We bring a forgotten hero to life

Bonnie Dailey portrays Nancy Benedict Williams and Vic DiSanto portrays her husband, David Williams, a now-forgotten Revolutionary War hero.

To the Editor:

 “While Arnold is handed down with execration to future times, posterity will repeat with reverence the names of Van Wert, Paulding, and Williams,” Alexander Hamilton, wrote in 1780.

“Their conduct merits our warmest esteem. They have prevented in all probability our suffering one of the severest strokes that could have been mediated against us,” wrote George Washington, also 1780.

 Who today remembers John Paulding, Isaac Van Wert, or
 David Williams? Yet for a century, they were renowned as the
 rustic militiamen who captured Major John André on Septe. 23, 1780 and foiled Benedicts Arnold’s plan to surrender West Point and George Washington to the British Army.

I have recently developed a new program titled “A Forgotten Hero: David Williams and the Sock that Changed the World.” I portray David Williams and Bonnie Dailey portrays Nancy Benedict Williams. Bonnie and I presented this program on Oct. 2 and it was well-received so we are looking to continue to do it for historical societies and libraries.

David was a poor and uneducated Westchester County farmhand who was thrust into national prominence. We chronicle David’s experiences as first a Continental soldier who participated in the invasion of Canada in 1775 and secondly as a Westchester County militiaman in the First Westchester Militia and the New York State Levies.

This includes but is not limited to the siege of Fort St. John, patrolling the neutral ground between American and British lines, the capture and execution of André and the fame it brought upon André’s captors. They were celebrated in ballads, plays, and history books, praised by George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, and awarded the first military decoration in our nation’s history, the Fidelity Medallion.

Thirty-seven years after they captured André, Benjamin Talmadge attacked their reputations.

David Williams moved to Schoharie County in 1805 and remained here until his death in 1831. He died on Aug. 2, 1831 at the age of 77. He was buried with military honors in the Livingstonville Cemetery.

Nancy Benedict Williams lived to be 87 and died in 1844.  Eleven years after David died, Congress transferred his pension to Nancy with back pay — $2,200.

David’s remains were moved to Rensselaerville in Albany County on March 4, 1876 during the Centennial of the American Revolution without the permission of his descendants. David had wished to be laid to rest in Schoharie County and on July 19, 1877, his remains were again moved to the Old Stone Fort in Schoharie where they still remain.

On Sept. 23, 1876, the largest crowd ever assembled in Schoharie at the time — some 10,000 people — witnessed the dedication of the David Williams monument, just outside the big wooden door of the Old Stone Fort.

Nancy was later interred at the Old Stone Fort next to David.

Vic DiSanto


More Letters to the Editor

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.