Con artists were no strangers to early New York City. At one time or another, nearly every major landmark in the city had been sold by a ‘matchstick man’ or grifter. Around the turn of the twentieth century one such fraud was successfully performed by two men who targeted an artifact of slightly less renown: The Great West Point Chain.
It was October, 1777, and the Continental Army had a problem. Although they had just won a resounding victory at Saratoga, they were just as soundly defeated further south at Forts Montgomery and Clinton, key strategic outposts on the Hudson River. With the victory at Fort Montgomery the British quickly set about tearing down the lanky chain the Colonists had stretched across the river to impede the British Navy. Now the Hudson River, and important cities like Poughkeepsie (Continental ship-building hub), Kingston (the state capital), and Albany (the second largest settlement in the state after New York City) lay wide open to attack.
It seems like there’s been a surge recently in the discovery of lost tombs. Richard III was found under a parking lot. Miguel de Cervantes was found in the convent in Madrid where he was known to have been buried (that may sound a bit backwards, but trust me, it makes sense. The convent was rebuilt in the 17th century and they lost track of where they put Cervantes*). All of these fantastic discoveries set me thinking about an interesting “Is he really there?” story from the American Revolution: the final resting place of British Col. Walter Butler.
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