2012-07-04 / Front Page

Revolutionary Graves and Sacred Ground on Route 9

Preserving the Fishkill Supply Depot
By Tim Greco

Archeologist Antonella Insera measures a soldier’s grave while William Sandy records and Paula Crowley screens for artifacts. 
Photo Provided Archeologist Antonella Insera measures a soldier’s grave while William Sandy records and Paula Crowley screens for artifacts. Photo Provided ‘To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen... to be forgotten is the worst.’ —Pierre Claeyssens

They were the first American Patriots. They stood in battle against the greatest military power the world had ever seen. They suffered unimaginable hardships, including near starvation, epidemics of incurable diseases, infestations of lice, and even lack of clothes and firewood in the face of frigid New York winters. By the hundreds they died in the cause of freedom and liberty. More than two centuries later, they lie in unmarked graves, forgotten by most.

On a parcel of land near Cafe Maya and the Hess gas station is the most sacred part of the former Fishkill Supply Depot, a burial ground for hundreds of Revolutionary war soldiers.

A historical marker for the supply depot along Route 9. 
Tim Greco A historical marker for the supply depot along Route 9. Tim Greco The Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot are working tirelessly to bring attention to this most hallowed historical site.

Sadly, many people driving to or from Fishkill on Route 9 pass right though the former Fishkill Supply Depot, totally unaware they are passing by a monumental historical site.

And where, you might ask, was it located?

The depot was located on 70 acres of land that is the current location of the Home Depot and the old Dutchess County mall. Surprised? Most people are.

I recently interviewed the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot vice president and Garrison resident, Barbara Hobens. We met at the historic Van Wyck Homestead, built in 1732—which served as the headquarters for the depot, and we spoke on the very porch from which General George Washington commanded his troops.

Hobens shared her passion for preserving the burial ground.

“This was much bigger than Mount Vernon; there were over 2,000 soldiers stationed here all the time,” she said.

Hundreds of patriot soldiers of the American Revolution, who fought to found the nation, died and were buried here in unmarked graves.

Hobens noted that unfortunately, many people passing by the site are not aware they passing by a burial ground, with hundreds of graves of men who fought to establish our country.

“Soldiers’ graves are only preserved and acknowledged by our government from WWI up to the present, but sadly not earlier.”

From 1776-1783, the Fishkill Supply Depot served as the key strategic center of the American Revolution, established and visited repeatedly by George Washington. The Depot was one of three major encampments along with Morristown and Valley Forge. It was known as the military nerve center of the Continental Army.

Funded by the Continental Congress, this military post was the most extensive northern military logistical center for munitions and war supplies of all types.

Thousands of Continental troops, officers, militia and their families resided at the Depot complex until April 1783, five months before the Treaty of Paris ended the war.

In the words of General George Washington, without the Fishkill Supply Depot, the war would simply not have been won.

Picture in your mind’s eye the depot, with over two thousand troops stationed at the site any given time, at least two large hospitals, horse stables, blacksmith shops, tailors, bakers, barracks and all the hustle and bustle of troops going into or coming from the war, fighting for the cause of freedom and liberty and to establish our great country.

Hobens’ enthusiasm for recognizing the veterans’ grave site is certainly contagious, as she pointed out that in 2006 the land owner was set to build condos on the grave site, an idea the town quickly shot down.

Archeologist and Trustee Bill Sandy conducted an archeological survey at a grave on the burial site in November 2007; the findings of that survey proved the existence of a Continental Army burial ground, with up to 320 soldiers, perhaps more, laid out in military fashion, in unmarked graves. The initial excavation uncovered bone fragments, including a skull.

In 2008 there were ground radar studies that confirmed archeological findings that hundreds of bodies were laid to rest in this field.

“I was lucky enough to find those tremendous discoveries.” Initially they knew it was burial ground because there was a large stone marker on the site in honor of the Revolutionary War veterans in the same field.” (It has since been moved to the Van Wyck homestead, because cars kept hitting it.)

Although the land is owned privately, the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot ultimately were able to stop the development on the site.

While the preservation of the entire depot site is a complicated affair, Hobens said, “Our main goal right now is to preserve the soldiers’ graves.”

So far efforts at the federal level to extend protection to the site have stalled. The question must be asked: Should soldiers who died to make America the great nation that it is be honored?

I am quite sure that anyone who is reading this would agree that they should. For further information or to contribute to the cause visit the web at http://www.fishkillsupplydepot.org/ welcome.html

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