Brief Biography of Col. Cornelis van Dyck
James Nohl Churchyard
Col. Cornelis van Dyck (to use the Dutch form of
his first name) was baptized in Schenectady, New York, on 3 October
1740. He was the son of physician Cornelis van Dyck and his second wife
Margaret Bradt. He married Thanna (familiarly Tannaka) Yates on 20 February
1762. She was the daughter of Joseph Yates and was born (baptized?)
on 29 April 1739.
He must have been early versed in the military art since he was commissioned
a Lieutenant in the militia on 22 March 1760 and was promoted to Captain
A. W. Lauber summarizes his revolutionary career in the following words:
"throughout the Revolution he had an honorable military career
and was especially valuable on the frontier."
Perhaps his family background contributed to his value as a frontier
leader. His father was of purely European descent. However, his father's
first wife was 1/4 Mohawk and the second wife (Col. Cornelis van Dyck's
mother) was 1/16 Mohawk. So Cornelis, being 1/32 Mohawk and having older
half-siblings who were 1/8, must have had easy access to the nearby
Indian castles during his youth. This developed his skills in dealing
with the natives.
On 27 May 1775 he was appointed Captain of the militia by the Committee
of Safety of Albany County. The salary commensurate with this post was
6 pounds per month. On 29 May he was given orders for recruiting a company
for the defense of Fort Ticonderoga, and on 28 or 29 June he was commissioned
Captain by the provincial congress and assigned to the Second New York
On the 13th of July 1775 orders were sent from General Schuyler to Captain
van Dyck to march his company immediately to Lake George. But at this
time both he and his first lieutenant were absent recruiting. The committee
therefore advised the company to proceed to Lake George on the following
day under the command of Lt. Lansing. But from the minutes of the committee
we find that the members of the company refused to march without their
captain. The committee therefore sent an express requesting Capt. van
Dyck to return to Schenectady to lead the men. A letter was sent to
General Schuyler advising him of the reason for the delay.
He served with distinction under General Montgomery during the Canadian
campaign in the fall of 1775. The Regiment took part in the battles
of St. Johns, Montreal, and Chambly in September through November 1775.
But the regiment was in garrison at Chambly covering the lines of communication
when Montgomery was directing the siege and assault of Quebec. After
that brave officer was killed in the assault upon Quebec on New Year's
Eve, 1776, Capt. van Dyck served during the remainder of the campaign
as a military aide-de-camp.
He returned to Schenectady and on 7 May 1776 was elected a member of
the Committee of Safety. He was commissioned a Colonel of the New York
militia on 1 July 1776. But, on 21 November, he was commissioned a Lieutenant-Colonel
in the Continental Army and was assigned to the First New York Line.
During this year he was at one time acting as commandant at Fort George.
On 21 August 1777 he was a member of a council of war held at German
Flats under the presidency of General Benedict Arnold. The regiment
helped raise the siege of Fort Stanwix under the command of General
Arnold. The regiment remained in garrison at Fort Stanwix and various
other smaller forts up and down the Mohawk Valley until November. Then
it went into winter quarters in Schenectady. Thus the First New York
Regiment missed the battle of Saratoga and the defeat of Burgoyne.
In late march 1778 Gen. George Washington ordered the regiment to join
him at Valley Forge. It left Albany in early April and arrived at Valley
Forge 5 May 1778. There it mounted a picquet guard post at Cuckold's
Town, three miles to the southwest of the main camp. During the battle
of Monmouth (28 June 1778) the First New York was on the left flank
and took a spirited part in the action. Lt.-Col. van Dyck was placed
in charge of the burial detail the next day after the British slipped
away. His report is the basis of the casualty figures cited for that
battle made famous by Molly Pitcher.
That summer the regiment provided garrisons on both sides of the Hudson.
In October it was decided that the regiment should return to the upper
Mohawk Valley. The regiment arrived at Fort Schuyler (Stanwix) in early
December 1778. Col. van Schaick returned to Albany, leaving the command
of the regiment to Lt.-Col. van Dyck until the next April.
In February 1779 an outlying fort was built at the Oneida Castle. This
was called Fort van Dyck and garrisoned through April.
None of the officers or men of the First New York Regiment appear on
the roster of the Sullivan expedition of May through November 1779.
However, Col. Goose van Schaick, commander of that regiment, led a raid
against the Onondagas in April of 1779 which preceded Sullivan's expedition.
He left Fort Stanwix and in a march of 180 miles in five and a half
days destroyed the Onondaga Castle of about 50 houses, took 37 prisoners,
killed between 20 and 30 warriors, picked up 100 muskets, and returned
without losing a man. For this achievement Col. van Schaick, his officers,
and the soldiers, were voted the "Thanks of Congress" on 10
May 1779. He was in command at Albany during the period of Sullivan's
The First New York Regiment was at the siege of Yorktown. Lt.-Col. Cornelis
van Dyck and the Marquis de Lafayette were officers-of-the-day there
for 29 September 1781. On the storming of the redoubts late in the afternoon
of 14 October 1781 the regiment was divided to excite a spirit of emulation.
One half was committed to the French under Baron de Viomesnil and the
other half to the Americans under the Marquis Lafayette. These troops
assaulted the works with such rapidity and daring that the redoubts
were carried with inconsiderable loss.
He continued in the Continental Army after the surrender at Yorktown.
By the Resolution of Congress of 30 September 1783 he was brevetted
to the rank of Colonel. This rank was held but a short time since General
Washington ordered the army disbanded on 3 November 1783.
He was provably with the army on 8 June 1783. However, he does not appear
to have been with those who congregated in Fraunces Tavern on 4 December
1783 for Washington's farewell to his officers. Instead, his presence
at a meeting of St. George's lodge of freemasons in Schenectady on 6
December 1783 has been documented.
His services during the Revolution as a militia officer, civil official,
and Continental Army officer span the period from before the Battle
of Bunker Hill to the disbanding of the army. The scenes of his service
spanned the territory from Canada in north to Virginia in the south.
He was an original member in the Society of the Cincinnati and endorsed
his name on the parchment roll of the Society.
T. W. Egly, Jr., in his history of the First New York says:
Over the eight years of its existence, the First New York was
to enjoy a reputation as one of the best drilled and disciplined regiments
in the Army.
... this Regiment was not surpassed by any in the Army for full Ranks,
or thorough Discipline.
... for extended periods Colonel Van Schaick was compelled to be in
Albany, away from the regiment, devoting his attention to the affairs
of command in the northern department.
He returned to peaceful pursuits in Schenectady. His fellow citizens
demonstrated their esteem for this old soldier by electing him to represent
Albany County to the New York legislature in 1788. His name appears
on the half-pay roll of the army.
He was a charter member of St. George's lodge of freemasons in Schenectady.
He is named as the junior warden in the original charter dated 14 September
1774. He is noted as being present on 14 December 1779 and at several
meetings between 6 and 20 December 1783. He was the master of the lodge
in 1787 and 1788.
He appears as the head of family in 1790 Census of Schenectady. The
family comprised one male over 16 and two under 16, two females, and
four slaves. Peggy Jackson, former slave of Tannaka van Dyck, is known
from her will probated 11 August 1835.
Congress initially promised to each Lt.-Col. 450 acres at the end of
the war. New York added generously to this amount and he was allocated
a total of 2,700 acres of former Indian land. On 24 July 1790 he received
a bounty land warrant for this land in partial payment for his services
during the Revolution. On this record he is termed Lt.-Colonel. He apparently
did not use his brevet rank of full Colonel. He sold this land to Levi
Jerome on 20 October 1791.
He and his wife had no children baptized in either Albany or Schenectady,
and various references state that he died without issue. His will, dated
19 October 1791 was probated in the Schenectady Surrogate's Court on
2 June 1829. This will mentions brothers, nephews, and a niece, but
no children. The will was given to his nephew Henry van Dyck by his
widow. He kept the will until 1829 when called upon to testify in an
action filed by other heirs of Cornelis van Dyck against Eva Wendell,
who was thought to have the will. So his will was probated in 1829,
even though all his legacy to his wife had been bequeathed in 1812 to
Eva Wendell. Tannaka (Yates) van Dyck's will is dated 4 August 1812.
The date of probate is not known. She left the bulk of the estate to
Eva Wendle who was the daughter of Eva (Yates) Peek, Tanneke (Yates)
van Dyck's sister, and wife of Jan Peek. Neither will mentions any slaves.
Col. Cornelis van Dyck died on 9 June 1792 and is buried in Vale Cemetery
in Schenectady. The tombstone states his age as 51 years and 9 months.
His wife died 16 June 1813, aged 73 years, 2 months, and 23 days. The
grave of this venerable couple is on the right as you enter from State
Street, in the plot of the First Reformed Church, about 300 feet from
the State Street entrance.
In 1920 the 'Col. Cornelius van Dyck' chapter of the Sons of the American
Revolution and St. George's lodge F. & A.M. mounted a bronze plaque
on the old tombstone briefly noting the principle achievements of his
military and civil careers.
Selected References mentioning Col. Cornelis van Dyck
1. John Sanders, A Centennial Address Relating to the Early History
of Schenectady, Albany, 1879, pp. 37, 120, 294
2. Austin A. Yates, Schenectady Co., N. Y., Its History to the Close
of the Nineteenth Century, 1902, page 94
3. Howell and Munsell, History of the County of Schenectady, N. Y.,
1886, page 40
4. Willis T. Hanson, A History of Schenectady during the Revolution,
1916, pp. 22, 26, 52, 93, 109, 234--235
5. Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of the Officers of the Continental
Army, 1914, pp. 43 And 556, 669
6. W. S. Thomas, Members of the Society of the Cincinnati, 1929, page
7. Jonathan Pearson, Contributions for the Genealogies of the Descendants
of the First Settlers of ... Schenectady, 1873, page 299
8. Joseph N. van Dycke, "Notes on the van Dyck Ancestry,"
Dutch Settlers' Society of Albany Yearbook of 1956--1958, page 13
9. Amasa J. Parker, Landmarks of Albany County, 1897, p. 74
10. Howard A. McConville, private communication to
James Churchyard, 17 March 1973
11. Hoyt, M. F., et al, Index of Revolutionary War Pensions, 1966, page
12. New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Volume 73, page 54
(marriage record of Cornelis van Dyck and Tanneke Yates)
13. Ibid, Vol. 40, page 15 (record of bounty land sale)
14. Almon W. Lauber, Orderly Books of the Fourth New York Regiment,
1778--1780, the Second New York Regiment, 1780--1783, by Samuel Tallmadge
and others with diaries of Samuel Tallmadge, 1780--1782 and John Barr,
1779--1782, published by the University of the State of New York, 1932
pages 25, 32, 594, 613, 618, and 679
15. John P. Schuyler, Institution of the Society of the Cincinnati.
. .of the New York State Society, 1886
16. Public Papers of George Clinton, Vol II, page 912, Volume IV, pages
417 and 492. These contain copies of letters written from Fort Schuyler
on matters relating to the Indians there. These letters were written
by Col. van Dyck. They are dated 23 December 1778, 18 January 1779,
and 3 July 1780. v
Albert Hazen Wright, The Sullivan Expedition of 1779, Regimental Rosters
of the Men, 1965
18. Mark Mayo Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution,
David McKay Co., page 1140--1141
19. Frederic Gregory Mather, The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to
Connecticut, reprinted by the Genealogical Publishing Co., 1972, page
95 (discharge dated 8 June 1783, signed by Adjutant Corn. v. Dyck, Lt.-Colo.)
20. St. George's Lodge in the Revolution, printed by order of the lodge,
1917, copy in the Sons of the Revolution library, Glendale, CA.
21. T. W. Egly, Jr., History of the First New York Regiment 1775 - 1783,
Peter E. Randall, publisher, 1981
22. Alexander C. Flick (ed.), Minutes of the Albany Committee of Correspondence
1775-1778, Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Correspondence 1775-1779,
State of New York, Albany, 1925
23. Anon, The Balloting Book and other Documents Relating to Military
Bounty Lands of the State of New York, Packard & Van Benthuysen,