Jack Peterson Memorial
Located on Croton Point, the Jack Peterson Memorial commemorates a small but significant military action that took place during the Revolutionary War. On September 21, 1780, John Peterson, an African American soldier known as "Rifle Jack," and Moses Sherwood, a white soldier, prevented a landing party from the British warship HMS Vulture from reaching Croton Point. The following day, American reinforcements bombarded the Vulture, causing it to leave Haverstraw Bay and sail south on the Hudson River toward New York City. Earlier, the Vulture had dropped off Major John Andre, the liaison to Benedict Arnold as he planned his treason, and was waiting in the Hudson for his return. Once the warship left, Andre was forced to travel overland through Westchester County to return to the British lines at New York City. While doing so, he was captured in Tarrytown on September 23. Arnold's treason was revealed, and Andre was hanged as a spy.
Backstory and Context
On September 21, 1780, the HMS Vulture, a British warship, was anchored in the Hudson River off Haverstraw. The commander of the ship sent a landing party across the river toward Croton Point, then known as Teller's Point. Two American soldiers were making cider near Teller's Point: John "Rifle Jack" Peterson, a 35-year-old African American soldier, and Moses Sherwood, a 19-year-old white soldier. The two men took position behind rocks on Teller's Point and fired at the boat, which in turn reversed course and retreated toward the Vulture. The two soldiers then rode on horseback to Fort Lafayette in Verplanck, which was garrisoned by American troops under the command of Colonel James Livingston. Colonel Livingston sent cannon to Croton Point, which proceeded to bombard the Vulture on the morning of September 22. The commander of the Vulture departed Haverstraw and sailed south toward New York City.
This small engagement proved to have major consequences for the British and American forces. The Vulture had dropped off Major John Andre, a British officer who was the liaison with Benedict Arnold while the latter was planning to betray the American fortress at West Point, on September 20. The Vulture had planned to take Andre back to New York City after he met with Arnold. However, after the Vulture departed Haverstraw, Andre was forced to take an overland route through Westchester County to return to the British forces stationed in New York City. While traveling through the county on September 23 with the plans to West Point secreted in his boot, Andre was captured by three militiamen in Tarrytown. As a result, the American forces were alerted to Arnold's betrayal. Although Arnold was able to escape to the British lines, Andre was hanged as a spy on October 1, 1780.
In 1967 the actions of Peterson and Sherwood were commemorated when the Mohegan, Pierre Van Cortlandt, and Tarrytown chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a plaque where the two outnumbered soldiers fought off the British attempt to land. The memorial is part of the Westchester County African American Heritage Trail. The Jack Peterson Memorial is located in Croton Point Park about 150 west of the northwest corner of the large parking lot. Please see the map that is included with the images.
Buckley, Gail. American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military From the Revolution to Desert Storm. New York, N.Y. Random House, 2001.
Curran, John J. Peekskill's African American History: A Hudson Valley Community's Untold Story. Charleston, S.C. The History Press, 2008.
Nell, William C.. Property Qualification or No Property Qualification: A Few Facts From the Record of the Patriotic Services of the Colored Men of New York, During the Wars of 1776 and 1812..... New York, N.Y. Thomas Hamilton, 1860.