Captain William Henry Dobbs lived a colorful life as a mariner in colonial New York City. He was a privateer and possibly a smuggler, sailing from New York to the West Indies. He was also a New York harbor pilot, and served George Washington as a pilot and spy during the American Revolution. Dobbs Ferry, New York is Named after him, he and his family operated the Ferry during and after the American Revolution. General Washington had his headquarters at Dobbs Ferry During this period as well. This area of New York was important to the war effort.



William Henry DOBBS is the son of William DOBBS and Catharina STOT of New York, and grandson of Walter DOBBS and Mary MERRITT of Barren Island, Jamaica Bay, New York.


Siblings include Adam and Charles.[3] May also include Elizabeth and Margaret.


  1. William DOBBS [sic] married Catharina VAN SYSSEN, on September 23, 1744, at the New Amsterdam (New York) Reformed Dutch Church.[4] Catharina may be the daughter of Joost VAN SEYSEN and Antje HUYSMAN, baptized on February 1, 1721, or she may be the daughter of Cornelus VAN SEYSEN and Maria BLYDENBURGH, baptized on June 19, 1723, both recorded in the New Amsterdam Church. (The two Catharinas are likely first cousins.) Catharina probably died before 1757.
  2. William DOBBS married Dorcas HARDING, on January 9, 1757, at Trinity Church, New York.[5] She was born about 1731, making her about 15 years younger than William. She survived her husband, and died November 20, 1804 in Hudson, New York, at the home of her daughter Mary (DOBBS) HOLT and son-in-law Charles HOLT, at age 73.


Children with Catharina van Syssen:

  • Ann DOBBS b. 05 June 1760 d. 17 Sept.1846, m. Adam Dobbs Mount 01 Jan 1784, NYC
  • Catherine DOBBS (b. abt. 1747)
  • Mary (Polly) DOBBS (b. abt. 1749, m. 1775 William Crolius, had children, d. aft. 1836)
  • Joseph DOBBS (b. January 16, 1751, d. May 19, 1790)
  • William DOBBS Jr. (b. abt. 1753, d. December 26, 1831)
  • Jarvis DOBBS (b. June 11, 1755, d. 1815) (uncertain Twin)
  • James DOBBS (b. June 11, 1755, d. 1815) (uncertain Twin)

Children with Dorcas Harding:



Marriage to Catharina van SyssenEdit

On, 23 , September, William Dobbs married Catharina van Syssen (also "van Size", "van Seyse", "van Seysen")(Van Sise). . They had three daughters through the rest of the 1740s, and two or three sons in the 1750s prior to the war. It is supposed that Catharina died before January 1757, when William remarried.

Residence in Montgomery WardEdit

On April 26, 1750, William Dobbs rented half a lot near the water in Montgomery Ward, New York City. His rent was eight pounds per year paid to the Common Council, and on May 4, 1753 the Council approved a ten-year lease for the same property. Three weeks later, Dobbs was given permission to repair the wharf opposite his lot, under the direction of the alderman and ward assistant. (The property was later described as "fronting Peck Slip".) Dobbs did not renew the lease when it was up in 1763, as records indicate he had assigned it to a John Earle.[6] [LANE1981]

Privateer in the French and Indian WarEdit

It seems probable that he was engaged as a merchant mariner during the 1740s and 1750s. New York was a thriving port then, and Dobbs may have been among the many who participated in illegal trade with the French West Indies (see Sugar and Molasses Act)

At the start of the French and Indian War in 1756, Captain Dobbs had been brought up on charges of piracy and privateering in Boston, and was sentenced to be hung. However, given the coming War, the British crown found it useful to offer him a pardon and a letter of marque if he would harrass French ships. The arrangement proved beneficial to both Captain Dobbs and the British, as authorized privateers were permitted to keep their prizes while disrupting French shipping trade. [LANE1981]

One of the first New York privateers in 1756 was the sloop Goldfinch, with 12-28 guns and 100 men, under Captain Thomas Randall, owned by John Aspinwall and Lawrence Kortright. When the Goldfinch returned with French prizes, it started a rush of privateering. Captain Randall made several forays on the Goldfinch, and Dobbs may have served under him, but when the Goldfinch was reauthorized on June 20, 1757, William Dobbs was its captain.[7] On August 23, 1757, Captain Dobbs captured the French brigantine Le Mentor north of Haiti.[8]

On a permit of September 7, 1757, Dobbs served as 2nd lieutenant under Captain John Alexander on the brig Hawk, with 12-36 guns and 100 men.[9] William Dobbs was the captain of at least two other privateer vessels: the 6-gun snow Hester (permit August 4, 1760, owners Gerard Beekman, John Bogart, and Jacobus Van Zandt),[10] and the 6-gun sloop Susanna & Anne (permit August 18, 1761, owners William Kennedy and John Kating).[11] [FISH1945]

Captain Dobbs may have been "playing both sides" during the war, which was not uncommon for colonial New Yorkers. In 1762, Dobbs, along with another mariner William Paulding, were suspected of trading with the French at Hispaniola, though they were ultimately pardoned on April 26, 1763.[ADERMAN2003] When the Attorney General was prosecuting ship owners for trading with the enemy, several ship captains including Dobbs and Paulding were subpoenaed. Dobbs simply refused to answer questions, and was committed for contempt.[12]

Marriage to Dorcas HardingEdit

On January 9, 1757, early in the war, William Dobbs married Dorcas Harding at Trinity Church in New York. They are not known to have had any children in the first ten years of their marriage (which is understandable, given that he would have been off at sea most of the time). Their son Henry Munro Dobbs was born in 1767, and their daughter Mary a few years later in 1771. While Henry is presumed to have been born in New York, Mary's birth, surprisingly, is recorded in Curaçao in the Dutch West Indies. It is not known why he may have taken his wife with him to Curaçao, nor how long they were there.

After the close of the war, "Captain Dobbs then became a Branch Pilot for the City of New York, and was residing back of the English Church with his second wife."[13]

Keeper of BridewellEdit

From late 1767 to mid 1773, William Dobbs was the first keeper of Bridewell, an institution operated by the colonial government, for which Dobbs drew a quarterly salary.[14] Margaret Lane describes Bridewell as an institution "for vagrants and needy persons, located in New York at Belleview," which would connect it with the City alms house, an institution with a continuous history starting in 1736 and evolving into the present-day Bellevue Hospital. [LANE1981] However, this may have been a related but separate institution more like a workhouse or debtor's prison.

Service in the American RevolutionEdit

Captain Dobbs served in the American Revolution, both in a regular role in Capt. Richard Varick's company under Col. Alexander McDougall's regiment, and also as a pilot and on clandestine intelligence missions under direct orders from George Washington.


Pilot and Lookout for Committee of SafetyEdit

Captain Dobbs continued his post as a harbor pilot for the colonial government as late as January 1776, which made him well-positioned to provide intelligence to the rebels as early as June 1775. On the day after the Continental Congress in Philadelphia had appointed George Washington Commander in Chief of the Contintental Army, Captain Dobbs was providing detailed intelligence of a British troop transport fleet seen off of New York and headed for Boston.[15]

On January 3, 1776, the Minutes of the New York Committee of Safety record the purchase of a whale boat with oars, and the engagement of Capt. William Dobbs for 10s. per day, and four other men at 5s. per day each. Their purpose was to go down to Sandy Hook, and look out for a vessel attempting to smuggle gunpowder from Hispaniola in to the rebels.[16] (Sandy Hook occupies a strategic position on the outer edge of New York harbor. Ships stopping off the Hook would be out of sight of New York. The aid of an experienced pilot would be required to help ships navigate into the inner harbor to New York City.) Col. Alexander McDougall made this arrangement with Capt. Dobbs, and it is likely that the two, who both had been privateers, were long

Two weeks later, the Committee received word that a large British transport fleet were sailing from Boston for New York, and Captain Dobbs was dispatched to the Sandy Hook light and to keep watch for any arriving fleet, "and to give immediate notice thereof".[17]

Captain Dobbs service as a lookout ended shortly thereafter in the wake of an incident in which Dobbs brought a man from a British ship to the shore and brought the man directly to the rebel guards. It is not clear why the guards were so alarmed by this action, but both Dobbs and the Brit were locked up, at least for a short time. The situation seems explained in the deposition of the Brit. Shortly thereafter Dobbs' job as a lookout for the Committee was reassigned to another pilot, though the explicit reason given was to share the Committee's employment among the several New York pilots so as not to arouse jealousy among them.[18]

Continental Army ServiceEdit

Sometime in February or March, William Dobbs joined the Continental Army, and was enrolled as a 3Sgt in Capt. Richard Varick's Company, in Col. Alexander McDougall's Regiment.[19] During that winter and early spring, the Army was moved from Boston (where they had had their first engagements) to New York. Part of the Army marched over land through Hartford to New York, while the other part marched to New London, where a fleet of small boats took them the rest of the way to New York. George Washington went via Rhode Island to New London, and along the way, met with Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut in an attempt to enlist the Oneida tribe as an ally. Margaret Lane speculates about whether General Washington became acquainted with Captain Dobbs at this time.[LANE1981] It seems likely that Dobbs' experience would have been drawn upon in navigating a fleet of small boats, although the overall command of the operation was a Commodore Esek Hopkins of Connecticut. Later testimony of a Dobbs descendant claims that Captain Dobbs "conducted General Washington up the sound to New London on his visit to Jonathan Trumbull".[NSDAR]

In April 1776, Captain Dobbs is documented delivering a message to from the Committee of Safety to General Washington. Governor Tryon (who at that time was "governing" from the British fleet, having temporarily abandoned New York City to the rebels) sent a letter to the New York Committee of Safety to the effect that the British had felt compelled to burn the pilot house on Sandy Hook, and that the rebels should send a sloop over to retrieve the operator and his family, who had not been harmed. The Committee asked Captain Dobbs to deliver a copy of the letter to General Washington.[20] It is not explicitly recorded, but presumably Captain Dobbs was the one dispatched to go retrieve the lighthouse operator, especially as it was Adam Dobbs, his own brother!

In the latter half of 1776, the battles of Long Island and White Plains were fought, as the British retook New York City. The role of Captain Dobbs in these battles is not known. There are no records of his sons William and Joseph serving in the army until the following year. There are records of Jarvis Dobbs serving at Kings Bridge and Battle of White Plains, and an account of William Crolius (Captain Dobbs' son-in-law) also serving in Long Island and the skirmish of Harlem Heights.

From 1777 until the end of his life in 1781, William Dobbs served in the Department Quartermaster General, in the Fishkill cantonment. Several records identify him as "superintendant of blacksmiths", although other records indicate he transported supplies and made good use of his knowledge of navigating the Hudson River. For instance, in October 1777, upon news of the enemy landing near Fishkill, Captain Dobbs was dispatched in haste with a wagon-load of the regiment's books and papers.[21] Later in the war, when the French had joined the fight, Captain Dobbs was transporting supplies from Fishkill to the French Army in small river craft under cover of night.[22]

As early as 1777, Dobbs was joined in the Army by his sons Joseph and William Jr., who both served in the same company. In June 1777, a letter to General Clinton promises that "Capt. Dobbs or his son" will make a delivery from Colonel Hughes.[23] In 1778, Joseph Dobbs is identified as "superintendant of all the boats plying up and down the river",[24] and later in 1781 as "superintendant of salting beef".[25] In 1780, William Jr. is recorded delivering a load of "horse articles" to the Quartermaster at Fishkill.[26]


George Washington's introduction of William Dobbs to the Comte d'Estaing

Special Assignments for General WashingtonEdit

In July 1778, a French fleet under Admiral Comte d'Estaing arrived off of Sandy Hook to join the Americans. The large French ships required experienced pilots to navigate them into the unfamiliar harbor. Upon recommendations from both Alexander McDougall and General Clinton, General Washington sent for Captain Dobbs. Dobbs was "on his sickbed" when sent for, and recommended a couple of other pilots in his stead. However, the size of the French ships of line was beyond the experience of most pilots, and the French insisted on having the most experienced pilots to guide them. On July 18, Captain Dobbs presented himself to the French Admiral's service with a letter of introduction from General Washington. The plan for a French attack on New York was abandoned, however, and the Comte d'Estaing's fleet sailed for Rhode Island to wait for a better opportunity.

In October 1779, Captain Dobbs again received an urgent summons from General Washington, giving no details but asking him to come to Headquarters on a matter of "great importance", "prepared for a journey of some length", and requesting "all possible dispatch ought to be made and the greatest secrecy observed." The French fleet was once again expected, this time in the Delaware River, and Dobbs and another pilot were dispatched to Philadelphia. However, d'Estaing once again abandoned the attack of New York, and sailed back to France instead.

The following summer, Washington once again called on Captain Dobbs to meet an expected French fleet, this time under Comte de Rochambeau. Dobbs and a fellow pilot, Captain Patrick Dennis, provided detailed navigational and tactical advice to General Washington about New York Harbor. Dobbs and Dennis were dispatched to Baskingridge to await the French fleet at Sandy Hook, but the fleet landed instead in Rhode Island. Washington asked Dobbs to wait in Baskingridge through August, as further French reinforcements were expected. In September, another message from Washington to Dobbs asked him to be prepared to go to Rhode Island at a moment's notice. Ultimately, word was received that the British had received large reinforcements of their own, and a planned attack on New York was once again postponed.

Captain Dobbs' final mission came in August 1781, when Washington requested he gather other pilots and proceed to meet Captain Dennis at Baskingridge. The Comte de Grasse had a French fleet in Rhode Island, and was expecting a larger fleet under Rochambeau to arrive at Sandy Hook presently, to finally make the attack on New York. Washington, concerned that Captain Dobbs and the pilots were in danger, directed them to not go near the coast, and to shift their lodgings often, not staying in any one place too long. They waited in Baskingridge through August, expecting the French fleet, but at the end of the month Washington sent word that plans had changed and the pilots could be sent home. (It was shortly thereafter that the course of the war shifted dramatically to the south, where Cornwallis was trapped in Virginia.)


The tombstone of William Dobbs gives his death date as September 13, 1781, which is just two weeks after his last mission for Washington looking for the arrival of the French fleet at Monmouth. Some accounts say that he got caught in the rain traveling between New Jersey and New York, and died of pneumonia. An 1893 testimony of a great, great granddaughter states "He died after a short illness which he was supposed to have contracted on an expedition of Secrecy in the service of the United States, from Fishkill to Rhode Island, having returned from there three days previous."[NSDAR] A more surprising story is found in an 1838 testimony of Mary (Dobbs) Crolius (the Captain's daughter), in which she states that Sir Henry Clinton had nicknamed William Dobbs the "Commodore of the Musketteo[?] Fleet", and offered a reward for him "dead or living". Clinton "finally carried his hellish purpose by hiring my Father's servants to poison their Master which ended his mortal carriers[?] in 1781 while engaged in defending his Country by an invading Enemy the British."[27]

Revolutionary War RecordsEdit

The career of William Dobbs in the Revolutionary War, both as a "regular" attached to the Department Quartermaster General in the Fishkill cantonment, and on special assignments for George Washington, are documented in numerous primary records. The known records are enumerated here.

Regular War ServiceEdit

These records, from a variety of sources, provide evidence and give glimpses into the "regular" service of William Dobbs. During most of the war, Dobbs was attached to the Department Quartermaster General at Fishkill. The records also occasionally mention his two sons, Joseph and William Jr., who served with their father at Fishkill. The records here are enumerated in chronological order.

  • Billeting Roll and Company Payroll dated 24 February to 31 March 1776 shows 3Sgt William Dobbs in Capt. Richard Varick's Company, in Col. Alexander McDougall's Regiment.
  • April 26, 1776 Capt Dobbs ordered by Committee of Safety to deliver to GW a letter from Gov Tryon, pilot house burned, Adam Dobbs may be picked up (William's brother).[28]
  • December 2, 1776 Dobbs sent by Gen Heath to Gen Clinton with "such craft as he can procure".[29]
  • March 21, 1777 Dobbs testifies before Committee for Detecting Conspiracies.[30]
  • June 13, 1777 Dobbs promises that he or his son will make a delivery to Gen Clinton from Col Hughes (evidence of Dobbs' son now serving at Fishkill)[31]
  • Oct 19, 1777 Dobbs dispatched in haste with a wagon-load of the regiments' books and papers, upon news of enemy landing near Fishkill.[32]
  • February 17, 1778 Dobbs provides intel to Gen Clinton about a British store of sugar at Fishkill Landing.[33]
  • May , 1778 records of Quartermaster Gen'l at Fishkill shows William Dobbs, "superintendant of the smiths, 50 dollars per month", and Joseph Dobbs, "superintendant of all the boats plying up and down the River, 40 dollars per month".[34]
  • June , 1780 William Dobbs Jr delivers load of horse articles to Fishkill[35]
  • June , 1781 Records of use of public horses include William Dobbs, superintendant of blacksmiths, and Joseph Dobbs, superintendant of salting beef.[36]
  • December , 1781 Pay and extra rations to the family of "the late William Dobbs, Supt. of Blacksmiths & a public Pilot".[37]

Special Missions for George WashingtonEdit

The special missions of Captain Dobbs for General Washington are richly documented in the preserved correspondence of George Washington. The records here are enumerated in chronological order.

  • July , 1778 Washington engages Dobbs to attend the French fleet.[38]
  • Dobbs requested to escort Comte d'Estaing's fleet as he is well known to be a "proper Coasting and Channel Pilot".[39]
  • October , 1779 Washington requests Dobbs come to Headquarters to serve in an event of great importance. "All possible dispatch ought to be made and the greatest secrecy observed."[40]
  • July 7, 1780 Capts Patrick Dennis and William Dobbs provide detailed information to Washington about navigation in New York harbor and advice about naval defenses and positioning.[42]
  • July 11, 1780 Washington to Dobbs: French fleet expected any hour, come right away.[43]
  • July 15, 1780 Washington to Capts Dennis and Dobbs - please introduce two other pilots to the French navy cmdr.[44]
  • August , 1780 Washington ledger entry: 18.13.4 cash advanced to Capt Dobbs and other pilots to carry them into Monmouth Co to await the arrival of the French fleet, hourly expected.[45]
  • September 13, 1780 Washington to Dobbs: be ready to proceed to Rhode Island on short notice from me or Comte de Rochambeau or Comte de Ternay, please direct Capt Shaw the same.[46]
  • January 12, 1781 Dobbs (in Fishkill) recommends a fellow Capt William Thompson for service.[48]
  • July 15, 1781 Dobbs had been running small supply boats up and down the Hudson River, but his vessel "laden with Bread for the French Army -- Cloathing for Sheldon's Regiment & some passengers", was taken by the British.[49]
  • July 31, 1781 Washington engages Dobbs to secretly procure other pilots and proceed to Capt Dennis at Baskingridge for further instructions.[50]
  • August 1, 1781 Dobbs replies happy to serve but please send money for travel expenses[51]
  • August 3, 1781 Washington writes to Comte de Grasse at Newport RI of plans to expect Rochambeau's fleet at Sandy Hook, and of Capt Dobbs "one of our most experienced pilots" dispatched to meet him.[53]
  • August 13, 1781 Washington writes to Capt. Dennis warning that Capt. Dobbs and the other pilots should not go near the coast, and may even be in danger in Baskingridge; advises that they shift their lodgings often and not stay in one place too long.[54]
  • August 28, 1781 Washington tells Dobbs chage in plans, pilots not needed, go home.[55]

Other documentsEdit

  • 1836 pension application of Mary (Dobbs) Crolius, widow and daughter of Revolutionary War veterans, includes lengthy personal statement of her husband's and father's war service.
  • NSDAR file for William Dobbs.

A careful genealogist must not conclude that different records identifying the same name necessarily refer to the same person. The possibility that there may have been other William Dobbs running around New York at the same time must be considered. In this case, we know at least that in addition to Captain William Dobbs, he had a father and a son also named William Dobbs. Capt. William H. Dobbs along with his family including cousins, and uncle operated the ferry located in what is now known as Dobbs Ferry. Captain Dobbs and his son William served together in the American Revolution (along with his other sons Joseph, James and Jarvis.

Given two marriages, the question is raised whether the William Dobbs who married Catharina Van Syssen is the same William Dobbs who married Dorcas Harding. This can be answered in the affirmative. It is known that Dorcas's William was "Captain William Dobbs" (as identified in the obit of Dorcas, Republican Watch Tower, December 12, 1804, and was clearly a mariner familiar with the West Indies trade, since their daughter Mary was born in Curaçao. And it is known that Catharina's William was the pilot who served in the Revolution as documented in personal letters of William and Catharina's children, William and Joseph, as well as Mary (Dobbs) Crolius.

One might also question whether the Captain Dobbs who served George Washington as a pilot was the same William Dobbs who served in Richard Varick's Company as a superintendant of blacksmiths. However, army records during the Fishkill encampment make clear that that William Dobbs was serving alongside his son, and a document from the Quartermaster General, dated December 1781, identifies rations to go to "the Family of the late William Dobbs, Supt. of Blacksmiths & a public Pilot".

An open issue is whether the William Dobbs who was the keeper at Bridewell 1767-1773 was the same Captain William Dobbs who made an unexplained trip to Curaçao in 1771, while continuously employed at Bridewell. (See For Further Inquiry below.)


  1. ^ William Dobbs' exact birth date and place are unknown. The birth year given of 1716 is based on his headstone inscription, which provides a specific death date and age. Place of birth as New York is presumed, but not established.
  2. ^ His death date is recorded on a headstone in the Reformed Dutch churchyard in Fishkill. His death date is generally corroborated by a document from the Army Department Quartermaster General, dated December 1781, which identifies rations to go to "the Family of the late William Dobbs, Supt. of Blacksmiths & a public Pilot".
  3. ^ The March 2, 1769 will of Charles Dobbs of New York, cited in LANE1981, identifies brothers Adam and William.
  4. ^ His 1744 marriage to Catharina van Syssel is recorded in the records of the New Amsterdam Reformed Dutch Church(online extract).
  5. ^ His 1757 marriage to Dorcas Harding is found in the records of Trinity Church (online extract).
  6. ^ LANE1981 cites Common Council meeting records of July 8, 1763 granting three pounds "to allow John Earle for some improvements made on lot formerly leased to William Dobbs and by him assigned to said John Earle, fronting Peck Slip."
  7. ^ Calendar of Historical Manuscripts, in Office of Secretary of State, Albany, NY, English Manuscripts, vol II, 674, as cited in FISH1945
  8. ^ From LANE1981, also stating that Capt. Dobbs appeared on October 7, 1757 to claim his prize (probably refers to an Admiralty Court record). Also, Hist Mag 2d series, Vol VI, p.251, cited in FISH1945, that Goldfinch sent in a prize Sept 1757.
  9. ^ Calendar of Historical Manuscripts II, 659,699, as cited in FISH1945
  10. ^ Calendar of Historical Manuscripts II, 713, as cited in FISH1945
  11. ^ Calendar of Historical Manuscripts II, 724, as cited in FISH1945
  12. ^ Levy, Leonard W. Seasoned Judgments: The American Constitution, Rights, and History, Somserset NJ: Transactional Publishers, 1996. Levy cites Dobbs in a discussion of colonial precedents for the right against self-incrimination.
  13. ^ Margaret Lane, who cites the New York Mercury, May 19, 1760.
  14. ^ Margaret Lane seems to be relying on the Minutes of the Common Council of the City and County of New York, which records occasional meetings to discuss the business of Bridewell. She cites November 20, 1767 as when Dobbs offered himself for the position of keeper, June and October of 1771 as times when the Council met for Bridewell business, and August 1, 1773 as when Dobbs resigned his post.
  15. ^ Letter from John McKesson, secretary of the New York Provincial Congress, to George Clinton, New York delegate to the Continental Congress, dated June 17, 1775. As General Washington set out from Philadelphia on June 21, Margaret Lane reckons it likely that he received the intelligence before he left, and here first became acquainted with the name of Captain Dobbs. Letter published both in Clinton Papers, 204-205, and NDAR I, 708.
  16. ^ Minutes of the New York Committee of Safety, January 3, 1776, in NDAR III, 587.
  17. ^ Minutes of the New York Committee of Safety, January 15, 1776, in NDAR III, 801.
  18. ^ Minutes of the New York Committee of Safety, items 21-25 January 1776, in NDAR III, 902-903, 979.
  19. ^ Billeting Roll and Company Payroll dated 24 February to 31 March 1776.
  20. ^ Minutes of the New York Committee of Safety, April 26, 1776, in NDAR IV, 1266.
  21. ^ Oct 19, 1777, War Dept. Collection of Revolutionary War Records, File #M859.
  22. ^ George Washington Diary, July 15, 1781, Diaries of George Washington III, 393.
  23. ^ June 13, 1777, Clinton Papers II, 29.
  24. ^ Records of Department Quartermaster General at Fishkill, New York,May 21, 1778, in National Archives, Record Groups, War Dept. Collections #34120.
  25. ^ "Return of Horses kept by the Officers of the Line & Staff at & in the Vicinity of the several Posts & Cantonments of the Army", Jan 6, 1781, in National Archives, Manuscript File #27314.
  26. ^ Department Quartermaster General at Fishkill, June 8, 1780. Receipt for "Articles of Horse", original in private collection, cited in [LANE1981].
  27. ^ The dictated recollections of Mary Crolius fifty-two years later, as taken down by her son William D. Crolius. The handwritten document seems to be attached to an 1836 pension application, file W10685, roll 233, series M805, available through HeritageQuestOnline.
  28. ^ Minutes of the New York Committee of Safety, April 26, 1776, in NDAR IV, 1266.
  29. ^ December 2, 1776, Clinton Papers I, 331.
  30. ^ March 21, 1777, Minutes of the Committee for Detecting Conspiracies (1776-1778), Collections of the New York Historical Society (New York: 1924), 209.
  31. ^ June 13, 1777, Clinton Papers II, 29.
  32. ^ Oct 19, 1777, War Dept. Collection of Revolutionary War Records, File #M859.
  33. ^ Letter from George Clinton to Dr. Van Wyck, February 17, 1778, Clinton Papers II, 774.
  34. ^ Records of Department Quartermaster General at Fishkill, New York,May 21, 1778, in National Archives, Record Groups, War Dept. Collections #34120.
  35. ^ Department Quartermaster General at Fishkill, June 8, 1780. Receipt for "Articles of Horse", original in private collection, cited in [LANE1981].
  36. ^ "Return of Horses kept by the Officers of the Line & Staff at & in the Vicinity of the several Posts & Cantonments of the Army", Jan 6, 1781, in National Archives, Manuscript File #27314.
  37. ^ Records of Department Quartermaster General, dated Dec 1781, relative to pay and rations, cited in LANE1981.
  38. ^ From Washington Papers: George Washington to William Dobbs, July 15, 1778 requesting Dobbs to attend Comte d'Estaing's fleet; William Dobbs to George Washington, July 16, 1778 saying he is on his sick bed and recommending other pilots in his stead; George Washington to Comte d'Estaing, July 18, 1778 introducing Captain Dobbs, who attended the Comte after all.
  39. ^ Letter from Jacobus van Zandt to George Clinton, date ?, in Clinton Papers III, 560.
  40. ^ George Washington to William Dobbs, October 5, 1779, in Washington Papers.
  41. ^ George Washington to William Dobbs, July 2, 1780, Washington Papers.
  42. ^ Declaration and Navigation Notes, July 7, 1780, in Washington Papers.
  43. ^ George Washington to William Dobbs, July 11, 1780, Washington Papers.
  44. ^ George Washington to Patrick Dennis and William Dobbs, July 15, 1780, Washington Papers.
  45. ^ Revolutionary War Expense Account, August 1780, Washington Papers.
  46. ^ George Washington to William Dobbs, September 13, 1780, Washington Papers.
  47. ^ William Dobbs to George Washington, September 15, 1780, Washington Papers.
  48. ^ William Dobbs to George Washington, January 12, 1781, Washington Papers.
  49. ^ George Washington Diary, July 15, 1781, Diaries of George Washington III, 393.
  50. ^ George Washington to William Dobbs, July 31, 1781, Washington Papers.
  51. ^ William Dobbs to George Washington, August 1, 1781, Washington Papers.
  52. ^ George Washington to William Dobbs, August 3, 1781, Washington Papers.
  53. ^ George Washington to Comte de Barras, August 3, 1781, Washington Papers.
  54. ^ George Washington to Patrick Dennis, August 13, 1781, Washington Papers.
  55. ^ George Washington to William Dobbs, August 28, 1781, Washington Papers.

For further inquiryEdit

find baptism record or other documentation to establish birth date, place, and full name (need a source identifying his middle name as Henry).
parentage and siblings
find records to document.
is the Fishkill stone an actual burial spot or just a memorial marker? was it erected at his death or much later? accounts of his death vary. some state that he caught sick riding between Washington's headquarters and the coast to report on fleet movements. an account from his daughter says that he was poisoned by the British. any way to determine this? if Henry Clinton had put out a "wanted dead or alive" on Dobbs, why was he not taken when the British caught his vessel on the Hudson in July 1781? on the other hand, we do have Washington's instructions in Aug 1781, concerned that Dobbs and the other pilots may be in danger. other British plots to take key American personnel were suspected and taken seriously by Washington.
need to find birth documentation for all children. find support for Catherine.
Jarvis Dobbs
Many accounts, including Margaret Lane, list Jarvis Dobbs as being among Captain William's children, there is some cause to question why he did not serve in the same company with his father at the Fishkill cantonment during the war which was common place during this period of history. so why was Jarvis elsewhere? The pension application of Mary (Dobbs) Crolius identifies brothers William and Joseph as having served in the war, but makes no mention of another brother Jarvis. Similarly, a 1783 letter from Joseph to William Jr. makes no mention of another brother. One researcher descended from Jarvis Dobbs says that Jarvis had a brother named James, a possible twin of Jarvis Dobbs and that Jarvis was station on Long Island and his brother was stationed with thier father. The reason that Jarvis was on Long Island and not with Catain Dobbs is unknown. There is enough information that proves all served in the Revolutionary War. Jarvis served in the battle of Long Island as well as many other battles up and down the Hudson river and nearby Dobbs Ferry.
should explore records of Admiralty Court, as well as contemporary newspapers, to find more detail and documentation here. there also appear to be court records for the 1762 Dobbs/Paulding "trading with the enemy" charges, cited in Aderman and also Levy.
Margaret Lane seems to identify Bridewell with the almshouse that evolved into Bellevue Hospital. However, a Google search pulls up some references that seem to indicate Bridewell was separate from the almshouse, and more of a workhouse or debtor's prison, and an early correctional facility. (See here for example.) Lane's citation of a newspaper item concerning a disorderly drunk who was sent to Bridewell and "underwent the usual discipline of the house" would seem to support the latter view. Some research into these institutions in colonial New York would be illuminating. It would also be interesting to understand the relationship (if any) between Bridewell and the jail at that time, especially as Captain Dobbs' old friend Alexander McDougall served a bit of jail time in 1770 for libel.
1771 trip to Curaçao
It is not known why Dobbs would have made a trip to Curaçao in 1771, and took his pregnant wife along with him. If Captain Dobbs was indeed the same William Dobbs who served as keeper of Bridewell between 1767 and 1773, the trip is even more puzzling. As Margaret Lane notes, the minutes of the Common Council in June and October of 1771 reflect William Dobbs receiving his regular salary as keeper of Bridewell, and make no mention of any absence. This does raise the question of whether a different William Dobbs was the keeper of Bridewell. However, it is interesting to note that the "quarterly" meeting of the Council to conduct Bridewell business was four months apart, and it would be interesting to look in the records to see whether the October meeting was postponed from what was otherwise a regular quarterly schedule.


Aderman, Ralph M. and Wayne R. Kime, Advocate for America: The Life of James Kirke Paulding, Susquehannah Univ Press, 2003. (passing reference on p. 21 to Dobbs' charge of trading with the French)

Clinton Papers
Hastings, Hugh, ed., Public Papers of George Clinton (New York: 1899).

Wm Crolius pension
Selected Records From Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, Records of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, record group 15. Published the National Archives as microfilm series M805. Pension application for William Crolius (at roll 233, file W10685) contains a detailed personal statement of his service. (online transcription)

Fish, Stuyvesant, The New York Privateers 1756-1763, New York: George Grady Press, 1945. (Excellent historical description of privateering during the French and Indian War, also contains appendices with data about specific ships and captains extracted from original sources, especially including Calendar of Historical Manuscripts, in Office of Secretary of State, Albany, NY, English Manuscripts, Vol II.)

Lane, Margaret T. "Pilots for Washington". article published in Westchester County Historical Society, vol. 56, pp. 25-29.

Lane, Margaret T. "Capt. Dobbs, One of Our Most Experienced Pilots". article published in Dutchess County Historical Society, Year Book, vol. 66, 1981. Lane was an active and noted genealogist in Westchester County, New York, and was descended from the Dobbs line of Dobbs Ferry (cousins to Captain William Dobbs).

Clark, William B., editor, Naval Documents of the American Revolution (US Dept of Navy: 1968), multiple vols.

National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, records of the Patriot Ancestor William Dobbs. Includes sworn testimony of Miss Helen Meeker of Danbury, CT, a great-great-granddaughter of William Dobbs through his son William Jr. Cited in LANE1981

Washington Papers
The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress: 1741-1799, [1]. The LOC online collection primarily includes much of Washington's correspondence, in the form of images of original letters, images of contemporary transcripts, and text transcripts. It also includes The Diaries of George Washington, Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds., Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978.


TomChatt and two Dobbs family contributors

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