Tales From the Neutral Ground; James Lyon (Part 1)

A recollection of the “Neutral Ground” as told by my fifth-great-grandfather James Lyon in 1848, during an interview with Judge James MacLean MacDonald. 

(What were the McDonald Papers? According to the Westchester County Historic Society, “The McDonald Papers are comprised of over 1000 pages of reminiscences about the American Revolution. Compiled between 1844 and 1851, they record the interviews of 241 elderly men and women who had been living in Westchester County during the war. This valuable resource was the work of Judge James MacLean Macdonald, a Westchester attorney who, because of illness, had to give up his law practice. Although he was partially paralyzed, he determined to record the recollections of the war of the remaining people in the county who had lived through it. The result of Macdonald’s efforts is a rich and personal picture of the hardships of Westchester residents, living in the “Neutral Ground” between 1776 and 1783.

When Macdonald completed the interviews, he wrote a series of lectures which were delivered in 1855 at meetings of the New-York Historical Society. These lectures were published by WCHS in 1927 in two volumes titled The McDonald Papers. Although he spelled his name Macdonald, the interviews have always been known as the McDonald Papers.”)

November 11th, 1848:

James Lyon, of Bedford, aged 87:

Colonel Armand and his legion lay for some time off and on about a mile or more from my house where three roads meet.

Once, towards the end of the war, the Refugees came up in force. The force remained at or near Clark’s Corner. They then came by Stephen Lounsbury’s into Succabone Street where they fired on Cornelius Clark’s house. They went no farther east, but turned west, and went back to New Castle, setting fire to two or three other houses along the way. None of the houses were burnt; the inhabitants in every instance extinguishing the flames.

The militia then all turned out, the Mosemans and Vermilles, etc., and pursued and overtook them a mile north of Clark’s Corner. Here the militia had a skirmish with a party of them, but no time was lost. We followed (a part of us) as far as Clark’s Corner. I was not with them, however. In coming back they found some bottles and money the Refugees had left in their hurry. They took no cattle this time, but captured a number of prisoners. The Refugees had as many as thirty or forty horsemen. The militia pursued too closely for them to take off any cattle. They killed Solomon Wardell at this time at Owens’s on the Bedford and New Castle Road. His brother Eli Wardell was taken prisoner at the same time.

Three of Moylan’s discharged soldiers, Cornelius Ogden, John Strong and Adam Schell once proposed to me to go on to Chappequa and lay in wait for a drove of cattle going below. We watched and patrolled all night, and were right among the Refugees without knowing it. Not finding any cattle and being hungry, I refused to stay another night.

Soon after, I passed a house and barn where a party of Refugees were concealed who were firing upon me, but one Jonathan Worden, one of them, knew me and prevented them, saying, “If we fire, we shall alarm the others.” I passed accordingly without knowing my danger, ’til Worden, afterwards, told Cornelius Ogden (when a prisoner below), who told me.

After this the Refugees immediately surrounded and took my three companions. Schell was killed on the spot. Strong they took two or three miles, and having a spite against him, hanged him. Ogden was taken below and exchanged. The drove probably went down safely.

Black rate was enforced in this neighborhood. William Mosier the celebrated Lieutenant was my brother-in-law, having married my half sister. He was a mason, and died but a few years ago in Dutchess County where his sons now live. He was shaving when word came that the Refugee horse were coming. The Refugee officers, while attacking, said, “Now you are half-shaved, Mosier, you had better give up.” …These facts I had from him, after hearing him tell the story.
(relationships 1 – 8 are proven via DAR documentation):

Genealogy Snapshot

Name: James Lyon (1761 – 1850)
Parents: Roger Lyon and Phebe (Unknown)
Spouse: Martha Banks
Relationship to SK Roots: 5th Great Grandfather

  1. James Lyon (1761 – 1850)
  2. Deborah Lyon (1791 – 1877)
  3. George Washington Moseman (1827 – 1888)
  4. Willet William Moseman (1852 – 1924)
  5. Nathaniel Greene van Buren Moseman (1872 – 1961)
  6. Augusta Wilhemenia Moseman (1909 – 1998)
  7. Herbert Charles Woznick
  8. Sally

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