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This biography is from Landmarks of Albany County, New York, edited by Amasa J. Parker of Albany, N. Y., Syracuse, N. Y.; D. Mason & Co. Publishers, 1897.

Gen. Frederick Townsend

Gen. Frederick Townsend, son of Isaiah and Hannah (Townsend)Townsend, was born in Albany on the 21st of September, 1825. The original ancestor of this branch of the family in America was Henry Townsend, who, with his wife, Annie Coles, and two brothers, John and Richard, came from Norfolk, England, to Massachusetts about 1640. Soon afterward they were among the earliest settlers of Flushing, Long Island, where a patent was granted to John Townsend and others by Governor Kieft in 1645. Political and religious difficulties with the old Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant, soon forced the Townsends to remove to Warwick, R. I., where they all held municipal office and became members of the provincial assembly. In 1656 they obtained, with others, the patent of Rustdorp, now Jamaica, and once more attempted a settlement on Long Island, but in the following year Henry, a leading spirit in the colony, was arrested, imprisoned and fined "one hundred pounds Flanders" for harboring Quakers in his house— an act which illustrates the persecution borne in those days by the denomination of Friends. This unjust treatment caused Henry Townsend and his brothers to remove in 1657 to Oyster Bay. L. I., then only partially in the jurisdiction of New Amsterdam. Here Henry died in 1695. General Townsend's maternal great-great-great-grandfather, James Townsend, was deputy surveyor-general of the province. His great-grandfather, Samuel Townsend, was actively engaged in the English and West India trade until the war of the Revolution, and had also served in the Provincial Congress in 1775. At the close of the war he resumed his seat and continued in public life until his death in 1790. He was also a State senator and a member of the first Council of Appointment under the constitution of 1789. In 1776 he was one of fourteen members of the Fourth Provincial Congress appointed "to prepare a form of government for the State." This committee reported March 12, 1777, and on April 20, the first constitution of the State of New York was adopted. General Townsend's maternal grandfather, Solomon Townsend, conducted a large iron business in New York city, having extensive iron works at Chester, Orange county, and Peconic River, Suffolk county. He served several terms in the State Legislature, being a member thereof at the time of his death in 1811. The general's paternal grandfather was Henry Townsend of Cornwall, N. Y., who married Mary Bennet, and died in 1815. Isaiah Townsend, son of Henry, was a prominent merchant of Albany, where he died in 1838, aged sixty-one. He married his cousin, Hannah Townsend, of New York city.

Gen. Frederick Townsend first attended a private infant school in Albany and afterward the Boys' Academy. Later he was sent to Bartletts Collegiate School at Poughkeepsie for two years, and at the early age of fifteen entered Union College, from which he was graduated in 1844. He then read law in the office of John V. L. Pruyn and Henry H. Martin (Pruyn & Martin) in Albany, and was admitted to the bar at the general term of the Supreme Court in this city in 1849. After completing his studies he spent several years in travel, visiting first the gold fields of California and other places in this country and then going to Europe. In 1854 he returned home and in 1856 began the practice of his profession as a member of the firm of Townsend, Jackson & Strong. He also turned his attention toward another sphere of usefulness. He had long manifested a strong attchment for military science, for which he had a natural taste. Mastering the general details he became an authority on military tactics. He was made captain of Co. B, Washington Continentals. He also organized and became colonel of the 76th Regiment of Militia, and later was captain of the Albany Zouave Cadets (Co. A, 10th Battalion, N. G.). With consummate skill he successfully placed these organizations upon a high plane of efficiency and discipline, and no man was more respected or esteemed. In the year 1857 he was appointed by Gov. John A. King adjutant-general of the State of New York. At this time the old militia system of the State had, with few exceptions become wholly disorganized and useless. General Townsend immediately set about its reorganization, infused new life and vigor in the regiments, and successfully raised the system to a degree of efficiency worthy of the Empire State. In his first annual report, the first one prepared in many years, he made recommendations to the commander-in-chief which were speedily put into practice. In 1859 he was reappointed by Gov. Edwin D. Morgan, and continued to give his undivided attention to the great work he had so faithfully inaugurated. In 1861 he promptly tendered his services to his country, and in May was commissioned colonel of the 3d N. Y. Vols., which he organized, and which he gallantly commanded on the battlefield of Big Bethel on June 10. On August 19 he was appointed by President Lincoln a major of the 8th U. S. Inf., one of three new battalion regiments of the regular army, and was assigned to duty in the West, where he joined the forces under General Buell and later those under General Rosencrans. He commanded his troops in the reconnoissance at Lick Creek (or Pea Ridge), Miss., April 26, 1862, at the siege of Corinth on April 30, and in the occupation thereof on May 30. On October 6 he was in the advance of the Third Corps, Army of the Ohio, driving the rebel rear guard from Springfield to near Texas, Ky. He also participated in the battle of Perryville or Chaplin Hill, Ky., October 8. After the first day of the battle at Stone River, Tenn., from December 31, 1863, to January 2, 1863, he was placed in command of the left wing of the regular brigade, all his senior officers having been shot except his brigade commander. He was also in the affair of Eagleville, Tenn., March 3. 1863. In all these various engagements he displayed great bravery and heroism, and was successively brevetted lieutenant-colonel, colonel, and brigadier-general in the regular army. In May, 1863, he was detailed as acting assistant provost marshal-general at Albany, where he remained until the close of the war, being promoted in 1864 lieutenant-colonel of the 9th U. S. Inf. Obtaining a leave of absence he again visited Europe, and returning in 1867 was ordered to California and placed on the staff of General McDowell as acting assistant inspector-general of the department, in which capacity he inspected all the government posts in Arizona. In 1868 he resigned his commission and returned to Albany, where he has since resided.

General Townsend has been a director of the New York State National Bank and of the Albany and Bethlehem Turnpike Company since 1864; a trustee of the Albany Orphan Asylum since 1879; a trustee of the Dudley Observatory since April 22, 1880; and a trustee of the Albany Academy since May 11, 1886. He was a trustee of Vassar College from June 27, 1876, until November 28, 1892, and of Union College from July IT, 1876, to July, 1887, resigning each position on account of a pressure of other duties. In all these capacities his services have been of great value, not only in the line of business management, but in the equally important sphere of progress and moral elevation.

In 1878 he was elected brigadier-general of the 9th Brigade N. Y. S. N. G., which post he resigned to accept the appointment by Governor Cornell of adjutant-general of the State of New York, an office he had formerly filled with such remarkable ability and efficiency. Again turning his attention to the development of the State military system he inaugurated and successfully established a number of improvements which to this day are in active use. Among the important measures which he organized and perfected was the "camp of instruction" at Peekskill, N. Y. This worthy enterprise was originated, inaugurated, developed, established, and organized in detail by him, and to him is due the sole honor of its present existence. He formulated and carried out the idea, personally directed and supervised the movement from its incipiency to its actual and final establishment, and was the chief guardian and developer of its earlier welfare. He also provided the present service dress uniform for all the troops in the State. These and other innovations in the militia were carried out and perfected by him against strong opposition and in the face of many difficulties, but the wisdom of his judgment and foresight has often been vindicated in the efficiency of the National Guard on occasions of riot and disorder. The principles inaugurated and laid down by him are now the mainstay of the various militia organizations of the Empire State

General Townsend is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, and the Military order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, and Society of the Sons of the Revolution. In 1880 he was nominated by the Republicans and elected presidential elector, and as a member of the Electoral College cast his vote for James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur for president and vice-president. He has never taken an active part in politics, though often urged to do so, but he has been distinctively a military man, imbued with the highest sense of patriotism and the loftiest principles of a soldier.

November 19, 1863, he was married to Miss Sarah, only daughter of the late Joel Rathbone, a prominent merchant and banker of Albany. They have two children: Sarah Rathbone Townsend, the wife of Gerrit Y. Lansing, of Albany, and Frederick Townsend, Jr., who was graduated from Harvard College in 1893 and is now a student at the Cambridge Law School, class of 1897.

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