In a letter to Major General Phillip Schuyler on this day in 1776, Congressional President John Hancock accuses the officer of tolerating discord among soldiers from different states under his command. Disappointed, Hancock told Schuyler that Congress was “concerned to find there should be a necessity of recommending harmony to the officers and troops of different States under your command & nothing can show greater weakness or wickedness than to throw provincial reflections on one another, which must have direct tendency to impede public service, and weaken the union of the American States.”
Schuyler was likely ill-prepared to deal with the diversity of enlisted men under his command, coming mainly from the lower ranks of society. They were brought together only by their common desire to defeat the British. He himself had a much different background as the product of the moneyed, inbred society of the New York elite. His mother, Cornelia Van Cortlandt, and his wife, Catherine Van Rensselaer, were both from high-society New York Dutch families. Schuyler served briefly in the Continental Congress before receiving his commission as a major general in the Continental Army and taking command of the Northern Department. In this capacity, he orchestrated the disastrous, pre-emptive invasion of Canada in 1775, although another brigadier general and fellow New Yorker, Richard Montgomery, had to take command when Schuyler’s health began to fail. Montgomery went on to lose his life in the failed attack on Quebec City on December 31, 1775.
Schuyler was relieved of his post and replaced by General Horatio Gates after the loss of Fort Ticonderoga in April 1777. Schuyler demanded a court martial in order to defend his reputation. Vindicated by the proceedings, he resigned from the army and returned to service in the Continental Congress. Following the War for Independence, he supported the federal Constitution and served two stints in the United States Senate before his health forced him into retirement. His family, however, retained power and influence. His daughter, Elizabeth, married Alexander Hamilton in 1780.