Revolutionary Westchester: Private Abraham Requa
by Erik Weiselberg, Ph.D. –
In the previous installment, we featured a prominent tenant farmer who became captain of a militia company; this time, we examine a different tenant farmer’s son who served as a private.
Captain Sybout Acker often related that the first man to volunteer for the local militia in 1776 under the giant tree at the village green in Tarrytown was John Odell, with the second and third being Requas. A total of 12 Requas served in the Revolutionary War, including Abraham Requa (1759-1843), who served as a private in various companies for the eight-year duration of the war.
The Requa family in America descended from Glode Requa, a French Huguenot who settled before 1723 along the Hudson River on a large tenant farm stretching from the area that is now Lyndhurst northward to Interstate 287. His name was probably Claude Equier, but he spoke with a heavy French accent such that the Dutch-speaking settlers of Philipse Manor pronounced his name like “Gload REE-kwah,” and his name came to be written as “Glode Requa.” His son Glode Requa, Jr. inherited the farm, while the other sons James, John and Daniel later resided a few miles east in Tarrytown Heights along Bedford Road at what is now Pocantico Hills and the Rockefeller State Park Preserve and Stones Barns Center.
Abraham Requa, eldest son of Daniel, enlisted as a private on May 1, 1776 at the age of 16. He first served for six months in Captain William Dutcher’s militia company, including at the Battle of White Plains. When the Continental Army withdrew from Westchester, Abraham and other volunteers in the local militia were left to deal with raids carried out by Loyalist refugees who formed themselves into militia companies in southern Westchester (today’s Bronx). In the absence of the Continental Army, Abraham reported that the residents “were again exposed to the ravages of the plundering parties.”
In the fall of 1778 Abraham was quartered at Youngs’ House, an advance outpost at the home of Joseph Youngs, located in today’s Valhalla along Grasslands Road/Route 100C at the intersection of the Taconic Parkway near Blythedale Children’s Hospital. In the midst of a three-day snowstorm, Abraham participated in a raid led by Captain Daniel Williams, during which they captured several Loyalist militia leaders. On the evening of December 24th, the Loyalist militia responded with a raid at Youngs’ House, where they burnt one of the barns, took some cattle and captured several American prisoners, including Captain Williams and Joseph Youngs. Abraham and about twenty others fled to safety, but “several of them were so severely frozen as to be totally unfit for duty.”
In early 1780, Youngs’ House was under command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Thomson of the Continental Army and defended by 250 Massachusetts soldiers as well as the local guides including Abraham Requa. Under normal conditions Youngs’ House was too far away from British outposts north of Manhattan to mount a major assault, but the snow cover offered an opportunity to move troops quickly using sleighs. On the evening of February 3, over 500 infantry and cavalry consisting of British regulars, Hessian auxiliaries and Loyalist militia attacked the house. The attackers killed 40 men and took 70 prisoners, including Lt. Col. Thompson, before setting the house and buildings on fire.
During the war Abraham lived with his parents on Bedford Road. On the morning of September 23, 1780, while Abraham was out on patrol, his mother unsuccessfully tried to alert him to the presence of a strange horseman on the road; it turned out to be British spy Major John André, who was captured by three American militiamen a short time later. Abraham was present at André’s execution in Tappan on October 2.
The Requa family made their mark on Philipsburgh Manor by serving valiantly during the Revolutionary War, and afterwards they actively participated in the civic and economic life of Tarrytown and Westchester. Requas in the village of Tarrytown owned the dock, operated the market sloop, and ran the general store and bank, while still others possessed extensive farms nearby. While the soldiers of Westchester achieved their freedom, the practice of slavery persisted. According to the 1790 census neither Abraham nor his father Daniel owned slaves, but Abraham’s uncle Glode Requa, Jr. owned 9 enslaved Africans whose work on the 296-acre farm undoubtedly contributed to the post-war wealth of the Requa family.
Abraham married Bethia Hopkins in October of 1782, and they had three sons and five daughters. After the war Abraham bought half of his father’s farm on Bedford Road, and eventually settled in Yorktown on the property where Major John André had slept the night before his capture. Abraham became Town Supervisor and a noted public figure who delighted in telling stories of the war.
In 1843, at the age of 84, Abraham went to receive his pension payment while seated in an armchair on the back of a wagon, but when the horses jerked the wagon he fell to the ground. He died on November 1, 1843 and was buried at the Yorktown Presbyterian Church. The sacrifices of the entire Requa family and young men like Abraham give us insight into the prolonged and dramatic nature of the war in Westchester, and respect for the experiences and sacrifices which contributed to the achievement of American independence.
The Revolutionary War in Westchester County
A bi-monthly series of local American Revolution war era stories researched and written by Erik Weiselberg, Ph.D.,Principal Historian for Revolutionary Westchester 250 and Village Historian of Irvington.
In an eight-year-long conflict where neighbors took different sides and rival armies plundered their way across Westchester County, why did some residents side with the patriot cause? What about the women, children and enslaved persons whose struggles and perseverance shaped our community in important ways?
Revolutionary Westchester 250 seeks to build awareness and appreciation of the vital role that the people of Westchester County played in winning the Revolutionary War and in the founding of the United States. Visit https://RW250.org for information and upcoming events.