Thursday, March 16, 2017

Moses Hazen; A Profile of One of Schuyler’s Military Contacts

by Danielle Funiciello

"Defending Quebec from an American Attack, December 1775"
The Quebec Campaign was one of Schuyler's first commands after receiving his commission.
On September 6th, 1775, Philip Schuyler arrived outside of “St Johns” (Sainte-Jean-sur-Richelieu – henceforth St. Jean, except in quotes), outside of Montreal. There he encamped and prepared his troops for a thrust into St. Jean that was part of the two pronged attack now known as the Invasion of Quebec. With Schuyler’s predilection for espionage, he was not going to go in blind, and sought information; he wished, of course, to know the size and condition of the British military at St. Jean, but also hoped to find Canadians sympathetic to the American cause. Within the day, Philip Schuyler received that information without even seeking it out. As he wrote to George Washington:

“In the Evening a Gentleman Mr [word  mutilated by Washingtonwhose Name I can only mention to Your Excellency, not having even ventured it to the Congress & therefore beg You to eraze the Scored Part of the Letter after Perusal came to me & gave me the following account,” September 20th 1775  (the scored part refers to the words in italics - Washington only crossed out Hazen's name, rather than the scored instructions) 

Who was this mysterious gentleman? Why might not Schuyler have been keen to share his source with Congress? And what was the source’s motivation for bringing Schuyler information? The answers tell the story of a sometimes dark, opportunistic and intriguing character in the American Revolution.

Through later records, the name scratched out by Washington per Schuyler's instruction in this letter is identified as Moses Hazen, a former British soldier who had fought in the French and Indian War and purchased property and retired in St. Jean just before the outbreak of the Revolution. He was only a few month older than Schuyler and joined the military within a year of Schuyler’s commission. The two men’s French and Indian War career paths began similarly and gave them a number of opportunities to have met prior to this night in 1775. Schuyler had a handful of operatives available in the Montreal area, so the fact that he trusted Hazen’s intel rather than, or in addition to, seeking out other sources may have been indicative of a previous connection that led Schuyler to trust him. 

It is likely that Hazen was the same “Canadian,who twelve days ago left St Johns” who Schuyler collected information from earlier that year, just after his arrival at Fort Ticonderoga. That letter of July 18th echoes that of September 20th in another way – Schuyler warns Washington  “this, my dear General, as well as what follows in this paragraph I pray may be entre nous [between us] for reasons I need not suggest”.

The fact that Schuyler was hesitant to bandy the name Hazen about Congress may be further evidence that Schuyler was at least familiar with Hazen’s reputation – Hazen’s military past was, at best, morally ambiguous.

An 1812 political cartoon showing British officers paying for
American scalps. Though the cartoon implies otherwise, this
was practiced by Americans as well. During the French and Indian
War(1754-63) both sides used scalp taking as a demoralizing fear tactic.
General Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baronet; disproved
of Hazen's attack on Acadian women and children
during the French and Indian War. He also authorized
the use of smallpox blankets as biological warfare
against entire tribes of Native Americans.
During the French and Indian War, Hazen had served under Captain John McCurdy, in a company under Roger’s Rangers. When McCurdy was killed in 1759, Hazen was promoted to command the unit. Under Hazen, the unit was known for their participation in raids - burning hundreds of Acadian (French) homes - and engaging in other scare tactics like scalping, a brutal practice adopted by Europeans and Native Americans alike on both sides of the conflict. A raid of Sainte Anne during the St. Jean River Campaign sticks out as a particular mark on Hazen’s defendable reputation, during which Hazen’s men captured Josef Godin-Beaufontaine and his Acadian militia. Hazen took 6 scalps, 23 prisoners and, in trying to goad Godin-Beaufontaine into signing an oath of allegiance, the lives of Godin-Beaufontaine’s daughter and three of his grandchildren. Some versions of the story have Hazen burning the women and children in their home, along with four members of the militia. Hearing news of the new Captain’s actions during the raid on Sainte Anne, General Jeffery Amherst condemned Hazen saying “that affair has sullied his merit with me” – this is the same General Amherst who ordered blankets from smallpox wards to be sent among the Native tribes. Before settling down in St. Jean, Hazen was also accused of involvement in the scalping of a priest and thirty parishioners, and of having an affair with the wife of one Joseph Kelly. Kelly further claimed that Hazen had him imprisoned with a false charge to avoid the issue of the affair. To top off his apparent untrustworthiness, Hazen had also reported on the first skirmishes of the Revolution to British General Carleton during the early months of 1775 and had been authorized to form a British unit, though he declined to do so.

We do not know if Schuyler was aware of these actions, but either based on a previous association with Hazen, or some other instinct, Schuyler chose to trust Hazen’s military intelligence and passed the following information to Washington:

That there were then at St Johns about 100 Indians & that there was a considerable Body with Colo: Johnson; That the Fortifications were compleat [sic] & strong & plentifully furnished with Cannon; […] That he does not believe that our Army will be joined by one Canadian; […] That in the Situation we were in he judged it would be imprudent to attack St Johns and advised Us to send some Parties amongst the Inhabitants & the Remainder of the Army to retire to the Isle-au-Noix, from whence we might have an Intercourse with La Praire”

The original plan of attack of Montreal through
St. Jean, shown in blue. This plan allowed Schuyler
to use bateaux he had built at Ticonderoga to move
troops and supplies up the Richelieu River. The
alternate approach, suggested by unaligned Hazen
is shown in green. After taking Montreal, Schuyler
was to join in an attack from the south on Quebec.
 Benedict Arnold led troops through Maine to
attack Quebec from the North.
This bleak report was a blow to Schuyler, who had been hopeful that his surge into Canada would be met with enthusiasm from Canadians. He had believed that militias from St. Jean, sympathetic to the Revolutionary cause, would join him for the push into Montreal and through to Quebec and that the Natives would remain neutral. This information may have been particularly disheartening in contrast to the letter of July 18th. If “A Canadian, who twelve days ago left St Johns” was in fact Hazen, he had ensured Philip “that there are many Indians in Canada, but believes neither they or the Canadians will join [the British forces]”.

Schuyler’s hope was further dampened by illness sweeping the army. He reports that the troops “returned on Monday the Eleventh, on Tuesday the twelfth I found I had upwards of 600 sick, Waterbery’s Regiment being reduced to less than 500” and that he had fallen ill as well.

All of this in concert led Schuyler to fall back to Ile-aux-Noix, just as Hazen had suggested, to reconsider the attack on St. Jean.

But reports from James Livingston said that he was successful in raising troops near Chambly (eventually the 1st Canadian Regiment under Livingston's command) and in transporting cannons within range of St. Jean where he reported much more favorable odds for the Continental Army - making it sound like Hazen’s intel was either incorrect or exaggerated. The attack would go forward on September 17th, by which point Schuyler had turned over command to General Montgomery in order to deal with an attack of gout.

In the meantime, Moses Hazen had returned to his home in St. Jean. The series of events that followed lead us to question what his true motivation was for the news delivered to Philip Schuyler at the eve of the siege of St. Jean. Was Hazen presenting accurate information or slanting the facts in hopes that the battle would circumnavigate St. Jean? Was he hesitant to come out of retirement or undecided on what side to come out of retirement for? Was his primary concern just the preservation of his home and property value?

During the attack on the 17th, John Brown, a spy who had also been reporting back to Schuyler, came in contact with Hazen during a skirmish north of the Fort and arrested him. It is unclear if Hazen participated in the skirmish in any way or was just arrested because his loyalties were unknown. He was held only briefly by the Americans before Brown’s men were attacked and Hazen was abandon to the British, who arrested him in turn. In the meantime, General Mongomery informs Schuyler that “Mr Livingston some Days ago took Post at Hazen’s House with near 200 Canadians, they are erecting a Battery there, which seems to make the Garrison very uneasy”. Given the quick turnover, it is possible that Hazen did not even know that the Continental Army had set up their base of operations on his estate just across from the Fort in St. Jean.

Hazen would not return to his home for some time as he was instead sent to Montreal where he was imprisoned under General Carleton for nearly two months. As the Continental Army pushed through St. Jean into Montreal, Hazen was once again abandoned in transfer. According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Hazen claimed that Carleton had again offered him a command under the British, but he once again refused on his loyalties to the American cause. He claimed that the unpleasant conditions of his imprisonment further solidified his loyalty and he officially joined the American army during their attack on Quebec.

Image result for death of general montgomery
Hazen was present for the Death of General Montgomery during
the siege of Quebec in 1775 and was sent to Congress to report
on the battle.
Somewhat strangely, less than two months after joining the American cause, Hazen was sent as an envoy, alongside the decade younger Edward Antill to report to Congress on the death of General Montgomery and the course of the Quebec campaign. In asking Congress to send reinforcements, Hazen negotiated that one of the two Canadian units formed, would be under his own command. The 1st Canadian Regiment was promised to James Livingston by General Montgomery, while the 2nd Canadian Regiment was intended (by Benedict Arnold, who led the second arm of attack during the Quebec campaign) to be given to John Duggan. In addition to usurping Duggan’s commission, Hazen negotiated monies owed to him for the use and damaging of his property and an agreement regarding the future treatment of his property in St. Jean for the remainder of the war. He, rather ridiculously, valued the property damages upwards of $11,000, though Congress was only willing to pay him about 20% of that.

Benedict Arnold had multiple spats with
Moses Hazen. The feuding perhaps
began when Hazen usurped a position
Arnold promised to another officer.
Hazen’s 2nd Canadian Regiment was unique because he negotiated it to be commissioned directly through Congress, gaining it the nickname “Congress’ Own”. This also led to some questions surrounding to what degree he had to follow the typical chains of command. Obviously, he had to obey other direct commissions issued by Congress, like Generals Washington and Schuyler, but if a command contrary to his orders from Congress came from a brigadier general of another unit, would Hazen, as a lower-ranking colonel still have to obey? Hazen did not seem to think so and faced multiple courts martial for an insubordination charge by Benedict Arnold who was at that time a brigadier general. Hazen was repeatedly cleared through three years of on-and-off litigation throughout the war.

Hazen’s propensity for legal action did not start or end with Arnold. Before and after the war, he was persistently embroiled in lawsuits, including several with Congress and the government. Right up to his death, he was suing for further wartime property damage and use and remuneration for wages lost. He argued that since he had been retired on British half pay before the war, he should be recompensed by Congress that half pay which he had forfeited by joining the Continental Army. Though the case was still open at his death, his family did eventually win over $6,000 in that suit.

We tend to think of American Revolutionaries as a set type, but in reality, there were numerous personalities and numerous reasons why individuals did, or did not join in the Revolution. For Revolutionaries and Loyalists alike, the decision to join the war on either side was not always a clear one. Moses Hazen, though he may have initially intended to stay retired, weighed his options based at least partially on which side he felt would ultimately benefit himself and his property. Not joining the war in favor of continuing one’s daily life was not an option for most. Refusing to choose a side, as we see Hazen attempt at first, was considered tantamount to treason by both sides, which is very likely why Hazen was bounced back and forth, captured by both armies before his loyalty was made clear. Perhaps Philip Schuyler, who took Hazen’s intel but made no attempt to capture him nor gain an oath of allegiance from him, understood the hesitance to declare oneself. Philip’s military mentor, John Bradstreet - who had immense influence over Philip and lived with the family at Schuyler Mansion - would have almost certainly remained loyal to the British crown had he not died in 1774. Philip joined the Continental Congress soon after, but one can presume that had Bradstreet survived into the war, that decision would have been much more difficult.

If you liked this profile and would be interested in learning more about the military contacts in Schuyler’s career, please let us know in the comments. Schuyler Mansion will reopen for our full season starting May 17th, 2017. Follow our Facebook page for more articles and updates on the exciting events of our 2017 centennial season.

1 comment:

  1. Please share more of Philips contacts!!!!!! Very interesting!!!!