This week on The Historians Podcast, New York City correspondent Jim Kaplan discusses the life of Marinus Willett. Willett is well known to Upstate New York historians because of the work he did during the American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley.
He fought during the siege of Fort Stanwix and later commanded rebel soldiers at Fort Plain.
In 1781, from his headquarters at Fort Plain he wrote of his militia that “I don’t think I shall give a very wild account if I say, that one third have been killed, or carried captive by the enemy; one third removed to the interior places of the country; and one third deserted to the enemy.”
Willett was born in what today is the Borough of Queens to a somewhat prominent family of landowners, sometimes described as having seen better days. He returned to New York City after the war. He was elected mayor and sheriff of New York.
Probably his most historically important achievement was his successful efforts in 1790 to negotiate the Treaty of New York with 27 Muscogee Creek. This treaty with a Native American nation was one of the early diplomatic triumphs for the new American government.
Every year in October the Lower Manhattan Historical Society holds its Saratoga/Yorktown celebration in Trinity Churchyard to celebrate the American victories at the Battles of Saratoga and Yorktown.
Of these Revolutionary War heroes, Marinus Willett is the least well-known of the three. However, Willett is arguably of equal if not more importance to the history of the City of New York, as General Gates or perhaps even Alexander Hamilton
You can listen to the podcast here.
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