A Tour of New Netherland

Delaware

New Amstel


The military chess match between the Dutch and the Swedish for control of the Delaware River and its fur trade came to a climax when Peter Stuyvesant became director-general of New Netherland in 1647. His predecessor, Willem Kieft, had kept relations with the Swedes friendly, recognizing that his real threat came from the English. Stuyvesant, however, knew that the English would find New Netherland all the more enticing if it was sliced into two parts thanks to the Swedish incursion, and he decided to take bold military steps. The Swedes had established a base at Fort Christina (present-day Wilmington, Delaware), which gave them a better presence on the river than the Dutch had at Fort Nassau. In 1651, therefore, Stuyvesant built a new stronghold, which ouflanked Fort Christina. He called it Fort Casimir; but it was to be shortlived under that name, for the Swedes soon captured it and renamed it Fort Trinity. Not to be outdone, Stuyvesant returned at the head of a large military force in 1655 and defeated the Swedish once and for all, bringing an end to New Sweden.

Stuyvesant decided that a settlement was needed on the river, and at the site of the former Fort Casimir he laid out a village, which he called New Amstel. The final checkmate would come nine years later, when the English took control of all of New Netherland. Under the English, New Amstel underwent another name change when it became New Castle.

Today, New Castle, Delaware, is surprising and delightful place to visit. Among its historic treasures is a Dutch house dating from the 1650s. With its central green surrounded by stately brick homes, New Castle is reminiscent of a New England town. Local tradition has it that the green was measured out by Stuyvesant himself, pacing it out with his peg leg. Alas, the story is probably only legend, but New Castle is a wonderful place to visit nonetheless

 



About the New Netherland Institute

For over three decades, NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

The New Netherland Research Center

Housed in the New York State Library, the NNRC offers students, educators, scholars and researchers a vast collection of early documents and reference works on America's Dutch era. More

 

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