Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Further Kissams in Medicine

I stumbled across an article related to the Kissams role in medicine in New York by Paul Cushman so figured I'd share the link:

    • The Kissam family: its importance in New York medicine.

Unfortunately an article focused solely on Benjamin P. Kissam by Paul Cushman isn't available for free. It's now high on my list of books and articles to get via ILL. There is another article by Paul that I referenced in the previous post that I want to make sure gets seen by folks. It's:

    • Columbia alumni serving as naval surgeons in the War of 1812.

A Kissam, a Hornet, and a Penguin

The title for this post sounds like the opening for a bad joke but it actually provides the main elements for an interesting event involving two Kissams. On the 23rd of March 1815 the USS Hornet captured the HMS Penguin while Benjamin P. Kissam served as surgeon and Samuel M. Kissam served as surgeon's mate (cite). Neither is in my direct line of Kissams but it's too interesting a story to pass up.

Benjamin P. Kissam's Story
I first learned of the story through an entry on page 51 of A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession by Christopher McKee. Under Benjamin's portrait this is written:

Portrait of Benjamin P. Kissam
Portrait is in USS Constitution Museum in Massachusetts

Persistence rewarded. New Yorker Benjamin Kissam's determined eye had long been fixed on a surgeon's appointment in the navy. A graduate of the medical program at Columbia College (Ed. note: he would graduate in 1816 from the Columbia College of Surgeons and Physicians, cite), Kissam put one recommendation after another on file at the Navy Office without success until he accidentally encountered Commodore John Rodgers on the first day of April 1812 and was told by the commodore that, if Kissam could join the brig Nautilus more or less immediately as acting surgeon, the post would be his. Even with one foot in the door, it still required sixteen months and a steady barrage of recommendatory letters from the likes of John Rodgers, William M. Crane, and James Lawrence to replace the acting appointment with a commission. At war's end Surgeon Kissam had an opportunity to put his professional training to full use as Hornet's chief medical officer in her encounter with Penguin. His portrait, by an unknown artist, was probably painted not too long after the War of 1812; the landform dimly glimpsed in the background may be Tristan da Cunja, the site of Hornet's 1815 victory.

When war with England broke out in June of 1812 it appears that Benjamin was on the Nautilus as it seems it was rather normal at that time to serve with a commission to come later. The Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine notes that he was appointed surgeon for the ship in May of 1812. On 17 July 1812 though, Nautilus gained the dubious distinction of being the first vessel lost on either side. She was captured off northern New Jersey by a squadron built around Shannon (38 guns), Africa (64 guns), and Aeolus (32 guns), and the brig was taken into possession for the use of the King’s service. (cite) The article in the Bulletin also notes that Benjamin was captured in this action though returned. I couldn't find any more details on that specifically.

On July 24 1813 Benjamin finally received his commission. At this point he should be on Hornet though I've had difficulty finding naval registers online. He doesn't appear on a list of officers for Hornet during an action when Hornet sunk the Peacock on 24 February 1813. (cite) For much of 1813 and most of 1814 Hornet was in port at New London, Connecticut, unable to leave in the face of superior British forces offshore. However, she got to sea in mid-November 1814 and sailed to the south Atlantic where she found Penguin in early 1815. (cite)

The following is a description of the action involving Penguin (cite):

Action of Hornet and Penguin

Though the United States had ratified the 24 December 1814 Treaty of Ghent on 18 February 1815, thus formally bringing the War of 1812 to an end, this information took a long time to reach ships at sea. Thus, in the late morning of 23 March 1815, when the U.S. Sloop of War Hornet (Master Commandant James Biddle) sighted the British brig-sloop Penguin (of similar size and force) off Tristan d'Acunha island in the south Atlantic, neither vessel was aware that their two nations were now at peace.

The two sloops approached each other on roughly parallel courses, Penguin to windward, and opened fire at about 1:40PM. They exchanged broadsides (Hornet firing to starboard, Penguin to port) for some fifteen minutes when the British commanding officer was mortally wounded while attempting to run down his adversary. Penguin's bowsprit then caught in Hornet's rigging and, as the two separated, broke away, taking with it her foremast. Disabled and very much the worse off from American gunfire, the British warship surrendered shortly after 2PM. She was too badly damaged to save, and her crew was sent to Rio de Janeiro in the U.S. Schooner Tom Bowline, which arrived on the scene in company with U.S. Sloop of War Peacock soon after the battle.

There is an interesting eyewitness account involving Benjamin and surgery from the battle on page 124 of the original source.

Benjamin went on to continue in the Navy until 1823 according to the Bulletin article though I've found him on a naval register for 1825 aboard the corvette Cyane in the Mediterranean (cite). He was given time off to finish his degree in 1816. There is an obituary for him in a Virginia newspaper noting that he died in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in October 1828. (cite)

Unfortunately I'm running out of time and won't be able to post Samuel's rather short story but I'll be back soon. Here are two other references related to Benjamin P. Kissam and his time in the Navy which I haven't checked out yet:

    • A History of Medicine in the Early U.S. Navy by Harold D. Langley
    • Benjamin P. Kissam, Naval Surgeon in the War of 1812 by Paul Cushman(journal article)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Biography: Adrian Kissam

Adrian Kissam garnered an entry in Chapman Publishing Company's Portrait and Biographical Record of Orange County, New York. Adrian was the great-grandson of Benjamin and my great-great-grandfather. The following is his entry on pages 542 and 543:

ADRIAN KISSAM, Supervisor from the Fourth Ward of Newburgh, is a native of this city, his birth occurring November 27, 1847, and he is a son of Richard V. and Maria E. (Latourette) Kissam, the former a native of New York City. The latter was a native of Jersey City, but was of French-Huguenot descent, and her grandfather Latourette was captain of a merchant vessel during the Revolutionary War. She died in 1890, when past eighty years of age. Richard V. Kissam, the father, was of the old Knickerbocker stock, and the family was one of considerable wealth. The father, who was a graduate of Yale College, about 1835 located in Newburgh, where he bought a tract of land northwest of the city, consisting of fifty acres, all of which now lies within the city limits. He lived on this homestead until his death in 1869, being then past seventy years of age. Religiously he was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, and politically he was a stanch Democrat. His father was in the War of 1812. In the family of Richard V. and Maria E. Kissam were fourteen children, seven of whom grew to maturity, but only two are now living, our subject, and Anna, now Mrs. Blake, of this city.

Adrian Kissam grew to manhood in his native city and received his education in private schools. When but sixteen years of age he began traveling over the United States. He first went to California, by way of Mexico and Cape Horn, the journey, which lasted three months, being made in the steamers "Sacramento" and "Moses Taylor." For several years he spent the time on the plains and on the Pacific Coast; in fact, he traveled extensively all over the West, and after his father's death returned home by way of Panama to New York City. He took charge of his father's estate, settled it up, and ever since has continued to make Newburgh his home. He has a place adjoining the old homestead comprising thirty-three acres and lying within the city- limits, the family residence being located on Pierce Road.

In 1892 Mr. Kissam engaged in the livery business, purchasing the old Orange Hotel Stable, which was the oldest in the city, located on Third Street. In this business he has been eminently successful and is popular with all who have business with him in that line. Being an old settler himself, he is well acquainted with every one in all the region roundabout, and as a proof of his popularity it may be stated that in 1893 he was elected Supervisor from the Fourth Ward on the Democratic ticket, being the only one elected on that ticket. He was re-elected in 1894 without opposition, his name appearing on both tickets. He is a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, of which he is a Director; a member of Newburgh Lodge No. 309, F. & A. M.; the Newburgh Gun and Rifle Association, of which he is a Director; and of the Orange Lake Club. He is a good shot, and stands at the head of the local rifle team. For fourteen years Mr. Kissam was connected with the New York Militia, as a member of the Nineteenth Regiment, and later of the Seventeenth. He has been a member of the fire department of Newburgh from a youth, and has been very active in all matters pertaining to its welfare. Politically, as might be inferred, he is a Democrat. Mr. Kissam and Miss Mary Donahue, a daughter of Patrick Donahue, were united in marriage in Newburgh, of which city she is a native. They have five children, Adrian, Jr., Richard V., Maria E., Benjamin and Charles.

Some interesting points:

    • Maria E. is my great-grandmother.
    • I haven't found a reference to Richard Varick Kissam serving in the War of 1812 but that was a cursory look at pensions which he probably didn't need.
    • I have to believe the move from Episcopalian to Dutch Reformed is the influence of Cornelia Roosevelt. Richard Varick Kissam was baptized in a Dutch Reformed Church.
    • Family legend has it that Adrian lost most of the Kissam family cash... at least that which had been passed down his line.
    • Anyone have a Google Maps link to where the property on Pierce Rd. was located?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Notes: Lists of Inhabitants of Colonial New York

If I had to pick the one book out of the latest ILL batch that should have had the most useful information it would have to be "Lists of Inhabitants of Colonial New York." While it does have quite a bit of information related to other lines in my family it has only one reference to the Kissam family. The book is an attempt to extract all of the important genealogical records in Edmund Bailey O'Callaghans's Documentary History of the State of New-York which was published in four bulky volumes between 1849 and 1851.

The reference is on page 145 and it's a part of An Account of Ye Valuation of the Estates of Thee Inhabitants of Ye Town of Hampsted on Long Island: Is As Followeth October 11th, 1683. John Oackissam owned at that time 25 acres(?) land and meadow, 2 oxen, 2 cows, and 3 "year oulds." That's it. The only reference to the Kissam family.

Notes: The Final Sale of the Relics of General Washington

The last book I received through ILL and the one I was most excited about was "The Final Sale of the Relics of General Washington." It's essentially a catalog listing all of the items that were available during in auction in 1891. I knew that there was reference to a Kissam in it but I didn't know which Kissam or why. I was sort of hoping their might be a letter or something similar from 1776 when General Washington stayed on Pearl Street in NYC. There is reference to Benjamin living on Pearl Street as well hence why I thought there might be a connection.

As it turns out, and after flipping through every page of the auction catalog, the only reference to Kissam is item number 548 on page 99 which is listed as:

GENERAL COMMITTEE. The following persons were mentioned in the committee of Observation, as proper to be elected for a General Commitee for the City and County of New York, in the present alarming exigency. Together with the "Names of Persons mentioned in the Committee of Observation, as Deputies for the City and County of New York, to meet Deptues of other Counties, in Provincial Congress, on Monday the 22d of May next, [1775].

With the further note from the auctioneer:

This rare Broadside containes the names of one hundred patriotic citizens of New York City during the Revolution. Amonth the names of historical and genealogical interest, are those of Isaac Low, Philip Livingston, James Duane, John Jay, Isaac Sears, Abraham Duryee, Comfort Sands, Robert Benson, Samuel Jones, John De Lancey, James Beekman, Issac Roosevelt, Peter Goelet, Lewis Pintard, Gerardus Duyckinck, Gerret Keteltas, Benj. Kissam, Abraham P. Lot, Lindley Murray, Alexander McDougall, Richard Yates, Samuel Verplanck, Henry Remsen, Jacobus Lefferts, etc.

It's interesting to note that the list contains two men who were law clerks for Benjamin (John Jay, Lindley Murray) and one man who would be the future father-in-law (Isaac Roosevelt) to his son, Benjamin.

I've found two broadsides printed at the time which are very similar to one another as well as similar to the item noted in the auction catalog. They're broadsides nominating people to be a part of the Committee of One Hundred which was to replace the Committee of Sixty on May 1, 1775. The vote must have happened sometime between April 28, 1775 when these were printed and May 1, 1775 when the new Committee took over.

The first (larger version) is the longer of the two and includes several paragraphs from Isaac Low who was the chair of the Committee of Sixty. The second (larger version) states that is is from the "Sons of Liberty." Benjamin is listed for the Committee of One Hundred on both but only nominated as a representative for the Provincial Congress on Isaac Low's broadside. Does this mean that Benjamin wasn't patriotic enough for the Sons of Liberty? Benjamin is number 66 on the Low broadside and number 56 on the Sons of Liberty broadside. I would love to know if the numbering meant anything.



Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Benjamin's Letter to Congress, July 1776

In June 1776 General Washington and Congress were worried that cattle on western Long Island would, in the event of an invasion which was imminent, fall into British hands.

Congress. June 28, 1776. In answer to advice from Gen. Washington, it was ordered that a conference be had with him as to removing or securing the cattle and stock from those parts of Nassau [Long] and Staten Islands that are most exposed to invasion. [Capt. Thomas] Wickham and [Thomas] Tredwell were on the Committee of Conference. pg 692. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut

On July 3, 1776 a letter was sent from Jeromus Remsen to Col. Sands, Esq. stating:

Sir:— I have this day waited upon his Excellency, Gen. Washington, relating to removing the cattle, horses and sheep on the south side of Queens county, according to the resolve of Congress and the general officers of the army. His opinion is that the commanding officers and committees of the county, order it immediately done. He further declared that in case the Tories made any resistance, he would send a number of his men with orders to shoot all the creatures, and also those who hindered the execution of said resolve, within -the limits therein prescribed. The Commissary of the army engaged to me that he would pay the full value for the fat cattle and sheep to the owners, provided they would drive them within Gen. Greene's lines, in Brookland. Proper care will be taken as to valuing said creatures. Time will not permit us to make any delay. I am, sir, your very humble servant, JEROMUS REMSEN pg 74-75 Documents and Letters Intended to Illustrate the Revolutionary Incidents of Queens County

Jeromus Remsen was a member and clerk of the county committee. Later he was appointed colonel over half the militia of Kings and Queens counties and joined forces under the brigade of General Greene in Brooklyn. These American forces were routed at the Battle of Long Island and after their retreat Colonel Remsen was forced to flee to safety in New Jersey; where he resided until the war's end.

At some point during July Benjamin writes from Cow Neck to the President of Congress about the situation:

SIR : — I have been some days, and am still, in the execution of the order of Congress for removing the cattle, horses and sheep in this county, and expect to finish it in a day or two more. From the best computation that can be made, there are not less than 7000 horned cattle, 7000 sheep and 1000 horses in this county, comprehended in the above order, and to be removed in pursuance of it. A number so large, it is conceived, cannot possibly live long where they are to be driven. On the Brushy Plains they will be entirely destitute of water, besides having other very scanty means of subsistence.

By attending myself on this business. I have had an opportunity of knowing the extreme distress to which the rigid execution of this order must expose many people with their families ; so that some among the poorer sort, for aught I know, must be left to starve. The cattle which many people have turned off to fat for the use of their families, will be lost as to all the purposes of such provision, and their families be destitute of that necessary supply for winter. In several parts of the county there was last year a distemper among the horses, which swept off such numbers of them that many people have been obliged since to depend entirely upon oxen. These being now taken away, they are deprived of the only means they had of carrying on any labor upon their farms, that requires a team of horses or oxen. The consequence of which must be, that they can neither secure their present harvest, nor till the earth for a future one.

I find the people in general are willing to enter into obligations, that (in case of immediate danger) they will drive their stock to any place of greater safety on the island, pursuant to the direction of the Congress or county committee. And considering the danger there is under the present regulation of losing a great part of the stock for want of sustenance, and the hardships to which people are reduced, I thought it might not be amiss to mention this circumstance, supposing that the Congress, in concurrence with the General, might perhaps, fall on some method, in this way, for securing the stock on an emergency.

The difficulty of keeping the stock within the limits prescribed, will be so great that I doubt it will be out of my power to effect it. A considerable number of men will be necessary for the purpose — more than I can possibly keep on that duty when harvest is so near at hand. In short I do not see but that for the present at least, I shall be obliged to leave them to take their chance. I am, sir, your very humble servant,

Cow Neck, July, 1776. BENJ. KISSAM.
pg 74-75 Documents and Letters Intended to Illustrate the Revolutionary Incidents of Queens County

So as of July 1776 Benjamin was working with Congress (I assume NY 4th Provincial Congress and not Continental Congress) but it's unclear to me in what capacity. Was he part of a committee in the county or had he been asked by a friend to help? But his letter may have had some effect on Congress:

Convention. July 20, 1776. After several days of debate, it was Resolved that it was not for the public good, even if it were practicable, to remove the stock from Nassau [Long] Island, except such cattle, sheep and hogs as were fit for the use of the Army; that the stock should be driven to the interior of the Island in charge of'the troops — the commanding officer to leave three milch cows to each large family, two to a middling family, and one to a small family; that the commanding officer might destroy the stock to prevent its capture by the enemy; that owners of stock thus destroyed would be compensated if they were loyal to the American cause; that the troops to carry out this order should consist of a draft of one fourth of the Minute Men and Militia in the Counties of Suffolk, Queens and Kings; that the said troops should have Continental pay and rations and serve until Dec. 3ist next, unless sooner discharged; and that Col. Josiah Smith should be the first Col. of the said troops, Col. John Sands, the second Col., Abraham Remsen, the Major, and Col. Rcnjn. Birdsall, the Commander of one company on the South side of Queens Co. A letter was also addressed to Gen. Washington asking him to purchase the stock for the Continental Army. pg 692. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut

On August 27 1776 the Battle of Brooklyn started and the British captured Queens County and, shortly thereafter, captured New York City. Interestingly, the act of moving the cattle by Gen. Woodhull may have opened the door for the flanking maneuver by the British. If Woodhull had been stationed at Jamaica Pass like he was supposed to be than the outcome of the battle may have been different.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Jorgen Norden Olsen's Journey

My father is also researching family history. He recorded his father (my grandfather, obviously) and started posting information he's gathered. You can see some photos and listen to some audio of my grandfather on his new page.