This online exhibition offers insights into the October 1777 British action, as well as insights into Franklin Roosevelt's unrelenting commitment to the understanding and publication of local history even as global war emerged and commenced.
George Washington called West Point, just south of Dutchess County on the Hudson River, the key to the North American Continent. Historians agree the success of the American patriots relied on the defense of the Hudson River Valley, which the British where the British hoped to take control to divide the emerging United States in half.
In October of 1777 a single trip north by the British as far as Red Hook, Dutchess County, did show the potential for such a raid, and resulted in the complete destruction of the capital of New York at the time, Kingston. Certain homes, barns with agricultural products, and stores were targeted with cannon ball or were torched and burned.
The dramatic event would attract the attention of any local historian. But the fact that the ships traversed the area of Franklin Roosevelt's ancestral homes, gave it an extra dimension and power for him.
President Roosevelt wrote an article for each of the 1935 and 1936 DCHS Yearbooks, where his trusted partner, Helen Wilkinson Reynolds was editor.
DCHS's Helen Wilkinson Reynolds.
DCHS Collections: Envelope containing information from the British Admiralty directed to FDR, who then gave them to DCHS.
The articles are written about the material he obtained through requests to the head of the British Admiralty and the US Embassy in London.
Britain's Lord Halifax shown at right. Middle top: with Nazi leader Herman Goering. Middle bottom: with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Right: with FDR. When Halifax was made US Ambassador in 1941, FDR broke with protocol and met Halifax in his private sloop.
Poughkeepsie June 16, 1777
Your negro just now delivered me the Bond and Tenant Books with your letter of the 7th instant and am sorry you are again attacked with the gout. Your being so long freed was in hopes it would have quitted you. Captain Phillip Cortland was here this morning and left Peeks Kill yesterday all in quietness and the Armies in Jersey as yet very peaceable. As for the English Army coming up this river I am under no apprehension of, because I think it would be great madness in attempting it. We are all in good health and join in our love to your sister and children. And am… your loving brother, Henry Livingston.
The son of the author of the letter found his home hit by a single cannonball.
The 1919 DCHS Yearbook published a photograph of the patched shingle at the front of the house (right).
Among the artifacts in DCHS Collections is the beam that was damaged by the cannonball in 1777 (below). It was removed when the house was demolished in the late 19th century.