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43: GEORGE WASHINGTON, Signed Army Discharge Document

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Outstanding George Washington Signed American Army Discharge Document and Awarding the Badge of Merit
GEORGE WASHINGTON (1732-1799). 1st President of the United States and Commander in Chief, General of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Plus, JONATHAN TRUMBULL, JR., Aide-de-camp to General Washington, and LT. COLONEL CORNELIUS VAN DYCK as the 1st New York Regimental Commander.
June 8th, 1783-Dated Revolutionary War Period, outstanding Partially-printed Document, 1 page (back to back), measuring 13.5 x 8 being an original Revolutionary War Discharge Certificate for Private Cornelius McDormet from New York. It is personally Signed by no less than Three American Historical Figures, including: Commander in Chief General George Washington, Jonathan Trumbull Jr. and Lt. Colonel Van Dyck.

Dated at Head - Quarters June 8th, 1783, General Washington has placed his incredibly bold and vivid 3.25 signature, G. Washington near the center right of this Document. Below this, Johnathan Trumbull Signed, J. Trumbull. At the bottom, Signed with his 2.75 long signature, Van Dyck Lt. Col(onel). As regimental Commanding officer, he authorizes the Award of the Badge of Merit to ... named Corns. McDormet for Six years faithful service. The text of this historic Document reads, in part:

By His Excellency GEORGE WASHINGTON, Esq; General and Commander in Chief of the Forces of the United States of America. - These are to Certify that the Bearer hereof Cornelius McDormet Private in the First New York Regiment, having faithfully served the United States Six Years and Six Months and being inlisted for the War only, is hereby Discharged from the American Army. - GIVEN at HEAD-QUARTERS the (Signed) G. Washington.

The Partially-Printed back side of this Document contains an interesting printed escape clause for the Army in the event that Peace talks with Great Britain failed and the War resumed. This portion reads, in full:

THE within CERTIFICATE Shall not avail the Bearer as a Discharge, until the Ratification of the definitive Treaty of Peace; previous to which Time, and until Proclamation thereof shall be made, He is to be considered as being on Furlough. - (Signed in print) GEORGE WASHINGTON.

In addition, about Two-Thirds of the otherwise blank portion of the reverse has been used for a lengthy statement attesting to his military service and legal statements about his land deeds, and being fully Signed Cornelius Mc Dormett. This statement is witnessed by Cornelius and John Wendell and one other.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, General George Washington insisted on signing every discharge certificate personally, rather than having them signed by individual unit commanders. According to Charles Hamiltons, Collecting Autographs and Manuscripts, Washington said: These soldiers have fought long and hard. I wish to sign the discharge for each man, so that he will leave the army knowing that I appreciate his work and that I have personally looked upon his name and testified to his honorable conduct.

This important document is in very nice, far above average condition. It is complete and fully intact with 100% of its original margins and text present and clearly readable. Lightly toned on the reverse side, with some deft sealed fold separations and having archival Japan silk previously placed upon the full reverse for preservation. Overall, this document is sharply printed with significant amounts of original press text embossing retained within the paper, attesting to its originality. All of the manuscript portions are in rich deep brown and clearly readable. A marvelous Revolutionary War Military Document magnificently signed by George Washington as Commander in Chief and Lt. Colonel Van Dyck as the Regimental Commander.

The 1st New York Regiment was authorized on May 25, 1775 and organized at New York City from 28 June to 4 August, for service with the Continental Army under the command of Colonel Alexander McDougall. The enlistments of the first establishment ended on December 31, 1775. The second establishment of the regiment was authorized on January 19, 1776. The 1st New York Regiment was involved in the Invasion of Canada, the Battle of Valcour Island, the Battle of Saratoga, the Battle of Monmouth, the Sullivan Expedition, and the Battle of Yorktown. The regiment was furloughed June 2, 1783 at Newburgh, New York and disbanded November 15, 1783.

One of the major highlights of the auction, this rare George Washington Signed, American Army Discharge Document Awarding the Badge of Merit has nice eye appeal and is excellent for framing and display. (Please see much, much more information on our Auction Website:
The Badge of Military Merit was first announced in General George Washington's in his general orders to the Continental Army, issued on August 7, 1782 at the Headquarters in Newburgh, New York. Designed by Washington, it was in the form of a purple heart, and was intended as a military order for soldiers who exhibited, "not only instances of unusual gallantry in battle, but also extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way.

Of the Badge of Military Merit, Washington said:

The General ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth, or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward. Before this favour can be conferred on any man, the particular fact, or facts, on which it is to be grounded must be set forth to the Commander in chief accompanied with certificates from the Commanding officers of the regiment and brigade to which the Candadate [sic] for reward belonged, or other incontestable proofs, and upon granting it, the name and regiment of the person with the action so certified are to be enrolled in the book of merit which will be kept at the orderly office. Men who have merited this last distinction to be suffered to pass all guards and sentinals [sic] which officers are permitted to do. The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all. This order is also to have retrospect to the earliest stages of the war, and to be considered as a permanent one.

Most historians indicate that only three people actually received the Badge of Military Merit during the American Revolutionary War itself, all of them noncommissioned officers, and the only ones who received the award directly from General Washington himself. While these three soldiers were most likely the first to receive the Badge of Military Merit, discharge certificates of other Revolutionary War soldiers indicate that they also received the "Badge of Merit" for their years of faithful service. Microfilmed images of these discharges bearing Washington's signature can be found in the individual records of soldiers at the National Archives.

The "book of merit" or orderly book mentioned by Washington in his general orders of August 7, 1782 in which the awards were to be recorded has never been found. (From Wikipedia)

A 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 in 1762.

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 line.

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 expedition.

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 151

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 1197

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

17. 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, Albany, 1825.

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