By the mid 1670s, the Duke of York was sending numbers of soldiers to serve at the new fort built above what had become his settlement at Albany. Prior to that, smaller detachments of the Duke's soldiers were headquartered in a guardhouse located just above the intersection of State and Pearl streets.
After New York became a royal colony in 1684 (and particularly after 1691), the fort was garrisoned by soldiers who were recruited in Europe and technically belonged to the British army. They were, however, paid by the government of New York. These frontier troops were part of what has become known as the "Four Independent Companies of New York." These mostly foreign-born, "professionals" (meaning that soldiering was their prime activity) are distinct from the citizen-soldiers who served in the militia.
Several hundred young Britons came to the fort during the colonial period. Most of them moved on after their tenure at Albany. However, several dozen garrison soldiers settled in the community before 1776 - establishing English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry families in Albany for the first time. A number of these families persisted for several generations (and even permanently) in Albany. Taken as a group, these newcomers were a major component of the colonial community's demographic mosaic.
For the most part, garrison duty at Albany was not a full time occupation. Some soldiers found ways to supplement their wages by working for local interests or for themselves. Officers and enlisted men frequently boarded in Albany homes. These contacts led to relationships with local women that sometimes blossemed into families. At that point, outsiders became kin and integral members of the Albany community.
Although some information on these soldiers has been gleaned from traditional resources, we have found no rosters or pay lists until after New York became a royal colony in 1684. Several sets of documentary resources permit us to begin to reconstitute the Albany garrison during the 1690s. Pay lists, contractor bills, and city government records provide enough information to begin to talk about the soldiers and officers in a coherent way.
This web page will serve several purposes. First, to identify and provide access to the individual stories of the officers and men who served in the Albany garrison and became residents of the colonial community. Second, to consider the impact of the soldiers on the growth and development of the city of Albany. Third, to provide insights on the life of a soldier on garrison duty in colonial North America.
Although the fort was manned until the end of the French and Indian Wars, the garrison records trail seems to diminish during the peace of 1713-44. We continue to seek defining information for the garrison for the years after 1710.
The principal overview sources for these troops are: Stanley M. Pargellis, "The Four Independent Companies of New York," in Essays in Colonial History Presented to Charles McLean Andrews by His Students (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1931); and William A. Foote, The American Independent Companies of the British Army, 1664-1764 (Ph.D. dissertation UCLA, 1966). Some muster rolls are printed in the Annual Report of the State Historian.
The linked family names of the soldiers who settled in Albany will appear here as their biographies are added to the website. Not included here are the names of soldiers who served and/or lived in Albany but not as members of the garrison or of those who left no children. Lieutenant Simeon Young is a good example of those not included here.
first posted: 1/30/01; last revised: 6/20/01