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CHAP. V. elevated to be battered from the water, and the 1717. hills on which they were erected, too steep to
be ascended by troops landing at the foot of them; and the mountains which commence five or six miles below them, are so very high and rugged, the defiles through which the roads leading to them pass, so narrow, and com. manded in such a manner by the heights on both sides, that the approaches to them are extremely difficult and dangerous.
To prevent the enemy from passing these forts, chevaux-de-frize were sunken in the river, and a boom extended from bank to bank. This boom was covered with immense chains stretched at some distance in its front, for the purpose of breaking the face of any vessel sail. ing against it. These works were not only defended by the guns of the forts, but by a frigate and gallies stationed above them, capable of opposing with an equal fire in front, any force which might attack them by water from below.
Fort Independence is four or five miles below forts Montgomery and Clinton, and on the opposite side of the river on a high point of land; and fort Constitution is about six and a quarter miles above them, on an island near the eastern shore.
The officer commanding at the station which comprehended the whole extent of the Hudson, on both sides, from Albany to King's bridge, generally made his head quarters at Peck's
Kill, just below fort Independence, and on the chap. V. same side of the river. The garrisons at this 1777. time amounted to about six hundred men, and the whole force under general Putnam, the militia having generally left him for the purposes of agriculture, did not much exceed two thousand. Yet this force, though so much less than that, which an attention to the orders of general Washington would have retained at the station, was, if properly applied, more than competent to the defence of the forts against any numbers which could be spared from New York. It was only by leading the attention of Putnam from the real object, and then assaulting and carrying them before they could be aided by his army, that an enterprise against them could succeed; and this sir Henry Clinton resolved to essay.
For this purpose, somewhat more than three thousand men embarked at New York. They landed on the fifth of October at Verplank's point, on the east side of the Hudson, a short distance below Peck's-Kill, and general Putnam retired to the heights in his rear. On the evening of the same day, a part of the troops re-embarked, and the fleet moved up the river to Peck's-Kill neck, in order to mask King's ferry, which was then below them." This is a convenient landing place, not far above which,
Letter of sir Henry Clinton.
CHAP. V. the mountains commence, with steep and almost 1777. unascendible declivities to the water edge.
The next morning, at break of day, the troops October 6. destined for the enterprise debarked on the
west side of Stony Point, and immediately commenced their march through the mountains into the rear of forts Clinton and Montgomery. The debarkation was not made unobserved; but the morning was so very foggy that the numbers could not be distinguished; and a large fire, which was afterwards perceived at the landing place, led to the opinion, that a party had only gone on shore to burn some storehouses which had been erected there. In the mean-time, the maneuvres of the vessels, and the appearance of the small detachment left at Verplank's point, persuaded general Putnam that the meditated attack was on fort Independence.
To this object his whole attention was directed, and it was not until the heavy firing from the other side of the river announced to him the assault on forts Clinton and Montgomery, that the real views of the enemy were suspected.
Five hundred men were immeForts Mont- diately detached to re-enforce the garrisons
of those places, but before they could get over the river, the works had been stormed, and were in possession of the British troops.
gomery and Clinton taken by the British,
The enemy having left a battalion at the pass CHAP. V. of Thunder hill, to keep up a communication 1777. with the fleet, and cover the retreat in case of misfortune, continued their march to the neighbourhood of fort Clinton.,
There they separated, and lieutenant colonel Campbell, with about nine hundred men, made a circuit round by the forest of Deane, to fall on the back of fort Montgomery; while general Vaughan, with about twelve hundred men, accompanied by sir Henry Clinton in person, and followed by the rear guard under general Tryon, advanced slowly against fort Clinton.
Governor Clinton, who commanded in the forts, having notice about ten o'clock in the morning of the approach of the enemy, made the best disposition in his power, and sent out as strong parties as his situation would admit, for the purpose of harassing them in their march through the defiles of the mountains, many of which, however, were already passed. He also sent an express to general Putnam to give notice of the danger which threatened him. Of this express Putnam makes no mention; but as he states himself to have been returning with general Parsons from reconnoitring the position of the enemy on the east side of the river when the attack commenced,
t Letter of sir Henry Clinton.
CHAP. V. it is probable he might be engaged on that 1777. business when the express reached his camp.
The parties detached from the forts skir. mished with the enemy, but most probably without much effect, as the column destined for fort Clinton, was only met within two miles of its object, where a halt had been made, in order to wait for the arrival of that destined against fort Montgomery, the advance of which was not immediately perceived by the garrison. So soon as it was discovered, light parties were detached against that also, but it arrived with. out much loss before the fort, between four and five o'clock in the afternoon. The garrison, when summoned, having refused to surrender, the attack commenced about five, on both forts. The approaches to each had been rendered extremely difficult by redoubts, by artillery, and by rows of abattis extending for three or four hundred yards. The works were defended with resolution, and were maintained until dark, when, the lines being too extensive to be completely manned, the enemy entered them in different places; and, the defence being no longer possible, part of the garrison were made prisoners, while their better knowledge of the country enabled others to escape. Governor Clinton passed the river in a boat, after the enemy were in possession of the forts, and general James Clinton, though wounded in the thigh by a bayonet, also made his escape.