Oyster Bay, fort

Establishing a fort on the north shore of Long Island would create a Dutch military presence at the boundary between New Netherland and New England as determined at the Hartford Treaty in 1650. Director general and council first suggested a fort on Long Island in a letter to the Amsterdam directors during the First Anglo-Dutch War. In reply, the directors agreed with the plan “to erect a small fort or even only a small redoubt or blockhouse on Long Island.” The Peace of Westminster did not take away the urgency, on the contrary. In early 1655, New Netherland authorities had to act against English encroachments west of the boundary line. Yet subsequent plans for a fort at Oyster Bay, the location of choice, were slow to materialize, because it required extensive consultations between the authorities in New Amsterdam and their superiors in patria. In April and May 1655, the Amsterdam directors instructed director general and council again “to determine our boundaries by the erection of a fort, wherever you thought best and most convenient.” For this purpose, they sent to New Amsterdam “a consignment of goods which you will find necessary to make a fort.” Unfortunately, the specification of these goods is not extant. Subsequent references make it doubtful whether they were sent at all. In September 1657, the Amsterdam directors indicated that the financial situation of the Amsterdam chamber was such that they could not support the plans. Any funds would have to be supplied by the West India Company authorities in New Netherland, even though the Amsterdam directors agreed “that erecting a wooden fort or small fortress [would] serve to determine our limits on the extreme boundaries against those of New England.”

Continued wrangling with the English colonists about the interpretation of the stipulations of the Hartford Treaty prevented progress being made. In early 1659 the Amsterdam directors ordered Stuyvesant to proceed “with the erecting of the aforementioned wooden fort on the extreme boundaries and on the Oyster Bay.” Stuyvesant and his councillors objected to this: they pointed out that the difference of opinion about the exact location of the place called Oyster Bay in the Hartford Treaty was at the root of the problem. Before building “a fortress or a wooden fort,” this issue needed to be resolved. Director general and council warned that using the location suggested by the directors would mean that the English town of Huntington would fall under Dutch jurisdiction. In their opinion, this would meet with immediate opposition and thus cause further complications. They kept on delaying into 1660, arguing that they lacked “the necessary means, especially carpenters [to build] a redoubt or wooden fort at the Oyster Bay.” In addition, director general and council expressed doubt as to whether erecting a fort would actually achieve the aim of stopping English encroachments and preventing smuggling. A well-equipped yacht might be better, they thought.

The directors grew impatient and became annoyed with what they considered procrastination in New Amsterdam. In their opinion, employing a yacht was too expensive and there was no need to wait for carpenters to arrive from the Dutch Republic as other fortifications and buildings inside forts had also been constructed without them. By this time the directors had also given up hope of obtaining approval of the Hartford Treaty by the new English government. Director general and council used this information to further delay the building of a fort at Oyster Bay. In July 1661, they reported they had postponed the construction of the fort, as they awaited the result of Anglo-Dutch negotiations in Europe. By this time the Amsterdam directors were really getting angry. In their reply of 27 January 1662, they pointed out that while they had informed New Amsterdam of the Anglo-Dutch negotiations, they had not countermanded their previous order. Director general and council thus ought to have proceeded with building of this fort, as well as others. It is quite possible that in reaction to this final order, a fort was in fact constructed at Oyster Bay, although the records do not provide a definite answer and no remains have been located.

Bronnen en literatuur

Jacobs, J., Dutch Colonial Fortifications in North America 1614-1676 (2015)