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ed for the purpose of covering a rich and extenive scountry which was peculiarly exposed to invasion.
The largest division, amounting to upwards of seven thousand men, affording between five and six thousand effective rank and file, was stationed at Middlebrook, under the immediate command of General Washington. The residue of the army was partly in the Highlands on the Hudson under Gencral M‘Dougal, and partly on the east side of that river under General Putnam. The returns of these two divisions exhibited a total of rather less than six thousand.
The bare statement of the numbers on both sides is sufficient to show the entire incompetence of the American army to undertake any plan for dislodging the British from their strong-holds in New York and Rhode Island. Secured by their numbers, by their fortifications, and by their shipping, they exhibited no point which could be considered as vulrerable.
On the part of the Americans, therefore, the plan of the campaign was necessarily defensive; and the views of General Washington were limited to securing the important passes up the North river, which have been so often mentioned, and to protecting the country as far as was compatible with that essential object.
The hazards and difficulties attending the execution of the defensive plan which was adopted, were by no means inconsiderable.
Independant of an extensive and fertile coast, every where accessible to the invading army, the North river, penetrating deep into the country which was to be the theatre of action, gave those who commanded the water great advantages in their military operations. They could proceed up that river, threaten both its shores, and at any time, in a single day, transfer their whole force to either side. On the other hand, General Wash. ington was under the necessity of abandoning the whole extent of country either east or west of the Hudson, and leaving it open to unrestrained depredation; or of dividing his army so as to expose either wing to the collected force of Clinton, while the part attacked could not be rejoined by the troops on the opposite side of the river till these should make an extensive circuit which would necessarily employ several days. This real difficulty was rendered the more embarrassing by the importunities of the several state governments for parts of the continental army to cover their seacoast, and thus relieve their militia from those repeated tours of duty, which were found equally expensive to the public, and distressing to indi. viduals.
After the destruction of forts Clinton and Montgomery in 1777, the ground on which the fortifications should be erected for the future defence of the North river was changed. The engiDeers were of opinion, that West Point, lying
rather higher up, and being more completely em. bosomed in the hills, was a more tenable position ; and it had been determined to construct the prin. cipal works at that place.
This object had been since prosecuted with unremitting industry, but was far from being com. pleted. The position, however, was naturally very strong, and was thought capable of being rendered impregnable.
Some miles below West Point, about the termi, nation of the Highlands, is King's-ferry; where the great road, affording the most convenient communication between the middle and the east. ern states, crosses the North river. The ferry is completely commanded by the two opposite points of land. The one on the west side, which is a rough and elevated piece of ground, is denomi. nated Stony Point; and the other, on the east side, which is a flat neck of land projecting far into the water, is called Verplank's Point.
The command of King's-ferry was an object worth the attention of either army. To the Bri. tish it
gave the advantage of a strong post, which communicated with New York by means of the North river and enabled them to forage in, and to overawe, a much greater extent of country than they could command while restricted to their present limits. The possession of that post too would greatly incommode the Americans ; by com. pelling them, in all their communications between
the different sides of the river, to take the upper route, which inakes a long circuit through a rougli and difficult country. Being also the commence. ment of the Highlands, it was a point from which those important passes, if ever weakly guarded, might be suddenly seized. These considerations rendered the possession of Stony and Verplank's Points a desirable object to both generals ; and had induced Washington to extend the plan of forti. fying the Highlands, so as to comprehend within them this interesting position.
At Verplank's a small but strong work termed fort Fayette was completed, and was garrisoned by a company under the command of Captain Armstrong. The works on Stony Point, though in considerable forwardness, were unfinished.
The season for military operations in the middle states now approached. The extensive cantonments of the American army, the delay which must unavoidably attend the collection of it to any one point, and the rapidity with which the Hudson enabled Sir Henry Clinton to execute any plan which he might form against the works on its banks, inspired him with the design of opening the campaign with a brilliant coup de main up that river; and towards the end of May, preparations were made for the enterprise.
Aware of the importance of receiving prompt and correct intelligence of the situation, move.
ments, and designs, of his adversary, General Washington had been indefatigable in searching for the means of obtaining it. Under all the dif. ficulties and pecuniary embarrassments with which Congress had been surrounded, a small fund in specie had generally been provided, and submitted to the discretion of the commander in chief. He had been so happy in the employment of the means placed in his hands, and in the selection of charac. ters for the purpose, that he uniformly received early information of every measure taken in New York, indicating movements of any considerable
The preparations which were making by Sir Henry Clinton were immediately communicated to him. He was confident that the British general must either meditate an attack on the forts in the Highlands, or design to take a position between those forts and Middlebrook, in order to interrupt the communication between the different parts of the American army, to prevent their re-union, and to beat them in detail. Measures were instantly taken to counteract either of these designs. The intelligence from New York was cominunicated to Generals Putnam and M.Dougal; and orders were given to the former, to hold the brigade of conti. nental troops commanded by General Parsons in constant readiness to make a rapid march to the posts in the Highlands, on the first movement of