Theodosius Fowler

Revolutionary War Captain 2nd New York

Captain Theodosius Fowler
Captain Theodosius Fowler

Theodosius Fowler (May 9, 1753 – October 12, 1841) was born at Eastchester, Westchester County, N.Y, (present day Mt. Vernon. NY). The son of Jonathan Fowler (1713 – 1784) and Anne Seymour (1721 – 1805), he was a member of one of Westchester County’s most prominent colonial families. He joined the American Army as an ensign in March, 1776. His father, Jonathan Fowler, was a judge and wealthy landowner. The senior Fowler was also a staunch loyalist who was outraged by his son’s decision to fight alongside the patriots. By war’s end, Theodosius’ father had fled to Nova Scotia.

Theodosius participated in several major battles of the Revolutionary War. He fought in the Battle of Long Island, his unit, the 4th Battalion of New York, was among the last to leave the field. Shortly after the defeat on Long Island, his regiment was sent north and joined General Arnold at the Battle of Saratoga which saw the defeat of General Burgoyne’s British & Hessian forces. After Saratoga, his regiment was sent south and joined the main army at Valley Forge.

He was promoted to Captain of Light Infantry, 28th regiment, in April of 1778. He fought at the Battle of Monmouth where his regiment came up against the famed “Black Watch”, the 42nd regiment of Scottish Highlanders. After two volleys, they charged with the bayonet and routed the Highlanders after “great slaughter.” In the spring of 1779, his outfit was ordered to Fort Schuyler, New York where they joined Colonels Van Schaick and Willett in an expedition against the Onondaga Nation. He participated in the Battle of Newtown where American forces defeated a large contingency of ‘Six Nations’ Native Americans and a British force. In either late 1780 or early 1781, he was transferred to the 2nd New York Regiment. In September, 1781, Fowler accompanied his regiment to Yorktown where his company fought in the Battle of Yorktown. He remained with the main army until the end of the war where it disbanded at Newburg, NY.

Soon after the war, in 1784, he married Maria Steele (1759 – 1842) at New York City’s Trinity Church. At this time he became a New York City contractor and speculator in land and securities, residing at 27 Water Street. Later, he returned to Eastchester and ironically assumed his father’s role as a large landholder and leading citizen; becoming one of the wealthiest residents of Westchester County. Among his titles were the Overseer of Roads and a vestryman at St. Paul’s Church in present Mt. Vernon, New York. The Fowlers had two children, Maria Anna Fowler (1789 – 1870) and Theodosius Oliver Fowler (1786 – 1861). Captain Fowler is buried in the family vault at St. Paul’s Church, Mt. Vernon, NY, which is a national historic site. A marble veteran’s stone lists his name and that he was with the 4th New York.

Presently, Fowler’s memoirs of his time during the Revolutionary War have not been digitized and can only be obtained in select libraries. This writer has included the following written by Captain Fowler for the New York State Society of the Cincinnati (influential Continental Army veterans organization), of which he was Treasure in 1794 and from 1820 until his decease. In his own words he briefly describes his actions during the American Revolutionary War:

Society of Cincinnati Eagle
Society of Cincinnati Eagle

“I was appointed the eldest Ensign in the New York Line, either in February or March, 1776, in the 1st New York Regiment, commanded by General Alexander McDougall; was promoted to a Second Lieutenancy in the same regiment on the 10th of August, 1776; to be First Lieutenant on the 21st of November, 1776, in the Fourth Battalion of the New York forces of Continental Troops; and was promoted to be a Captain in the said regiment on the 28th of June, 1778, my commission bearing date April 23rd , 1778.

In the latter end of the year 1780, or beginning of 1781, I was transferred to the 2nd New York Regiment, where I was continued to the end of the War of the Revolution with the rank of Captain. During the whole period of my service I was not absent fifty days from the army, either in Summer or Winter.

In 1776, while in the 1st New York Regiment, I was at the Battle of Long Island, and our regiment was one of the last which retreated from the Island. In the next campaign, I was in the army of Gates, and attached to the brigade of General Poor, in the left wing of the army, which was under the immediate command of General Arnold, and was in both battles previous to the capture of Burgoyne.

After this, our brigade was ordered to join General Washington, at White Marsh, where the army went into Winter quarters at Valley Forge; what it there suffered is too well known to need any description from my pen.

The next campaign, the British left Philadelphia. I was attached to the light infantry regiment commanded by Colonel Cilley, and acted as Adjutant during our pursuit of the enemy in their retreat through Jersey, until we overtook them at Monmouth. In that battle our regiment encountered the 42nd Highlanders and 2nd Battalion of British Guards; making but two fires we went through their line with the bayonet, and made tremendous slaughter. Colonels Dearborn and Willett, if alive, can testify to this fact.

After this, the army moved on to White Plains, where I was attached to a regiment of light infantry, commanded by Colonel Richard Butler. During this period we had a little affair with a Hessian corps of horse and foot, at Dobb’s Ferry, where we surprised them early in the morning. It was so arranged that my company or platoon was stationed below thirty or forty of the enemy, whom I completely stopped by charging bayonets, and killed and took prisoners more than my command. I was highly complimented by Colonel Butler on this occasion. The ensuing Winter the New York troops were chiefly ordered up on the Mohawk River ; the 4th New York Regiment, to which I belonged, was stationed at Canajoharie.

Early in the Spring I, then commanding a company of light infantry, was ordered to join a corps at Fort Schuyler, which was then commanded by Colonels Van Schaick and Willett, for the purpose of pursuing an expedition against the Onondaga Nation. We completely surprised them, killed many and took upward of thirty prisoners. This was as severe service as any I encountered during the war, for the number of days ; it was the middle of April, 1779, the Winter was just breaking up, and the snow still covered the ground.

On our return to quarters at Canajoharie, our regiment, together with several other regiments which joined us at that place, was put under the command of General James Clinton. This army, consisting of about two thousand five hundred men, left the Mohawk with two hundred bateaux, and conveyed them across the country to Otsego Lake. The outlet of this lake we dammed, and remained there about six weeks. This country was then an entire wilderness.

From this place we proceeded down the Susquehanna River with our two hundred boats, loaded with men and provisions, with the exception of the light infantry and rifle corps, which, under the command of Colonel William Butler, acted as a guard to the boats. I was with the light infantry, which marched on the right flank, until we arrived at Tioga River, a branch of the Susquehanna; here we met with General Sullivan with an army equal to our own, who took the command of the whole. From this we proceeded through the Indian country, after a battle fought at Newtown, where we defeated the whole of the Six Nations, with some British troops. After this battle there was a report from the Commissary that the provisions were short to complete the expedition, in consequence of which the army agreed unanimously to live on short allowance, which we did for forty days, by which means the campaign was completed by destroying the Indian country to Seneca town, beyond the Genesee River.

During this expedition the army suffered very much. When we returned to the Susquehanna, my First Lieutenant, who was left there, and with whom I had served three campaigns before, did not recognize me, so much was I reduced.

The winter of 1779-80, the army under General Washington cantoned back of Morristown, New Jersey, and suffered much from the want of provisions. In the campaign of 1780, I commanded a light infantry company, and served under General La Fayette. In this year the New York Line of five regiments was reduced to two, the first commanded by Colonel Van Schaick, and the second by General Van Courtlandt; to the latter of which I was attached, and served in it the residue of the war.

During the winter of 1780-81, our regiment was stationed at Fort Schuyler. In the September of 1781, the two New York regiments were ordered down to Virginia, and aided at Yorktown in capturing the British Army under Cornwallis. The New York troops escorted the last of the British troops to Fredericksburg; from thence we proceeded to New Jersey, and it was not until January, 1782, that we arrived at our ground for cantonment, on the Highlands or mountains back of Pompton, for winter quarters. This was a very severe winter until February.

The ensuing campaign, the army under General Washington remained chiefly at Verplanck s Point, and late in the fall the whole army went into winter quarters, and cantoned back of New Windsor and Newburgh. There the army was disbanded, and I with the rest, in the Summer of 1783.”

THEOD. FOWLER

Read the first installment of A Black Man’s Destiny (Shades of Liberty) here.

RESOURCES:

Fowler, Christine Cecilia. History of the Fowlers. 1950: University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI., Digitized 2007.

Fowler, Theodosius. Memoir of Theodosius Fowler. 1859: Published by W. H. Tinson Printer, New York, NY.

Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution. 1914: The Rare Book Shop Publ. Co., Washington, D. C.

Osborn, David; Site Manager, St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site. Theodosius Fowler, Revolutionary War Soldier. 2007:

www.nps.gov/sapa/historyculture/upload/TheodosiusFowler.pdf.

Schuyler, John. Society of the Cincinnati in New York. 1886: Printed for the Society by Douglas Taylor, New York, NY.

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