Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

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ing attached to any brigade or division
of the army, he is to make returns and re
ports to headquarters only, from whence
alone he is to receive orders."

This greatly angered Arnold, for he
declared it was notorious to the whole
army that Colonel Morgan s corps had
done duty "for some time past" with his
division. He hastened to headquarters,
and, confronting the conimander-in-chief,
" asserted his pretensions to the command
of the elite, and was ridiculed by General
Gates. High words and gross language
ensued."* In the course of this interview,
Gates told Arnold that he did not know
that he was a major-general, or had any
command in the army ! Arnold retired
in a great rage, and immediately wrote a
letter to Gates, in which he said : " As I
iind your observation very just, that I am
not or that you wish me of little conse
quence in the army, and as I have the in
terest and safety of my country at heart,
I wish to be where I can be of most ser
vice to her. I therefore, as General Lin
coln is arrived, have to request your pass
to Philadelphia, with my two aids-de-camp
and their servants, where I propose to join
General Washington ; and may possibly

* Wilkinson.

have it in my power to serve my coun
try, although I am thought of no conse
quence in this department."

Gates was well pleased thus easily to
get rid of one who, by his brilliant talents
and his dashing courage as a soldier, was
likely to throw into the shade the more
sober qualities of his superior. The pass
was immediately written and sent to Ar
nold, in accordance with his request. Sev
eral formal notes subsequently passed be
tween them, mutually recriminatory ; but
Arnold still lingered in camp, and finally
wrote to Gates, saying, " I am determined
to sacrifice my feelings, present peace,
and quiet, to the public good, and con
tinue in the army at this critical junc
ture, when my country needs every sup

Arnold, therefore, remained without a
command, Gates himself having taken his
division on the left. It was, however,
freely rumored that General Lincoln was
to assume the command, which
he finally did. In the meantime,
Arnold blustered about the camp, and de
clared that it would be death to any offi
cer who should venture to interfere with
his division in the expected battle. :i:

* Irving.

Sept. 25.





Sir Henry Clinton prepares for an Expedition. The American Forts on the Hudson. The Patriotic Clintons. ijenerai
Putnam at Peekskill. Sir Henry Clinton sails up the River." Old Put" astir. Mistaken Calculations. Landing
of the British. Governor George Clinton at Fort Montgomery. A Traitorous Messenger. Sir Henry Clinton lands
at Stony Point. The Plan of Attack. An Unexpected Resistance. Hard but Unsuccessful Struggle of the Ameri
cans. Demands for Surrender. The Refusal. Desperate Assault. The Americans overpowered. Escape of the
Clintons. The Loss on Both Sides. Count Gabrowski. Died like a Soldier. Burning of the American Vessels.
A Sublime Scene. Booms and Chevaux-de-Frise all gone. The Victorious Advance of the British. The Clintons
rallying again. A Spy, and the Effects of Tartar-Emetic. Sir Henry s Letter from Fort Montgomery. Esopus in
Ruins. Old Put discouraged.


ALTHOUGH General Bnrgoyne was
ignorant of the movements of Sir


Henry Clinton, that spirited officer was
losino- no time in doing all and even more


than he had promised. The reinforce
ment from England of two thousand men,
under General Robertson, having been
" shipped in Dutch bottoms," did not ar
rive at New York until the end of Sep
tember, after a protracted voyage of three
months. On their arrival, Sir Henry was
ready to set out on his expedition up the
North river. He had already prepared
everything in advance. A fleet of trans
ports and flat-bottomed boats had been
anchored off the upper end of the island
of New York ; troops had been gathered
together at Kingsbridge a supply of
hard bread had been baked ; and as soon
as General Robertson and his troops land
ed to garrison New York in his absence,
Sir Henry Clinton embarked three thou
sand men and sailed up the Hudson.

General Putnam was still at Peekskill
with a force, however, reduced to the
small number of twelve hundred conti
nental troops and three hundred militia,

in consequence of the drafts made upon
him by Washington to reinforce the army
in Pennsylvania. The forts, too, on the
river were but feebly garrisoned. Fort
Independence, on the east side of the
Hudson, was near Putnam s post at Peeks-
kill ; but he could spare only a few men
from his meager force to defend it. Forts
Clinton and Montgomery, on the west
side and above, were manned by not more
than six hundred militia, divided between
the two. George Clinton, the governor
of New York, commanded Fort Montgom
ery, while his brother had charge of Fort
Clinton, which was situated a hundred
yards or so to the south, and separated
from the northern fort by a deep inlet
from the Hudson, called " Peplopenkill."
From a short distance above the kill to
Anthony s Nose, opposite, were stretched
a chevaux-de-frise, a boom, and a huge iron
chain, which, with the armed gallej^s, the
two frigates anchored above, and the guns
of the forts, were supposed to be an effect
ual obstacle to the ascent of the river.

General Putnam, at Peekskill, was on
the alert. He had received information




of the arrival of British reinforcements
at New York, and of Sir Henry Clinton s
preparations for his expedition. The de
signs of the enemy he supposed to be
either "against the posts of the High
lands., or some part of the counties of
Westchester or Dutchess." He had sent
due notice to Governor Clinton, who was
absent at the time from his military post,
and engaged in the performance of his
civil functions elsewhere. The governor
immediately returned to Fort Montgom
ery, having first ordered out the militia
of the state of New York.

The farmers, as it was nearly seedtime,
and they had not yet sown their grain,
did not muster very readily at the call
of the governor. A considerable force
was, however, finally gathered ; part of
which was stationed at the forts, and the
rest sent to Peekskill. But the men be
came " extremely restless and uneasy ;"
and General Putnam, who in his old age
was becoming quite the reverse, gave ear
to the grumblings of the discontented
yeomen, and allowed them to return to
their fields. The governor, however, who
was disposed to be more exacting, called
one half of them back again, with the un
derstanding that, after they had served a
month, they should be dismissed, and the
other half called in to take their places.
While this plan was being carried into
effect, there was so much delay in set
tling who should serve first and who last,
that neither got ready in time to be of
service in the approaching emergency.

The wind having been unfavorable, Sir
Henry Clinton was detained till the night
of Saturday the 4th of October, when,

with a fair breeze, the fleet, under the
command of Commodore Holtham, stood
up the river. In advance sailed two men-
of-war, three tenders, and a large flotilla
of flat-bottomed boats. Soon after fol
lowed a frigate, five square-rigged vessels,
and a number of small craft. Putnam
was on the watch at Peekskill, and, hav
ing stationed guard-boats along the river,
soon heard of the enemy s approach. His
next intelligence was, that Sir Henry
Clinton had landed at Tarrytown, some
thirty miles from New York. This being
on the same side of the river, and below
Peekskill, " Old Put" quite made up his
mind that his post was Clinton s object,
and he accordingly sent off parties to
harass him, " if prudent," on his march.

Sir Henry, however, at that moment
had no designs upon Peekskill, and had
merely landed at Tarrytown in order to
divert Putnam from his real purpose. He
accordingly, after marching his men five
miles into the country ,marched them back
again, re-embarked them on board his ves
sels, and sailed farther up the river. Clin
ton, still bent upon concealing his object
from Putnam, proceeded up the Hudson
as far as Verplanck s Point, on the east
side, where he again landed with a con
siderable force, only eight miles below
Peekskill. Putnam was now still more
confident that his post and Fort Indepen
dence were threatened ; and while con
sulting with General Parsons, and cau
tiously reconnoitring the supposed posi
tion of the maiii body of the British, Sir
Henry Clinton, taking advantage of a fog
gy morning, crossed over next day at an
early hour from Verplanck s Point, with



[PART n.

two of his three thousand men, to Stony
Point opposite, and marched for Forts
Clinton and Montgomery.

Putnam s scouts brought in word that
some of the enemy had landed on the
west side of the river, where a building
had been set on fire ; but it was supposed
that those who had crossed composed only
a small force, whose object was to burn
the storehouses at Stony Point, and that
the principal body still remained at Ver-
planck s Point. Putnam was not unde
ceived until he heard " a very heavy and
hot firing, both of small-arms and cannon,
at Fort Montgomery," which immediately
convinced him that the British had gone
over in the morning with a large force.
He then, at this late moment, detached
five hundred men to reinforce the garri
sons at Forts Montgomery and Clinton.
Before they could cross the river, howev
er, Sir Henry Clinton, as we shall see, had
gained his object.

Governor Clinton, at Fort Montgome
ry, was aroused to the danger threatening
the forts ; and, having first sent a messen
ger to General Putnam, asking for a rein
forcement, he ordered out Major Logan,
an alert officer, well acquainted with the
ground, with thirty men, to reconnoitre
and gain intelligence of the enemy. The
major did not return until nine o clock
the next morning, when he declared that,
from the sound he had heard of the row
ing of boats, he believed that the British
had crossed with a considerable force, but,
as the morning was foggy, it had been
impossible to see them and compute their
numbers. The governor, on hearing this
intelligence, despatched Lieutenant Jack

son, with a small party, to watch their
movements, and anxiously awaited a re
sponse to his message to General Putnam
asking reinforcements. These, however,
never came ; for the messenger proved a
traitor, and went over to the enemy.

Sir Henry, on landing at Stony Point,
left a strong guard there to secure his
communication with the war-ships, and
marched by a circuitous route toward the
forts, which were in a direct line, about
twelve miles distant. While the trans
ports were anchored off Stony Point, three
of the British men-of-war (the Tartar, the
Mercury, and the Preston) moved a short
distance up the river, and moored near
Fort Independence, in order, to keep the
Americans in check on that side of the
Hudson, and prevent Putnam from send
ing aid to the garrisons opposite.

The British, guided by a tory, well ac
quainted with the country, proceeded
through a narrow and rugged defile skirt
ing the western base of the Dunderberg
or Thunder mountain, which rises with
rocky cliffs abruptly from the border of
the Hudson. On reaching a ravine at
the north, between Dunderberg and Bear
hill, Sir Henry Clinton divided his force.
One division, under Lieutenant^Colonel
Campbell, was ordered to proceed to Fort
Montgomery, while Sir Henry himself led
the other against Fort Clinton. With
Campbell s division were nine hundred
men, some of whom were American loy
alists, under the command of Colonel Bev
erly Robinson, of New York; some Brit
ish grenadiers, led by the youthful Lord
Rawdon, who was accompanied by his
friend Count Gabrowski, a Pole ; and the



rest of the force was composed of Hes

Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell was or
dered to make a circuitous march to the
west around Bear hill, and the rear of
Fort Montgomery, which he was directed
to attack when Sir Henry himself was pre
pared to begin upon Fort Clinton, toward
which he now led his division.

Sir Henry had but a small distance to
march, as Fort Clinton was the nearer of
the two fortresses, and could be reached
by a shorter circuit. While Campbell s
route led off to the left of Bear hill, that
of Sir Henry Clinton was to the right,
through a ravine, and thence in a direct
line to the fort, between a pond called
Sinipink lake and the river.

Sir Henry advanced cautiously, though
he deluded himself with the hope that
his movement was unsuspected. He soon
had reason to know that the Americans
were on the alert; for his advance-guard,
on reaching Doodletown, on the Haver-
straw road, fell in with Lieutenant Jack
son and his scouting-party, who had been
sent out to reconnoitre. The British fired
as Jackson came up, who, after giving
them a volley in return, was forced to re
treat with his handful of men.

The firing was heard at Fort Clinton,
and General James Clinton, who was in
command there, immediately despatched
fifty continental troops, under Lieuten
ant-Colonel Bruyn, and the same num
ber of militia, under Lieutenant-Colonel
M Claughrey, to meet Sir Henry and op
pose his approach. They soon became
engaged in a hot struggle, but the Brit
ish were too numerous for them, and they

fell back disputing the rough ground,
however, inch by inch, to the walls of the

Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell s march
to Fort Montgomery, through the defile
on the west side of Bear hill, was no less
disputed than Sir Henry s advance to Fort
Clinton. Colonel Lamb (he who had so
gallantly served his battery at Quebec,
under Arnold) had been sent out with a
covering-party of sixty men from the fort,
to plant a fieldpiece in an advantageous
position,cornmanding the narrow and rug
ged path through which the enemy would
be obliged to advance. A second detach
ment of sixty were also ordered to follow
Lamb and sustain him. Campbell came
leading on his men at a quick pace, \vhen
he was suddenly brought to a check by
a discharge of grapeshot from Lamb s
gun and a well-directed fire of musketry
from the Americans posted on the high
ground on a border of the defile.

The shock was so severe, that the whole
British force was driven back, and at each
effort to push forward again was so effect
ually checked, that Campbell was obliged
to withdraw his men. He now, however,
divided his troops, and filing them off by
the right and the left through the woods,
attempted to surround the Americans,
who, seeing his purpose, abandoned their
fieldpiece, after first spiking it to render
it useless to the enemy, and then retired.
Governor Clinton, in order to cover their
retreat and harass the foe, ordered out a
twelve-pounder, which, being well served
with grapeshot, greatly annoyed the Brit
ish, and gave the Americans an opportu
nity of reaching the fort with very little



loss, except the capture of Captain Fen-
no, who commanded the gun.

It was now about two o clock in the
afternoon, and the enemy continued to
push on toward the forts. They were,
however, so checked in their advance by
the abattis of felled trees and the opposi
tion they met, that they were not ready
to begin the attack till nearly five o clock.
Lieutenant- Colonel Campbell now ap
proached with a flag, when Lieutenant-
Colonel Livingston was sent out to meet
him, and demand his rank and business.
Campbell, having announced who he was,
said that he came to demand the surren
der of the fort in five minutes, to prevent
the further effusion of blood ; and he de
clared that, if the garrison would give
themselves up as prisoners-of-war, they
might depend upon being well treated.
Livingston rejected the proposition with
scorn, and informed Campbell that he
might begin his attack as soon as he
pleased, as it was determined to defend
the forts to the last extremity.

In about ten minutes the enemy at
tacked both posts with desperate ener;v.


They met with spirited resistance on the
part of the meager garrisons in the forts.
The numbers of the assailants, however,
were overwhelming. With fixed bayo
nets they came rushing against the forti
fications, nlounting on one another s shoul
ders, and climbing through the embra
sures by the sides of the guns, hot with
incessant firing. They crowded in upon
the ramparts, but the brave garrison still
resisted, fighting desperately in a hand-
to-hand struggle. Seeing themselves, how
ever, surrounded on all sides, and night

coming on, the Americans found it use
less to dispute the possession any longer.
Most w r ere obliged to throw down their
arms and surrender; but others fought
their way through the enemy, and thus
escaped. Among these were Governor
Clinton and his brother James. The lat
ter, though wounded in the thigh, slid
down a precipice one hundred feet high,
into the ravine between the forts, and got
off through the woods. His brother, the
governor,let himself down the steep rocks
and reached the river-side just as a boat
was pushing off with a number of other
fugitives. They pulled back to take him
in ; but as the boat was loaded down to
the gunwale, he declined to- go, for fear
of risking their safety. They, however,
having insisted, and declared that the boat
could easily hold him, he was induced to
get in, and succeeded in crossing the Hud
son in safety. He now hastened to join
General Putnam.*

The loss of the Americans in killed,
wounded, and prisoners, amounted to al
most three hundred ; that of the enemy,
in killed and wounded, to only a hundred
and forty. The British loss in officers
was, as usual, disproportionately large.
Among those who fell were Lieutenant-
Colonel Campbell, who led the division
against Fort Montgomery ; Major Grant,
of the New- York loyalists ; Captain Stew
art, of the grenadiers ; and Major Lile, of
the sixty-third regiment. The gallant
count Gabrowski likewise fell, mortally
wounded by three balls. He had ad
vanced to the storming of the fort by
the side of his young friend Lord Kaw-

* Irving.



don (afterward the marquis of Hastings),
at the head of the British grenadiers. As
they became entangled among the felled
trees, and each man was obliged to find
a path for himself, Gabrowski was sepa
rated from his lordship, when he received
the fatal shot. As he fell, he took the
sword from his side, and, handing it to a
grenadier, begged him to deliver it to
Lord Kawdon, and tell him that he had
died like a soldier.

It was dusk when the struggle ceased,
and dark night before the fall of the forts
became known to those on board the
American vessels which were stationed
above the chevaux-de-frise across the river.
As they feared that Admiral Holtham
who, during the contest on shore, had
moved up, and while cannonading the
forts had brought his ships within gun
shot of the American frigates and galleys
would now direct his attention to them,
an attempt was made to get them so far
above the chevaux-de-frise as* to be out of
reach. The officers accordingly called
all hands to slip the cables, hoist sail, and
o-et under weigh. The vessels, however,

O 3 ^

being badly manned, the tide on the ebb,
and the wind having died away, it was
found impossible to manage them. The
frigate Montgomery, which was nearest
to the chain, lost her headway and drift
ed down so close t:, the enemy, that the
captain and his crew were forced to set
lire to and abandon her. The other frig
ate, the Congress, got aground near Fort
Constitution, and was burnt, as were also
the two galleys and the sloop.

" The flames," says Stedrnan,the British
annalist, " suddenly broke forth, and, as

Oct. 7,

every sail was set, the vessels soon be
came magnificent pyramids of fire. The
reflection on the steep face of the oppo
site mountain, and the long train of rud
dy light which shone upon the water for
a prodigious distance, had a wonderful
effect; while the ear was awfully filled
with the continued echoes from the rocky
shores, as the flames gradually reached
the loaded cannons. The whole was sub
limely terminated by the explosions,which
left all a<rain in darkness."


The next day, the boom, chain, chev-
aux-de-frise, and all, which had cost a quar
ter of a million of dollars, were
destroyed by the English sailors ;
and a flying squadron of small frigates,
under Sir James Wallace, with a detach
ment of British troops on board, com
manded by General Vaughan, moved tri
umphantly up the Hudson. On land, Fort
Constitution, opposite West Point, and
Fort Independence, near Peekskill, were
abandoned. General Vaughan now land
ed his force and inarched against Esopus
(now Kingston), and, having put to flight
a small band of militia, burnt the village
to the ground, together with a large sup
ply of military stores.

General Putnam, after the fall of the
forts, retired from Peekskill, and, march
ing along the east side of the Hudson,
posted himself in a defile in the mount
ains near Fishkill. Governor Clinton, in
the meantime, having collected two con
tinental regiments and a straggling force
of militia, moved along the western side
of the river, with the view of keeping be
tween the enemy and Albany, where he
hoped to be joined by General Putnam,




who was to proceed along the eastern


On reaching New Windsor, Governor

Clinton s advanced guards brought in a

couple of British spies, on their way from

Sir Henry Clinton to General Burgoyne.

One of them, as soon as caught, was ob
served to put something into his

Octi 9

mouth and swallow it. A severe

dose of tartar-emetic was at once admin
istered, which brought from him a .small
silver bullet. In the hollow of it was
found this letter:

" FORT MONTGOMERY, Oct. 8, 1777.
"Nous y void, and nothing between us
but Gates. I sincerely hope this little
success of ours may facilitate your opera
tions. In answer to your letter of the
20th Sept., by C. C., I shall only say I can
not presume to order or even advise, for
reasons obvious. I heartily wish you suc
cess. Faithfully yours,


The spy, moreover, confessed that Cap
tain Campbell, who had brought despatch
es from General Burgoyne, w r as on his re
turn, with the news of the fall of Forts
Clinton and Montgomery. He started on
the 8th of October. Governor Clinton

now followed close upon the heels of Gen
eral Vaughan, but readied Esopus only
in time to find it in ruins. He then, af
ter hanging the British spies to an apple-
tree, moved forward, spiritedly resolved
to do his best to frustrate the enemy in
their endeavor to reach Albany before

" Old Put" was evidently very much
discouraged. On the 8th of October, he
wrote to General Gates, saying, " I can
not flatter you or myself with the hopes
of preventing the enemy s advancing ;
therefore, prepare for the worst." The
next day his words are still less cheerful :
" The Connecticut militia came in yester
day and the day before in great numbers,
but I am sorry to say they already begin
to run away. The enemy can take a fair
wind, and, with their flat-bottomed boats,
which have all sails, go to Albany or Half-
Moon with great expedition, and I be
lieve without opposition."

In the meantime, we shall see that
great events were occuring in the North,
destined to change the relative prospects
which seemed so dismal for the Ameri
cans and so encouraging to the British
on the North river. Let us now go back
to the hostile camps near Saratoga.




Battle of Bemis s Heights continued. The Opposing Armies. General Burgoyne in the Dark. His Diminishing Sup
plies. His Impatience. General Gates strong, confident, and patient. Arnold in a Hurry. "To Arms!" The
Game begun. The Order of Battle. The Conflict. Fall of General Eraser. The Tragic Scene. Stained with
British Blood. The Wounded Ackland. The Mad Arnold. He is down, but up again. The Victory.


Sept, 19,

THE two armies of Burgoyne and
Gates remained within cannon-shot
of each other ; neither having yielded an
inch of ground since the bloody conflict
of Bemis s heights. Both con

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 71 of 126)