Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Where is the Brass Drum?

Drum Captured from St. Leger - 1777 - Fort Stanwix
Photo via Civil War Badges

Here's a newspaper editor in 1937 asking the same question I did in the post on the centennial of Washington's birthday in Albany New York.

The Knickerbocker Press (Albany, NY) April 2, 1937

WHERE IS THE BRASS DRUM?

THE following is from Munsell's Annals of Albany, Vol. IX, Page 243:
— Feb. 22, 1832  The military celebrated the centennial anniversary of the birth of Washington. The 89th and 246th Regiments sat down to dinner at Crosby's Long Room and the Albany Republican Artillery at Foote's Ft. Orange Hotel. Col. Peter Gansevoort on this occasion presented to the Artillery a large brass drum, a trophy of the Revolution, taken from the British on the 22nd of August, 1777, at Ft. Stanwix by his father, Brig. Gen. Peter Gansevoort.
What became of this brass drum?

Has its identity been lost; is it stowed away in some garret, or like many another historic relic long since has it passed through the scrap heap to oblivion? Does any reader know?

If found, it would be a museum piece of inestimable value. --Albany, NY Knickerbocker Press, April 2, 1937 via fultonhistory.com
Herman Melville's uncle Peter Gansevoort inherited the drum from his father, Melville's maternal grandfather General Peter Gansevoort aka The Hero of Fort Stanwix. Melville's Uncle Peter donated the trophy on Washington's Birthday 1832 to the Albany Republican Artillery Company. Only a little fictionalized, the captured British drum makes an appearance early in Melville's 1852 novel Pierre:
Or how think you it would be with this youthful Pierre, if every day descending to breakfast, he caught sight of an old tattered British banner or two, hanging over an arched window in his hall; and those banners captured by his grandfather, the general, in fair fight? Or how think you it would be if every time he heard the band of the military company of the village, he should distinctly recognize the peculiar tap of a British kettle-drum also captured by his grandfather in fair fight, and afterwards suitably inscribed on the brass and bestowed upon the Saddle-Meadows Artillery Corps?

-- Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1852) page 14.

In 1877 Uncle Peter's daughter, Melville's cousin Catherine (Kate) Gansevoort Lansing managed to procure the real thing, a treasured relic of the Revolution, for display at the centennial celebration of the Battle of Oriskany:

... Mr. SEYMOUR exhibited the revolutionary relics. Among these was the brass snare drum, sent up from Albany by Mrs. LANSING. On the brass coat of the drum was the following inscription :
" Presented by Peter Gansevoort, of the city of Albany, counsellor-at-law, to the Albany Republican Artillery Company, on the 22d February, 1832."
"Taken from the enemy on the 22d Aug., 1777, when the British army under Gen. St. Leger, raised the siege of Fort Stanwix, which fortress had been valiantly defended by the garrison under the command of Colonel Peter Gansevoort for 21 days." 
-- The Centennial Celebrations of the State of New York (Albany, 1879) "Oriskany" page 97. 
Just five years later, this very same brass drum was re-gifted to the State of New York--fittingly on February 22, 1882, George Washington's 150th birthday. Transcribed in part below, the long account of the ceremony published in the Albany Times on Wednesday evening February 22, 1882. 

In his formal address, Captain John Palmer (future Commander-in-Chief of the G. A. R. and New York Secretary of State) appears to say that Peter Gansevoort (1749-1812) the war hero gave the drum to the Albany Republican Artillery. Impossible, of course, since that General Gansevoort, the Hero of Fort Stanwix, had been dead twenty years. In fact, it was the Hero's son Peter Gansevoort (1789-1876) the lawyer and politician who bestowed the drum on George Washington's 100th birthday. Confusingly, the son (Herman Melville's uncle and the dedicatee of Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land) also was respectfully addressed as General by virtue of his service from 1819 to 1821 as Judge Advocate General of the New York State Militia, under Governor DeWitt Clinton.

Albany Times - February 22, 1882

WASHINGTON'S BIRTHDAY


BRILLIANT CELEBRATION IN THIS CITY


Presentation of War Trophies to the State--Eloquent Address by Capt. John Palmer, and Response by Adjt.-Gen. Townsend--Parades, Banquets, Etc.


The fine weather overhead this morning, compensated for the bad condition of the streets and gave token that our citizens were to enjoy a brilliant celebration. From the flag staff on the old capitol, as has been customary for the last seventy-three years floated the star spangled banner. The national colors also floated from the armory of the Washington Continentals, but the halyards and pulley-blocks on many of the flag staffs throughout the city were frozen, which will account for there not having been a more general display of bunting.

Between two and three o'clock this afternoon, Post 5 G. A. R., preceded by the Albany City band, proceeded from their quarters to the city building, where the veteran members of the Albany Republican Artillery were received and escorted to the assembly chamber of the old capitol, where was to take place the presentation of the drum used in the war of the revolution, the flag used in the war of 1812, and the portrait of Col. Mills. On arriving in the chamber, it was found that a large number of people had assembled. An appropriate air was played by the band, and the quartet under the leadership of Prof. St. John sang "Star Spangled Banner;" after which, the Rev. S. M. Williams offered a prayer. Mr. Elias P. Hale then introduced to the audience Capt. John Palmer, who made the presentation speech. 

ADDRESS BY CAPT. JOHN PALMER.

Fellow citizens: We have assembled here to day to present to the state of New York two memorable trophies, long kept in sacred custody by the veteran "Republican Artillery" of this city. The one of these trophies carries our minds back to the time when not only the fate of Albany, but the future of our state and the destines of our young republic hung in the balance, to be decided largely by the valor and endurance of that little band which, at Fort Schuyler, formerly Fort Stanwix, now Rome, held at bay St. Leger with his English troops, Canadian recruits and Indian allies, and finally compelled them to raise the siege and retreat in wild disorder. The other brings us to the second war, where the infant republic again demonstrated its ability to resist the power of England's mighty arm. We are gathered to commit these trophies to the state in order that they may be deposited for safe-keeping with the relics which attest not only the courage of the Union, but demonstrate the ability of a free people to save themselves from internal dissensions as well as from external assaults. The first of these trophies is this drum, which bears the following inscription:
"Taken from the enemy on the 22d day of August, 1777, when the British Army under Gen. St. Leger raised the Siege of Fort Stanwix, which Fortress had been valiantly defended by the garrison, under the command of Colonel Peter Gansevoort, for twenty-one days. John Iggett, Capt.; John F. Strain, 1st Lieut.; Charles Seans, 2d Lieut."
Also the following;
"Presented by Peter Gansevoort of the City of Albany, counsellor at law, to the Albany Republican Artillery Co. on the 22d day of February 1832."
It will thus be seen that just fifty years ago, to-day, the honored Peter Gansevoort, who in his youth was a brave commander in war and who in his maturer years served the people faithfully in the discharge of a variety of public trusts, committed this highly prized trophy to the care of the "Albany Republican Artillery." In his speech on that occasion Gen. Gansevoort said:
"Its music was heard in those days of peril; it beat in unison with the war-whoop and yell of the merciless savage on the bloody field of Oriskany. It sounded the charge and animated the courage of the enemy at Fort Stanwix; but it also sounded his retreat, and was taken from the enemy in the hour of his flight. To you, the successors of those brave volunteers, Mills and Clark, who fell in battle while gallantly resisting the invasion of a foreign foe, I present this drum, with the hope that it has sounded its last retreat, and that when its beat shall call the Albany Republican Artillery company to arms in the service of their country, they will inscribe upon their banners the deeply-rooted sentiments of the soldier and statesman of the revolution, 'We prefer liberty to life, and death to dishonor.' "
We now in turn entrust this relic permanently to the care of the Empire state....

... Adjt. Gen. Townsend received the trophies, and made an appropriate reply.  

RESPONSE BY ADJT.-GEN. TOWNSEND.

Capt. Palmer: Having the supervisory care of the bureau of military statistics, and of the trophies and relics of the rebellion contained therein, I am charged with the official duty of receiving from you, sir, as the organ of the donors, these sacred trophies and relics of the revolution and of the war of 1812. I am deeply sensible of the inadequacy of any words that I may utter in expressing the high appreciation entertained by the state of this generous act, which adds to her collection of the historic mementoes of the patriotism and gallantry of her sons, such stirring evidences of the bloody struggles of other and by-gone days. But I must be permitted nevertheless to thank you, sir, on its behalf and through you, that ancient and honorable company of the Albany Republican Artillery, for this gift, which, while it increases the debt of gratitude the state already owes this company, proclaims afresh in the present members the inherent patriotism of the old organization, and, to whose credit be it said, fitly proves that the memory of their old commander, the gallant Mills, is still green and abiding in their midst....

... All honor then to the memory of the brave and chivalrous Gansevoort, and to the heroic Mills, whose gallant deeds are revived today by the presence of these memorials, silent as the dead heroes they commemorate, yet ever eloquent to kindle anew the eternal fire of patriotism in every American heart. This drum, signalling above the din of battle that famous retreat of St. Leger and his beleaguering force, beat but the reveille that announced the dawn of brighter hopes in rhythmic with the echoes still floating on the air from the bell which, a year before, from Independence Hall, "proclaimed Liberty throughout the land." This blood-stained banner, at once the standard and the battle shroud of the gallant Mills; this painting, which perpetuates the lineaments of this citizen-soldier, who gave up his young life on the altar of his country; these all are, indeed, sacred and memorable relics, which I now appropriately deliver to you, Harrison Clark, a living attestation of the patriotism of later days, and charge you in your capacity as "keeper of the bureau," to see to it that it shall be no fault of yours should they fail to reach remoter generations.

The band then played another patriotic air, and the quartet sang "America," after which the assemblage dispersed. --Albany Times, February 22, 1882; found on fultonhistory.com

Today the "blood-stained banner" of the Albany Republican Artillery, one of the "sacred trophies and relics" committed to the care of the Empire State on George Washington's Birthday 1882, is preserved in the collections of the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center.

Recently I wrote to the Military Museum in Saratoga Springs asking if they know the whereabouts of the British drum also gifted to the State of New York in 1882, along with the regimental color of the Albany Republican Artillery and a portrait of Colonel John Mills. At the public ceremony recounted in the Albany Times of February 22, 1882, Captain John Palmer gave it to Adjutant-General Frederick Townsend who turned it over to the Keeper of the Bureau of Military Statistics, Harrison Clark.

"Where is the brass drum?" Perhaps some record of it may be found with papers of Gettysburg hero Harrison Clark, or documents and holdings connected with the old Bureau of Military Statistics. 

Related posts:

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Oration by Oran G. Otis on the centennial anniversary of George Washington's birthday


As pointed out in Melvilliana posts on the Centennial of Washington's Birthday and Peter Gansevoort's 1832 address to the Albany Republican Artillery company, New York State Assemblyman Oran G. Otis of Saratoga was selected to give the big speech for the celebration of George Washington's 100th birthday in Albany. Otis spoke at the North Dutch Church after a procession of state and local dignitaries led by Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer IV "who officiated as marshal of the day" (Albany Argus, February 28, 1832). According to newspaper reports the featured speaker had been physically unwell for some time, but Otis soldiered through his well-received performance. 

Albany Argus - February 28, 1832
via GenealogyBank

"In the church, after an impressive and appropriate prayer by the Rev. Mr. Ferris, an oration was pronounced by the Hon. O. G. OTIS, of the Assembly. Of this eloquent and classic effort, it is not too much to say that it was worthy of the occasion and of the subject, and of the high reputation of the orator; notwithstanding it was prepared and delivered under the effects of severe indisposition. The approbation of the numerous auditory,--for every part of the church was crowded,--was manifested by reiterated bursts of applause, which neither the place nor the occasion could restrain, and which broke out, at the termination, in three distinct rounds. The exercises were concluded by a benediction by the Rev. Dr. Sprague." 
-- "The Birth-Day Celebration," Albany Argus, February 28, 1832.

Later printed as No. 306 in Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, 55th session, Volume 4 (Albany, 1832), the oration by Oran G. Otis is transcribed in full below. 

 

ORATION .

FELLOW-CITIZENS !
We have come together, not to mourn the death of an illustrious individual, but to rejoice, in the opportunity of his birth, the felicity of his life, and the immortality of his fame. His dust has gone to dust, by the common law of our being, but the nobler portion still remains, uninjured by the accidents of mortality, and unimpaired by the lesions of time. The truth of his principles, the power of his name, and the splendor of his career, are still in full life and action, elevating and improving, not only, our condition, but the condition of the world — illustrating not only the dignity of his own character, but that of his species.

The event we celebrate, has had and will have its influence on the general destiny, and not only shall we rejoice, but nations yet unborn, shall bless the hour that gave him to mankind. Strong and fervid as are the feelings of gratitude and admiration which now swell our bosoms in the contemplation of the virtues, the genius, and the achievements of him whom we have met to honor, they are not exclusively ours — millions in other climes not blessed like this, are offering up their love, their homage and their hopes, to the final results of that course, of which he was the great pioneer. And the time will yet come, when all the nations of the earth, in the undisturbed enjoyment of their natural rights, shall hail him as a brother, and bless him as a father.

He was born for the world — not for us merely, but for the family of mankind. The action of his life was laid amidst the scenes of this new discovered land, this remote covert of the world; but the denouements of his career, were to affect the oldest dynasties of the earth, and annihilate their most ancient prescriptions. His efforts were confined to three millions of people — scarcely a fraction of the human race, but the consequences of these efforts were to be acknowledged, in the final emancipation of the world. The fervor of the love for liberty which he excited and controlled, was, like the small lump of leaven, eventually, to pervade the whole mass. Like the sun in the sky, though fixed in its sphere, its effulgence is unstinted, is shed over all, and kindles to life wherever a ray of it rests.

The occurrence of his birth, was appointed to take place, during the embryon of those events, which were to change the face of society and reorganize the world. The political condition of the nations, was well nigh, as peculiar and full of omen at the time of his entrance into life, as their moral, at the advent of Him who was at once the model and the Saviour of the human race. For nearly six thousand years, had the old world in vain essayed the discovery of the true principles of the social compact,
 Though like the mysteries of the true religion, they were seen in dim and distant prospect by a favored few; their full revelation was delayed, until the discovery and settlement of this new portion of the world.
In the dreamy abstractions of philosophy, the possible existence of a free community, had been fancied — where good laws might be made by the wisdom of the whole, and enforced by the general consent, — where the only distinctions were those of merit, and the only rewards those of the public esteem, — where the over reaching few might be held in check by the force of law and opinion, and individual freedom be restrained only by the limits of the moral code. But the vision was apparently too beautiful for truth, though too noble for fiction — too remote for experiment, though full of desire. The monitions of the past took away hope from the future, and left only the evils of oppression as a solid expectation to mankind.

Even the advancement of society had not explained the principles or developed the means of liberty. In countries famed for their policy, their prowess and their power, the slavery of ages remained in its strength untouched by the improvements gathering around it. And the towers of despotism rose on their deep and dark foundations among the people, frowning from summits encircled by the blaze of science and the glory of the arts. The natural advantages of the people over their enemies, were made to operate against themselves, and the very power which could have crushed their oppressors was used to enforce their own degradation. The order of nature seemed reversed — the weak ruled the strong — the few overcame the many, and the true possessors of sovereign power truckled to the bauble ensigns of authority, and yielded up their energies, a timid oblation, to the knaves and fools, who luxurated upon their credulity.

The destiny of the world seemed fixed, beyond the hope of better change. So firmly established was the doctrine of passive obedience, and so unquestionably divine the authority to enslave, that saving here and there an intestine commotion, an occasional shaking of their chains, the nations of the earth lay still in their apathy, and tamely submitted to the lash of their oppressors.

It is true, that in a few instances, the general tenor of the history of mankind was broken in upon. High and noble efforts had been made to assert the dignity of our common nature, and shew that man was not necessarily a slave. Greece and Rome successively undertook the experiment, and sought to falsify the experience of all previous time, by exhibiting in their own example, the evidence of their capacity, to govern themselves. For a time the splendor of their course seemed likely to illustrate the destiny of our race. But time eventually proved the fallacy of the means they used for success. The glory of their career was extinguished in their own essential grossness, and the tyrannies which after wards arose, scorned the folly of their attempts, and laughed at the fanaticism which could believe in their practicability. Their light, like that of the borealis, adorned the night, but did not overcome it. Their institutions did not define the difference between liberty and licentiousness, and left alike unguarded, the ambition of their popular chiefs and the aberrations of the popular will. Excess of liberty, vibrated to the extremes of anarchy, and constraint ended in tyranny.

They had not devised a system, where all were the guarantors of the rights of each and each, the guardian of the rights of all — where the interests of the many were protected against the encroachments of the few, and where the welfare of the state was consulted in the happiness of the citizen.

From these ancient times, down to the discovery of this continent, the evidence of whose existence, like that of Atlantis, was only in fable, the history of the world is but one record of its oppressions. One common thrall spread over the nations, and the gilded oppressor, every where sat on the neck of the slave. 

Passing by the other governments of the old world, we find even that England, who on this point was in advance of her species, had not been able to secure the prize. She had warred with her nobles, dethroned her kings, and bathed her soil in the blood of her children — but in vain. She only triumphed over some of the rougher and more prominent obstacles to her freedom, which the dark crudities of a former age had entailed upon her, leaving an overbearing aristocracy, hereditary offices, a union of church and state, intolerance of religious opinion, and the smothered voice of a disfranchised people, to degrade and curse her institutions.

Such had been the history of mankind, and such its unhappiness, when WASHINGTON was born. But a new era was beginning to dawn 
 a new order of events was coming upon the world — a new dispensation among the polities of the earth. Never before, had that peculiar conjuncture of affairs existed, to which his birth and life  his genius and his principles — would have been so opportune and so peculiarly conformed. The existence of this continent had then only been known for 240 years. In the Providence of ages, it had been preserved until then, a virgin spot  an unpolluted land — the Bethlehem of the world  free from the arts and the arms, the usages and customs — the trammels and the crimes, by which the old world was enslaved.

Only one hundred and twenty-five years before his birth, was this consecrated spot permitted to the tread of the pioneers of the coming liberties of the world. A glorious band of brothers, of whom all the institutions of the earth were unworthy, seizing their little all, shook the dust from off their feet against persecuting England, and with their wives and children in their arms and their hopes in Heaven, launched their frail bark upon the waves of an uncertain sea. It was a crisis in the destiny of nations. Like the ark of Noah, it bore in its bosom, the elite of the old world and the noble founders of the new. And as their ill-appointed vessel tossed on the wave, and trembled to the gale, how would the hearts of unconscious millions have throbbed, in agony, had they but known that it bore in its bosom the priceless pearl of freedom. For a time, the hope of the world hung trembling on the billow and wavered in the blast. But the steady eye and unblenched heart were there, and favoring Heaven. These dangers were happily overpast, and the foot of the white man — the child of civilization 
 touched for the first time, these wild, but consecrated shores.  
The die was cast  a new order of things began, and the future history of the world was changed.

They had abandoned all to escape oppression — had sacrificed all for the attainment of freedom. But neither was their purpose nor their judgment mistaken. In their new situation, notwithstanding the hardships of an unknown climate 
 the dangers of a wilderness of savages — the poor extremity of their means, and the want of political organization, they found their condition was improved. They found that their interest and happiness were united, that equal rights were not inconsistent with equal duties, and that the general will secured the general weal. They ascertained the truth and practicability of free principles, by their own experience, and therefore neither doubts of the future, nor precedents of the past, could overcome their convictions. No excess of wealth corrupted their principles  no luxury enfeebled their judgment or enervated their will — no want of the necessaries of life impaired their physical energies, and no successful tyranny made them obsequious to power.

Such were the people and such the morale of their condition, among whom and of whom WASHINGTON was born. He was the master spirit of this condition of society: the embodied representative of the temper and principles of this new organization; and the first true exemplar of the system which secures the freedom of mankind. In no other state of society could he have been produced or sustained. He was alike the consequence of liberty enjoyed and the cause of liberty to come, and the existence of both was concerned in his. 

It is only one hundred years ago this day, since the occurrence we celebrate was numbered in the calendar of human events. Then we were a colony, a poor, unknown people, scarcely noted in the concerns of nations. The achievements of a century had not then shed their light upon the American name; nor the success of our institutions excited the fear of tyrants, nor won the admiration of mankind. How deeply sensible ought we to be of the wisdom of those designs, the merit of those actions, which have poured such a lustre upon the recent obscurity of our fame. And to whom, under Providence, but Washington and his immortal compeers, are we indebted for those ripe and honorable distinctions, which separate us from the herd of nations. They won the battles that secured our independence; they gave form and impress to all our institutions, and set thereon the seal of immortality. If even now, in the infancy of our existence, these United States were torn from all their strong foundations, and blotted from the earth, the light of their example would shine through all succeeding ages, with a glory above all Greek, all Roman, above all human fame.

In WASHINGTON seemed combined all the elements to constitute a man in the highest meaning of the term. His form was of the finest specimens of manly beauty, and his carriage full of grace and dignity. His constitution, both physical and mental, of the happiest mould. In power of mind he stood at the head of the human intellect. His perception of truth, in the vast and various concerns with which his life was charged, seemed to indicate the intuition of a superior being; the unrivalled accuracy of his judgment was demonstrated in the extraordinary success of his wide and eventful range of action. His brightness was not indeed the glare of the meteor, but the steady light of the sun: it was not the brilliancy of a single act, but the finished series of his life: the combined results of all his action. The uniformity of his character marks the prevalence and constancy and purity of his motives; the high objects he pursued and attained, the morality of the means he used, clearly shew, that right and truth alone, were influential upon him. He knew the power of truth, and felt the strength that came from being right. His was not the cunning that invents and forges means of its own, because it is unable to discover any other mode of success; but the wisdom that, perceiving the true relation of things, avails itself of existing causes, with a certainty of their consequences. Hence the firmness of his resolution and the courage of his temper. Hence he shrunk not in the field of battle or the moral conflict; and conscious of the right, never trembled for the issue. Unlike the desperate few, who have achieved a bad eminence by indiscriminate means, he sought no results which virtue did not sanction; used no appliances which honesty did not advise. His character is unique, and stands alone on an eminence, unapproached — I had almost said inaccessible. Its union of goodness and greatness, of moral beauty and intellectual strength, adorned by services of inappreciable value to the human race, furnishes an instance of the sublime in morals, such as no human example has presented. It has changed the general idea of greatness, and shewn that the most enviable talent must find assistance in the aids of virtue.

He was fortunate beyond all the past, in the position which he held in the affairs of the world. The presiding genius at the birth of the first free nation — the daring leader of the first successful struggle for the principles of freedom  the idol of a young nation, yet to increase as the sands of the sea-shore — the grand agitator of the change, yet to come over all the governments of the earth, his fame will increase with ages and the multiplication of his race. He stood at the head of a new country  at the beginning of a new civil polity  at the source and fountain of that stream of liberty which was yet to overflow the earth, and like the deluge of old, to swallow up every vestige of the wrongs which had passed. In the whole range of time, in the wide variety of human affairs, there has been no era so felicitous for his existence as that in which he was born and lived; at no other point, could equal virtue have met with equal success — no other career could have secured the like train and splendor of consequences.

In his life, fortunate and happy above all other example 
 with out a spot or blemish to mar his private fame, he was covered with glory in his public career; through all the round of action — through all the change and casualty of life, he stood a model and exemplar to the human race. In the purity of his motives, in the nobleness of his designs, and in the extent and success of his course, he stands without a rival or an equal — ornatus Dei.

But he was not alone, in the great contest which he waged for the welfare of mankind. In the dark hour of our cause, a band of brothers gathered round him 
 such as the world had never seen, and may never see again. The pressure of the time reached every heart, and strengthened every hand. True to the call of WASHINGTON, and the high exigency of the times, obscure and unknown patriots, touched by the spirit of their cause, were roused and rallied to his aid. Of all the remnants of that heroic band that I have ever seen, there were none but had something peculiar in their character, shewing they had studied in the school and triumphed in the field with WASHINGTON. The very fact, that they were reached and acted on by the reasons of such a controversy, proves their nobility. I have always thought the character of the Revolutionary soldier one of unparalleled beauty. He fought not for fame, for he was too humble to expect it; he fought not for money, for he could have supported himself; nor from native turbulence of spirit, for he was a peaceable man at home; nor from envy of superior rank, for he knew little of it and cared less about it. But with a distinct apprehension of the value of personal liberty — with a disbelief in the rights of hereditary power, and a strong opinion that superior merit should alone confer authority, he repelled from principle, the invasion of his just rights; he despised from feeling, the extravagant pretensions which England would enforce; and from unalloyed love of freedom, fought for himself, his country, and the common rights of man. The page of history will record no character so disinterested, so devoted, so firm and so mild, so enthusiastic and yet so rational, so sublime and yet so mere a display of the real dignity of human nature. 

Of these, Washington was the glorious and unenvied chief and patron. Their love of him was as that of children to a father; amidst the hardships of the camp, the dangers of battle , the alter nations of victory and defeat, and all the vicissitude of a military life, they reposed with most confiding faith in his skill and courage, his power and fortune. The little frailties of their conduct found shelter in the mildness of his virtues; but the outbreakings of vice, their exposure and repression in the firmness of his principles.

Such was his knowledge of the human heart, and his acquaintance with men, that he rarely found himself in error in his choice of agents. He was enabled thus, not only to exert his own energies with success, but to secure the full amount of results from the ability that surrounded him. The leader and the led were touched by a common impulse, and moved on to the accomplishment of a common end. Thus it was in that appalling fight with a veteran nation, boasting of her strength and triumphing in her victories, that we were enabled to withstand the onset which was directed for our destruction.

Without having been bred to the science of war, he assumed the command of our armies, and for seven long years, with every disparity of means, baffled the skill and paralyzed the genius of the most celebrated soldiers. Without experience, he fought like a veteran; nearly without means, he still found resources; and sometimes, almost without an army, he held the enemy at bay by the vigor of his enterprizes. This struggle for the mastery was long held in doubt, but the star of his fortune at length prevailed against the ostent of the times. He conquered, not for fame, b
ut for freedom; not for ambition, but for his country. How well and how greatly, let the present condition of the happy vallies and sunny mountains of freedom make answer.

But not even yet had be filled the full measure of his fame. In the pride of victory, in the flush of success, with a devoted soldiery, accustomed to execute his wishes, instead of stooping to the mean ambition of a tyrant, in ruining his country, to elevate himself, he plucked the warrior's plume from his brow, and cast it with his sword at the feet of his country. Oh ! how mean and little are the names of Alexander, of Cæsar, of Napoleon, when seen in the light of such a deed as this! Instead of being an effort of his virtue, it was its natural result. Instead of being produced by ambition, it sprung from his ordinary sense of duty. What, to the most gifted, had proved an impracticable virtue, was to him, of facile performance. In no act was he governed by the narrowness of private interest. One general feeling of philanthropy seemed to inspire him, and he continually sought the welfare of his country, with a zeal and assiduity he never exhibited for his own. It is true, he could not have enslaved his country, had he cherished the design. The heroic band he led, would sooner have perished than yielded their assent. But in him, they saw the great example of patriot love; from him they caught the spirit which knew no submission, and held all enemies alike who would injure their country.

He retired to private life, unambitious of further distinction, and well pleased to escape the din and turmoil of his former days. In the seclusion of his retreat he cultivated the quiet arts of peace, without a regret for the past or a sigh for the future. But fame found him here. The privacy of his condition did not obscure its glory, and again his country called him to her aid. The freedom we had won by valor must be preserved by wisdom. Though national independence was secured by the revolution, our political organization was imperfect. We had the materials of freedom, but not its system — the power of self-government, without being well aware of the best means of using it. We had achieved the privilege of self-government, but history furnished no precedent to aid in its exercise. And we stood a people, free indeed, but wanting the ascertained means of self-preservation. The sages and soldiers of the revolution, with the illustrious WASHINGTON at their head, again came forward to meet the high exigency; they were 
successful. In a council combining more experience, more patriotism and more intellectual power than the history of ages could shew, they devised a system of government, unique in its character and original in its design, which has answered the high behests of freedom, and stands a beacon light to all the nations of the earth. A numerous people now repose in peace and happiness beneath its power, encouraging by precept and example the diffusion of the benign principles of liberty.

WASHINGTON, without his own desire, was placed at the head of the new organization, by the voluntary suffrage of the people, and again became charged with the political destiny of his country. His life had been spent in the field, and his achievements were those of a soldier. But such was the nature of the Revolutionary contest, that the most eminent political merit, could alone have given efficiency to the most consummate military skill. — It was a war of opinion 
 its prosecution and success depended, not upon the coercion of an organized and arbitrary government, but on the voluntary judgment of the people. It was a high school for the civilian as well as the soldier  and admirably was WASHINGTON prepared by it, as well for the duties of the cabinet as the exigencies of the field. He assumed the responsibilities of his new and unprecedented station, and placed himself by the vigor and wisdom of his policy, upon the most enviable heights of political renown. If his success as a military chieftain had won the admiration of the world, his wisdom as a statesman secured its highest applause. Having given an impulse and direction to the untried institutions of his country, which will influence their destiny through all coming time, he voluntarily left the lofty station he had filled, and closed his career amidst the peace and happiness of that country he had assisted to elevate and redeem. The fabric of his character was then completed — then was the model, designed by Heaven for the imitation of mankind, brought to its final perfection. Then was the complete idea of freedom exemplified and explained. The mission for which he was sent, was accomplished — and the wide earth may now rejoice in the eventual fulfilment of those purposes of liberty to which his life was consecrated. 
Boston Liberator - May 12, 1832 - page 76

Friday, July 22, 2022

Peter Gansevoort's 1832 address to the Albany Republican Artillery

Albany Republican Artillery, NY State Militia
Regimental Color c. 1809
via New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center

As previously shown on Melvilliana, Harold A. Larrabee gave the true setting for Peter Gansevoort's address on the centennial of George Washington's birthday, Elisha Foot's Fort Orange Hotel at 549 South Market street.  
"On that occasion he presented to the Albany Republican Artillery at a dinner in Foot's Fort Orange Hotel a large brass drum, captured from the British at Fort Stanwix by his father, then a colonel."

In his 1934 article for New York History on Herman Melville's Early Years in Albany, Larrabee went on to quote the following "sunburst of rhetoric" near the end of Peter Gansevoort's speech:

The trophy which I present to you, is strongly associated with one of the scenes to which I have alluded, in the glorious struggle for our Independence. Its music was heard in those days of peril; it beat in unison with the war whoop and yell of the merciless savage on the bloody field of Oriskany; it sounded the charge and animated the courage of the enemy at Fort Stanwix; it also sounded his retreat, and was taken from the enemy in the hour of his flight.

On this centennial jubilee, in honor of him, whose monument is in the grateful hearts of a free and intelligent people, I present to you this trophy, as a memorial of that eventful period, when the sun of liberty, in the full effulgence of its glory, irradiated the western hemisphere, and when the first sparks were struck by the fearless asserters of the unalienable rights of man, which enkindled on the altar of freedom, that flame which is gradually illuminating the eastern hemisphere.

The Gansevoort family in Albany apparently kept a close watch on that drum donated in 1832 by Herman Melville's Uncle Peter. In 1877 Melville's cousin, Peter Gansevoort's daughter Catherine (Kate) Gansevoort Lansing procured it for the centennial celebration of the Battle of Oriskany.

... Mr. SEYMOUR exhibited the revolutionary relics. Among these was the brass snare drum, sent up from Albany by Mrs. LANSING. On the brass coat of the drum was the following inscription : 

" Presented by Peter Gansevoort, of the city of Albany, counsellor-at-law, to the Albany Republican Artillery Company, on the 22d February, 1832."

"Taken from the enemy on the 22d Aug., 1777, when the British army under Gen. St. Leger, raised the siege of Fort Stanwix, which fortress had been valiantly defended by the garrison under the command of Colonel Peter Gansevoort for 21 days."  -- The Centennial Celebrations of the State of New York (Albany, 1879) "Oriskany" page 97.
Drum Captured from St Leger - 1777 - Fort Stanwix
Photo via Civil War Badges 

A handwritten version of Peter Gansevoort's address survives in the Gansevoort-Lansing collection of the New York Public Library--in box 150, folder 2 as noted by John Bryant in the first volume of Herman Melville; A Half Known Life (Wiley Blackwell, 2021) on page 129. Peter Gansevoort's address to "Soldier Citizens" of the Republican Artillery was more of a military and after-dinner affair, rather than the main event of the civic procession that Bryant makes it. State Assemblyman Oran G. Otis of Saratoga County was selected to address all "FELLOW CITIZENS!" on George Washington's 100th birthday. The centennial oration by Oran G. Otis was later printed as No. 306 in Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, 55th session, Volume 4 (Albany, 1832). 

On February 28, 1832 the Albany Argus announced that Peter Gansevoort's "eloquent and pertinent address" would be printed the next day:
The proceedings and toasts of the Albany Republican Artillery, on the 22nd, together with the eloquent and pertinent address of gen. GANSEVOORT, delivered on presenting to the company a brass drum, captured by his ancestor at the siege of Fort Stanwix, and the reply of capt. IGGET, we shall take a pleasure in publishing to-morrow. The toasts, &c. of the "Washington Volunteer Guards," will also appear tomorrow. 
Albany Argus - February 28, 1832

The full text of Peter Gansevoort's address is transcribed below from the Albany Argus on February 29, 1832--where it appears along with related coverage of the various toasts given at "sumptuous dinners" for the Washington Volunteer Guards (front page) and the Albany Republican Artillery (page 2). To clarify, "dinner" here means the midday meal, customarily served around 1 or 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Toasts at the "Long Room" in Crosby's Hotel by the Washington Volunteer Guards are reluctantly omitted, for now. 

BIRTH OF WASHINGTON -- CENTENNIAL ANNIVERSARY

The military and civic procession having been dismissed by a salute of 100 guns from the artillery, and a feu de joie by the infantry, the respective corps sat down to most sumptuous dinners prepared for the occasion—the 89th and 246th regiments at Crosby’s Long Room, and the Albany Republican Artillery at Foot’s Fort Orange Hotel.

WASHINGTON VOLUNTEER GUARDS.

...

ALBANY REPUBLICAN ARTILLERY.


This elegant and well disciplined company, after performing the arduous duties allotted them by the committee of the day, in a manner highly creditable to them as soldiers, celebrated the centennial anniversary, by partaking of a dinner at the “Fort Orange Hotel;” and it is but justice to say, that Mr. Foot, the proprietor of this establishment, furnished the table not only with every thing that heart could wish but in a style corresponding with the glorious occasion. 

The company were honored with the presence of a number of the members of our Legislature and citizens. 

The following toasts were drank, accompanied with martial music.

STANDING TOASTS.

  1. The Centennial Anniversary--Century on century may roll away, yet the name of Washington shall perish but with time.
  2. The Compatriots with Washington, in the cabinet and in the field--The present anniversary calls to memory, the men who "filled the measure of their country's glory."
  3. The President of the United States--Honor unto whom honor is due.
  4. The Vice President and National Legislature--When their labors shall have ceased, the People will weigh their actions in the balance of truth, and pronounce a verdict of approval or condemnation.
  5. The Governor and Lieut. Governor of the State of New-York.
  6. The State of New-York--In war, the sheet anchor of our country--the terror of our enemies--In peace--the friend of Union and dignified asserter of State Rights. 
  7. Internal divisions--however painful political conflicts and political defeats on either side, let all this day remember, that here Liberty dwells, and that this is their country.
  8. The Legislature of New-York--Although divided into parties hostile to each other, when they cast their eyes on the majestic form of Washington, which decorates their Hall, may they remember that he represented in all his public acts, the interests of the people alone.
  9. Internal improvements.--Liberally promoted and in a spirit of patriotism, they are monuments of state and national prosperity.
  10. The Militia--The strong bulwark against King-craft, Priest-craft, and all the crafts of an enemy. It is the impregnable fortress of American freedom.
  11. Church and State--Priest ridden sycophant, and luke warm Americans talk of a union. Patriots and unshaken republicans stand ready with blood and treasure, to prevent the unhallowed bans of matrimony.
  12. The oppressed nations of the earth--Before another century shall have closed, may to each of them be born a Washington, who will rise in his majesty--break asunder the chains that fetter the human mind--and proclaim civil and religious liberty to the world of mankind. 
  13. The Fair Sex--May they frown upon all maccaronis and coxcombs--civil and military; and wed plain, honest, and dignified republicans. 

VOLUNTEERS.

By Capt. Iggett. Gen. Jackson riding on a rail road at the rate of sixty miles per hour--The Albany Republican Artillery volunteer to carry cannon balls, and protect the baggage waggons on the journey.

By Lieut. Strain. John Mills--The mention of his name will cause every member of this republican corps to render his memory a soldier's, a citizen's, and a patriot's respect.

By Lieut. Sears. Washington--The brightest  star in the western hemisphere--there are will o' the wisps that would dim the brilliancy of his glory, but they will sink into the bogs whence they arose, and be remembered no more.

 By James B. Spencer, (of the assembly). The Albany Republican Artillery--While such brave and patriotic troops defend our soil, it will never give bread to a tyrant.

By a guest. The two Albany companies who have deserted their colors--whether their military pride for their own city is enhanced in the eyes of Troyans or Albanians is a moot point.

By Sarg't Strain. Gen. Root--Truly the Root of democracy, from whence springs branches that bear better fruit than enemies to republicanism.

By Lieut. H. Merchant, a guest. The members of the legislature--Their patriotism on this glorious anniversary, is a pledge that as men and as representatives, they love their country.

By John C. Buckabee. The rejection of Martin Van Buren--it will be the ejection of his corrupt and federal opponents from the confidence of a free people. 

By Engineer Hilton. I have known this company in its infancy under the command of Mills, and rejoice that its manhood is covered with republican glory.

By Wm. C. Locherty. The Militia of the 89th and 246th--May they always follow the example of the militia of '76.

By D. Clemishire. The Albany Volunteers and City Guards--Patriotism requires their presence in honor of the day and duty to their country--henceforth let them be called The Flying Guards.

By C. B. Vanderzee. The Cabinet explosion--Like an honest boiling pot--it throws the scum sky high, and retains merit and worth in their proper places.

By Thos. A. Beekman. Church and State--The Christian may peddle his books, and the Jew pray him out of the market in welcome.

By A. F. Van Buskirk. Martin Van Buren--The pride of his native state, and envy of selfish and mad partizans.

By Wm. Simpson, jr. The Drum which we had the honor of receiving from Gen. Gansevoort--May we never receive a drum from less patriotic hands.

By Ab'm Austin. The infamous Slanderers of Washington--This day may they eat the bread of heaviness and drink the waters of bitterness. 

By Mr. H. Yates (a guest). The Albany Republican Artillery--Their principles are not built on sand or Clay hills: they rally round the Hickory tree.

By Corporal Buel. The Man who filled the Measure of his Country's Glory--First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.

By Mr. Foot (the host). The American Fair--May they never forget that one of them was the mother of Washington.

By Serjeant Doris. Martin Van Buren--In the firey ordeal the dross will burn away, and he will come out like gold twice refined.

By Engineer Morrell. Washington--The highest compliment we can pay him is, to say that a fanatical priest slandered him.

By Thos. J. Eagleston (Fife Major). Should the alarm of war be sounded upon our shores, and we republican artillerists be summoned to surrender, the answer will be found inscribed upon our drum, in the letters "N. O."!

By James Strain. Peter Gansevoort, esq.--The distinguished donor to the Republican Artillery of one of the trophies of his father's victories--prosperity and honor attend his march through life.

By J. H. Strain. The Memory of Col Peter Gansevoort, the Hero of Fort Stanwix--He would be and was a patriot.

By A. Vanderzee. Gen. Jackson--There is no trouble in extracting all the bullets his enemies can plant in his Herculean frame. 

* * * 

Peter Gansevoort Jr

Next appears the formal address by Peter Gansevoort and the reply of Captain Iggett--both printed, like the preceding toasts, on page 2 of the Daily Albany Argus for February 29, 1832:

The following address was delivered by gen. PETER GANSEVOORT, on the 22d inst., on presenting to the Albany Republican Artillery a Brass Drum, captured by his father, col. PETER GANSEVOORT, at the siege of Fort Stanwix:--

Citizen Soldiers--I present to the officers and privates of the Albany Republican Artillery Company, and to their successors, a trophy of the revolutionary war--a large brass Drum, taken from the enemy on the 22d day of August, 1777, the day on which gen. Barry St. Leger raised the seige of Fort Stanwix. That fortress had been regularly invested by St. Leger's army for twenty-one days, and was, during that time, valiantly and successfully defended by the garrison under the command of Colonel Peter Gansevoort.

The year 1777 forms an important epoch in the annals of our country's glory; the brilliant triumphs of the American arms, during that year, gave liberty and independence to these United States.

The British were in possession of the city of New York, and elated by the successes of the preceding year, opened the northern campaign with the most favorable prospects. Their object was to obtain the command of the river and of the lakes, so as to effect a free communication between the city of New York and the Canadas. Burgoyne, with the main army from Canada, advanced on Lake Champlain, and St. Leger, with a large force, by the way of Lake Ontario. Sir Henry Clinton, with a chosen army, accompanied by a strong armament, from the bay of New York, was forcing his way up Hudson's river, to effect a junction with Burgoyne and St. Leger, at or near this city.

If that junction, so confidently anticipated, had been formed, the hopes of liberty and independence would have been extinguished forever. Burgoyne and St. Leger, with their hordes of Indian allies, would have spread fire and carnage in this fair city of our fathers, and carried devastation into the surrounding country. The union of their forces with those of Sir Henry Clinton, who had stormed and carried Stoney Point and reduced Kingston to ashes, would have brought the combined armies in combination with Sir William Howe, in his bloody conflicts with Washington on the banks of the Delaware. Congress had the second time fled from Philadelphia, and that city had become a British garrison. Washington was obliged to risk a general action, and lost the battle on the Brandywine.

Our affairs were in the most disastrous condition--our army was without money and without clothing; and it is a matter of history, that at the close of the campaign, when Washington marched his army into winter quarters at Valley Forge, they might have been tracked by the blood of their feet, in marching without shoes or stockings on the hard frozen ground.

If at this hour of extremity the union of the British forces had been effected, Washington, the great and the good, would not have been distinguished as the Father and the Saviour of his Country: He, and the other patriots and statesmen of the Revolution, "the giants of those days," would have been branded as traitors and punished as rebels.

How different would have been our condition from that, which, as republican citizens, we now enjoy. How vastly different that of our free and happy and beloved country. But I will not indulge the painful reflection. It is enough to say, that we should not have been permitted, on this day, to celebrate, as freemen, the centennial anniversary of the birth of our illustrious Washington--of him, whose services claim a nation's gratitude; and whose character stands unrivalled before the world, as "the first in war, the first in peace, the first in the hearts of his countrymen."

But, by the aid of Almighty God, who sustained our fathers in the dark days of our country's peril, the union of the British armies was prevented.

The victory obtained by General Stark, at Bennington, and the obstinate and successful resistance made at Fort Stanwix, under the most appalling circumstances, gave a new impulse to the revolution. These brilliant events infused fresh ardor into our troops, animated the drooping spirits of our countrymen, invigorated the hopes of patriotism, and stimulated our army at Saratoga to the most noble daring. The system of evacuating and retreating was abandoned. Our army attacked the enemy in his entrenchments, even on his vantage ground, and forced him to a capitulation.

The triumphant march of Sir Henry Clinton was arrested, and our northern and western frontiers were relieved from the invading armies. This, in the language of history, was the hinge on which the Revolution turned.

The trophy which I present to you, is strongly associated with one of the scenes to which I have alluded, in the glorious struggle for our Independence. Its music was heard in those days of peril; it beat in unison with the war whoop and yell of the merciless savage on the bloody field of Oriskany--it sounded the charge and animated the courage of the enemy at Fort Stanwix;--but, it also sounded his retreat, and was taken from the enemy in the hour of his flight.

On this centennial jubilee, in honor of him, whose monument is in the grateful hearts of a free and intelligent people, I present to you this trophy, as a memorial of that eventful period, when the sun of liberty, in the full effulgence of its glory, irradiated the western hemisphere, and when the first sparks were struck by the fearless asserters of the unalienable rights of man, which enkindled on the altar of freedom, that flame which is gradually illuminating the eastern hemisphere. 

The Albany Republican Artillery Company, were volunteers in the second war of our independence. They were honored with the confidence of the patriotic Tompkins, who in 1813, presented them with two brass six pounders.

To you, the successors of those brave volunteers; to the successors of Mills and Clark, who fell in battle, while gallantly resisting the invasion of a foreign foe, I present this Drum, with the hope, that it has sounded its last retreat; and that when its beat shall call the Albany Republican Artillery Company to arms in the service of their country, they will inscribe on their banner, the deeply rooted sentiment of the soldiers and statesmen of the Revolution--  

We prefer liberty to life, and death to dishonor.

After receiving the Drum, capt. IGGETT replied as follows:--

Sir: In the reception of this inestimable relic of the "times that tried men's souls," rest assured that, to the munificent donor will always be rendered upon the part of the Albany Republican Artillery, a soldier's gratitude and a soldier's respect and remembrance.

Respect to the memory of the noble ancestor of him who has this day presented the trophy that beat the retreat as well as the advance of a hostile invader, who when summoned to surrender Fort Stanwix by a superior and powerful British force, indignantly replied, "that being by the United States entrusted with the charge of the garrison, he was determined to defend it to the last extremity, against all enemies whatever, without any concern for the consequences of doing his duty."

And actuated by the remembrance, sir, that such was the language of an American republican and an American patriot. "When the drum beats to arms," not a citizen soldier belonging to this company will hesitate to pursue the path of duty, and to permit no slave's hostile foot to leave a print upon the shores of our native state, hallowed as it is by being the last resting place of a SCHUYLER, a CLINTON, a GANSEVOORT, a WILLET, a VAN CORTLANDT, and a VAN SCHAICK.

Receiving this drum as we do, sir, from the hands of him who filled the measure of the glory of his native state, permit me to say, upon the part of every man who belongs to the Republican Artillery, that whether in private or in public life, in every member of this corps you will find a freeman who will at all times "render honor unto whom honor is due," and to none other.

-- Albany Argus, February 29, 1832; found on fultonhistory.com.

Update 07/23/2022

Whatever happened to the trophy-drum once possessed by Herman Melville's grandfather Peter Gansevoort (aka The Hero of Fort Stanwix) and ceremoniously bestowed by the Hero's son, Melville's Uncle Peter Gansevoort, on the Albany Republican Artillery Company? Re-gifted exactly fifty years later to the State of New York, as announced in the Albany Journal on February 11th, reprinted in the Buffalo Weekly Courier on February 15, 1882:

TWO GIFTS TO THE STATE.

Albany Journal, Feb. 11.

"An interesting event will occur at the new capitol on the 22d instant. On that day [February 22, 1882] Captain John Palmer will present to Adjutant-General Frederick Townsend, for the state, a flag and drum which are of historic interest. The flag is the one in which the body of Col. Mills was wrapped prior to his burial after the battle of Sacketts Harbor in 1812. Subsequently the flag, which came into the custody of Gen. Gansevoort, was presented by him to the Albany Republican Artillery, an organization which had at that time reached a respectable age. That presentation was made on Washington's birthday fifty years ago or thereabouts. Since then Col. Mills's remains were removed from Sackett's Harbor to this city and buried in the Capitol park, where they lie still. The drum, which is also to be presented to the state, is a relic of the revolution and had been in the possession of the Albany Republican Artillery for many years prior to the dissolution of that organization. Both relics will be placed in the bureau of military statistics."

The presentation ceremony "in the assembly chamber of the old capitol" was promptly and elaborately reported in the Albany Times for Wednesday Evening, February 22, 1882. In his lengthy public address, Captain Palmer quoted as follows from Peter Gansevoort's address to the Republican Artillery Company, fifty years before: 

"Its music was heard in those days of peril; it beat in unison with the war whoop and yell of the merciless savage on the bloody field of Oriskany--it sounded the charge and animated the courage of the enemy at Fort Stanwix;--but, it also sounded his retreat, and was taken from the enemy in the hour of his flight. To you, the successors of those brave volunteers; to the successors of Mills and Clark, who fell in battle, while gallantly resisting the invasion of a foreign foe, I present this Drum, with the hope, that it has sounded its last retreat; and that when its beat shall call the Albany Republican Artillery company to arms in the service of their country, they will inscribe on their banners the deeply rooted sentiment of the soldiers and statesmen of the revolution: 'We prefer liberty to life, and death to dishonor.' "
Related post:

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Centennial of Washington's Birthday in Albany NY

via The New York Public Library Digital Collections

The centennial of George Washington's birthday on February 22, 1832 was celebrated in grand style by the citizens of Albany, New York.  

Great preparations were made in Albany, as well as elsewhere throughout the country, to celebrate the centennial of Washington's birthday in 1832. That day was long a red-letter day in the memory of many of the older inhabitants of the city, of a generation now unhappily extinct. The City Hall was to be decorated in honor of the occasion, and Mr. [John] Meads was chosen to perform the task. He accepted the charge, and the result of his artistic efforts was so pleasing that he was presented with a silver water service, inscribed as follows: Presented by the Managers of the Washington Centennial Ball to Mr. John Meads, in compliment to his taste and classic design for the decoration of the City Hall on the evening of the 22d inst. Albany, February, 1S32. -- Bi-centennial history of Albany (New York, 1886).

Stephen Van Rensselaer IV, a major general in the state militia and the son of patriarch Stephen Van Rensselaer III, served as marshal for the "high festival" as it was called the Albany Argus of February 28, 1832:

THE BIRTH-DAY CELEBRATION.

The celebration, in this city, of the one hundredth anniversary of the Birth of the Father of his Country, was in all respects suited to the occasion. It was a high festival, in which all participated with a common feeling of gratitude and love of country, and a common veneration for the illustrious man, whose name is identified with the freedom and glory of his country, and with the cause of Liberty all over the world.

A national salute at sunrise announced the commencement of the festivities. At 10 A. M. the two houses of the legislature assembled in their respective chambers, whence, after prayers and the reading of the minutes of the previous day, they proceeded, with their presiding and other officers, under a military escort, to the place of rendezvous opposite the Mansion House and City Hotel in North Market-street. Having been joined here by the governor and suite, judicial and state officers, the mayor, recorder and members of the common council, the several military corps, civic societies, citizens, strangers, &c., the procession was formed agreeably to the published order of arrangement, under the direction of maj. gen. S. Van Rensselaer, jr. who officiated as marshal of the day, assisted by col. J. O. Cole, col. P. V. Shankland, col. C. A. Hopkins and maj. W. Fry, and moved through several streets to the North Dutch Church, which had been politely offered for the exercises of the occasion.

In the church, after an impressive and appropriate prayer by the Rev. Mr. Ferris, an oration was pronounced by the Hon. O. G. OTIS, of the Assembly. Of this eloquent and classic effort, it is not too much to say that it was worthy of the occasion and of the subject, and of the high reputation of the orator; notwithstanding it was prepared and delivered under the effects of severe indisposition. The approbation of the numerous auditory,--for every part of the church was crowded,--was manifested by reiterated bursts of applause, which neither the place nor the occasion could restrain, and which broke out, at the termination, in three distinct rounds. The exercises were concluded by a benediction by the Rev. Dr. Sprague.

The procession being again formed, moved through N. Market and State-streets to the Capitol park, where salutes and a feu de joie were fired, and the procession dismissed.

Owing to some misunderstanding, the military were not out in their usual number; though we should do injustice to such as were present, if we omitted to say that they were so in their usual soldier-like and fine appearance. Among the military corps, was the Washington Volunteer Guards, composed of the officers and privates of the 89th and 246th regiments of infantry, equipped by order of the Governor from the state arsenal, and commanded by cols. Fryer and Osborn. Their voluntary appearance was creditable to them as soldiers and as citizens.

Our respected fellow-citizens, gen. Wendell, Mr. Gregory, Mr. Ryckman, and other venerable survivors of the revolution, the companions of our illustrious countryman, formed a part of the procession.

The societies were in the line, with their appropriate banners and standards. The appearance of the butchers, mounted, with their neat white aprons, was also highly creditable. In the procession also, was a horse, richly caparisoned with military housings, led by two blacks, in Turkish costume. This appropriate addition, was the voluntary act of Mr. James Lawliss, saddler, of Washington street.

In the evening, the contrast between the Capitol, which was illuminated, in every part of it, with great brilliancy; and the studied absence of external light from the City Hall, which, except the dome, presented only a mass of dark marble; was particularly striking. The Museum, the tasteful proportions and location of which render it highly conspicuous, was also brilliantly illuminated; and from the front, above the circular colonade, was exhibited a transparency, representing the full length statue of Washington, by Chantry. The Theatre also, the dwelling-house of col. A. V. Fryer, and several dwellings in North Market-street, were illuminated, and a full length transparency of Washington, exhibited from the former.  --Albany Argus, Tuesday, February 28, 1832.

The centennial ball that night, brilliantly engineered by John Meads, proved to be even more magnificent and memorable than the birthday formalities of the daytime.

March 23. The managers of the Washington centennial ball presented John Meads with a silver pitcher ornamented with an appropriate inscription, and a silver salver having an engraved head of Washington in the centre, as a testimonial of their approbation of the refined taste and architectural skill which he evinced in decorating the City Hall on the 22d of February. The ball of that evening far surpassed any thing of that kind which had ever been witnessed in the city.  -- Joel Munsell, Annals of Albany volume 9 (Albany, 1858).
Albany Argus - February 24, 1832
via GenealogyBank

In the first volume of Herman Melville: A Half Known Life (Wiley Blackwell, 2021) John Bryant imaginatively makes Melville's uncle Peter Gansevoort the center of public attention on George Washington's 100th birthday: 

Rising on a platform above the crowd in Albany on 22 February 1832 was Herman's uncle Peter Gansevoort... In fact, Uncle Peter was not rising on the stage to praise Washington but to recall for the rowdy but suddenly solemn crowd the memory of his father. He was also there to give the city a drum. ... 

... Peter's son Peter was now donating it to Albany's Republican Artillery Company. As Herman's uncle rose to speak, the crowd roared with approval at the gift he was about to bestow....

... Still in mourning for his less distinguished father, Herman was not allowed in public to partake in the celebration that Uncle Peter conducted at the center of town... He did not hear the triumphant roar when his Uncle Peter finished the encomium to his grandfather, "the Hero of Fort Stanwix," router of the British, fighter of Indians, and emblem of the Revolution. (Herman Melville: A Half Known Life, pages 120-123).

The idea that Peter Gansevoort "conducted" the centennial celebration in the heart of Albany is a biographer's fantasy. The featured speaker on George Washington's 100th birthday was not Herman Melville's distinguished uncle but Oran G. Otis of Saratoga County who soldiered on despite his being physically ill. In real life it was State Assemblyman O. G. Otis not Uncle Peter who got appreciative "bursts of applause" in the crowded North Dutch Church. The well-received oration by Oran G. Otis was later printed as No. 306 in Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, 55th session, Volume 4 (Albany, 1832).

Digitized versions of Volume 4 with the complete centennial speech by Oran G. Otis are accessible online courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library 

https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015036688144?urlappend=%3Bseq=562%3Bownerid=13510798886940651-558

DutchFirstReformedChurch

And the imposing presence of New York Governor Enos Thompson Throop "and suite" (along with militia Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer, Jr. the son and namesake of the Last Patroon and a few "venerable survivors of the revolution") must have overshadowed that of any one local politico. Individually, counsellor-at-law Peter Gansevoort performed no official role in the civic procession. 

Writing in the 1930's, Harold Atkins Larrabee accurately described the real historical setting for the address by Peter Gansevoort, whose
family pride, and that "smug and shallow optimism" against which Herman Melville was later to rebel, are best displayed in a speech at the Centennial Anniversary of the birth of George Washington in 1832. On that occasion he presented to the Albany Republican Artillery at a dinner in Foot's Fort Orange Hotel a large brass drum, captured from the British at Fort Stanwix by his father, then a colonel....
Larrabee, Harold A. “HERMAN MELVILLE’S EARLY YEARS IN ALBANY.” New York History 15, no. 2 (1934): 144–59 at 150-1. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23134497.

Peter's audience was comprised of "Citizen Soldiers" from one of several militia units, this one happily assembled for dinner at Elisha Foot's Fort Orange Hotel, located at 549 South Market street.

We published yesterday the toasts of the Washington Volunteer Guards, and the Albany Republican Artillery, on the late Centennial Birthday anniversary. We designed to have said then that they were such as became the reputation of an old and patriotic republican corps, and the public spirit and love of country which animated a portion of our citizens, the bone and muscle of our militia, to volunteer an association for that occasion. The Republican Artillery, founded by a gallant officer, who fell in the late war, bravely fighting for his country—honored by the confidence of Tompkins—and retaining its republican principles and its republican spirit—was surely in its place in doing honor to the illustrious Chief of the Revolution. This elegant and well disciplined company, after performing the arduous duties allotted them by the committee of the day, in a manner highly creditable to them as soldiers, celebrated the centennial anniversary, by partaking of a dinner at the “Fort Orange Hotel;” and it is but justice to say, that Mr. Foot, the proprietor of this establishment, furnished the table not only with every thing that heart could wish but in a style corresponding with the glorious occasion. -- Albany Argus, February 29, 1832

Two different militia groups gathered for dinner afterwards, at different Albany hotels. Here "dinner" means the midday meal, usually served around 1 or 2 o'clock in the afternoon. The Washington Volunteer Guards met in the "Long Room" of Crosby's Hotel, corner of Beaver and South Pearl. Melville's uncle Peter Gansevoort attended the banquet for the Albany Republican Artillery at the Fort Orange Hotel on South Market street, opposite the steamboat landing. Not part of the civic program but more of a military and after-dinner affair, the speech he made when bestowing a British drum captured during the Battle of Oriskany and Siege of Fort Stanwix occurred in between the two main events of the centennial celebration, the morning birthday bash and evening ball. 

Albany Argus - February 28, 1832

"The proceedings and toasts of the Albany Republican Artillery, on the 22nd, together with the eloquent and pertinent address of gen. GANSEVOORT, delivered on presenting to the company a brass drum, captured by his ancestor at the seige of Fort Stanwix, and the reply of capt. IGGET, we shall take a pleasure in publishing to-morrow. The toasts, &c. of the "Washington Volunteer Guards," will also appear tomorrow."  --Albany Argus, February 28, 1832.

Peter Gansevoort's 1832 "address" remains interesting and important for Melville geeks since that same brass drum will show up in Melville's seventh book Pierre; or, The Ambiguities, barely fictionalized:

... Or how think you it would be if every time he [Pierre Glendinning] heard the band of the military company of the village, he should distinctly recognize the peculiar tap of a British kettle-drum also captured by his grandfather in fair fight, and afterwards suitably inscribed on the brass and bestowed upon the Saddle Meadows Artillery Corps?

In 1877 Melville's cousin, Uncle Peter Gansevoort's daughter Catherine (Kate) Gansevoort Lansing procured the drum for the centennial celebration of the Battle of Oriskany:

Mr. SEYMOUR exhibited the revolutionary relics. Among these was the brass snare drum, sent up from Albany by Mrs. LANSING. On the brass coat of the drum was the following inscription : 

" Presented by Peter Gansevoort, of the city of Albany, counsellor-at-law, to the Albany Republican Artillery Company, on the 22d February, 1832."

"Taken from the enemy on the 22d Aug., 1777, when the British army under Gen. St. Leger, raised the siege of Fort Stanwix, which fortress had been valiantly defended by the garrison under the command of Colonel Peter Gansevoort for 21 days."  -- The Centennial Celebrations of the State of New York (Albany, 1879) "Oriskany" page 97.

Where I wonder is the actual captured British kettle drum today? With other donated artifacts in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History? No. Re-gifted to the State of New York in 1882 on Washington's 150th birthday (as promptly and elaborately reported in the Albany Times for Wednesday Evening, February 22, 1882) the trophy-drum today would more likely be found at the New York State Museum in Albany or New York State Military Museum and Veteran's Research Center in Saratoga Springs. Henry Murray in the Hendricks House edition of Pierre only notes "photographs" of such "trophies, belonging once to General Gansevoort" (Herman's grandfather) in the Gansevoort-Lansing Collection of the New York Public Library. 

In another post I hope to transcribe Peter's full speech to the Albany Artillery Company, with associated remarks and toasts from the account in the Argus on February 29, 1832. 

[Done, here: https://melvilliana.blogspot.com/2022/07/peter-gansevoorts-1832-address-to.html]

For now though, let's enjoy the stupendous Centennial Ball at the new City Hall, as described in the Albany Argus on February 28, 1832.

Albany City Hall 1832

CENTENNIAL BALL.

The City Hall, on the evening of the 22d., was the scene of the most splendid and magnificent fête we may venture to say, ever got up in this city, if not in this country. Indeed we have the assurance of several foreign gentlemen who were present, that it has not been surpassed by the more brilliant of the modern pageants in other countries.

The spacious apartments of this vast structure were all thrown open to the festivities of the evening, and thronged with the elite of beauty and fashion. The areas of the second and third floors in the rotunda,--the centre of the building and the centre of attraction,--was devoted to the more immediate business of the occasion, the suites of rooms communicating with it, being used as subordinate. The Common Council chamber and Mayor's court room on the north, served as withdrawing rooms, furnished with sophas, ottomans, candelabras and every convenience for relaxation from the fatigue of the dance. The county court room on the opposite side, was converted into a grand saloon--stretching from one end of the building to the other, and answered the double purpose of a promenade and withdrawing room. On the next floor above were similar suites of rooms opening on the rotunda--the spacious hall on the north, at present occupied by the Academy of Arts,--furnished the managers with abundant space to accommodate their numerous guests at the collation: here also were withdrawing rooms and the green room of the managers.-- The Mayor's and Recorder's room on the basement floor, and that of the Supervisors, served as attiring rooms: the area on the basement was brilliantly lighted and served as a place of concourse for the officers in attendance. 

Nothing could have been more appropriately conceived than the device occupying the arched window, looking down the grand staircase leading from the basement to the principal floor or rotunda. It was the key to the pageant--representing in the centre, a finely wrought column, surmounted by a bust of the "Father of his country"--the trophies of peace and war in either of the subordinate compartments--the plinth inscribed with the name of "Washington," within a laurel wreath, and over the whole was emblazoned the memorable words in which the ardent admiration of Lord Chatham found utterance,--"Clarum et venerabile nomen"! This device arrested attention by the dazzling concentration of light which was brought to bear upon it from innumerable variegated lights, upon the paling of the staircase and on the arch of the window above.-- These last were of a deep purple color, which combined with the yellow light of the lamps to give to the bust an unearthly look, not unaptly representing the apotheosis of the dead.

 A full blaze of light, which threw no shadow, gleamed from a thousand dazzling lamps, and pervaded every part of the rotunda--above, below and out into the withdrawing rooms. Opposite the staircase a powerful and well disciplined band occupied a temporary orchestra, erected in the space at the end of the vista formed by the colonade which enfilades the rotunda from east to west,--and supports the circular gallery on the third floor, opening through a similar gallery above, to the dome in the centre of the hall. The orchestra bore emblazoned on its front the arms of the city; with its supporters on either side, nearly the size of life, overshadowed by the wide-spread wings of our American eagle.--The windows at that end of the rotunda were tastefully decorated, as were also the large mirrors on each side, with civic and military standards arranged saltirewise, after the military fashion, many of them associated honorably with the battle strife of the revolution. The beautifully wrought columns, entwined with a wreath of evergreen, on a scarlet ground, from the scientific and violent contrast of the two colours, were the simplest as well as the most striking and effective of the decorations. Above the doors opening on the rotunda, and in every niche where a bust could be seen to advantage, were placed some of the rarest specimens of antique and modern statuary; the Apollo Belvidere--the Venus de Medicis and the Venus of Canova--Laocoon--Adonis, &c. &c. In the same classical taste were the designs in arabesque which decorated the pannels on the circular galleries and over the entrances into the rotunda on the third floor. The spirited and effective execution of these designs was beyond all praise, as was also the gorgeous coloring of the figures on the floor. Both areas of the rotunda were laid out into magic circles and figures of various kinds, wrought in water colors, and corresponding in size and shape with the different architectural subdivisions of the floor, forming in appearance, over the whole, a rich and beautifully variegated carpeting of the most brilliant dyes. For the skill and science with which these different colours were contrasted and brought out with such effect in the strong light of so many  lamps, and for the arabesques, we are indebted to Mr. Haake, a foreigner, who with the name has also adopted the feelings of an American, and for the general design and arrangement of the decorations, to Mr. John Meads, under the active superintendence of the managers.

The main point of attraction remains yet to be noticed. In the very apex of the dome, was suspended a transparency, sufficiently large to conceal the sky-light, and, in its decorations, the counterpart of the figure on the floor below, hung round with variegated lights that twinkled like stars in the mimic firmament. The subdued light thrown upon the immense vault by this simple device, gave to the whole an effect of distance which was quite magical; an effect which was enhanced by the surpassing brilliancy and vivid distinctness of the triple row of variegated lights on the paling of the circular galleries, set off as they were, by the gorgeous array of parti-coloured stuffs. The grandeur and magnificence of the effect, compared with the simplicity of the conception, were the subject of general remark.

Of the collation prepared under the direction of Mr. Drake, of the American, it is sufficient to say that ample justice was done to the viands on the spot. The tables were loaded with an elegant profusion of every delicacy of the season, faultlessly arranged and served up in the best manner.

 The dancing was prolonged far into the night, and the company separated with a reluctance which spoke with approbation of the exertions of the managers and all concerned in the direction of the festivities. 

Last evening, the decorations being permitted to remain entire, and the whole interior of the Hall being again lighted up, a vast concourse of citizens, thronged the rooms from 6 until 9 o'clock. From eight to ten thousand persons were attracted thither in the course of the evening. -- Albany Argus, February 28, 1832.

George Washington
by James Thomson after Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey NPG D37877
© National Portrait Gallery, London 
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