David Williams is a name that has been on the lips of many in Schoharie County, but how many know the entire story? His capture of Major Andre, his importance to the Colonial war effort, and his rewards.
David Williams is best known for his accomplishments during the Revolution. In 1775, Mr. Williams joined the army of the United Colonies, but his military service ended the next year, while he was stationed in Canada. Upon his return to the colonies, he joined a militia, in which he served from 1776-1779. On September 22, 1780, Williams joined up with John Paulding and Isaac Van Wart, who were heading for “neutral ground” in Tarrytown. Neutral ground was land disputed by the Whigs and Tories.
Little did they know that General Benedict Arnold had betrayed the United Colonies. He was in cahoots with the British and was given over 6000 pounds, British currency, in species, gold and silver, for sensitive military data. This data included the amount of money the colonies had, the military strength of the colonies, and crucial information about West Point. Arnold, in fact, gave control of West Point to the British. Benedict Arnold entrusted these documents to Major Andre, a British General.
Andre, whose alias was “John Anderson”, had a signed “permission form” from Arnold, to ensure easy travel through the colonies. Andre was dressed as a colonist, but was stopped by Williams, Paulding, and Van Wart in Tarrytown, on September 23, 1780. Upon strip searching Andre in his boot was found sensitive data signed by Arnold. Andre offer the men 100 guineas, the equivalent of $25,000 today, if they would let him go. Paulding said to this, “Ten thousand guineas would not stir a step” in them.
Andre was given to the authorities. Word spread of Arnold’s betrayal, and while Arnold became hated, Williams, Paulding, and Van Wart became loved and heralded as heros. Williams, Paulding, and Van Wart each received the “Andre Capture Medal”, obviously dedicated to the capture of Major Andre.
Andre was hanged, Arnold took shelter with the British, and Williams became a hero to regular people. Mr. Williams was given pension for life and any weapon he wanted from the continental armory. Williams died a hero on August 1, 1831 in Broome, and was buried in Livingstonville.
In 1876 a monument made of marble was built in his honor at the Old Stone Fort. It stands to this day, having been rededicated, cleaned, and restored just a few days ago. The fact that it still stands today is a symbol that America also stands, even after the trouble it’s encountered in the last 129 years.
If it was not for David Williams, the Colonies would probably have lost the Revolutionary War. If the British had actually captured West Point, the British would have gained control of the Hudson, effectively cutting the Colonies in half. If Andre and Williams had not met, the Revolution would have been all for not.
Lester E. Hendrix. The Sloughters’ History of Schoharie County. The Times-Journal Press, Cobleskill, N.Y. Copyright 1994.
Historian Jeff O’Connor.