Brevet Major John Van Dyk

Brevet Major John Van Dyk


Brevet Major John Van Dyk: A Portrait of Uncommon Patriotism and Resilience



By Jeff Wilford

While serving at Valley Forge, Brevet Major John Van Dyk (also spelled Dyke and Dyck) was in the middle of a military career that would place him at some of the Revolutionary War’s most significant events and in the company of the luminaries of the war.  A descendant of one of the original Dutch families to settle northern New Jersey, Van Dyk was born in New York City, but grew up along the banks of the Raritan River. He served in the American Revolution as an artilleryman from May 16, 1775, to its close, beginning his service as a member of the New Jersey Militia and the NYC Militia. Most of his time, however, he was attached to Colonel Thomas Proctor’s 4th Regiment of the Continental Artillery Regiment and, later, the 2nd Regiment of the Continental Corps of Artillery under Colonel John Lamb.  While at Valley Forge, these regiments were part of Brigadier General Henry Knox’s Brigade, which encamped in the Artillery Park area.

Serving in the northern theater, Van Dyk participated in some of its most notable events. In August of 1775, he assisted Alexander Hamilton with the removal of cannons from the Battery in New York City, while being fired upon by the HMS Asia. He was involved in twelve battles, including Long Island, Harlem Heights, White Plains, Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. He was also at both of the Morristown Winter Encampments as well as Valley Forge, where he served as a lieutenant and acting adjutant.

While Van Dyk was serving at West Point, Benedict Arnold betrayed General Washington, resulting in the capture of Arnold’s accomplice, British Major John Andre. Van Dyk remained in Tappan, NY, during Andre’s trial and was one of the four Continental officers to accompany him to the gallows. Later, after receiving a furlough from General Washington to go to sea to recover from an undisclosed illness, he served as a lieutenant of marines on the brig General Reed. The ship, however, was captured by the British, and he was confined on the notorious British prison ship Jersey, eventually being released as part of a prisoner exchange. Van Dyk recorded his recollections of both accounts for posterity.

As the war ended, he was present when the British evacuated New York Harbor and was an original member of George Washington’s Society of the Cincinnati. Perhaps his final act as a soldier was in New York City as one of the eight Lafayette Guards, all friends of the Marquis and surviving original Society of Cincinnati members, as they paid tribute on horseback in a procession to honor their former general at his passing in 1834. It is said that the only favor the Marquis de Lafayette ever asked of the new American government was to install John Van Dyk as an officer in the New York City Customs House, where he served with his former colonel, John Lamb.


Tintype of John Van Dyk. Courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.

Captain/Major Jonathan Clark (Clarke)


by Henry Pei






Pictured: Jonathan Clark’s home, “Trough Spring”, which still stands today.


Hannah Till

Hannah Till

By Rachael Pei

Hannah (Archer) Till

Hannah Till (originally named “Long Point” by her father) was born into slavery in Kent County, Delaware to an Oneida father and African American mother. Her birth is estimated to have occurred around 1721.

By 1776, she was owned by Reverend John Mason of the Associate Reformed Church in New York, who leased her to George Washington as his personal cook. Her husband, Isaac (who was also a slave) was leased by Captain John Johnson of Bergen County, New Jersey to cook for Washington as well.

The couple had at least three children when they started working for Washington. While staying at the Valley Forge Encampment, Hannah gave birth to another son named Isaac Worley Till.

Both Hannah and Isaac had an agreement with their owners and with Washington that they could purchase their freedom, and they achieved this on October 30, 1778. After gaining her freedom, Hannah continued working for Washington as a pastry cook. She eventually also worked for Major General Marquis de Lafayette for half a year.

After the revolutionary war, the couple cooked for families in Philadelphia to earn a living. They raised at least seven children together and became members of the First African Presbyterian Church.

In March 1824 (when she was around 102 years old), John Fanning Watson interviewed her. In his book Annals of Philadelphia, he describes her as “a pious woman, possessing a sound mind and memory” (page 552). His sister, who knew Hannah and occasionally visited her, also reported that General Lafayette came to see Hannah in 1824. At the time, Hannah was in arrears for her mortgage. However, after the General’s visit, she learned that he had kindly paid off the debts for her.

At 105 years old, Hannah died of old age on December 13, 1826. She was buried at the First African Presbyterian Church, then later reinterred at Eden Cemetery in Collingdale, PA. On October 3, 2015, the Pennsylvania Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Pennsylvania Brigade of the Descendants of Washington’s Army organized a ceremony honoring her and placed a marker at the cemetery in her memory.


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Colonel Walter Stewart

Colonel Walter Stewart

By Rachael Pei

Colonel Walter Stewart of the 13th Pennsylvania Regiment

Walter Stewart was born in Ireland in 1756 and later settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

He entered the war on January 6, 1776, when he was appointed captain of Company F in the 3rd Pennsylvania battalion. In May of that year, he was promoted to major and became an aide-de-camp to General Horatio Gates. Under General Gates’s command, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

On June 17, 1777, Stewart was appointed commander of the Pennsylvania State Regiment (which was renamed to the 13th Pennsylvania Regiment that November). He fought valiantly in the Philadelphia campaign at Brandywine and Germantown, then stayed with his regiment at the Valley Forge Encampment from December 1777 until June 1778.

Stewart was known for his handsome appearance (he was nicknamed “the Irish Beauty”), as well as for paying careful attention to his soldiers’ needs. In Private Yankee Doodle, a narrative of the Revolutionary War, soldier Joseph Plumb Martin describes, “This Colonel Stewart was an excellent officer much beloved and respected by the troops of the Line he belonged to” (pg 219).

After leaving the Valley Forge encampment, he was wounded at the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778. A few days afterward, the 13th Pennsylvania Regiment was merged with the 2nd (since enlistments of many soldiers in the 13th expired), and Stewart was given command of this new regiment.

Later, in 1781, he married Deborah McClenahan and fought under General Anthony Wayne in the Yorktown campaign. He retired from the army on January 1, 1783, but George Washington asked him to stay as Inspector General of Northern Department. After holding the position for several months, he retired with the brevet rank of brigadier general. He went on to become a major general in the Pennsylvania militia, as well as a successful merchant.

Stewart died in June 1796 during the yellow fever epidemic and was buried in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (in Philadelphia).


Yale University Art Gallery, Public Domain
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References: John Van Dyk

References for Lt. John Van Dyk’s Article

I. John Van Dyk as part of Marquis de Lafayette’s Funeral Procession:

Hone, Philip. “June 25.” The Diary of Philip Hone, 1828-1851, by Hone, edited by

     Bayard Tuckerman, vol. 1, New York City, Dodd, Mead and Company, 1889, p.

     108. 2 vols.

“Particulars of the Funeral Honours to the Memory of General La Fayette, with

     the Eulogium Delivered by General James Tallmadge, June 26, 1834.”

     Documents of the Board of Aldermen, of the City of New-York, from No. 1

     to No. 61 inclusive – from May 19, 1834, to May 4, 1835., vol. 1, New York

     City, 1835, pp. 97-98.

II. John Van Dyk and his role in the Execution of Andre:

Abbatt, William. The Crisis of the Revolution: Being the Story of Arnold and

     André. New York City, Empire State Society, Sons of the American

     Revolution, 1899.

Peixotto, Ernest. A Revolutionary Pilgrimage Being an Account of a Series of

     Visits to Battlegrounds and Other Places Made Memorable by the War of the

     Revolution. Illustrated by Ernest Peixotto, New York City, Charles

     Scribner’s Sons, 1917.  

          – Ernest Peixotto mentions that Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown

            possesses a letter from John Van Dyk regarding the execution of Major Andre

            (page 140).

Van Dyk, John. “Major André, Letter of Col. Van Dyk to John Pintard, August 27,

     1821.” Historical Magazine, vol. VIL, no. 8, Aug. 1863, pp. 250-52.  

          – John Van Dyk’s recollection of the trial and execution of Major John

            André for his involvement in the Benedict Arnold treason conspiracy.

            Van Dyk was one of the four Continental officers to accompany André

            on the march from the area of his confinement (today’s 76 House) to

            the gallows on October 2, 1780.

III. John Van Dyk and his confinement as a prisoner on the British Prison Ship Jersey:

Van Dyk, John. “Narrative of Confinement in the Jersey Prison Ship.” Historical Magazine,

     vol. VII, no. 5, May 1863, pp. 147-51.  

         –  John Van Dyk’s personal account of his time as a prisoner of the

            British aboard the notorious prison ship Jersey in Wallabout Bay,

            Brooklyn, NY. Van Dyk’s illness that led to his capture was probably

            malaria or Yellow Fever based on the description of his symptoms of

            fever, body aches, jaundice and lethargy.

IV. Selected Articles:

Two of the above articles—one describing Major Andre’s Execution (pp. 250-252) and the other Van Dyk’s confinement on the British prison ship (pp. 147-151) –can be found here:




Mifflin’s Division | 3rd Pennsylvania Brigade | Spencer’s Regiment


Organized spring 1777 at Monmouth, New Jersey. 7 Companies from New Jersey and 1 Company from Pennsylvania.

Entered Valley Forge with 233 assigned, 127 fit for duty.

Left Valley Forge with 154 assigned, 69 fit for duty.

Previous Engagements: Northern New Jersey, Defense of Philadelphia, Philadelphia-Monmouth

Field Officers

  • Colonel Oliver Spencer
  • Lt. Colonel Eleazer Lindsley
  • Major John Borrows

Company Commanders

  • Captain William Britton
  • Captain James Broderick
  • Captain Richard Edsall
  • Captain David Lyons
  • Captain John Maxwell
  • Captain Jonathan Pierson
  • Captain Jonas Ward
  • Captain Benjamin Weatherby
  • Captain John Wilkins

Regimental Staff

  • Quartermaster Nathaniel Ogden
  • Adjutant William Barber
  • Paymaster Robert Spencer
  • Surgeon Jabez Campfield
  • Surgeon’s Mate John Darcey
  • Quartermaster Sergeant James Brugess
  • Sergeant Major James De Camp
  • Sergeant Major Samuel Everdon




Organized in June 1777, to consist of several provisional rifle companies.

Detached to Gates’ Northern Army and participated in the battles of Saratoga.

Returned to Washington’s Main Army in November 1777.

Disbanded in November 1779.

Field Officers

  • Colonel Daniel Morgan

Company Commanders

  • Captain Hawkins Boon
  • Captain William Henderson
  • Captain James Knox
  • Captain James Parr
  • Captain Thomas Posey
  • Captain A.L. Smith
  • Captain Van Swearingen
  • Captain Benjamin Taliaferro
  • Captain Thomas Willis

Regimental Staff

  • Sergeant Major/Adjutant John Coleman
  • Quartermaster Henry Henly
  • Surgeon Charles McCarter
  • Paymaster Benjamin Ashby



Lafayette’s Division | Scott’s Brigade | Patton’s Regiment


Organized spring 1777 at Philadelphia, 7 Companies from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Previous Engagements: Northern New Jersey, Defense of Philadelphia, Philadelphia-Monmouth

Field Officers

  • Colonel John Patton
  • Lt. Colonel John Parke
  • Major Peter Scull

Company Commanders

  • Captain John Redman
  • Captain John Dennis
  • Captain Peter Grubb
  • Captain Lawrence Keener
  • Captain Allen Mclane
  • Captain Joseph Prowell
  • Captain Walter Bicker

Regimental Staff

  • Quartermaster John B. Webster
  • Paymaster Mathew Mcguire
  • Surgeon William Adams
  • Surgeon’s Mate John Morton



Mifflin’s Division | 3rd Pennsylvania Brigade | Malcolm’s Regiment


Organized June 1777 at Ramapo, New Jersey. 6 Companies from southern New York.

Entered Valley Forge with 231 assigned, 158 fit for duty.

Left Valley Forge with 175 assigned, 72 fit for duty.

Previous Engagements: New Jersey 1777, Defense of Philadelphia, Philadelphia-Monmouth

Field Officers

  • Colonel William Malcolm
  • Lt. Colonel Aaron Burr
  • Major Albert Pawling

Company Commanders

  • Captain John Steel
  • Captain John Sanford
  • Captain Nathaniel Toms
  • Captain Daniel Nevins
  • Captain Samuel Kearsley
  • Captain Matthew Irvines
  • Captain John Hunter
  • Captain James Black
  • Captain Thomas Lucas

Regimental Staff

  • Quartermaster Patrick Cronin
  • Adjutant Peter Taulman
  • Paymaster John Stagg
  • Paymaster Richard Oliver
  • Surgeon Daniel Wood
  • Quartermaster Sergeant Daniel Gildersleeve
  • Sergeant Major Edward Burrows
  • Drum Major Joseph Robinson
  • Fife Major Mathew Colford