Van Rensselaer, Solomon

Solomon Van Rensselaer, military general (b at Greenbush, Rensselaer County, NY, 6 Aug 1774; d near Albany, NY, 23 April 1852). Solomon Van Rensselaer was the son of Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, a Revolutionary War general, and a member of a powerful Dutch patroon family. He grew up in Albany and at the family country seat across the river at Greenbush. In 1797 he married his cousin, Harriet Van Rensselaer, and they had five daughters and one son who survived to maturity.

Van Rensselaer’s father obtained a commission for young Solomon as a cornet in the US Light Dragoons. He served in Anthony Wayne’s army and was wounded in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. A biographer writes that “Van Rensselaer considered the fight against the Indians a glorious cause ...,” and that he was a harsh disciplinarian toward his men although he took good care of their physical needs. In 1795 he was promoted to captain of a volunteer company, and to major in January 1799. The following year, when President Jefferson reduced the army, Van Rensselaer received an honourable discharge.

He was adjutant general of the New York State militia from 1801-11 and 1813-21. A lieutenant colonel of the New York Volunteers, he served his cousin, General Stephen Van Rensselaer as aide-de-camp. During the initial stage of the Battle of Queenston Heights in October 1812, he led the first wave of militia across the river and was badly wounded. He was then evacuated to the New York side and weeks later returned to Albany to a hero’s welcome. That ended his military career but advanced his political career.

Van Rensselaer was elected as a Federalist to the US Congress and served from 1819 to 1822. He resigned to become postmaster of Albany from 1822-39 and again from 1841-43.

Author: Wes Turner

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