Jacobus Swartwout

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Brigadier General Jacobus Swartwout
General Swartwout historic home marker New York State

Jacobus Swartwout II (born 5 November 1734 in Wiccopee, Fishkill, Dutchess County, Province of New York; died 16 February 1827 in Swartwoutville, Dutchess, New York) was an early American landowner, statesman, and military leader. Swartwout served as a Brigadier General in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War under General George Washington. He was a close ally of many key Founding Fathers of the United States, and a delegate to New York State's convention for ratification of the US Constitution.[1]

Family and early life

Swartwout was the son of Major Jacobus Swartwout (d.1749), great grandson of Roeloff Swartwout, and great great grandson of Tomys Swartwout.

Jacobus senior married Gieletjen "Jannetie" Nieuwkerk of Kingston, Ulster County, Province of New York on October 5, 1714 in Old Dutch Church in Kingston. They had five sons and four daughters. Jacobus owned land at Maghaghkemeck (Port Jervis, Orange County), and was a Major in the light foot militia of Orange County under Col. Vincent Matthews from the 1730s to 1760.[2][3]

In 1721 Swartout Sr. purchased 306 acres of land from Madam Brett. The farm was situated south of the Fishkill Creek, about nine miles from the Hudson River,[4] in an area known as Wiccopee. Jacobus Swartwout II was born in Wiccopee, Fishkill, New York on 5 November 1734 and baptized at the Fishkill Dutch Reformed Church.

Military career

General George Washington to Colonel Swartwout from West Point, October 1779

French and Indian War

Swartwout continued the tradition of family military service when, 21 days after his wedding to Aeltje in 1759, he was appointed captain of a company of Dutchess County volunteers.[4] He began his military training under Lord Jeffrey Amherst at Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point.

First American Intelligence Service

The first organization under the Articles of Confederation created for counterintelligence purposes was the Committee for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies, later the Commission. It was made up of a board established in New York between June 1776 and January 1778 to collect intelligence, apprehend British spies and couriers, and examine suspected British sympathizers. In effect, it was created as "secret service" which had the power to arrest, to convict, to grant bail or parole, and to imprison or to deport. A company of militia was placed under its command, of which Jacobous Swartwout was in command. The Committee heard over 500 cases involving disloyalty and subversion. The Committee changed to a Commission by Continental Congress in February 1777 and moved to Kingston, The Board consisted of Egbert Benson, Melancton Smith and Jacobus Swartwout with John Jay remaining as Chairman.[5]

American Revolution

In September 1774, colonial representatives in Philadelphia called for the establishment of a Committee of Observation in each county. Swartwout was named the Deputy Chairman of the Fishkill local Committee.[4]

On July 8, 1775 Captain Swartout was appointed Muster-master of four companies to be raised. Twenty-nine members of the Swartwout family served in the war of American independence, two having the rank of brigadier-general, three that of captain, three of lieutenant, and four of ensign.[6] He was made Colonel 1st Regiment Dutchess County New York Militia 1776 as well as Colonel of Charlotte County New York Militia June 25, 1778, as part of Governor George Clinton's Brigade. He was later promoted to Brigadier-General Dutchess County New York Militia, March 3, 1780.[7]

The Dutchess County militia or "Swartwout Regiment" was part of Governor Clinton's Brigade and William Heath's Division during the Battle of Long Island. In the writings of General George Washington's manuscripts, Swartwout's regiment left Kings Bridge 18 October 1776, to fight in the Battle of White Plains. The regiment was about 364 men strong and were in service at Fort Washington, Fort Independence, the Battle of Long Island, Kings Bridge, the Battle of White Plains, the defense of New York levies as well as other engagements through the end of the war on the Northern front. Swartwout resigned on Oct 3, 1794 and promoted Abraham Brinkerhoff to the post for Dutchess County.[8][9][10]

Swartwoutville, and the American Revolution

General George Washington to Colonel Swartwout, Library of Congress

In 1760, Swartwout purchased 3,000 acres of land from Madam Brett and built his first home after his wedding to Aaltje Brinkerhoff, of Brinkerhoff, New York.[11] The Swartwoutville Hamlet is located in the south east corner of the town of Wappinger, New York.

General George Washington was staying in Fishkill in October 1778. The headquarters of the commander-in-chief was then in the home of Captain John Brinkerhoff father-in-law to Jacobus Swartwout, in a low stone home about midway on the highway between the settlement of Brinkerhoff and Swartwoutville. During this period Prussian-American General, Baron Frederick William Augustus de Steuben, had his headquarters at the neighboring homestead of Colonel Jacobus Swartwout, standing immediately south of his later residence at Swartwoutville. Others who visited and quartered at Jacobus Swartwout's homestead along with General Washington and Baron Von Stueben were, Marquis de Lafayette and, Israel Putnam.[4]

Political career

Swartwout was one of the original New York state legislators, elected in 1777 to the 1st New York state legislature. He served for eighteen years, six as a New York State Assemblyman and eleven years as a New York State Senator from 1784-1795. He also served on the Council of Appointment from 1784.[12][better source needed][13]

Ratification of the US Constitution and support for the Bill of Rights

Swartwout voting on US Constitution Ratification on June 17th 1788

Swartwout was a delegate to the US Constitutional Convention on June 17, 1788, to decide whether New York State would approve the new Federal US Constitution.

On the first vote for ratification, Swartwout voted in favor of ratification, with the Federalists, including Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and Robert R. Livingston. He later changed his vote on the last round to support the amendment of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution prior to ratification. Eventually, the Convention also recommended amendments to the Constitution, and it unanimously approved a "Circular Letter" to the states urging the call of a second general convention to consider these amendments and those proposed by other states.[14]


Gerald Foster's mural

To memoralize the delegates of the New York Constitutional Convention on June 26, 1788, in Poughkeepsie at the original Dutchess County Courthouse, New York State commissioned a mural in 1938 by Gerald Foster. Swartwout is featured in the center holding the US Constitution. This mural still hangs in the Poughkeepsie Post Office, commissioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Swartwout Lake in Congers, New York, part of the land holdings of the Swartwout family, is named after Jacobus, as well as Swartwoutville in town of Wappinger, New York.

Swartout (in glasses) shown in mural of New York State Constitutional Convention

Historic Swartwoutville was created in 2009 to recognize the hamlet of Swartwoutville, by erecting signs at the six entrances of the hamlet and preserving historical site and buildings relating to General Swartwout. In 2016, the hamlet was officially recognized by the Town of Wappinger through the efforts of Town Historian Joey Cavaccini and Historic Swartwoutville.


  1. ^ "Ratification of the Constitution by the State of New York; July 26, 1788". Avalon Project. Retrieved 2016-03-27. 
  2. ^ "Maj Jacobus Swartwout (1691 - 1749)". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2016-03-27. 
  3. ^ (U.S.), General Society of Colonial Wars (1922-01-01). An Index of Ancestors and Roll of Members of the Society of Colonial Wars: The Honor Roll, Services of Members of the Society During the World War, 1917-1918. By authority of the General Assembly. 
  4. ^ a b c d Weise, Arthur James (1899). The Swartwout Chronicles (PDF). 
  5. ^ Minutes of the Committee and of the first Commission for detecting and defeating conspiracies in the state of New York, December 11, 1776-September 23, 1778, with collateral documents. New York Historical Society. 1924. 
  6. ^ Heitman, Francis Bernard (1892-01-01). Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783. W.H. Lowdermilk & Company. 
  7. ^ Yearbook of the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York. Sons of the Revolution New York Society. 1910-01-01. 
  8. ^ Senate, New York (State) Legislature (1902-01-01). Documents of the Senate of the State of New York. 
  9. ^ Friedenwald, Herbert; Division, Library of Congress Manuscript (1901-01-01). A calendar of Washington manuscripts in the Library of Congress. G.P.O. 
  10. ^ Lesser,C.H., The Sinews of Independence, Monthly Strength Reports of the Continental Army, Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press, 1976
  11. ^ The History of Dutchess County, New York. Samuel A. Matthieu. 1909. p. 294. 
  12. ^ 7th New York State Legislature#Members
  13. ^ 1st New York State Legislature#Assemblymen
  14. ^ Mr. Duane's motion that the Convention be opened every day by Prayer, Convention of the State of New York on the adoption of the Federal Constitution, Minutes - Image Gallery ...

External links

  • Historic Swartwoutville
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