American Long Rifle

German gunsmiths in Pennsylvania adapted short-barreled German rifles to American tastes by lengthening their barrels, incorporating elements of French stock design, and using native woods to develop a totally distinct weapon. The barrel’s spiraling lands and grooves (rifling) imparted a spin to the ball that allowed for greater range and accuracy. The first soldiers called into Continental service in 1775 were a battalion of riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia that joined the American army outside Boston.

News of these weapons and the men that carried them traveled back to England and caused fear and anxiety due to accounts of their deadly accuracy and their penchant for targeting officers. Riflemen were deployed in front of the American army during the August 26, 1776 Battle of Long Island. Fearing the worst, British soldiers found that decisive attacks with speed mitigated the accuracy of the rifles by quickly advancing on the riflemen before they could reload and taking advantage of their lack of bayonets. The British victory in the battle did away with much of the fear that surrounded the weapon, although rifles continued to play a small part in American tactics throughout the war.

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German gunsmiths in Pennsylvania adapted short-barreled German rifles to American tastes by lengthening their barrels, incorporating elements of French stock design, and using native woods to develop a totally distinct weapon. The barrel’s spiraling lands and grooves (rifling) imparted a spin to the ball that allowed for greater range and accuracy. The first soldiers called into Continental service in 1775 were a battalion of riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia that joined the American army outside Boston.

News of these weapons and the men that carried them traveled back to England and caused fear and anxiety due to accounts of their deadly accuracy and their penchant for targeting officers. Riflemen were deployed in front of the American army during the August 26, 1776 Battle of Long Island. Fearing the worst, British soldiers found that decisive attacks with speed mitigated the accuracy of the rifles by quickly advancing on the riflemen before they could reload and taking advantage of their lack of bayonets. The British victory in the battle did away with much of the fear that surrounded the weapon, although rifles continued to play a small part in American tactics throughout the war.

Silhouette portrait of Lieut General Sir Henry Clinton A.D. 1783

While General William Howe led the army that captured New York in 1776 and General Guy Carleton oversaw the evacuation of the city in 1783, Henry Clinton (1730-1795) is the British officer most closely associated with the British army’s presence in New York. Between 1778 and 1782, Clinton directed the war from the city. Clinton was a successful leader, as proven at the Battle of Long Island and the Siege of Charleston. It was from New York that Clinton oversaw intelligence operations such as the attempt by Benedict Arnold to defect and deliver the American position at West Point. Clinton issued the Philipsburg Proclamation in 1779, which provided safety and freedom for those enslaved by the Americans if they reached British lines. Highly skilled and highly sensitive, Clinton could harbor animosities that sometimes affected his interactions with superiors and subordinates. He assumed command as the war became global and was forced to deploy troops to other theaters, impacting his ability to conduct operations in America the way he wanted.

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While General William Howe led the army that captured New York in 1776 and General Guy Carleton oversaw the evacuation of the city in 1783, Henry Clinton (1730-1795) is the British officer most closely associated with the British army’s presence in New York. Between 1778 and 1782, Clinton directed the war from the city. Clinton was a successful leader, as proven at the Battle of Long Island and the Siege of Charleston. It was from New York that Clinton oversaw intelligence operations such as the attempt by Benedict Arnold to defect and deliver the American position at West Point. Clinton issued the Philipsburg Proclamation in 1779, which provided safety and freedom for those enslaved by the Americans if they reached British lines. Highly skilled and highly sensitive, Clinton could harbor animosities that sometimes affected his interactions with superiors and subordinates. He assumed command as the war became global and was forced to deploy troops to other theaters, impacting his ability to conduct operations in America the way he wanted.

British Grenadier Officer’s Coat

This coat is an incredibly rare survivor of the Revolutionary War period. This style, with extended frogs, or lappets, to the lapel, was fashionable in the late 1770s and early 1780s, when this coat was likely made. The buttons have all been lost, so the exact regiment of its owner is unknown, but the green color and the silver lace on the shoulders might indicate the 63rd Regiment of Foot.

What is certain is that this is the coat of a grenadier officer. The ornaments on the shoulders, made from woven silver metallic “lace,” and the small bursting bomb emblems on the skirts were distinctions of the elite grenadiers. These troops were generally the tallest and fittest in the regiment and often operated independently of the rest of the battalion. In America the grenadier and light infantry companies were pulled from their parent regiments to form composite grenadier battalions that served as the shock troops of the British forces in America. The 63rd Regiment arrived just before the Battle of Bunker Hill, where their grenadiers fought. While most of the regiment ended the war in the Carolinas, the grenadiers, and perhaps this officer, remained stationed in the New York area.

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This coat is an incredibly rare survivor of the Revolutionary War period. This style, with extended frogs, or lappets, to the lapel, was fashionable in the late 1770s and early 1780s, when this coat was likely made. The buttons have all been lost, so the exact regiment of its owner is unknown, but the green color and the silver lace on the shoulders might indicate the 63rd Regiment of Foot.

What is certain is that this is the coat of a grenadier officer. The ornaments on the shoulders, made from woven silver metallic “lace,” and the small bursting bomb emblems on the skirts were distinctions of the elite grenadiers. These troops were generally the tallest and fittest in the regiment and often operated independently of the rest of the battalion. In America the grenadier and light infantry companies were pulled from their parent regiments to form composite grenadier battalions that served as the shock troops of the British forces in America. The 63rd Regiment arrived just before the Battle of Bunker Hill, where their grenadiers fought. While most of the regiment ended the war in the Carolinas, the grenadiers, and perhaps this officer, remained stationed in the New York area.

Grenadier Officer’s Portrait

Although unidentified, the pair of epaulets worn by the officer in this portrait suggest he was a grenadier. Grenadier officers were allowed the distinction of wearing two epaulets, although they sometimes wore the wings seen on the coat displayed here. His combination of black facings (his collar and lapels) and gold buttons and lace may indicate that he belonged to either the grenadiers of the 64th or 70th Regiments of Foot. The 64th was stationed in Boston harbor when the war began, then was part of the army that captured New York City in 1776. The 64th’s grenadiers served in the 2nd Grenadier Battalion, campaigning and fighting at New York, Brandywine, Monmouth, and Charleston but spending the majority of the war in and around New York City. The 70th Regiment of Foot was sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1778. The 70th’s grenadier company was detached and joined the 2nd Grenadier Battalion in New York in 1779.

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Although unidentified, the pair of epaulets worn by the officer in this portrait suggest he was a grenadier. Grenadier officers were allowed the distinction of wearing two epaulets, although they sometimes wore the wings seen on the coat displayed here. His combination of black facings (his collar and lapels) and gold buttons and lace may indicate that he belonged to either the grenadiers of the 64th or 70th Regiments of Foot. The 64th was stationed in Boston harbor when the war began, then was part of the army that captured New York City in 1776. The 64th’s grenadiers served in the 2nd Grenadier Battalion, campaigning and fighting at New York, Brandywine, Monmouth, and Charleston but spending the majority of the war in and around New York City. The 70th Regiment of Foot was sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1778. The 70th’s grenadier company was detached and joined the 2nd Grenadier Battalion in New York in 1779.

Francis Bushill Sill’s Silver Camp Cup

Silversmith Lewis Fueter was born in Switzerland and emigrated to New York City in 1754. He was a Moravian, a pacifist sect. This might have made him suspect in the eyes of Revolutionaries, who targeted him for not fully supporting their cause. Fueter stayed in New York following its capture by the British in 1776 and worked for the new clientele of British military officers. He was one of the thousands who evacuated New York with the British Army in November of 1783, but he died the following year.

This camp cup was made for Major Francis Bushill Sill of the 63rd Regiment of Foot. Sill opposed the war but still served in America, where he survived the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, writing that “the shocking carnage that day, never will be erased out of my mind ’till the day of my death.” Sill also survived the campaign to take New York in 1776 and had Fueter make this cup in the newly occupied city sometime late that year or early the next. Sill’s visions of Bunker Hill were finally erased on October 6, 1777, when he was killed in the British assault and capture of Fort Montgomery, up the Hudson River from New York City.

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Silversmith Lewis Fueter was born in Switzerland and emigrated to New York City in 1754. He was a Moravian, a pacifist sect. This might have made him suspect in the eyes of Revolutionaries, who targeted him for not fully supporting their cause. Fueter stayed in New York following its capture by the British in 1776 and worked for the new clientele of British military officers. He was one of the thousands who evacuated New York with the British Army in November of 1783, but he died the following year.

This camp cup was made for Major Francis Bushill Sill of the 63rd Regiment of Foot. Sill opposed the war but still served in America, where he survived the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, writing that “the shocking carnage that day, never will be erased out of my mind ’till the day of my death.” Sill also survived the campaign to take New York in 1776 and had Fueter make this cup in the newly occupied city sometime late that year or early the next. Sill’s visions of Bunker Hill were finally erased on October 6, 1777, when he was killed in the British assault and capture of Fort Montgomery, up the Hudson River from New York City.

Iron Hilted Infantry Hanger

Iron sword hilts nearly identical to this were recovered from a hut camp in upper Manhattan during excavations in the 1910s. Although the hilt was identified at the time as coming from the camp of the 17th Regiment of Foot, the site was occupied by many regiments. Most British soldiers ceased carrying swords in 1768, but grenadiers, drummers, and non-commissioned officers retained these sidearms.

The city of New York alone could not contain the thousands of British, German, and Loyalist troops that formed the army in America. The area was ringed with camps, often with semi-permanent huts for the winter, to house the army and provide defensive depth to their positions. This included camps on northern Manhattan Island, eastern Long Island, Staten Island, and even on the New Jersey shore.

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Iron sword hilts nearly identical to this were recovered from a hut camp in upper Manhattan during excavations in the 1910s. Although the hilt was identified at the time as coming from the camp of the 17th Regiment of Foot, the site was occupied by many regiments. Most British soldiers ceased carrying swords in 1768, but grenadiers, drummers, and non-commissioned officers retained these sidearms.

The city of New York alone could not contain the thousands of British, German, and Loyalist troops that formed the army in America. The area was ringed with camps, often with semi-permanent huts for the winter, to house the army and provide defensive depth to their positions. This included camps on northern Manhattan Island, eastern Long Island, Staten Island, and even on the New Jersey shore.

Knit Cap

Throughout the Revolutionary War, New York provided a large sheltered harbor in the middle of the Atlantic seaboard that served as a key base for the Royal Navy. Both men-of-war and merchant vessels came and went from the harbor ferrying troops, provisions, weapons, livestock, and prisoners to and from the British-held city until the final evacuation in November of 1783. This knit cap was found in the muddy ground of lower Manhattan. Difficult to date precisely, the form of this cap is seen throughout the second half of the 18th century. It may have been lost by any of the thousands of mariners that passed through New York’s busy harbor.

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Throughout the Revolutionary War, New York provided a large sheltered harbor in the middle of the Atlantic seaboard that served as a key base for the Royal Navy. Both men-of-war and merchant vessels came and went from the harbor ferrying troops, provisions, weapons, livestock, and prisoners to and from the British-held city until the final evacuation in November of 1783. This knit cap was found in the muddy ground of lower Manhattan. Difficult to date precisely, the form of this cap is seen throughout the second half of the 18th century. It may have been lost by any of the thousands of mariners that passed through New York’s busy harbor.

Artillery Fuse Box

New York was home to the logistical and ordnance supplies of the British Army in America. Millions of tons of provisions, ammunition, clothing, and other supplies were shipped to and stockpiled in New York between 1773 and 1783. The artillery park, where cannon, mortars, howitzers and their ammunition were drawn for expeditions outside of the city, was overseen by soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. One vital piece of equipment to use such artillery was a fuse box, like this. Fuse boxes were made of lightweight but safe tin-plated sheet iron. They stored quick-burning fuses used to fire cannons, whether mounted in the city’s defenses or wheeled off for expeditions up and down the Atlantic coast.

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New York was home to the logistical and ordnance supplies of the British Army in America. Millions of tons of provisions, ammunition, clothing, and other supplies were shipped to and stockpiled in New York between 1773 and 1783. The artillery park, where cannon, mortars, howitzers and their ammunition were drawn for expeditions outside of the city, was overseen by soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. One vital piece of equipment to use such artillery was a fuse box, like this. Fuse boxes were made of lightweight but safe tin-plated sheet iron. They stored quick-burning fuses used to fire cannons, whether mounted in the city’s defenses or wheeled off for expeditions up and down the Atlantic coast.

Printed portrait of Sir Guy Carleton

Guy Carleton (1724-1808), later 1st Baron Dorchester, is perhaps most associated with the Province of Québec rather than with New York City. This is understandable as he fought in Canada during the French and Indian War and served as the governor of Quebec from 1768 through 1778. However, in March of 1782 he was recommended to succeed Henry Clinton as the British commander in chief in America. Taking charge of the final stages of the war, he oversaw the transition to an armistice with the Continental Army. His most important role was preparing for the final evacuation of thousands of troops and refugees, including the thousands of Black men, women, and children who had fled to freedom behind British lines over the course of the war.

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Guy Carleton (1724-1808), later 1st Baron Dorchester, is perhaps most associated with the Province of Québec rather than with New York City. This is understandable as he fought in Canada during the French and Indian War and served as the governor of Quebec from 1768 through 1778. However, in March of 1782 he was recommended to succeed Henry Clinton as the British commander in chief in America. Taking charge of the final stages of the war, he oversaw the transition to an armistice with the Continental Army. His most important role was preparing for the final evacuation of thousands of troops and refugees, including the thousands of Black men, women, and children who had fled to freedom behind British lines over the course of the war.

To view more information about the objects in this exhibit, visit the Ticonderoga Online Collections Database!