When it comes to history, this week was a busy one for Orange County. July 22 marked the 234th anniversary of the Battle of Minisink; the only major skirmish of the American Revolution fought in the northern Delaware Valley. The anniversary was marked with a ceremony hosted by the Minisink Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) at the battle monument in the Village of Goshen. To honor those who were lost in the battle, DAR chapter members laid wildflowers at the monument and read the names of the patriots who died fighting (some who have direct descendants in Orange County today). Goshen American Legion Post 377 and the VFW Post 1708 presented the colors and provided a 21 gun salute. The Rev. David Calvin Kingsley, of the First Presbyterian Church of Goshen, was the featured speaker.
The area of the upper Delaware River Valley was frontier during the American Revolution. The remoteness made the settlements there - today’s Port Jervis and Deerpark - easy targets for raids by Loyalists, Tories, and Indians. The Battle of Minisink, the most significant of these raids, began July 20, 1779, and was led by Joseph Brant, a Dartmouth-educated Mohawk with a commission in the British army.
Brant, along with a band of 90 or so Tories and Iroquois, plowed through the Neversink Valley leaving destruction in their wake. The following day, July 21, two groups of militia, one led by Lt. Col. Benjamin Tusten of Goshen, met in Mahackamack (present day Port Jervis) and started their pursuit of Brant up the Delaware River. That same day, they met up with Col. John Hathorn’s militia unit from Warwick. Now 120 men strong, the militia discovered Brant and his forces crossing the Delaware River, ready to start their ambush. Brant was warned of the pursuing militia when a scout’s gun went off. Responding swiftly, Brant and his men outflanked the patriots, cutting off one of the militia units and leaving the other two in shambles. Beating a hasty retreat, the remaining patriots continued to battle Brant, but they lost too many men and were soundly defeated.
To commemorate the anniversary of this battle, Deerpark town historian and Orange County historian of the year Norma Schadt organized a narrated bus tour that followed the path of Brant’s raids. This was the second year for Norma’s tour and the sold-out bus gives you an idea of how popular it was among local history buffs. To learn more about the tour and local history, be sure to follow the Deerpark Museum on Facebook.
July 21 marked the First Battle of Bull Run, which took place 152 years ago in 1861. It was the first major battle of the Civil War and while it took place nearly five hours away from Orange County by car today, Orange County played a role in this significant battle. The Union commander, Gen. Irvin McDowell, and both Confederate commanders, Gen. Pierre Beauregard and Gen. Joseph Johnston, received their military educations at West Point. The same was true for many of the officers on both sides of the field. Augustus Van Horne Ellis, who would later train the 56th New York (Orange and Sullivan) and command the 124th New York Orange Blossoms, also participated in the battle leading a company of men armed with two howitzers. Captain Ellis received recognition for successfully getting his men off the field with coolness and skill in the face of defeat.
From the American Revolution to present day, Orange County residents have proudly served our nation’s armed forces and played many significant roles in shaping the history of our great country. To learn more about Orange County history, visit the Historian’s web pages at www.orangecountygov.com.
Until next week, I wish you good health and happiness.