The Sacketts of America, pp 79–86
148. Hon. Nathaniel Sackett, 1737-1805, of Fishkill, Dutchess County, N. Y., son of (32) Rev. Samuel and Hannah Hazard Sackett, was married, Jan. 3, 1759, to Mary Rogers, daughter of Ananias Rogers and his wife Prudence Carle. Nathaniel Sackett developed at an early age an aptitude of trade, and declared his determination to become a merchant. His decision in that respect evidently met the approval of his father, who, in his efforts to give the lad a practical education along lines bearing on the life work he had chosen, was greatly aided by his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Hazard, then a successful merchant of New York City. There now lies before the writer an original letter, yellowed by over a century and a half of time, which reads as follows:
New York July 27, 1747.
Inclosed you have Bill of Parcels of sundry goods which I charge to your account, amounting to £12, 5s, 9d, which you had best to sell cheap and as soon as you can for cash. I also send you a Parcel of Books to sell, which I had come from England, which is charged at the cost of them, sterling, and the rule we go by in such things is that which costs 1s, sterling to sell for 2s 6d, New York money. But I would have you sell them off quick if possible, if you get only as much money as they cost sterling. I also send you a book for you to learn to write by, and hope you will take pains to improve in it.
I am your affectionate uncle
For Nathaniel Sackett
at Bedford.At the time of above transaction Nathaniel Sackett was but a little over 12 years of age. When he was about 17 years of age he went to New York and served an apprenticeship in his uncle's store. On reaching his majority he located at Fishkill, in Dutchess County, N. Y., and there engaged in business on his own account. According to early records of Fishkill, he was the proprietor of the first general store opened in that town.
The part taken by Nathaniel Sackett in the long and desperate struggle of the colonies for independence shows him to have been a purely unselfish patriot and should not be forgotten by his descendants. He was in New York City on business in the latter part of the memorable year 1775, when its patriotic citizens were electrified by startling news of the battle of Lexington. Returning in haste to Fishkill, he called together several prominent citizens in whose patriotism and judgment he relied, and they together prepared and issued the following call:
To the Inhabitants of Rombout Precinct:
Whereas, alarming accounts have been received of the massacre in Boston, and a resolution taken to Parliament declaring the whole continent rebels, a number of inhabitants of this Precinct, having this day assembled at the house of John and Hendrick Wyekoff, taking the alarming situation of this continent into consideration, agreeable to the printed handbills sent up from the county of New York, requesting to fall on such measures as may be thought most necessary by the majority of the freeholders and inhabitants for their future safety and preservation. And as it has become absolutely necessary for the future preservation of our families in this Precinct, that a firm union may subsist between us and the other precincts, it is sincerely hoped that all former prejudices and party disputes be entirely laid aside and all ranks and denominations appear and their names be taken at this crisis.
It is therefore requested that none on any account or excuse whatever will keep back, but appear at the house of Messrs. John and Hendirck Wyekoff on Friday, the 5th instant, at ten o'clock in the forenoon, there to determine on such matters as are necessary to the present occasion.
The original draft of this call, as well as the following memoranda, prepared as a guide to the presiding officers in the organization and conduct of this most important gathering, together with notes of vital matters to be considered, are in the handwriting of Nathaniel Sackett, and were found folded together in a package of his papers relating to the Revolutionary period.
Fishkill, May 5th, 1775.
The orders of this general meeting, held at this place to consult on most interesting and important matters, are as follows:
1. That a chairman be chosen.
2. That a clerk be chosen to enter all matters concluded upon.
3. That no person speak only in his turn.
4. That no person call any other person in private.
5. That all matter be debated with candor, without constraint, and with the greatest freedom.
6. That all persons shall be heard, and proper weight given to their reasons, without any distinction to either rank, quality, or fortune.
7. That after every matter is properly debated, and the question being put, every person present is to answer only yes or no, as his judgment may direct, without giving reasons.
8, That no business, diversions, stories, histories, or any other matter or thing that may divert or delay the business of the day, be mentioned or encouraged until the whole business is gone through and completed.
9. That every question put shall be carried for or against by a majority of the voices of the people present.
1. Choose a committee of thirty, to be a Committee of Observation.
2. Their power to be fixed.
3. Some of that number to wait on Co., Brinkerhoff, at Paughkeepsie, they to make a report on their return to the other members of the committee to establish their sense.
4. To choose one deputy to the New York Provisional Congress.
5. The affairs of the negroes to be considered.
6. What to be done with them in case of a battle.
7. What precautions should be taken now.
8. Enter into some resolution to be published.
Endorsed on the paper containing the above memoranda are the names of the forty patriots who responded to the call, including Col. Brinkerhoff, who came from adjoining precinct to arrange for a county meeting to be held at Paughkeepsie, to which the proposed election of a delegate to represent Rombout precinct in the Provisional Congress was on motion referred.
The meeting held at Fishkill, May 5, 1775, resulted in a permanent organization, since known to history as the Fishkill (or Rombout Precinct) Committee of Safety: and from the day of its inception to the end of the long but finally triumphant struggle for national independence, the course pursued by Nathaniel Sackett was that of a fearless patriot who unhesitatingly risked his all for the sacred cause he had espoused and was ever ready and willing to undertake any duty, no matter how laborious or hazardous, in response to his country's call. Elected a delegate to the First New York Provisional Congress, we find him present at its initial gathering and never absent from a recorded roll call; and scanning the records we learn of his activity in preparations being made for the inevitable conflict. On the 21st of September, 1776, by act of Provisional Congress, he was appointed, together with William Duer, John Jay and several others, a committee for detecting and defeating conspiracies against the liberties of America. On this committee almost unlimited powers were conferred, including the raising and arming of troops at the State's expense, and the arbitrary arrest, examination and imprisonment of any and all persons suspected of disloyality [sic].
For several months after the creation of this committee its arduous duties were shared to some extent by all of its members, but gradually its labors and responsibilities were delegated to Nathaniel Sackett, who by authority of the governing powers of the State exercised them with discretion and success until the close of the war.
To attempt to designate the position of greatest responsibility or to name the act of most marked importance, held or performed by Nathaniel Sackett, of Fishkill, N. Y., during the Revolutionary War, is to undertake a difficult task. For a portion of the period mentioned he would seem to have been the active quartermaster of commissary of a considerable portion of the patriot army, operating on the banks of the Hudson River; at another the recognized chief of Washington's secret service corps; to-day attending a session of the Provisional Congress, and to-morrow present at a session of the General Committee of Safety. At one time consulting with his associates of the committee for detecting and defeating conspiracies, ant another issuing orders to armed bodies of troops; and again consulting with the Commander in Chief, or hastening off on some specially hazardous duty needing his personal direction. Space will not admit of following his eventful career from the beginning to the end of his patriotic struggle for the independence of his country.
A few extracts from official colonial records and the copies of a few original documents given in chronological order, and covering a comparatively short period of time, will have to suffice:
October 1, 1776 - An account of Lead and Ball, &c., shipped off by Peter T. Curlenius, agreeable to the order of Congress and delivered to the following persons:
Nathaniel Sackett, Dutchess Co., 6,000 lbs of lead.
From Journal of Committee for Defeating Conspiracies, etc.
November 19, 1776 - Committee for Defeating Conspiracies, meet at Conners' Tavern, Fishkill.
Present - William Duer, Chairman, John Jay, Esq., Nathaniel Sackett, Esq., Zepheniah Platt, Esq.
November 25, 1776 - Committee meet at Conners' Tavern, Fishkill.
Present - William Duer, Chairman, John Jay Esq., Nathaniel Sackett, Esq., Zepheniah Platt, Esq.
December 30, 1776 - Committee meet at Fishkill.
Resolved, that Mr. Sackett, taking with him Captain Van Gasbeck's company, do forthwith endeavor to apprehend the persons mentioned in John Hain's last examination
By order committee
John Jay, Chairman.
January 3, 1777 - Committee meet at Fishkill.
In Council - Resolved, that Nathaniel Sackett, Esq., have power to employ such detachments if militia of Dutchess County as are not in active service, as he may deem expedient for the execution of the business committed to his charge, and all officers of the said militia are requested to comply with his requisition and obey his orders accordingly.
John Jay, Chairman
January 6, 1777 - Committee meet at Fishkill.
Present - John Jay, Chairman; Zepheniah Platt, Esq., Nathaniel Sackett, Esq., Egbert Benson, Esq., General Morris.
January 7., 1777 - At a meeting of Deputies from Dutchess County.
Resolved, that the deputies from this county be divided into two classes. That the honorable Robert Livingston, Esq., Conelius Humphrey, John Schenck, and Nathaniel Sackett, Esquires, be one class, and Zepheniah Platt, Gilbert Livingston, Henry Schenck, James Livingston, and Jonathan Landon, Esquires, be the other class to attend convention alternately.
The following letter discovered not long since in the family of one Captain Van Gasbeck's descendants, living near the City of Kingston, Ulster Co., N. Y. effectually sets at rest the long disputed question as to the identity of Harvey Birch, the hero of Cooper's famous historical novel. "The Spy":
Dear Sir:- I had almost forgotten to give directions to give our friend an opportunity to escape. Upon our plan you will take him prisoner with the parties you are now watching for. His name is Enoch Crosby, alias John Brown. I could wish that he may escape before you bring him two miles on your way to the committee. You will be pleased to advise with Messrs. Cornwall and Captain Clark on the subject and form such plan of conduct as your wisdom may direct, but by no means neglect this friend of ours.
I am your humble servant,
Fishkill, January 7, 1777.
To Capt. Goosbeck. From Nathaniel Sackett, member of committee.
From journal of Committee of Safety.
January 13, 1777.
Ordered, that Nathaniel Sackett, Esq., deliver to Col. Lasher, as commissary appointed by the convention of this State to take charge of the military stores which were in his custody, and take a receipt for the same. That Mr. Sackett exhibit and deliver all his accounts and vouchers relative to said stores to the Auditor General to be audited, that they may be filed in the Treasurer's office.
Commission in hand writing of General Washington.
To Mr. Nathaniel Sackett:
Sir:- The advantage of obtaining the earliest and best intelligence of the designs of the enemy, the good character given you by Conl. Duer, added to your capacity for an undertaking of this kind, have induced me to entrust the management of this business to your care till further orders on this head.
For your care and trouble in this business, I agree, on behalf of the public, to allow you fifty dollars per calendar month, and herewith give you a warrant on the Paymaster Genl. for the sum of five hundred dollars to pay those whom you may find necessary to employ in the transaction of this business, an account of the disbursement of which you are to send to me.
Given under my hand at Morristown this 4th day of February, 1777.
From journal of Committee of Safety.
February 12, 1777.
General Scott (in behalf of Mr. Sackett) informed the committee that Mr. Sackett in employed by his excellency, General Washington, to execute some public business, for defraying the expense whereof Mr. Sackett introduced an order from his excellency General Washington of Paymaster General of the Army of the United States of America, which is in the words following to wit:
500 dollars - Pay to Nathaniel Sackett five hundred dollars to be accounted for with me, and this shall be your sufficient warrant.
Given under my hand and seal at Morristown, this fourth day of February, 1777.
By his Excellency's Command
To William Palfrey, Esq., Paymaster General of the Army of the United States of America:
General Scott further informed the committee that the Paymaster General being absent when Mr. Sackett left headquarters, payment on the said order could not be procured and that this business to which Mr. Sackett is appointed as aforesaid is of a very urgent nature, and therefore moved that the money be advanced Mr. Sackett on the credit of said order out of the Treasury.
Ordered, that the Treasurer of this State advance to Nathaniel Sackett, Esq., on the credit and account of his Excellency, General Washington's order for five hundred dollars on the Paymaster General of the Army of the United States of America, in favor of Mr. Sackett, dated the 4th day of February, 1777.
To understand the full purport of the foregoing documents and extracts, as to their bearing on the services rendered his country by Nathaniel Sackett, it is well to remember that when the New York Provisional Congress was not in session, as such, the State Government was administered by less than a quorum of its specially designated under the title of "General Committee of Safety" and this latter body was frequently made up solely of the members of the yet smaller and more active sub-committee appointed for "Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies," and that Nathaniel Sackett, an active member of all these bodies, was not unfrequently the only member remaining on duty with authority to act as emergency might require.
With these facts before us the following document, which with several of the foregoing I copy verbatim from the original, is more readily understood:
Fishkill Landing, 4th Aug., 1779.
Dear Sir:- You will please order a detachment of 150 men, with ten days' provision, under command of Colonel Butler, on particular duty. I wish you to order Major Hull, with him.
N. B. -- The detachment will move to-morrow morning early.
interim believe me yours.
Anthony Wayne, B. G.
To Nathaniel Sackett.
The public career of Nathaniel Sackett is worthy of more attention than any historian has yet given it. Without title, and, so far as known, without hope of personal reward, he served his country for his country's sake. In close touch with the Legislature of his State, of which he was long a member, and with Washington the commander in chief and his leading generals; ever at the post of duty and frequently assuming responsibilities the very thought of which would have made a coward tremble; a soldier without rank whose orders were obeyed without question by the duly commissioned leaders of organized bodies of troops; feared by the secret emissaries of Great Britain; hated alike by Tories on the banks of the Hudson and England's Secretary of State, whose secret schemes for England's advantage he was continually thwarting; loved and honored by his loyal countrymen - respected and implicitly trusted to the last by the glorious band of associate patriots by whose valor and united efforts the United States of America gained her independence, surely Nathaniel Sackett is deserving of a prominent place in the annals of his country as well as of his kinsmen.
After the close of the war he served one term in the State Legislature and then retired from public life; and with his fortune greatly reduced by reason of service in the cause of independence, he returned to his store and his farm. He died at the home of one of his sons near Sackett's Lake in Sullivan County, N. Y. No monument marks his last resting place, and even the locality of his burial is unknown.
461. Ananias R. Sackett, b. Jan. 23, 1760, d. Sept 2, 1838; m. Eunice Meeker.
462. Samuel Sackett, b. Aug. 12, 1762, d. Sept. 9, 1841; m. 1, Polly Halstead.
463. Nathaniel Sackett, b. Oct. 21, 1769; m. Elizabeth Ter Boss.
464. Hannah Sackett, b. Oct. 2, 1771, d. Dec. 19, 1832; m. Joshua Arkills.
465. Elizabeth Sackett, b. Nov. 2, 1778, d. Feb. 3, 1862; m. Eleazer Crosby.