Newburgh

Text from William Wade

Newburgh was originally settled by the Palatines from Germany, in 1708. In 1800 it was incorporated. The town is pleasantly situated on the bank of the river: the ground rising rapidly from the water's edge exhibits the place to great advantage from the stream, while its back part, three hundred feet high, commands a beautiful view of the river, the Highlands, the village of Fishkill opposite, and the surrounding fine country. It contains a jail, a court-house, eleven churches, an incorporated academy, a high-school, a theological seminary of the Associate Reformed Church, three banks, one hundred stores, a large wharf and storehouses, a large iron foundry and machine shop, an extensive hat factory, a large brewery, two morocco factories, two paper mills, four plaster mills, a powder mill, extensive brickyards. eight hundred and fifty dwellings, and more than six thousand inhabitants. It has an extensive commerce by steamboats and small vessels, with New York city and other places on the river. The steamboat from New York to Albany usually stops at this village. It was for some time the headquarters of the Revolutionary army, and the stone house in which General Washington resided is still standing. While here in March, 1783, the famous Newburgh letters by an anonymous author, were published, for the purpose of exciting the army to revolt. The history of this affair, the noble conduct of Washington in reference to it, is described by Dunlap in his history of New York. They were afterwards ascertained to have been written by Major Armstrong, subsequently Secretary of War. The author, says Mr. Dunlap, assumes the character of a veteran, who had suffered with those he addressed. He tells them that to be tame in their present situation would be more than weakness, and must ruin them for ever. He bids them "suspect the man who would advise to more moderation and longer forbearance." He then describes the high state in which the country has been placed by their services, and says "does this country reward you with tears of gratitude and smiles of admiration, or does she trample upon your rights, disdain your cries, and insult your distresses!" He advised them to carry their appeal from the justice to the fears of government. " Assume a bolder tone- say, that the slightest indignity from Congress must now operate like the grave, and part you from them for ever. That if peace takes place, nothing shall separate you from your arms but death : if war continues, that you will retire to some unsettled country, with Washington at your head, and mock at the distresses of government. The insidious expression of "courting the auspices and inviting the direction of their illustrious leader, was calculated to make the army believe that Washington would join them in rebellion against his country, and was certainly a bold artifice, coming, as it did, from one in constant correspondence with Gen. Gates, and attached to him both by inclination and office."

The commander-in-chief noticed the anonymous address in orders, with pointed disapprobation, and requested that the general and field officers, with a proper representation from the staff of the army, would assemble on the 15th instant, to hear the report of the committee deputed by the army to Congress. This request was seized upon, and represented in a second paper as giving sanction to the proceedings of the officers, and they were called on to act with energy. On the 15th of March, General Washington addressed the convention of officers (General Gates being chairman) in the language of truth, feeling, and affection. He overthrew all the artifices of the anonymous writer and his friends, one of the principal of whom sat in the chair. Washington noticed the advice to mark for suspicion the man who should recommend moderation. He feelingly spoke of his own constant attention, from the commencement of the war, to the wants and sufferings of the army, and then pointed out the dreadful consequences of following the advice of the anonymous writer, either to draw their swords against their country or retire, if war continues, from the defence of all they hold dear. He calls to mind the scenes in which they had acted together, and pledges himself to the utmost exertion for obtaining justice to his fellows in arms. He requests them to rely on the promise of Congress. He said, " I conjure you, in the name of our common country, as you value your own sacred honour, as you respect the rights of humanity, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the man who wishes, under any specious pretences, to overturn the liberties of your country: and who wickedly attempts to open the flood-gates of civil discord, and deluge our rising empire in blood.

The convention resolved, unanimously, among other things, that, "the army have unshaken confidence in Congress, and view with abhorrence, and reject with disdain, the infamous propositions contained in a late anonymous address to the officers of the army."

Benson Lossing described Newburgh Bay in his book The Hudson From the Wilderness to the Sea in 1866: "The natural scenery around Newburgh has an aspect of mingled grandeur and beauty, peculiar and unrivalled. Before the town is the lofty range of the Fishkill Mountains, on which signal fires were lighted during the revolution; and the group of the Highlands, through which the Hudson flows. These are reflected in a broad and beautiful bay, at all times animated with a variety of water-craft and wild-fowl. Even in winter, when the frost has bridged the entire river, Newburgh Bay presents a lively scene almost every day, for ice-boats and skaters are there in great abundance. Its broad surface is broken by only a solitary rock island. One of finest and most comprehensive views of Newburgh Bay may be obtained from the hill, just below the Fishkill and Newburgh railway-station, looking southwest."

The city of Newburgh is the oldest established settlement in Orange County. It was incorporated in 1865. Unlike most other Hudson Valley cities and towns, it was not settled by the Dutch but by German, English and Irish immigrants. Today Newburgh is a commercial center with manufacturing companies of textiles, garments and handbags. Mount Saint Mary College is located in Newburgh. Its population as of 1990 was 26,454.

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