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.







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: