Story by Kathleen Wilson
It was the winter of 1777 when 5,900 Redcoats, all captured at Saratoga, marched down the Village of Florida’s Main St. Burgoyne’s surrender to the Continental Army was a pivotal point in the American Revolutionary War and soldiers from the area fought in major battles for the Country’s independence.
On Mon., Sept. 10, Florida Historical Society President Gary Randall led a discussion at the Warwick Senior Center to honor the memory of Florida War Veterans who served in the American Revolution. The Villages of Warwick and Florida were important stopovers for the Continental Army. In addition to Baird Tavern, Randall noted that Kennedy’s Inn in Florida had a stable in the back as well as available lodging (now the Sweet Onion Brewery, located at 28 N. Main St. in Florida) and served as a frequent stopover during the Revolutionary War.
As the discussion continued, a paragraph from the diary of a prisoner dated December 4, wrote about a 13-mile journey, “Through a place called Florida to Warwick, a township. The weather was very changeable during our march through York State. It froze at night, but was warm enough in the day to melt the ice again.”
The locals lined the street is awe of the thousands marching down Main St. The Florida Patriots were local men who enlisted in Hathorn’s Orange County Regiment of militia. They left their families and fought for American independence at all the major strategic locations of the lower and mid-Hudson regions. Some of their surnames are still common in the Town of Warwick and can even be seen on some of the street signs.
The Florida Veterans honored were: James Allison, Robert Armstrong, Richard Bailey, Nathaniel Elmer, Ezra Howell, Samuel Jayne, Jr., John Kennedy, John Minthorn, John Poppino, William Randle, John Sayres, Phineas Thompkins, Henry Wisner, Daniel Wood, John Wood, and William Winans. Thompkins was a Minute Man in Hathorn’s regiment. Winans served under Captain Nathaniel Elmer and Lt. John Wood and was at Decker’s Fort when it was attacked (just prior to the Battle of Minisink) and worked to build West Point.
Daniel Wood was a Warwick doctor in the militia and later recruited into the Continental Army. Wood received thanks from Washington for his excellent care of wounded soldiers. Daniel Green (ancestor of the Florida Greens) was a forge master at Sterling Furnace. Armstrong fought at the Battle of Minisink and was one of the core patriots of the area. Jayne enlisted in 1781 and served in both Hathorn’s and Westfall’s regiments. Alexander Miller served under Capt. Kennedy and others serving from the Florida area.
After the long years of war and eventual independence, a total of three soldiers were the recipients of the Military Badge of Merit (now known as the Purple Heart) and although he moved to Connecticut, Elijah Churchhill, born in Florida in 1755, was one of the three original men to receive this distinguished honor.
Next time residents visit the Warwick Town Hall, walk over to the plaque hanging on the wall – the raised engraving reads, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Warwick Area Veterans Who Served in the Revolutionary War for American Independence, Fourth Regiment of the New York Militia in Orange County.”
This plaque of honor lists the names of the many soldiers who served under Col. John Hathorn. Residents remain grateful to those who fought for the independence and freedom they enjoy every day in this land called America.