Written by NJ Historian
|Members of the 5th NY Regiment pay respect to the unknown dead at Fishkill.|
Despite being under constant surveillance by the British, no battles took place at Fishkill. However, hundreds of Continental Army soldiers died at the encampment from war wounds, hypothermia, and smallpox. Roughly three-eighths of a mile south of the Van Wyck Homestead along what is now Route 9, a burial ground was established. No formal stone grave markers were ever placed. Most likely, wooden crosses marked the graves of the soldiers.
|Document dated October 11, 1777: On order from Gen. Putnam dated 9th inst., Michael Hubbard acknowledges receipt from “James Richardson, twenty-four hides, which are Continental Property and have to be accounted for agreeable to orders.”|
In the 1960s and 1970s, archaeological excavations took place at the former Supply Depot property and a number of features were identified, including a blacksmith shop, barracks, and possible bake ovens. However, the missing burial ground was not located. Despite the setback, the work helped bring attention to the Fishkill Supply Depot property.
|1897 monument memorializing the Fishkill burial ground at its original location along Route 9.|
Image credit: Friends of Fishkill Supply Depot.
During this new phase of archaeology work, the remains of soldiers began to appear in the woods at the corner of Route 9 and Van Wyck Lake Road. Disturbed ground in a pattern of neat rows signaled that an important discovery had been made! A few artifacts identifying these men were found buried alongside them. To date, eighty-five men of what may be up to one-thousand, have been named. It is believed to be the largest Revolutionary War burial ground in the United States. However, the road to preservation is not over. The land is still privately owned and finding the funding to purchase the site is holding back preservationists from claiming a victory.
|Flags marking the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers at the Fishkill Supply Depot.|
There is some hope on the horizon for the site. Thanks to the hard work of volunteers, in July 2014, the Friends of Fishkill Supply Depot received a $24,600 grant from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program to create maps that depict archeological features of the Fishkill Supply Depot, highlighting its historical overview, archeological inventory, and topographic features.
The Van Wyck Homestead
The Van Wyck Homestead is the only intact structure remaining from the Fishkill Supply Depot. The home served as the Depot's headquarters and remains vital to telling the story of Fishkill.
In 1732, Cornelius Van Wyck purchased 959 acres of land from Catheryna Rombout Brett, the daughter of Francis Rombouts, who was one of the grantees of the original patent to the land in the area issued by King James II of England. Cornelius built a three room house, which is the present east wing (left side of the structure). Prior to 1757, the larger, more formal west wing was added. The west wing is a five bay wide center hall plan with symmetrical double-pile rooms on each side of the center hall. The property contained many outbuildings throughout its history, including barns, a spring house, cistern, and wells. Many archaeological remains of these structures are still visible on the property today.
During the Fishkill Supply Depot era, it served as headquarters to General Israel Putnam and was visited by leaders such as George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, Alexander McDougall, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. Various court-martials were held in the home's parlor, including the mock trial of Enoch Crosby, who had infiltrated a loyalist group and is considered as the first secret agent of the United States. In the seven years that the Fishkill Supply Depot existed, the house also served as the Quartermaster Department.
|Kitchen of the 1757 wing of the Van Wyck House, Fishkill, New York.|
During the Snook family's ownership, plans to build a cloverleaf at the intersection of Interstate 84 and Route 9 were proposed. The cloverleaf would have obliterated the Van Wyck Homestead. In 1962, the Fishkill Historical Society was formed and one member in particular, Willa Skinner, was vocal about saving the homestead. Willa, on her own accord, camped at the property and refused to move until authorities agreed to save the site. Finally, public pressured prompted changes to the original plans and the house was saved. But not all was saved; during construction of the ramps across from the homestead, the remains of the Revolutionary War era blacksmith shop were found. The Snook family continued to live in the house until it and one acre of land was sold to the Fishkill Historical Society in the 1970s for a nominal $1.00.