Schenkman, A. J. Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh – Home to a Revolution. Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2018.
To those outside Newburgh, NY and the surrounding picturesque Hudson River Valley, the name Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck probably does not “ring a bell.” As a Revolutionary Era militia officer, he did not win any significant battles, nor as a New York State politician, he did not cast a vote for independence. Although unknown outside of the region, A. J. Schenkman makes the case in his new book that Hasbrouck made valuable contributions to the Revolution as an early advocate and ardent community leader supporting the Patriot cause. Further, he describes the history of Hasbrouck’s house which served for a period as Washington’s headquarters. As a public historian, Schenkman details the many steps taken to preserve the house as a testament to Hasbrouck and the crucial events that surrounded his home.
Leading up to the Revolution, Hasbrouck was a successful businessman and well-respected community leader. Before Lexington and Concord, Hasbrouck joined the initial Newburgh Committee of Safety and Observation and also represented Newburgh in the Ulster County convention that voted on New York representatives to the Second Continental Congress. As war became imminent, the members of the Committee of Safety met in Hasbrouck’s house to form the Ulster County militia. The New York Provincial Congress commissioned Hasbrouck, a Colonel in charge of the Fourth Ulster County Regiment.
Initially, Hasbrouck actively served in the militia and helped with the construction and operation of nearby Forts Clinton and Montgomery which guarded the Hudson River. However, his health began to limit his ability withstand the rigors of campaigning. During this period, he received several visitors to his house including Baroness Von Riedesel and Baron von Steuben. After becoming further incapacitated, Hasbrouck passed away on July 31, 1780.
However, the story of the Hasbrouck house continues. After the Patriot victory at Yorktown, Washington selected Newburgh as the cantonment for the Continental Army, and he arrived to stay at Hasbrouck’s home on April 1, 1782. During this time, Washington had to contend with discontent among his officer corps, commonly referred to the Newburgh Conspiracy. Several famous people stayed at the house including Marquis de Lafayette, Marquis de Chastellux, and many Continental Army officers. Washington remained in the house for over one year before Congress ordered the disbanding of the Continental Army.
The contributions of Jonathan Hasbrouck raises the question of who should be regarded as a founder. Schenkman makes a strong case that all those that supported the Patriot cause should have their legacies preserved and recognized for their courage and resolve in achieving independence for the United States. As the life of Hasbrouck illustrates, you did not have to be a soldier or a politician to be a founder.
Finally, What is most interesting about Schenkman’s book is his overwhelmingly evident passion for preserving and interpreting the history of Hasbrouck’s house. Schenkman’s book serves to motivate readers to visit the Hasbrouck House which is now in Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site in Newburgh, New York. Lastly, the efforts to preserve this important site will inspire others to protect additional important Revolutionary War sites for future generations.