"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge

Benjamin Tallmadge
Colonel in the Continental Army
Chief Intelligence officer for George Washington
Congressman from Connecticut
Federalist Party

(Editor's Note - For a change of pace this winter we will do profiles of some of the Federalists who helped create this great nation. They gave us Liberty. But would they even recognize the centralized authoritarian and socialistic Big Brother nation that calls itself the United States?)

Benjamin Tallmadge (February 11, 1754 – March 7, 1835) was a Federalist Party member of the United States House of Representatives.

Tallmadge, the son of a clergyman, was born in Setauket, New York, a hamlet in the town of Brookhaven on Long Island. Tallmadge graduated from Yale college in 1773, and was a classmate of American Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale.

American Revolutionary War

Tallmadge was commissioned lieutenant in the Continental Line June 20, 1776; promoted to captain of dragoons December, 1776, and major April, 1777.  Tallmadge was a major in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons.

Eventually he served as the chief intelligence officer for George Washington, he was promoted to the rank of colonel in September, 1779.

He organized the Culper Spy Ring based out of New York City and Long Island during the American Revolutionary War, using the code name John Bolton. The Culper Ring is thought by some to have revealed the betrayal of Benedict Arnold, though this is disputed.
Nathan Hale hanged by British Scum.
Tallmadge urged his former classmate Hale to
join the Revolution against the dictatorship
of monarchy.

There is actually very little evidence to prove that Tallmadge had heard from a spy in New York City about the Arnold-André plot. However, it would have been easy for Tallmadge to suspect that Arnold was up to no good, since Arnold had arranged to meet Anderson (Major John André's alias at the time) and Anderson was carrying military secrets back to New York City. The only thing Tallmadge could do was to persuade Jameson to recall lieutenant Allen who was already on his way to deliver the prisoner André into Arnold's custody.

However, Tallmadge was unable to dissuade Jameson from informing Arnold of Major André's arrest. Tallmadge's suspicion of Arnold's treachery may not have been strong enough as Jameson later reported in a letter to Washington that neither Tallmadge nor other officers he consulted raised any objections to sending lieutenant Allen with a message to Arnold saying André was now in Jameson's custody.

After Benedict Arnold's British contact, John André, was caught, he was taken to North Castle, where the commander, Colonel Jameson, ordered his Lieutenant, Allen, to take a note and the incriminating documents found with André to their commander, Benedict Arnold, at West Point.

Tallmadge, suspecting André to be a spy, and Benedict Arnold to be his accomplice, tried to have Jameson reverse his orders. He was unsuccessful, but did convince Jameson to send a rider and take Andre to Salem, eight miles east of the Hudson River, and to send the documents to George Washington. Lt. Allen was still to report to Benedict Arnold with Jameson's note outlining the events. Later, Jameson was chastised by Washington for warning Arnold and allowing his escape. André was placed in Tallmadge's custody until André's execution.

Benjamin Tallmadge Tribute 7-4-11 

Benjamin Tallmadge, pictured with a sword
at Fort St. George in Mastic.

On November 21, 1780, Tallmadge and his dragoons rowed across the Long Island Sound from Fairfield, Connecticut to Mt. Sinai, New York. The next day they proceeded to the south shore where they captured and burned down Manor St. George, which the British turned into a fort, and captured the soldiers within.

One of the most daring expeditions of the Revolution in Brookhaven town was planned to and carried out by Major Benjamin Tallmadge. This was the capture of the British Fort, St. George, located on the south side of the island at Smiths Point, Mastic. At this point a triangular enclosure of several acres had been constructed at two angles of which were strongly barricaded houses and at the third fort, 96 feet square well protected by sharpened pickets projecting from the earthen mound at an angle of 45 degrees.

The fortification had just been completed and two guns were mounted. It was intended as a safe depository for merchandise and munitions of war. the garrison numbered about 50 men. About 4 o'clock in the afternoon of November 21, Major Tallmadge with two companies of dismounted dragoons, numbering in all 80 men , left Fairfield, Connecticut in eight open boats and crossed the sound landing at Mount Sinai about 9 o'clock in the evening. After securing their boats in the bushes and stationing a guard over them, the troops were set in motion to cross the Island. They had proceeded but a few miles when a severe rainstorm came on, which compelled them to return and take shelter under the boats. Here they remained all night and the next day.
Benjamin Tallmadge

About 7 o'clock in the evening of the 22nd, The rain stopped and the me again started on their march arriving within 2 miles of the fort by 3 o'clock the following morning. Here the troops were divided into three detachments, each of which proceeded by a different route for the purpose of making an attack upon the fort at different points. Major Tallmadge himself led the main column, whose approach was not discovered by the enemy until they were 20yards of the stockade. A breach was quickly made and the troops rushed through to the main for which they carried with the bayonet without the firing of a singles shout. At the same instant the leaders of the other two detachments mounted the ramparts and from the three sides of the triangle a chorus of "Washington and Glory" was shouted by elated victors.

Just then a volley of musketry was discharged upon them from one of the barricaded houses in which a considerable number of the garrison were hidden. The attention of Tallmadge's men was immediately directed to that point and for a few minutes a sharp contest ensured during which the latter forced an entrance to the house and hurled a number of the enemy from the second story windows head long to the ground.

During the encounter seven of the enemy were killed or wounded. The fort was destroyed, 54 prisoners were taken. and a quantity of merchandise brought away. A vessel lying near the fort was also burned.

Having accomplished the object of their visit the Americans returned to Mount Sinai with their prisoners. Major Tallmadge took 12 men and went by the way of Coram where they set fire to a magazine of hay estimated at been collected there by the British. Arriving at their landing place they all returned to Fairfield the same night, Reaching their about midnight. None of Tallmadge men were killed and only a few injured. A letter of commendation was addressed to him by General Washington for the successful capture of fort St. George and the burning of the hay at Coram.

After War Years

After the war, Tallmadge married one of the daughters of William Floyd, settled in Connecticut. In 1783 Tallmadge settled in Litchfield, Connecticut. He was appointed the town's postmaster in 1792.

Tallmadge was the first president of the Phoenix Branch Bank. He served first as treasurer and eventually as secretary of the Society of the Cincinnati.

He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1801-1817. He was a member of the Federalist Party. This meant that during his entire congressional career he was part of the minority party.

In 1817, Representative Tallmadge persuaded Congress not to grant a requested pension increase to the men who had originally captured Major André, John Paulding, Isaac Van Wart, and David Williams and publicly assailing their credibility and motivations.

Tallmadge was the officer to whom André was taken after his capture, and he said he believed André's account over that of the three captors. He said Williams and the other two were "of that class of people who passed between both armies, as often in one camp as in the other." He said that "when Major André's boots were taken off by them, it was to search for plunder, and not to detect treason." He asserted that "if André could have given to these men the amount they demanded for his release, he never would have been hung for a spy, nor in captivity."

In 1816 he declined to be run for reelection.

Tallmadge died in Litchfield, Connecticut on March 7, 1835. He was interred in East Cemetery.

Tallmadge, Ohio is named after Benjamin Tallmadge.

(bioguide.congress.gov)      (Longwood)      (Spy Ring)

(Three Village Historical Society)      (Benjamin Tallmadge)


Anonymous said...

Here are a few other Benjamin Tallmadge resources: http://www.litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org/archon/?p=collections/controlcard&id=1
The Ezra Ames, John Ramage, and Ralph Earl portraits are also in the collection of the Litchfield Historical Society as are other Tallmadge artifacts. Many are listed in The Ledger (linked above).

Gary said...

Thank you so much for these wonderful pages.

Anonymous said...

My family is related to John Paulding, and I still haven't forgiven Tallmadge for publicly assailing my relative based on nothing more than a feeling he had, which seems to have been based to at least some degree on his own snobbery. Aside from this one action, though, the man did a lot for this fledgling country and should be more widely known than he is.