Arent Schuyler DePeyster (27 June 1736 – 26 November 1822) was a British military officer best known for his term as commandant of the British controlled Fort Michilimackinac and Fort Detroit during the American Revolution. Following the capture of Lieutenant-Governor General Henry Hamilton, DePeyster is often credited as being the military leader of British and Indian forces in the Western American and Canadian frontiers.
DePeyster was a native of New York City, the son of Pierre Guillaume DePeyster and Cornelia Schuyler. He was educated in London and obtained a commission as ensign in time for the Seven Years’ War. He served under his uncle, Colonel Peter Schuyler, in upper colonial New York, gaining experience at frontier American warfare. He was captured, held as prisoner in France, and served out the war with the 8th Regiment of Foot in Germany after being exchanged. After the war, he was stationed in Scotland, where he married Rebecca Blair.
The 8th Regiment was assigned to Canada, and DePeyster enjoyed a series of promotions. In 1774 he was appointed commandant of Fort Michilimackinac. When war broke out with the United States, DePeyster recruited Native Americans from the Great Lakes region to serve the British Crown, notably the effort under General John Burgoyne in his native colony of New York. He was rewarded with a promotion to major.
Major DePeyster took control of Detroit in 1779. The American Indian tribes of the Northwest Territory were then hostile to the British, but DePeyster, by his tact and the adoption of conciliatory measures, entirely weaned them from the colonists, and effectively managed his American Indian allies against American militia from Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Although Great Britain ceded control of Detroit to the United States at the end of the war, Detroit remained in British control until 1796.
In late 1783, DePeyster was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and transferred to Fort Niagara. After the war, he returned to England in 1785 with his Regiment and continued to serve, eventually receiving a commission as colonel. He retired in 1794 due to illness, but was actively involved with the militia, especially when threatened by Napoleon. He had a large share in enlisting and drilling the 1st regiment of Dumfries volunteers, one of the original members of which was Robert Burns, who dedicated to him his poem on “Life,” and with whom he once carried on a poetical controversy in the columns of the Dumfries Journal. DePeyster also published Miscellanies, by an officer in 1813.
His nephew’s son Frederic de Peyster was a noted New York City lawyer.