Henry Bell Van Rensselaer

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Henry Bell Van Rensselaer
Gen. Henry Bell Van Rensselaer.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's 14th congressional district
In office
March 4, 1841 – March 3, 1843
Preceded byJohn Fine
Succeeded byCharles Rogers
Personal details
Born(1810-05-14)May 14, 1810
Albany, New York
DiedMarch 23, 1864(1864-03-23) (aged 53)
Cincinnati, Ohio
Resting placeGrace Episcopal Churchyard, Jamaica, Queens, New York City, New York
Elizabeth Ray King
(m. 1833; his death 1864)
ParentsStephen Van Rensselaer III
Cornelia Paterson
RelativesSee Van Rensselaer family
Military service
AllegianceUnited States of America
Branch/serviceUnion Army
Years of service1831–1832, 1861–1864
RankBrigadier General (1861)
Colonel (1861-1864)
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

Henry Bell Van Rensselaer (May 14, 1810 – March 23, 1864) was an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War, and a politician who served in the United States Congress as a Representative from the state of New York.[1]

Early life[edit]

Van Rensselaer as a young man

Henry Van Rensselaer was born at the manor house in Albany, New York. His father was Stephen Van Rensselaer III, the patroon of the Manor of Rensselaerswyck, who was also a United States Representative and founder of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His mother, Cornelia Paterson,[2] was the daughter of William Paterson, who served as Governor of New Jersey and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.[3] He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1831.[4]


He was appointed a brevet Second Lieutenant of the Fifth Regiment, United States Infantry on July 1, 1831, and resigned January 27, 1832.[1] He then engaged in agricultural pursuits near Ogdensburg, New York, and served as a military aide to Governor William H. Seward from 1839 to 1840.[4]

Upon his father's death in 1839, Van Rensselaer, as the fifth son, inherited the wild lands in St. Lawrence County along the St. Lawrence River. His eldest brother, Stephen Van Rensselaer IV inherited the manor on the Albany side of the Hudson River.[1]

Van Rensselaer was elected as a Whig to the Twenty-seventh United States Congress, and served from March 4, 1841 to March 3, 1843. He was subsequently president of several mining companies, including the American Mineral Company and the Consolidated Franklinite Company.[1] He was a director of the Northern Railroad (later the Rutland Railroad), but resigned to help found the Ogdensburg, Clayton and Rome Railroad.[5]

U.S. Civil War[edit]

Upon the outbreak of the American Civil War, he reentered the military service with the rank of colonel in the Union Army, and was appointed chief of staff to General Winfield Scott as a brigadier general.[1] After Scott's retirement, Van Rensselaer was reappointed as a colonel, and from November 1861 until his death, he served as an inspector general of several corps and departments including the 1st Army Corps, Department of the Rappahannock, 3rd Army Corps and Department of the Ohio.[4]

Personal life[edit]

On August 22, 1833, Van Rensselaer married Elizabeth Ray King (1815–1900),[6] daughter of John Alsop King (1788–1867), the Governor of New York, and Mary Ray.[7] Elizabeth's maternal grandfather was U.S. Senator Rufus King (1755–1827) and her great-grandfather was John Alsop (1724–1792), a prominent New York City merchant.[7] Together, they had:[8]

  • Mary Van Rensselaer (1834–1902), who married John Henry Screven (1823–1903) in 1874[8][9]
  • Cornelia Van Rensselaer (1836–1864),[10] who married James Lenox Kennedy (1823–1864),[8] a nephew of philanthropist James Lenox.[11]
  • Stephen Van Rensselaer (1838–1904), who married Mathilda Coster Heckscher (1838–1915)[8]
  • Henry Van Rensselaer, who died young[8]
  • Euphemia Van Rensselaer (1842–), who became a Sister of Charity and took the name Marie Dolores.[8]
  • Elizabeth Van Rensselaer (1845–1911), who married George Waddington (1840–1915),[8] a son of William D. Waddington (1811–1886) and Mary Elizabeth Ogden (1810–1867).[12][13]
  • John King Van Rensselaer (1847–1909), who married May Denning King (1848–1925), granddaughter of James Gore King.[8][14][15][16]
  • Katherine Van Rensselaer (1849–1901), who married Dr. Francis Delafield (1841–1915), son of Dr. Edward Delafied, in 1870.[8]
  • Henry Van Rensselaer (1851–1907), who joined the Society of Jesuits[8][1]
  • Westerlo Van Rensselaer (1853–1857), who died young.[8]

Van Rensselaer died of typhoid fever in Cincinnati, Ohio shortly before the end of the War.[1] He was interred in the Grace Episcopal Churchyard, in Jamaica, Queens in New York City.


Through his son, John King Van Rensselaer, he was the grandfather of John Alexander Van Rensselaer (b. 1872), who married Helen F. Galindo in 1896,[17] and who was arrested in 1908 for attempting to extort $5,000 from his mother.[18]

Through his granddaughter, Julia Floyd Delafield, Henry was the great-grandfather of Floyd Crosby (1899–1985), himself the father of David Crosby and Jane Wyatt.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Spillane, S.J., Rev. Edward P.; Van Rensselaer, Henry (1908). Life and letters of Henry Van Rensselaer, priest of the Society of Jesus. New York: Fordham University Press. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
  2. ^ Reynolds, Cuyler (1914). Genealogical and Family History of Southern New York, Volume 3. New York: Lewis Publishing Company. pp. 1166, 1341.
  3. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCabell, Isa Carrington (1889). "Van Rensselaer, Killian" . In Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J. (eds.). Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
  4. ^ a b c "VAN RENSSELAER, Henry Bell - Biographical Information". bioguide.congress.gov. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  5. ^ Susan Lyman (1976). Rails Into Racquetteville. The Norwood Historical Association.
  6. ^ "Obituary 1 -- VAN RENSSELAER". The New York Times. 17 March 1900. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Mrs. Elizabeth Ray Van Rensselaer". The New York Times. March 15, 1900. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Sullivan, Robert G. (1911). "Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs: Van Rensselaer Vol. IV". www.schenectadyhistory.org. Schenectady County Public Library. pp. 1814–1821. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  9. ^ Prioleau, Horry Frost; Manigault, Edward Lining (March 24, 2010). Register of Carolina Huguenots, Vol. 2, Dupre - Manigault. Lulu.com. ISBN 9780557242665. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  10. ^ "DIED" (PDF). The New York Times. December 19, 1864. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  11. ^ Reynolds, Cuyler (1914). Genealogical and Family History of Southern New York and the Hudson River Valley: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Building of a Nation. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. p. 1294. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  12. ^ "George Waddington". The New York Times. 30 December 1915. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  13. ^ York, Saint Nicholas Society of the City of New (1905). The Saint Nicholas Society of the City of New York: History, Customs, Record of Events, Constitution, Certain Genealogies, and Other Matters of Interest. V. 1-. The Saint Nicholas Society. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  14. ^ "NOTED AUTHORESS DIES AT HOME HERE; Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer Was Authority on History and Society. CAME, OF 2 OLD FAMILIES Controversy With New York Historical Society Recalled - Funeral at Jamaica Tomorrow". The New York Times. 12 May 1925. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  15. ^ "Mrs. Van Rensselaer Estate $19,129". The New York Times. 25 June 1926. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  16. ^ Somers, Reneé (September 13, 2013). Edith Wharton as Spatial Activist and Analyst. Routledge. ISBN 9781135922979. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  17. ^ Bergen, Tunis Garret (1915). Genealogies of the State of New York: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  18. ^ "J.A. VAN RENSSELAER ACCUSED BY MOTHER; Arrested for Writing a Letter Demanding Money and Threatening to Kill Her. ADMITS THAT HE WROTE IT Mother Is Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer, Prominent in Society Here and in Newport". The New York Times. 21 July 1908. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  19. ^ "ALIPH WHITEHEAD TO WED F.D. CROSBY; New York Girl's Engagement Is Announced by Her Parents. SHE IS IN JUNIOR LEAGUE Her Fiance Is a Grandson of the Late Dr. and Mrs. Francis C. Delafield". The New York Times. 5 December 1930. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Fine
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 14th congressional district

Succeeded by
Charles Rogers