Nathaniel Sackett

(1737-1805)
FatherRev Samuel Sackett (1711/12-1784)
MotherHannah Hazard (c 1712-aft 1777)
Nathaniel Sackett, son of Rev Samuel Sackett and Hannah Hazard, was born in Orange County, New York StateG, on 10 April 1737.1 He died in Sullivan County, New York StateG, on 28 July 1805.1 He married on 3 January 1759, Mary Rogers, daughter of Ananias Rogers and Prudence Carle.1
     In 1790 Nathaniel was living in Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York StateG. In his household were three males (16+) and three females.2
     During the American War of Independence Nathaniel Sackett served as a spymaster in the revolutionary cause. He was appointed by George Washington in February 1777 to obtain intelligence on the plans of the British enemy forces. His work involved the recruitment of agents and informers, behind the enemy lines, if necessary paid from a purse of $500 sanctioned by Washington.3,4,5,67,8,9
George Washington to Nathaniel Sackett, 4 February 1777

To Mr Nathl Sacket

Sir,

The advantage of obtaining the earliest and best Intelligence of the designs of the Enemy, the good character given of you by Colo Duer, and 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 own trouble in this business I agree, on behalf of the Public, to allow you Fifty Dollars pr Kallendar Month, and herewith give you a warrant upon the Paymaster Genl for the sum of Five hundred Dollars to pay those whom you may find necessary to Imploy in the transaction of this business, an acct of the disbursements of which you are to render to me.

Given at Head Quarters at
Morristown this 4th day of Feby
1777
G Washington

     Nathaniel was recommended to General Washington by William Duer, a Continental Congressman, with whom Nathaniel served on the New York committee for detecting and defeating conspiracies.10
I beg Leave to introduce to your Excellency's Acquaintance Mr Sacket, a member of the Convention of the State, a Man of Honor, and of firm Attachment to the American Cause.
He will communicate to your Excellency some Measures taken by him, and myself which if properly prosecuted may be of infinite Utility to the present military Operations. I have therefore recommended it to him to wait on you in Person in hope that some Systematical Plan may be adopted and prosecuted for facilitating your Manoeuvres against the British army.

[full text William Duer to George Washington, 28 January 1777]

     Doubtless aware of the risk of the misdirection of letters by untrustworthy intermediaries both Duer and Washington were careful not to put too much in writing. Duer's cautionary, "to say more in a letter might be imprudent", was echoed in Washington's reply.11,12
I had the pleasure of receiving yours of the 28th January by Mr Sacket, who communicated to me the measures which had been planned by you and him, for forwarding the military operations on your side, and which I most sincerely wish had been carried into Execution.
...
I shall say but little to you by way of Letter, as I shall communicate my sentiments in a Confidential Manner to Mr Sacket.

[full text George Washington to William Duer, 3 February 1777]

     Taking his instructions personally from Washington, Nathaniel set up an intelligence-gathering network in the New York area. He was soon reporting information gathered in the field to Duer and through him to Washington. A letter of 25 February 1777 reveals the nature of the intelligence-gathering, including the information—.13
"That from Intelligence from Huntington by a letter Directed to Corpl Jarvis from his wife at said place, there were three Companies of Tories stationed at that place (but not a Man to the Eastward) and about 10 or 12 Regular Officers without any men and that these Tory officers Distress the Friends of American Liberty much."

and

"That Edmund Fanning had agreed with some shoe makers in Easthampton to make 3 or 400 pairs of shoes for the Ministerial Army saying that the Rebels had taken a Considerable Number from them and that they were almost Barefooted."

[full text John Davis to Nathaniel Sackett, 25 February 1777, abstract by William Duer sent to George Washington 2 March 1777]

     The cryptic style of letter-writing was continued by Duer in a detailed report to Washington a few days later, and in Washington's reply to Duer.10,14,12
Mr S, who was lately with your Excellency, to conferr a Certain Matter, hinted at in my last Letter, requests me to inform you that Matters are in a proper Train for Executing the Business proposed on a Regular System. I flatter myself great Benefits will be derived from it.

[full text William Duer on behalf of New York Legislature Committee of Correspondence to George Washington, 2 March 1777]

I am glad Mr S's plan is nearly compleated and I am persuaded the benefits resulting from it will be great. The sooner it can be executed, the more beneficial it will be.

[full text George Washington to William Duer, March 6, 1777]

     As well as his role as a spy, Nathaniel Sackett's voice carried considerable weight as a member of the General Committee of Safety. In a letter to General McDougall in March 1777 (which letter McDougall forwarded to Washington), Nathaniel presented arguments, on behalf of the committee, for the redeployment of Colonel Livingston's regiment to fill a gap in the defences.15
... unless we should have a New Supply of Troops thrown in before that time, this whole County will be Defended with only 80 or 90 men; exposed to an attack from 4 or 500 of our Enemies which are already in Possession of a small part of the County, and it's Impossible to know the Number of our Internal Enemies. The Tories already appear Insolent and there is not the least doubt but the Enemy will have the earliest Intelligence of our Situations. These Arguments we are of opinion are Cogent and Conclusive and submit the Expediency of ordering Colo Livingston with his Regiment Immediately to the lower part of this County — shall be much obliged to you for an Immediate answer.

[full text Nathaniel Sackett to Alexander McDougall, March 12, 1777]

     At a later stage in the war, in May 1782, Nathaniel was appointed as a sutler to the Continental Army. Nathaniel's undoubted organizational abilities were evidently complemented by diplomatic skills—a note of thanks to Nathaniel for a cheese being found amongst Washington's papers of October 1782.16,17
George Washington, 13 May 1782, General Orders

Head Quarters Newburgh Monday May 13. 1782

Parole . . . CSigns.

Mr Nathaniel Sackett has obtained permission from the Commander in Chief to Suttle to the Army untill further orders, upon conforming to the regulations for Conducting that business which will be pointed out to him by the Quarter Master General.

George Washington, 13 May 1782, General Orders

[note re cheese George Washington to Benjamin Tallmadge, 15 October 1782]

     In August 1785 Nathaniel proposed to Congress the establishment of a new state in the west on lands bounded by Lake Erie and the Ohio, Scioto, and Muskingum rivers "for the relief of all our distressed and neglected citizens". Congress was not persuaded of the merits of the scheme, but Nathaniel persevered and gained 340 supporting signatures and presented the plan again on 28 December. However, the proposal again failed to find favor.18
The Diaries of George Washington

Tuesday 1st November 1785

A Mr. Sacket from Tygers Valley on the Monongahela, and another person came here before Dinner and shewed me some propositions they had to make to Congress for a large territory of Country West of the Ohio, which I discouraged them from offering, as I was sure they never would be acceded to by that body.

[full text The Diaries of George Washington 1 November 1785]

     In May 1789 Nathaniel unsuccessfully solicited George Washington for a position in the new federal government.19
Continental Army hut at New Windsor Cantonment Historic Site

A Continental Army hut, reassembled at the New Windsor Cantonment Historic Site, Orange County, New York, is said to have been bought by Nathaniel Sackett at an auction ordered by General Washington to help pay the army's debts. The hut was used for nearly 150 years at nearby Mountainville, where it formed part of a larger home.20

Children of Nathaniel Sackett and Mary Rogers

Sackett Family Association descendants
Glenn Glaus.
ChartsTree 7. Simon Sackett the colonist descendant chart
Notable Sacketts timeline
Reference148.5M.7

 Notes & Citations

  1. Charles Weygant, The Sacketts of America, "148. Nathaniel Sackett, b. Apr. 10, 1737, d. July 28, 1805; m. Mary Rogers."
  2. 1790 US census, digital image from National Archives microfilm, Ancestry.com, Nathaniel Sacket. Fishkill, Dutchess, NY. 3 white males (16+) and 3 white females.
  3. Charles Weygant, The Sacketts of America.
  4. Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov).
  5. Website National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (http://dar.org/), "Sackett, Nathaniel
    Service: New York
    Rank: Patriotic Service
    Birth: 4-10-1737, Cornwall, New York
    Death: 7-28-1805, Sullivan Co, New York
    Service Description: 1) Mem of Prov Cong; Mem of Assembly; 2) Mem of Various Committees
    Residence: Fishkill, Dutchess Co, New York
    Spouse: Mary Rogers."
  6. Glenn P Hastedt and Steven W Guerrier, eds, Spies, Wiretaps, and Secret Operations: An Encyclopedia of American Espionage, ABC-CLIO (2011).
  7. Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 4, general correspondence, image 11.
  8. Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 3g, Varick transcripts, letterbook 2, image 266.
  9. Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), George Washington's Accounts of Expenses While Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army 1775-1783. With Annotations by John C. Fitzpatrick.
  10. Website University of Virginia, George Washington Papers (http://gwpapers.virginia.edu).
  11. Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 3g, Varick transcripts, letterbook 1, image 409.
  12. Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.
  13. Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 4, general correspondence, image 466.
  14. Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 3g, Varick transcripts, letterbook 2, image 29.
  15. Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 4, general correspondence, image 739.
  16. Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 3g, Varick transcripts, letterbook 6, image 154.
  17. Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.
  18. Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), The Diaries of George Washington. Vol. IV. 1784-June 1786. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978.
  19. Website University of Virginia, George Washington Papers (http://gwpapers.virginia.edu), editor's note to letter William Duer to George Washington, 28 January 1777, citing a letter Sackett to GW, 23 May 1789.
  20. Website HMdb.org Historical Marker Database (http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=8770).
Last Edited22 October 2013