Newburgh Heritage

Through the floodgates

By Mary McTamaney
Posted 6/6/24

Look up at the dateline for today’s newspaper and it should trigger a memory of lessons learned. Perhaps you learned this date in school or from family who told stories of its meaning to them. …

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Newburgh Heritage

Through the floodgates


Look up at the dateline for today’s newspaper and it should trigger a memory of lessons learned. Perhaps you learned this date in school or from family who told stories of its meaning to them. June 6th was D-Day in 1944. That was the start of the allied invasion of France along the Normandy coast in World War II. It was the charge into battle that would ultimately rout and defeat the fascist regimes in Europe and bring an end to the war. It was devastating for all who were involved. Some were members of my family and perhaps some were members of yours.

My father was a WWII U.S. Army Infantry medic. Next door to us lived another veteran whom my dad spoke of with great respect as a “B.A.R. man. They had to be so tough for such an awful job – carrying and firing a heavy Browning Automatic Rifle as they advanced on the Nazis. I have been blessed and devastated to hear the stories of such men during my lifetime. Many veterans’ stories will be rebroadcast this week in special programming that commemorates the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Tune in. Watch their faces and body language to see how deeply war affected them. Listen to the moral of their many stories and their hope that we never have to follow them.

Then look out the window and realize where we live: Newburgh – Birthplace of the Republic.

That statement used to be carved into the gateway signs that stood at the entrances to our city (Route 9W north and south and Route 17K west). After World War II, the Newburgh Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the project to commemorate and advance the unique place Newburgh has in national history. At the old Hasbrouck House on today’s Liberty Street, George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, declared that there shall be no king but God in this evolving nation. He understood, after seven long years of war, how much was at stake. His troops were physically and emotionally exhausted.

Supplies were low, many of their families back home were nearly bankrupt and starving. Negotiations with the Continental Congress to improve their futures often seemed as difficult as negotiations with England. Yet, here, on the banks of the Hudson River, a republic was finally secured.

Washington is an interesting leader to investigate. His times were vastly different than ours yet his theories, and those of his fellow national founders, set this country in motion. Read the chapter in the classic 1875 Newburgh history book (History of the Town of Newburgh) by Edward Ruttenber that includes the recollections of Robert Donnelly. Mr. Donnelly had been a boy in Newburgh when Washington and his troops were headquartered here. He saw the great general ride by on his horse and often talked to his soldiers.

Donnelly’s description of the little hamlet of Newburgh shows an amazingly poor and simple place. That was America in the 1780’s. It was from such small communities that the Continental Army gathered and became a victorious force. From so many different settlements they found common ground and purpose.

As Revolutionary War fighting finally subsided after America’s victory at the Battle of Yorktown, George Washington led peace negotiations from his desk at the old Hasbrouck farm in Newburgh, his final military headquarters (1782-1783). He wrote hundreds of dispatches and letters as he envisioned the future for his army and his neighbors. One letter is particularly useful this year as most of the world is engaged in national elections. “Oppose anyone who wickedly attempts to open the floodgates of civil discord and deluge our rising empire in blood.” The veterans of D-Day were swept through such floodgates. Listen to their heroic stories and hard-earned wisdom.