ⓘ Jack Peterson Memorial
John Jacob" Rifle Jack” Peterson was a Revolutionary war era patriot of African and Kitchewan descent whose quick thinking helped repel British forces in Croton, New York. His actions threw Benedict Arnold’s treasonous plans into disarray and led to the capture of Major Andre. This heroism inspired the erection of a memorial plaque at Tellers Point Croton. The plaque also commemorates the actions of George Sherwood but the marker has been more popularly known as the Jack Peterson Memorial.
In September 1780, Peterson, a 34-year old resident from Peekskill and a fellow private class soldier named Moses Sherwood spied the English vessel Vulture sending a rowboat of men towards land. A skilled marksman and seasoned member of the 3rd Westchester militia, Peterson fired on the rowboat, forcing its occupants to return to the ship. The two patriots then sped to Fort Lafayette to alert their commander about the vessel. Acting upon this information, troops set up a cannon at Tellers Point to attack the sloop in a fiery battle that lasted two hours. These actions contributed to the later capture of Major Andre who would have been rescued by the British but was instead stranded on shore.
Despite his contributions to this pivotal chapter in American History, Peterson died in relative poverty and did not receive a pension until age 90 for his bravery.
Although Peterson died in 1850, the story of his feat of valor was repeated many times and equated to be a vital part of winning the war. Even the log of the British sloop cited the event and" complained of a violation of the military rule in that a boat the day before had been decoyed and fired upon by armed men concealed in the bushes.” The suggestion of a monument to commemorate both Peterson and Sherwoods attack on the British was raised as early as 1859.
Noted Westchester historians Bolton and Scharf also credited the two men "for causing the departure of the Vulture and the change in Andre’s route to British headquarters in New York City, necessitating his attempt to deliver the plans of West Point by land through Westchester County which resulted in his capture at Tarrytown."
In 1963, one writer said the two belonged "to the Valhalla of Americas great."
A plaque was finally unveiled in 1967 by the Mohegan Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution DAR. The inscription says "Commemorating the defense of Tellers Point by George Sherwood and Jack Peterson who repulsed the landing of British troops from the "Vulture" September 21, 1780, aiding in the capture of Major Andre." The monument is located in todays Croton Point Park.
In 2004 the site of Petersons heroism was added to the African American Heritage Trail of Westchester County. According to then Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano, a former history teacher, the selection of the site as one of 13 educational tour stops was made with the input of the African-American Advisory Board.
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