The Fort At The Battery Pre: 1869 Part II


Lord Lovelace succeeded Lord Cornbury, but never had a well day after his arrival, a circumstance attributed to a cold caught at sea. His family accompanied him, but misfortune seemed to attend them from the first. One of his young sons died soon after his arrival, and a fortnight later his eldest son, and the heir of the title also died, and within a year from his arrival the governor died. The misfortunes of the family excited great commiseration toward Lady Lovelace. In preparation for a long occupancy the mansion in the fort underwent extensive repairs. This house faced upon the court fronting to the west. Its various modifications under the predecessors of Lord Lovelace had made the building of an imposing appearance. The upper windows overlooked the ramparts, and embraced an extensive view of the Hudson river, and of the harbor toward the Narrows.

Brigadier Robert Hunter, an officer under Marlborough, married Lady Hay, relict of the son of the Marquis of Tweedale. He was appointed to the government of New York in 1708, and was accompanied hither by his family; but he, too, suffered the loss of his wife while residing here.

William Burnet, a son of the celebrated bishop of that name, succeeded Governor Hunter. He apparently had a double object in his coming to the New World—a government and a wife. Having become comfortably established in his quarters in the fort, and settled the important public matters requiring his attention, he cast about among the American ladies for a suitable companion. The fortunate object of his choice was the daughter of a New York merchant descended from the old Dutch stock. Miss Van Horn became Mrs. Burnet, and assumed the duties of the head of the governor's extensive household, but not without the envious remarks of others ; and a very powerful social combination seems to have been formed against the governor, led by Mr. Delancey, an aspiring gentleman of aristocratic pretensions. Mr. Burnet was subsequently Governor of Massachusetts.

A revival of the show and elegance of courtly observances in the fort occurred upon the installment of John Montgomerie in the executive chair. He had been a member of the royal household, and was of very agreeable presence. But his government lasted only two or three years prior to his decease in the city. The inventory of his effects shows the style in which he lived. His cellars were filled with wines of costly description. In his stables were sixteen horses, with a state coach, a chaise, and saddles with gold lace, horse furniture, postillion equipments, and gilded harness. In his domestic service were a private musician, three white servants, and seven negroes, male and female.

We come now to a curious interregnum, when another native became the executive of the government. At the time of Mr. Montgomerie's death Rip Van Dam was the oldest member and President of the Governor's Council, and virtute officii became the Chief of the State. He was one of the old-fashioned, respectable citizens. In early life he married a daughter of Vanderspiegle, a baker, and having become engaged in mercantile pursuits acquired a considerable fortune, with which he retired to his comfortable, two-story house in Maiden lane. Whether he removed his family to the fort we have no knowledge, but he performed the executive duties for a considerable period, until the arrival of Colonel Cosby, his regularly appointed successor. He naturally expected full compensation for the period during which he actually served, but Colonel Cosby claimed half the emoluments from the date of his commission, which covered a period of many months of Mr. Van Dam's service. The dispute between the parties took a political turn, and occasioned great excitement. The aristocracy against the plebians was the sentiment evoked, and was by some considered as foreshadowing the independent sentiment which resulted in the Revolution.

Colonel Cosby was followed to this country by the son of an English duke who had become enamored of the governor's daughter. This was Lord Augustus Fitzroy. The visit was one which in those days was considered as reflecting distinguished honor upon the humble city of New York, inasmuch that the Common Council made a public matter of it, and waited upon his lordship in a body to tender him the freedom of the city. Governor Cosby employed his time to the best advantage in securing all the pecuniary advantages incident to his office. He died, however, after a few years' residence.

In succeeding years the fort was occupied by various governors and generals until subsequent to the Revolutionary War, when it was demolished to form a site for the residence of the President of the United States, which, though erected, was never used for the purpose designed. Upon its demolition, the land was sold off in lots, embracing nearly the block enclosed by State, Pearl, and Whitehall streets and the Bowling Green.

Website: The History
Article Name: The Fort At The Battery Pre: 1869 Part II
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My collection of Books: Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York; Joseph Shannon 1869
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