The Hermitage

Some 20 miles to the northwest of here across the Hudson and into then rural Bergen County in the hamlet of Hopperstown (now Ho-Ho-Kus) just north of Paramus  stood the Hermitage.  A two story stone home built about 1760, it became the home of Theodosia Bartow, a fifth generation American, and Captain James Marcus Prevost, a Swiss-born officer in the British Royal American Regiment.  He fought in the French and Indian War and was wounded in the battle of Ticonderoga.  With the outbreak of the Revoutionary War in 1776, James Marcus was recalled back into service and became the second in command to his brother General Augustine Prevost in the successful 1779 British campaign in Georgia and the Carolinas. 

Meanwhile Theodosia, 29, took charge of the Hermitage with 5 children, a mother and a teenage half-sister.  They faced survival amidst guerilla warfare in heavily contested Bergen County from late 1776 into the early 1780s.  Additionally, Theodosia had to fight against the ongoing threat of confiscation of her home.  Her strong, resourceful efforts included a welcome to the Hermitage for leading Patriot officer and government officials. 

In September 1777, when Aaron Burr aged 21, in command of Malcolm's regiment stationed to the north of the Hermitage in Suffern, New York, made a successful attack on a British picket outside of Hackensack, he stopped in Paramus a Patriot post coming and going.  Since a cousin of Theodosia, Capt. John Watkins, was in Burr's regiment, he probably met Theodosia at this time. 

Burr's stay in Suffern was short for he and his regiment were ordered to winter in Valley Forge where Hamilton was also present.  Late in the following spring, after leaving Valley Forge, the Continental Army engaged the British regulars in the important battle of Monmouth as both armies were heading north.  In that battle in 92 degree heat both Burr and Hamilton had their horses shot from under them.  Burr suffered from heat prostration.  Nevertheless, he was ordered to spy on British movements in and around New York in preparation for the arrival of the first French naval fleet of the war.  Meanwhile, Hamilton continued north with Washington and the army.  In mid-July there was a four day encampment in Paramus and Hopperstown.  Here Washington accepted an invitation from Theodosia Prevost to make the Hermitage his headquarters.  While here Washington dispatched Lafayette and Hamilton to meet with Vice Admiral d Estaing whose fleet had just arrived off of Sandy Hook. 

Before leaving, Hamilton had the opportunity together with other of Washington's aides de camp and other officers to enjoy Theodosia's hospitality.  As James McHenry wrote: "At Mrs. Prevost's we found some fair refugees from new York who were on a visit to the lady of the Hermitage.  With them we talked and walked and laughed and danced and gallanted away the leisure hours of four days and four nights, and would have gallanted and danced and laughed and talked and walked with them till now had not the general given orders for our departure." 

While Hamilton remained with Washington as the Continental Army moved across the Hudson River to Westchester County, Burr was put in charge of bringing leading Tory's down the Hudson under a truce flag to the British in New York City.  Theodosia and her half-sister, having obtained permission from General William Alexander to visit relatives in New York, were passengers on one of Burr's trips down the Hudson.  Over five days Theodosia and Aaron had a chance to get to know each other.  Through autumn 1788, Burr, in ill health, spent some time recuperating at the Hermitage.  He then received command of the Westchester line, brought discipline to these troops and engaged in a number of skirmishes.   

However, illness continued to plague him, and Washington agreed to his retirement from the army.  Burr would then study law, continue to visit the Hermitage and to engage in extended correspondence with Theodosia.  After the death of her husband, James Marcus during a campaign in Jamaica, Theodosia 35 with five children married Aaron 25 at the Hermitage in 1782.  The couple then left for Albany where Burr established a law office before moving to New York City after the British evacuation in 1783.  Here he and Hamilton rose in the legal profession and in politics in the new nation.    

 

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