Monday, April 6, 2020

10 Great Watering Holes / Remembrance of Drinks Past

Commander K. "Invading" Antoines
Oysters Rockefeller & French '75
New Orleans, LA

We read, without much surprise, that in these grim plague times, alcohol sales have risen sharply (  So not all of the effects of COVID-19 have been negative and there may eventually be more good news coming from this pandemic (see my earlier on Beignets, Whiskey and Coronavirus... But restaurants, bars and pubs across the world have shut their doors causing spikes in unemployment and general discontent among the thirsty. It seems appropriate now more than ever to remember some of my personal favorite watering holes around the world...

All of these fine, life-enhancing and affirming institutions are sadly closed.  I have personally visited all of them and can testify to their genuine and pleasing nature.  Someday, we all hope soon, these watering holes will reopen and we will gather to celebrate the end of this wretched plague. I offer my personal drink recommendation for each of them in ten of my favorite establishments around the globe.  Cheers to that blessed day!

If we cannot now visit our old haunts and enjoy fellowship and good cheer we may, at least, use our memory to recall the fond experiences we have enjoyed therein.  We may indulge ourselves in a Proustian Remembrance of Drinks Past to console us and get us through these dark times...

Oyster Time!
Walrus & the Carpenter
Seattle, WA

Oysters thrive on fresh clean water and there is an abundance of this in the Northwest.  The Walrus and the Carpenter is a fabulous to slurp down tasty raw bivalves from Washington and British Columbia.  What is the optimum beverage to accompany your oysters?    Draught beer?  White wine? Champagne?   See my answer below...

Drink: A French '75 pairs perfectly with oysters.

Cigar & Vesper Martini
American Bar
Stafford Hotel
London, UK

The American Bar of the Stafford Hotel near Green Park is an ideal place to enjoy a drink and a cigar outside on one of Londons' rare pleasant days.  The inside of this establishment is festooned with American sports memorabilia.  Ian Fleming wrote about the Vesper Martini in the very first James Bond novel Casino Royale, published in 1953.  The Vesper is a delicious high octane cocktail that features gin, vodka and the French apertif wine Lillet.  Highly addictive like Eva Green / Vesper Lynd!

Drink: James Bond would order a Vesper and you should too!

The Churchill Arms
London, UK

This traditional pub in Kensington is chock full of Winston Churchill memorabilia.  They also have a fine Thai restaurant attached.  Beer and spicy Thai food is a happy marriage.  A great place to reflect upon the life of history's greatest Briton while enjoying a pint and some Pad Thai.  This is a Fuller's pub.

Drink:  Fuller's Honey Dew Beer pairs beautifully with Thai food.

Tiroler Hut
A little bit of Austria in London! 
4) TIROLER HUT, London, UK (

This subterranean establishment is a warm slice Austria in the heart of London.  Come here for a cheese fondue and steamed sausages with sauerkraut.  Washed it all down with Steins of cold pilsner.  Save room for some apple strudel!  But the real attraction here is the free musical entertainment led for years by the indefatigable owner Josef Friedman.  Sadly, the Hut had a devastating fire in August of 2019 ( One prays for the resurrection of this Austrian phoenix and the restoration of gem├╝tlichkeit to London!  Please consider making a gift to the Hut!

Drink: Split A Boot of Bavarian Beer with at least 4 friends!

5) COMMANDER'S PALACE, New Orleans, LA (
Commander's Palace
New Orleans

When the Commander is in New Orleans he must, ipso facto, make a pilgrimage to Commander's Palace.  This historic restaurant in the Garden District of New Orleans has been satisfying diners since 1880.  Their signature turtle soup is incredible and still available for delivery!  This is the perfect place for a special occasion meal with a special person.

Drink: A Mint Julep to restore the tissues and prepare for an amazing meal!  An Irish Coffee with dessert!

Whiskey Sour
Century Bar
Dayton, OH

6) CENTURY BAR, Dayton, OH (

Dayton has an amazing Air Force Museum but it also boasts one of the finest bourbon bars in the USA.  (See my earlier post on Bourbon history...  The bartenders at the Century Bar in downtown Dayton are artists in the medium of bourbon cocktails.  Just trust me on this...

Drink: Try the Whiskey Sour.  Anywhere else an abomination; here ambrosia!

Rum Daquiri
Pedro Mandinga
Panama City, Panama
7) PEDRO MANDINGA, Panama City, Panama (

Pedro Mandinga is a distillery that also owns a few rum cocktail bars.  After a stroll through the charming old section of Panama City enter the wood paneled comfort of a Pedro Manding rum bar.  Snacks such as the empanadas and ceviche are delicious.  The staff is friendly and attentive.  The bartenders are masterful.  (See my earlier blog on Rum, Piracy and Panama...

Drink: A Rum Daquiri

Commander K.  Invades
Cantinetta Antinori

8) CANTINETTA ANTINORI, Florence, Italy (

Antinori is a vast and fabled Italian wine producer.  In this Florence restaurant and bar you will find Tuscan dishes paired with the full range of Antinori selections.  All of the Antinori offerings -- from Prosecco to Super Tuscans -- are conveniently available by the glass.

Drink:  Try a glass of Tignanello with your tagliatta!

Rabbit Hole Distillery
Louisville, KY


Scurry down the Rabbit Hole in Louisville to find one of the finest new distilleries in Kentucky.  Their sherry cask aged bourbon is to die for.  In 2019 the huge conglomerate Pernod Ricard acquired a majority stake in this boutique producer.  This is the same Pernod Ricard that scored a PR coup by generously converted much of its output to the production of hand sanitizer (   Tour the distillery but be sure to visit the uber-cool cocktail lounge after your visit.

Drink:  Anything with bourbon is excellent.  Try the Manhattan!

Irish Coffee
Buena Vista Cafe
San Francisco, CA
10) BUENA VISTA CAFE, San Francisco, CA (

The iconic Buena Vista Cafe is a San Francisco institution.  You will find it at Fisherman's Wharf across from the picturesque Cable Car stop.  The Buena Vista has been serving up perfect Irish Coffees since 1952.  In normal times they make around 2,000 per day.  Warning: Too many of these may transform you into a Fighting Celt!

Drink: An Irish Coffee, of course!

Commander Kelly cordially invites you to share a few of your favorite bars, pubs and restaurants in the Comment section!

101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur is coming Soon! 

You can find signed copies of our books at 
these web sites...


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Rick Rescorla: Fighting Celt

Rick Rescorla
1939 - 2001

In these incredibly dark times when health care workers around the world are risking their lives in service to their fellow man in the struggle against this grim disease it makes sense to consider the lives of others who have made the supreme self sacrifice (See also my earlier blog on the Coronavirus...  One of these was a Celtic Fighter with strong connections to Cornwall and New York City...Rcik Rescorla.  Here is his chapter in our forthcoming book 101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur...

Two nations' armies
served, thousands saved on the day
of the two towers.

Stuart Laycock

Coming Soon...

"Rick Rescorla was a soldier of the old school, a Celtic Fighter, who fought in two nations’ armies and was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, while heroically saving the lives of around 2,700 people.

Rescorla was born was born in 1939 in England. He grew up in the seaside town of Hayle, a working-class village in Cornwall. The Cornish are proud of their Celtic heritage, which they celebrate with music and sport. As a young boy, Rescorla saw American soldiers training for the D-Day invasion. He was an avid wrestler and rugby player.

His family could not afford to send him to university, so at seventeen, Rescorla left Cornwall, heading to London to join the British Army. Scoring high on military aptitude tests, he was assigned to an army intelligence unit and deployed to Cyprus—the first of many overseas duties. After completing his tour in the army, Rescorla joined the Rhodesian Police force, serving in Kitwe. In Rhodesia, he met Dan Hill, an American who would become a lifelong friend. Also while in Rhodesia, he shot and killed a 350-pound lion, keeping the lion’s tooth on a necklace as a souvenir.
In 1963, Rescorla emigrated to New York and enlisted in the US Army. He received basic training at Fort Dix in New Jersey prior to being posted to Fort Benning in Georgia, where he attended Officer Candidate School. Rescorla was the platoon commander of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division. Following in the footsteps of Custer, who also served in the 7th Cavalry, Rescorla would soon be deployed to Vietnam, though his “mount” was helicopters, not horses.
Rick Rescorla Statue
Fort Benning, GA
In 1965, Rescorla’s platoon was helicoptered in to fight the Battle of la Drang. His commanding officer, Lieutenant General Hal Moore, later described Rescorla as “the best platoon leader I ever saw.” By all accounts, Rescorla was a tough, selfless soldier during his tour in Vietnam. He won multiple decorations for his service, including the Purple Heart, the Silver Star, and two Bronze Stars. He would sometimes sing to his troops to keep them calmer in battle.

He returned to the States in July of 1966 and continued to serve in the US Army Reserves until his retirement at the rank of colonel in 1990. Rescorla attended the University of Oklahoma in Norman, at first hoping to become a writer. He earned a law degree instead and went on to teach Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina.

In 1972, he married Betsy Nathan, with whom he had two children. (They divorced after the kids had grown.) In order to support his growing family, Rescorla took more lucrative corporate-security jobs in the financial industry. He worked for Continental Illinois Bank and Trust, headquartered in Chicago.

In 1984, Dean Witter hired Rescorla to be their director of security. He moved to New York to work from Witter’s base in the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

In 1992, Hal Moore published We Were Soldiers Once … and Young: Ia Drang—The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam. The cover of Moore’s book featured a photograph of Rick Rescorla. At a later reunion, Rescorla teased his old commander that the title should have been We Were Soldiers Once … and Thin!

On February 26, 1993, Ramzi Yousef, a veteran of al-Qaeda training camps, detonated a bomb in the southern corner of the garage below the World Trade Center. Yousef hoped to bring both towers down, with one structure crashing into the other, killing thousands of people. The explosion ripped through six stories of structural steel and sent smoke clouds billowing through the South Tower where Rescorla was working. Six people were killed and over a thousand were injured, but the Towers did not fall.

Following the 1993 attack, Rescorla was deeply concerned about the vulnerability of the Twin Towers to terrorist attack. He advocated that Dean Witter relocate their office and staff to New Jersey but was turned down. He instituted regular emergency drills among the Dean Witter staff, in spite of considerable grumbling.

In 1997, Dean Witter announced their merger with Morgan Stanley. Rescorla became a vice president in charge of security for Morgan Stanley. A year later he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, for which he was undergoing treatments at the time of his death. In 1999, Rescorla married Susan Greer. In April of 2001, Rescorla was inducted into the OCS (Officer Candidate School) Hall of Fame in Fort Benning, Georgia.
September 11, 2001
On September 11, 2001, Rescorla showed up early for work, as was his routine. At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The explosion was heard and felt in the nearby South Tower, in which Morgan Stanley had its offices. The PA system blared warnings, urging office workers to remain at their desks, but Rescorla had a different idea. He used a bullhorn and calmly began herding his Morgan Stanley colleagues and others toward the stairs. He was heard to say, “Today is a proud day to be an American.”  Around 9:03 a.m., a United-Airlines-operated Boeing 7676-200 crashed into the South Tower.

Rescorla sang to steady his nerves and that of those around him, giving a Cornish twist to an old Welsh tune, “Men of Harlech.”

Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warrior’s pennants streaming
To this battlefield.

Men of Cornwall stand ye steady
It cannot be ever said ye
For the battle were not ready
Stand and never yield

A friend told Rescorla that it was time to leave. Rescorla responded, “I will as soon as I’ve got everybody else out.”  He never made it, and his body was never recovered.

Out of Morgan Stanley’s 2,687 employees in the Twin Towers that day, only nine (including Rescorla and three independent contractors working for the firm) were killed. Rescorla has been credited with saving around 2,700 lives on 9/11.
Rick Rescorla Monument
Hayle, UK
The extraordinary life of this Fghting Celt, who touched and saved so many, has been memorialized in many ways. A statue of Rescorla was dedicated outside the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning in 2009. In 2011, the San Francisco Opera presented Heart of a Soldier, an opera based on Rescorla’s life. A memorial can also be found in his hometown of Hayle in Cornwall."

101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur is coming Soon! 

You can find signed copies of our books at 
these web sites...


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Hugh O'Flaherty: Fighting Celt

Coming Soon...

In these incredibly dark times, with health care workers struggling to save the lives of those afflicted with the Coronavirus plague, it is useful to reflect on to the lives of those who, at great risk to themselves, have worked heroically to save human life (See my blog on the Coronavirus...

One of these was a Fighting Celt from the Emerald Isle named Hugh O'Flaherty.  This is a chapter from our forthcoming work, 101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur...

Hugh O'Flaherty
1898 - 1963
Killarney, Republic of Ireland

To win in a war,
sometimes you need not guns, hate
but a heart and love.
Stuart Laycock

Fighting Celts sometimes fight off the battlefield and sometimes without weapons.
One of the most remarkable heroes of World War II was neither a soldier nor a politician. He was an Irish priest who became the Celtic Oskar Schindler.

Hugh O'Flaherty
The Celtic Schindler
Hugh O’Flaherty was born in County Cork in 1898. His father was steward on a golf course. Young O’Flaherty grew up in Killarney with the game, becoming a scratch golfer. At age twenty, he enrolled in a Jesuit college, charting a path to the priesthood. He was ordained in 1925 and went on to serve around in the world as a Vatican diplomat in countries such as Haiti, Egypt, and Czechoslovakia.
O’Flaherty was a Monsignor in Rome when World War II broke out. As one of the Vatican’s best golfers, one of his duties was to chaperone golf-playing visitors to the Holy See.

In June of 1940, Mussolini entered the war on the Axis side by attacking across the border with France and from Libya into Egypt. In July of 1943, the Allies invaded Sicily. Britain’s Field Marshal Montgomery and US General Patton had their famous “race to Messina.” Shortly after the fall of Sicily, the Italian government essentially switched sides in the war, and Mussolini was arrested by King Victor Emmanuel III’s government.
Nazi Occupation of Rome
Hitler did not take this lying down. Thousands of German troops under the able leadership of “smiling” Albert Kesserling were sent to occupy large parts of the Italian peninsula. Hitler also dispatched paratroopers in a bold raid that succeeded in rescuing Il Duce from his mountain prison at the Hotel Campo Imperatore, returning him to behind Axis lines. Rome was occupied by Nazi troops from the summer of 1943 until its liberation by Allied troops on 4 June 1944—just two days before D-Day.

During this critical period, O’Flaherty played a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the Nazi overlords who controlled Rome up to the Vatican gates. He made use of space in monasteries and convents to conceal Allied soldiers and Jews. His actions are estimated to have saved around 6,500 lives. Many of the men he saved were downed Allied airmen who had flown missions over Nazi-occupied Italy.
Herbert Kappler
1907 - 1978
Herbert Kappler, the head of the SS in Rome, learned of O’Flaherty’s actions. He had a white line painted on the streets by the Vatican, marking the boundary between the Holy See and Nazi authority, and declared that the priest would be killed if he left Vatican territory.  Kappler also put a bounty on O’Flaherty’s head and attempted to lure O’Flaherty across the line with double agents. O’Flaherty was not fooled and earned a reputation as the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican.

After the war, O’Flaherty was honored by many nations for his wartime services. He received a Medal of Honor from the US government and a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) from the United Kingdom.

Kappler, on the other hand, went to prison after the war. But he requested that Monsignor O’Flaherty visit him in prison. Kappler made his confession to his old nemesis and even converted to Roman Catholicism.
Scarlet & the Black

O’Flaherty returned to Ireland, where he died in 1963 following a stroke. His life was featured in a made-for-television movie (The Scarlet and the Black) starring Gregory Peck as the priest. A statue of this Celtic hero stands today in Killarney behind the motto: God has no country.

You can find signed copies of our books at 
these web sites...

Monday, March 30, 2020

Invading New York

Commander K. "Invading"
Grand Central Station

Today all eyes are cast on New York -- the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA.  As of this writing New York State has experienced over 53,000 diagnosed cases of COVID -19 and over 800 deaths. These numbers are certain to rise and New York is the hardest hit state by far in the country now.  The Coronavirus has been a silent invisible invader of New York (and the world) that has preyed on the most vulnerable among us (see also my earlier blog on the Coronavirus...

Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has emerged as an eloquent, intelligent and humane spokesman as this crisis grips his state and strangles the once vibrant NY economy.  He has demonstrated the plucky fighting spirit that beats in the hearts of all New Yorkers.

In the New York chapter of America Invaded we outlined Invasions of New York from the first arrival of he Europeans right up to the present ( that have shaped the Empire state... 
New York
The Empire State
"The size, wealth, and power of the area known today as New York State have made it a magnet for many invaders and attackers over the course of its history. Its geography makes it particularly vulnerable to invasions. Manhattan, being an island, was the target of many seaborne invasions or attacks, from the Dutch in the seventeenth century to Nazi U-boats in World War II.  The unique topography of the Hudson River and Lake Champlain forms a water highway that provides a north-south axis of invasion that has been exploited by many powers.

The wealth that drew the earliest human “invaders,” as well as the first Europeans, was New York’s bounteous natural environment. The waters around Manhattan were teeming with oysters, which shaped the very landscape of the area. Middens, hills made of discarded oyster shells, were created by the bivalve-loving indigenous peoples of New York. Beavers built their dams in the Mohawk Valley.  The governor of New Amsterdam, Adriaen van der Donck, recorded in 1649 the capture of six-foot lobsters!  The city of Buffalo seems likely to have gotten its name from the American bison that once ranged through western New York.

The indigenous inhabitants of New York would frequently become caught up in the colonial rivalries between Dutch, French, English, and, finally, American settlers. The many wars they waged amongst themselves prior to the arrival of Europeans are mainly lost to history.

Henry Hudson
Circa 1565 - 1611?

In 1609, Henry Hudson, a Londoner employed by the Dutch East India Company, arrived in what is today New York, seeking a route to the Orient. He did not, of course, find any such thing. Hudson and the crew of the Half Moon had mostly peaceful interactions with the Native Americans, but one member of his crew, John Colman, was murdered when an Indian shot an arrow through Colman’s neck on September 6, 1609.

Dutch colonizers would follow in Hudson’s wake, establishing New Netherlands in 1624. They came in pursuit of the quick profits that could be made from the sale of beaver pelts. Fort Orange was built to protect the early Dutch settlers from the indigenous population. It later became known as Beverwijk and finally, with the arrival of the English, as Albany.
Killiaen Van Rensselaer
1586 -1643
Oude Kerk, Amsterdam
Kiliaen van Rensselaer, my own ancestor (CRK), was a Dutch merchant who purchased vast tracts of land in New York, although he never set foot in the New World.  This New York patroon is buried at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam’s red-light district.

Though the Dutch preferred to trade peacefully with the Indians, conflicts did arise. In 1638, Willem Kieft was appointed director by the Dutch West India Company. During his tenure, he reduced the customary annual tribute paid to the indigenous people.  The inexperienced Kieft also used the theft of some pigs to start what became known as Kieft’s War, which ran from 1643–45. Over a thousand Algonquian people were killed, as well as many Dutch.

The island of Manhattan was famously established by the Dutch not as a conquest, but as a business deal with the native people. Peter Minuit of the Dutch West India Company bought the island of Manhattan for the sum of 60 guilders from the chief of the Carnarsee, though the island was mainly inhabited by Weckquaesgeeks. The Dutch later built a wall along a street to protect Manhattan from the English in Connecticut. Today it is known as Wall Street.
Samuel de Champlain
1574 -1635

The English invasion of New York began in August 1664, when four British warships led by Richard Nicolls, a subordinate of the Duke of York in the English Civil War, arrived off  Manhattan. Peter Stuyvesant, the one-legged director of the Dutch colony, was compelled to surrender. New Amsterdam became New York.
Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer and founder of New France, was the first European to visit the area near the future site of Ticonderoga in the summer of 1609. In late July, Champlain and his Indian allies skirmished with the Iroquois and red an arquebus loaded with four lead balls. Two Iroquois chieftains fell.
French voyagers and traders settled in New France, north of the British colony of New York.  The French built fortifications to prevent encroachment from the more populous British colonies to their south. In 1726, for example, they built Fort Niagara, the heart of which is known today as the French Castle ( They also launched occasional raids on British territory.

French Castle
Fort Niagara
In the winter of 1690, during the Nine Years’ War, a raiding party led by Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville struck south from New France into New York.  The French and their Indian allies came via canoe across Lake Champlain and down the Hudson. Finding Fort Orange (now Albany) too well defended, they pushed on until they reached Schenectady. The town’s only guards were two snowmen! A predawn attack on February 9 killed sixty Schenectady residents.

And there was trouble on the home front as well. In England, Catholic King James II was forced from his throne. The next year, in 1689, German-born Jacob Leisler took the opportunity to seize power from Lieutenant Governor Francis Nicholson in New York. Two years later, English soldiers under Major Richard Ingoldesby were ordered to install a new regime to replace Leisler’s. Fighting ensued, but Leisler eventually surrendered and was hanged for treason.

There would be plenty of further fighting in the border area as Britain and France continued to compete for colonial dominance in North America. At the start of the Seven Years’ War (known in North America as the French and Indian War) the French, aided by superior generalship, enjoyed some success. Britain would not become dominant in the conflict until late in the war. New York, sharing a long border with New France, saw heavy fighting.

Early in the war, British and Native American forces triumphed over the French at the Battle of Lake George, though that victory did not lead to much. In 1755, the French built Fort Carillon, which later became known as Ticonderoga.  This limestone fort gave them a base from which to raid to the south. Ticonderoga is an Iroquois word meaning junction at two waters.

In 1757, General Montcalm led a force of 1,600 French and Canadian soldiers, along with their Indian allies, and invaded New York, marching south to Lake George. In August, they besieged and sacked Fort William Henry.  About fifty prisoners were massacred by the Indians.
Robert Rogers
1731 - 1795
On January 21, 1757, the Battle on Snowshoes was fought near Fort Carillon, when an American company of Rangers led by Robert Rogers was ambushed by the French and their Indian allies. Rogers learned from defeat, later writing Rogers Rules of Ranging, which serve even today as a guideline for American Special Forces.
New France had a total population of only 80,000 settlers versus around one and half million in Britain’s American colonies. This numerical superiority eventually overwhelmed the defenders of French Canada.

Montcalm was killed in 1759 at the siege of Quebec. at same year, the English constructed a new fort at Crown Point. Robert Rogers sortied from Crown Point to launch a punishing raid on the Abenaki village of St. Francis in 1759. at same year, British forces also finally captured Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Niagara.

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War, with a British annexation of New France that made New York’s northern border secure.

The expense of the Seven Years’ War had to be paid for, and the British Crown soon started raising taxes on its American colonists, which contributed to the start of the American Revolution.

Fort Ticonderoga
New York

On May 10, 1775, Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold captured Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York. When the British commander asked by whose authority they acted, Arnold thundered, “In the name of the Great Jehovah, and the Continental Congress.” Fifty-eight mortar and cannon seized at Ticonderoga would later be dragged by forces led by Henry Knox (a portly Boston bookseller) to Dorchester Heights in Boston, where they would be used to drive the British from that city.

However, the subsequent attempt by the Continental Army to invade north into Quebec was a disastrous failure, and the Fort Ticonderoga area again saw fighting as American forces attempted to resist the advancing British. An American fleet under Benedict Arnold was largely destroyed by British ships in the Battle of Valcour Island.
George Washington Death Mask
Morgan Library, NYC

In June of 1776, a British armada entered lower New York Harbor and began disembarking troops. General William Howe commanded 32,000 men, outnumbering Washington’s 19,000 soldiers. A series of engagements were fought, contesting New York. In August, the British landed on Long Island, eventually forcing Washington to evacuate the island. On September 16, the Americans won a sharp engagement at the Battle of Harlem Heights, but soon after Washington was compelled to abandon Manhattan to the British and their Tory supporters.  New York, along with New Jersey, was a hotbed of Loyalist support for most of the American Revolution. The King’s American Legion, for example, was made up largely of New Yorkers. At the Battle of White Plains on October 28, American militia were driven from the field, and Continental regulars withdrew from Chatterton’s Hill. At the close of 1776, it appeared that New York City had been permanently lost to the British.
"Gentleman" Johnny Burgoyne
1722 - 1792
The next year, 1777, became known as the year of the hangman due to the similar appearance of the number 7 and a gibbet. is year featured an invasion of New York that was, quite possibly, the most consequential in the area’s history. “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne, an amateur play- wright, led an invading army of over 7,000 troops from Canada that was made up of British, German, Canadian, and Loyalist forces. George III personally ordered the use of Indian forces to supplement his Redcoats, hoping they would terrorize the Americans into submission. British gold subsidized the Native Americans, who were paid an $8 bounty for either live rebel prisoners or their scalps. Burgoyne’s aim was to drive south toward British-occupied Manhattan, cutting New England off from the rest of the rebellious colonies.

Burgoyne’s complicated plan relied on coordinated British action, with around 1,600 troops led by General St. Leger striking from the St. Lawrence into western New York. Lord Howe, with 16,000 men, would march north from Manhattan to rendezvous with Burgoyne at Albany.

All went well for Burgoyne at first. His forces scouted the crest of Mount Defiance, which looked down upon Fort Ticonderoga. His artilleryman, General Phillips, declared, “Where a goat can go, a man can go; and where a man can go, he can drag a gun.” British cannons were dragged to the top of Mount Defiance, and General St. Clair, who commanded around 2,500 outnumbered and outgunned American defenders at Ticonderoga, was compelled to withdraw without a fight. General Phillip Schuyler, St. Clair’s superior and the commander of the Northern Department, was subsequently sacked by the Continental Congress and replaced by Horatio Gates. At this point, it seemed America’s Founding Fathers truly might be hanged on a gibbet, as Burgoyne and George III intended.
Bennington Monument
Bennington, Vermont

Even before Gates assumed command of the Northern Department, however, the tide began to turn. A reconnaissance into Vermont, led by Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum and his Brunswickers, ended disastrously for the British at the battle of Bennington on August 15. Troops from New Hampshire, led by General John Stark, earned a crucial victory in a battle that was fought in New York but is commemorated today by a large monument in Vermont.

One of the bloodiest battles of the American Revolution was fought in New York on August 6, 1777, when Loyalists and Indians led by Chief Joseph Brant ambushed Colonel Nicholas Herkimer’s Tryon County militia at Oriskany. Around 200 Americans and 150 Indians were killed. Oneida Indians fought that day on the Patriot side.

Saratoga National Historic Park

But the most decisive actions of 1777 would be fought in September in the woods near Saratoga. On September 19, Burgoyne’s advance toward Albany was halted by American rebels, led by Benedict Arnold and Horatio Gates, at Freeman’s Farm on the Hudson River. Burgoyne’s forces were repulsed again at Bemis Heights on October 7. Benedict Arnold, under the influence of rum, demonstrated conspicuous courage, and was wounded in the leg that day. Lord Howe, preoccupied with the capture of Philadelphia, had not left Sir Henry Clinton in New York City with enough troops to advance north to Albany. On October 17, 1777, Burgoyne, with many of his troops close to starvation due to their stretched supply lines from Canada, surrendered his army of 5,895. Burgoyne himself was brie y held prisoner at General Schuyler’s (another NY ancestor by marriage! [CRK]) mansion in Albany. This decisive American victory was the turning point of the American Revolution, as it gave instant credibility to the rebel movement. Louis XVI’s France abandoned its neutrality and joined the war as an American ally directly as a result of the surrender at Saratoga.

Philip Schuyler

Native American forces allied to Britain hit back in the north of New York. In the fall of 1778, Chief Joseph Brant delivered a measure of revenge for Saratoga by leading a massacre at Cherry Valley. This town near Albany had a population of just over three hundred in 1775. On November 11, 1778, fourteen soldiers and thirty civilians were killed by the Iroquois, Among the dead were my ancestors Robert Wells, his wife, and several children, including his teenage daughter Jane (Commander K.).

As a result, many settlers ed the area, and the Continental Army sent in troops on reprisal operations. In particular, General Sullivan’s expedition in 1779 destroyed numerous Native American villages in Pennsylvania and New York.

In the Mohawk Valley and much of New York, the Revolution really came to resemble a civil war with raids and retaliations. The last major battle in the Mohawk Valley that involved regular British soldiers took place in Johnstown in 1781.

In 1780, Benedict Arnold, who had been passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress, conspired to deliver the American fort at West Point to the British. The plot failed, and the unfortunate British Major John André was hanged by the Continental Army for espionage.

Fraunces Tavern

On November 25, 1783 (Evacuation Day), British troops finally abandoned New York City. On December 4, Washington bade a tearful farewell to his officers at the Fraunces Tavern on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan (

But another war was coming. In the War of 1812, British and American forces would clash in a number of places along the border between New York and Canada. Numerous raids were also launched across Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence and Niagara Rivers.

During the war, another one of my ancestors (Commander K.), General Stephen Van Rensselaer, led an unsuccessful invasion from New York into Canada. Many of the New York militia he commanded saw themselves as a strictly defensive force.
Musket Demonstration
Fort Niagara, NY

American soldiers in Fort Niagara and British soldiers in Fort George, who had previously enjoyed friendly relations, traded cannon re across the Niagara River in the summer of 1812. On the evening of December 18, 1813, Colonel John Murray and 550 British soldiers crept toward Fort Niagara. A group of American guards were caught while playing cards and forced to divulge the fort’s password. The sleeping garrison was captured at bayonet point. It was to be the last foreign assault on an American military installation on the mainland until the Japanese attack on Fort Stevens in 1942. On December 30, in retaliation for the American burning of Newark, British troops and Native American allies attacked and burned Buffalo and Black Rock.

In September 1814, one of the decisive naval battles of the war took place at Plattsburgh. The naval elements of a British invasion force were defeated on Lake Champlain by US naval forces under Captain Thomas Macdonough. Realizing that without naval assistance, further progress on land would be hard, British land forces withdrew.  The American victory considerably strengthened the hand of the United States in the negotiations to end the war.

During the American Civil War, many New Yorkers would serve in the Union Army. On May 24, 1861, Elmer Ellsworth of Sarasota Springs became the first Union officer to be killed, shot by a Virginia hotelier wielding a
shotgun. Moments before, Ellsworth, a Zouave officer, had hauled down the Confederate flag in an Alexandria hotel.

New York has seen a wide array of assorted riots over the centuries, and the Civil War years provided one particularly tragic example. Late in the war, many recent immigrants to New York came to resent conscription into the Union Army. In the summer of 1863, five days of rioting broke out in Manhattan that resulted in over a hundred deaths and the lynching of eleven black men. The historian Samuel Morrison declared that these draft riots were “equivalent to a Confederate victory.”

In March of 1899, after the American victory in the Spanish-American War, Kaiser Wilhelm II had plans drawn up for a German invasion of New York City. One hundred thousand troops would land at Sandy Hook in nearby New Jersey and proceed toward Manhattan.

P. G. Wodehouse’s 1916 short story “The Military Invasion of America” spoofs invasion fiction that was popular at the time, describing a fictional attack on New York by a German armada, with the Japanese attacking the West Coast. “New York had been bombarded—but fortunately, as it was summer, nobody of any importance was in town.”
Allan Stewart Konigsberg

Allan Stewart Konigsberg was born in the Bronx in 1935. His Jewish grandparents had immigrated from Russia and Austria, and he grew up in Brooklyn speaking German and Yiddish. An imaginative boy, he spent time on the beach looking out for Nazi submarines during World War II. He never actually saw a German U-boat, but he did incorporate his fantasies into the 1987 lm Radio Days. Konigsberg is, of course, better known to us as Woody Allen.

But Nazi submarines o the coast of New York were no mere fantasy. After the Pearl Harbor attack, the German Navy launched a U-boat campaign against shipping on the Eastern seaboard with Operation Drumbeat. Americans were slow to implement convoy tactics for merchant shipping, and many ships were sunk. U-boat captains such as Captain Reinhard Hardegen used the brightly illuminated skyline of New York City to target ships, to devastating effect. It took many months for blackout laws to go into effect for coastal cities, and for convoy protocol to be adopted.

On June 13, 1942, four German saboteurs were landed from a U-boat near Manhattan. (Four more were later dropped off  in Florida.) Two turned themselves in, and the rest were arrested. They had been trained to attack targets such as Penn Station.  New York power was quite literally targeted by the saboteurs, who also planned to attack the hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls. All of the would-be saboteurs were tried by military tribunals, and six were executed.  (See earlier blog on INVADING FLORIDA...

Twin Towers
September 11, 2001
According to Albert Speer, Nazi Germany’s Minister of Armaments and War Production, Hitler was obsessed by a vision of New York City in flames. In 1942, the Luftwaffe began plans for a strategic bomber that would have been capable of reaching the Empire State. The Luftwaffe intended to make use of its innovative jet technology. Five prototypes for the Amerika bomber were built, but the plan was never operational.
On September 11, 2001, hijackers belatedly realized Hitler’s nightmarish dream by transforming commercial passenger jets into weapons and flying them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Two thousand six hundred and six people were killed that day by the Al Qaeda attack."  (Source:

If you have enjoyed this chapter of America Invaded please purchase you own signed copy of the book

Dedicated with love to Nina Van Rensselaer
1928 - 2020, RIP
A Fighting New Yorker

Tourist Notes:There are so many places to explore NY's rich historic heritage.  Most of these destinations are, of course, currently closed.  But, God willing, life will return to normal soon...

1) FORT TICONDEROGA (  A private foundation runs this spectacular Fort.

2) FORT NIAGARA (  Niagara is more than just a waterfall!  Touch the War of 1812 here.

3) SCHUYLER MANSION ( in Albany.  A beautiful home in New York's capital.  Where Alexander Hamilton was married and Burgoyne was a POW.

4) FRAUNCES TAVERN ( in Lower Manhattan.  This tavern, built in 1711, was where George Washington said farewell to his officers from the American Revolution.  It is an excellent establishment to restore the tissues and to slurp down a few bivalves!

5) INTREPID SEA AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM (  You will find a WW2 air craft carrier right on the waterfront in New York City.  The deck is loaded with planes and friendly volunteers waiting for your questions.

6) NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11TH MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM (  Never forget what happened to our nation and the world on that bright September day when the world changed forever.  Easy walking distance to Fraunces Tavern.

7) SARATOGA NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK (  Explore the battlefield on which Britain lost her best chance to defeat the upstart rebel colonies.

8) MORGAN LIBRARY (  This amazing library is a national treasure and the ginger bread in the cafe is delicious!

9) CHERRY VALLEY MUSEUM (  Explore the brutal history about the founding of our nation here in upstate New York.

Cherry Valley Museum
Cherry Valley, NY

You can find signed copies of our books at 
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