Wife of General Philip John Schuyler, mother of eight surviving children. Catherine, or “Kitty”, is most famous for her bravery in burning her own crops to prevent British troops from acquiring the food resources they could provide. Devoted wife and mother, she was well respected in the society of New York, in which the Van Rensselaers have a deep rooted and long history.
Catherine Van Rensselaer was well educated, and grew into a young “lady of great beauty, shape, and gentility.” She was a frequent visitor to the Van Rensselaer homes in Albany and down the valley at New York City, where she was introduced to the sons of New York’s most important families.
Catherine had known Philip Schuyler for several years before their wedding in September 1755, at the Albany Dutch Church, after which she moved to Albany and into the life of its most prominent native son. Although the marriage was urgent – their first daughter Angelica was born in February, 1756 – they were a devoted couple for the rest of their lives, and had fifteen children. At that time, Philip was an officer in the provincial army.
This marriage linked two of New York’s great landholding families, already joined by a number of intermarriages. Handsome, popular, and socially well connected, the young couple had little money, although Schuyler had been given a large tract of land in Saratoga by an uncle. The bride and bridegroom made their first home in his mother’s North Pearl Street house, where two of their children were born.
It is apparent that Catherine’s life was devoted to the care of her children. Little remains in her handwriting to tell her thoughts or give a glimpse of her daily life, but it must have been a busy one. Others have written of her industrious and thrifty supervision of a large and important household, her kindness to the needy, and her courage in times of peril. Eleven children were born to the couple, six girls and five boys, of whom eight lived to reach maturity.
In 1761, the Schuylers had completed arrangements to build a new home a short distance south of Albany, but Philip had to go to England to settle accounts from his work as quartermaster. While he was gone, Catherine supervised the building operations at what would become known as the Schuyler Mansion.
Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler is most famous for her bravery in burning her crops to prevent British troops from acquiring the food resources they could provide. She bravely traveled to their Saratoga estate to burn the wheat fields, and to request that their tenants do the same in order to prevent the British from harvesting them.