The intimate, trusted roles of the enslaved

Henry Livingston lived in a river estate in the south of Poughkeepsie, near today’s Rural Cemetery.

In a letter to his brother in June of 1777 he starts by saying, “Your negro just now delivered me the Bond and Tenant Books with your letter…”

Regionally, the Livingston family enslaved many men, women and children. As is seen here, many of these persons were entrusted with the most intimate and essential matters.

One of most famous stories from the Revolutionary War is the extraordinary advantage the Americans gained in the war as a result of the talents of James Armistead Lafayette, a formerly enslaved man who was deployed by the Marquis de Lafayette to infiltrate and report from the British enemy in Virginia.

Three months after the letter was written, the British did sail up the Hudson River. But they were not able to sustain a permanent strategic invasion, but instead burned the city of Kingston (then the NY State capital) to the ground, in a very costly act. The state capital was then moved to, and operated from, Poughkeepsie.

Among the more extraordinary items in DCHS collections is the beam from the Livingston house that was hit by a cannonball during the October incursion.