Possible John Peter Tetard Discovery (for anyone that’s read Tieck’s biography of Tetard)

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  • #314


    John Peter Tetard was a minister, schoolmaster, and a Kingsbridge resident before the time of the revolution.  He joined up with the patriots as a chaplain in 1775 and served in the Quebec campaign.  He was, by all accounts, a minor figure during the revolution but enough documentary information about him exists to make him an interesting figure for study–particularly because of his association with prominent figures from the time.  The founder of the Kingsbridge Historical Society, the Rev. Dr. William A. Tieck, wrote a 183-page biography of Tetard, which was very well researched.  Nonetheless, I think I may have stumbled across some information related to Tetard that Tieck never saw.  In 1990, three years after Tetard’s biography was published, another obscure book was published by the Johannes Schwalm Historical Association, Inc. entitled Diaries of A Hessian Chaplain and The Chaplain’s Assistant.  It contains translated excerpts from the diaries of Hessian Chaplain Heinrich Kuemell and Private Valentin Asteroth.  I was scanning the book for any first-hand accounts of Kingsbridge during the revolution when I came across this entry from October 22nd 1776 in the Kuemell diary:

    During the morning we were taken by boat in the canal [East River?] and put ashore at New Rochelle.  We remained under the open sky during the night and next day marched into camp at New Rochelle, not far from the main army.  There we had the enemy all about us and the regiment had to be constantly on alert.  There were few occupied houses in this region; families had left all their belongings behind and among others, many dwellings contained the most beautiful furnishings.  In this camp we were lodged with the colonel in a house where a pastor, who had joined the rebels, had lived.  There was a beautiful library in the house, mostly English and Latin, plus a few Greek books.  Behind the house in the garden was a cemetery in which a chest full of magnificent silver utensils had been buried, and which some English soldiers dug up during the night.  A small church stood not far from the house.  It was built on a square plan.  In the middle of one wall there was a pulpit and before this the lectern.  On the pulpit, as I have found in many churches, lay some large folio volumes of books of martyrdom, Greek and Latin accounts of martyrdom, especially the apostles and avid religious followers, from which I concluded, and accounts received confirmed, that the pastors sought to influence their congregations, by explaining and illustrating every tale of murder, to rise up and fight for their freedom and complete independence.  Indeed, pastors have even raised troops and led those so influenced.

    There are several indications that the pastor referred to in the passage was John Peter Tetard.  A biography of Gouverneur Morris by Jared Sparks states, “when quite a child [Morris] was put to live in the family of a French teacher, M. Tetar, at New Rochelle, where he acquired the basis of the French language.”  Additionally, Tieck mentions that Tetard performed several recorded baptisms in New Rochelle and “may even been drawn to New Rochelle as his residence.”  The above passage indicates that the pastor in question “had joined the rebels.”  According to Tieck, Tetard was the only minister outside of New England to serve as a chaplain in the patriot army at the time.  Interestingly, the Quebec campaign, in which Tetard participated, was launched shortly after Parliament’s passage of the Quebec Act, which guaranteed free worship of Catholicism and the restoration of the Catholic Church’s ability to impose tithes in an expanded Quebec province.  The colonists referred to the act as one of the “Intolerable Acts” and some viewed it as part of a conspiracy to promote the growth of “papism” in the colonies.  Could it be that some of the religious and patriotic zeal referred to in the diary entry is motivated by this fear?  This fear could have been keenly felt in New Rochelle, which was founded by the rebellious Calvinist, Jacob Leisler, and Huguenot refugees that fled persecution at the hand of a French Catholic King.  In the absence of any other information, it would seem that the pastor is indeed John Peter Tetard.  If true, he was quite the firebrand on behalf of the patriot cause.

  • #462


    If you took the time to read the above post, you might also find this interesting.  As I read Dawson’s Westchester County, New York, During the American Revolution, I came across a letter written by Samuel Seabury, who was captured by a patriot mob led by Isaac Sears in late 1775 and held in Connecticut.  Up until then, he was the rector at St. Peter’s Church, in the town of Westchester.  He wrote the letter to prove his innocence and describe his captivity, which he considered to be unlawful.  In the letter he writes:

    “As a clergyman [Samuel Seabury] has the care of the towns of East and West Chester.  That there is not now a clergyman of any denomination nearer than nine miles from the place of his residence, and but one within that distance without crossing the Sound ;  so that in his absence there is none to officiate to the people in any religious service, to visit the sick, or bury the dead.”

    So, according to Seabury, there was now only one “clergyman” in the area–with Seabury captured and Tetard on campaign with Montgomery in Quebec.  I am not really sure who that person would have been, so I’ll have to research the old churches of lower Westchester County to find out.  There does seem to have been a serious lack of clergy in the area during the Revolution.

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