Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1821–1834
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vol. V: Literature of the Republic, Part II., 1821–1834
 
The Powerful Army that Assembled at the City of New Amsterdam
By Washington Irving (1783–1859)
 
[From A History of New York. By Diedrich Knickerbocker. 1809.]

WHILE thus the enterprising Peter was coasting, with flowing sail, up the shores of the lordly Hudson, and arousing all the phlegmatic little Dutch settlements upon its borders, a great and puissant concourse of warriors was assembling at the city of New Amsterdam. And here that invaluable fragment of antiquity, the Stuyvesant manuscript, is more than commonly particular; by which means I am enabled to record the illustrious host that encamped itself in the public square in front of the fort, at present denominated the Bowling Green.
  1
  In the centre, then, was pitched the tent of the men of battle of the Manhattoes, who being the inmates of the metropolis, composed the lifeguards of the governor. These were commanded by the valiant Stoffel Brinkerhoof, who whilom had acquired such immortal fame at Oyster Bay—they displayed as a standard a beaver rampant on a field of orange; being the arms of the province, and denoting the persevering industry and the amphibious origin of the Netherlanders.  2
  On their right hand might be seen the vassals of that renowned Mynheer, Michael Paw, who lorded it over the fair regions of ancient Pavonia, and the lands away south even unto the Navesink mountains, and was moreover patroon of Gibbet Island. His standard was borne by his trusty squire, Cornelius Van Vorst; consisting of a huge oyster recumbent upon a sea-green field; being the armorial bearings of his favorite metropolis, Communipaw. He brought to the camp a stout force of warriors, heavily armed, being each clad in ten pairs of linsey-woolsey breeches, and overshadowed by broad-brimmed beavers, with short pipes twisted in their hat-bands. These were the men who vegetated in the mud along the shores of Pavonia; being of the race of genuine copperheads, and were fabled to have sprung from oysters.  3
  At a little distance was encamped the tribe of warriors who came from the neighborhood of Hell-gate. These were commanded by the Suy Dams, and the Van Dams, incontinent hard swearers, as their names betoken—they were terrible looking fellows, clad in broad-skirted gaberdines, of that curious-colored cloth called thunder-and-lightning—and bore as a standard three Devil’s darning-needles, volant, in a flame-colored field.  4
  Hard by was the tent of the men of battle from the marshy borders of the Waale-Boght and the country thereabouts—these were of a sour aspect, by reason that they lived on crabs, which abound in these parts. They were the first institutors of that honorable order of knighthood, called Fly-market shirks, and if tradition speak true, did likewise introduce the far-famed step in dancing, called “double trouble.” They were commanded by the fearless Jacobus Varra Vanger, and had, moreover, a jolly band of Breuckelen ferry-men, who performed a brave concerto on conch shells.  5
  But I refrain from pursuing this minute description, which goes on to describe the warriors of Bloemen-dael, and Weehawk, and Hoboken, and sundry other places, well known in history and song—for now do the notes of martial music alarm the people of New Amsterdam, sounding afar from beyond the walls of the city. But this alarm was in a little while relieved, for lo, from the midst of a vast cloud of dust, they recognized the brimstone-colored breeches and splendid silver leg of Peter Stuyvesant, glaring in the sunbeams; and beheld him approaching at the head of a formidable army, which he had mustered along the banks of the Hudson. And here the excellent but anonymous writer of the Stuyvesant manuscript breaks out into a brave and glorious description of the forces, as they defiled through the principal gate of the city, that stood by the head of Wall-street.  6
  First of all came the Van Bummels, who inhabit the pleasant borders of the Bronx: these were short fat men, wearing exceeding large trunk breeches, and were renowned for feats of the trencher—they were the first inventors of sup-pawn, or mush and milk.—Close in their rear marched the Van Vlotens, of Kaatskill, horrible quaffers of new cider, and arrant braggarts in their liquor.—After them came the Van Pelts of Groodt Esopus, dexterous horsemen, mounted upon goodly switch-tailed steeds of the Esopus breed—these were mighty hunters of minks and muskrats, whence came the word Peltry.—Then the Van Nests of Kinderhoeck, valiant robbers of bird’s-nests, as their name denotes; to these, if report may be believed, are we indebted for the invention of slap-jacks, or buckwheat cakes.—Then the Van Higginbottoms, of Wapping’s creek; these came armed with ferules and birchen rods, being a race of school-masters, who first discovered the marvellous sympathy between the seat of honor and the seat of intellect—and that the shortest way to get knowledge into the head was to hammer it into the bottom.—Then the Van Grolls, of Antony’s Nose, who carried their liquor in fair round little pottles, by reason they could not bouse it out of their canteens, having such rare long noses.—Then the Gardeniers, of Hudson and thereabouts, distinguished by many triumphant feats, such as robbing watermelon patches, smoking rabbits out of their holes, and the like, and by being great lovers of roasted pigs’ tails; these were the ancestors of the renowned congressman of that name.—Then the Van Hoesens, of Sing-Sing, great choristers and players upon the jews-harp; these marched two and two, singing the great song of St. Nicholas.—Then the Couenhovens, of Sleepy Hollow; these gave birth to a jolly race of publicans, who first discovered the magic artifice of conjuring a quart of wine into a pint bottle.—Then the Van Kortlandts, who lived on the wild banks of the Croton, and were great killers of wild ducks, being much spoken of for their skill in shooting with the long bow.—Then the Van Bunschotens, of Nyack and Kakiat, who were the first that did ever kick with the left foot; they were gallant bushwhackers and hunters of raccoons by moonlight—Then the Van Winkles, of Haerlem, potent suckers of eggs, and noted for running of horses, and running up of scores at taverns; they were the first that ever winked with both eyes at once.—Lastly came the KNICKERBOCKERS, of the great town of Scaghtikoke, where the folk lay stones upon the houses in windy weather, lest they should be blown away. These derive their name, as some say, from Knicker, to shake, and Beker, a goblet, indicating thereby that they were sturdy toss-pots of yore; but in truth, it was derived from Knicker, to nod, and Boeken, books; plainly meaning that they were great nodders or dozers over books—from them did descend the writer of this history.  7
  Such was the legion of sturdy bush-beaters that poured in at the grand gate of New Amsterdam; the Stuyvesant manuscript indeed speaks of many more, whose names I omit to mention, seeing that it behooves me to hasten to matters of greater moment. Nothing could surpass the joy and martial pride of the lion-hearted Peter as he reviewed this mighty host of warriors, and he determined no longer to defer the gratification of his much-wished-for revenge, upon the scoundrel Swedes at Fort Casimir.  8
 
 
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