George Washington Papers

Enclosure: Contingency Orders, 12 June 1779

Contingency Orders

[12 June 1779]

General Disposition for the Army
In case of an attempt upon West point

The alarm Guns or other Signals for calling in the Militia suddenly, are to be fired, or given the instant the enemys designs are discoverd.1

The Garrison is to attend principally to the defence of the Post—at the same time they are to spare all the Men they can with safety to that object to harrass & dispute with the enemy; every inch of ground leading to the Works; or to the heights above them.

The divisions on this ground are to move by Different Routs to the Furnace of Dean—Lord Stirlings will take the Road from Junes’s Tavern. Baron de Kalbs take the Road which goes of[f] at Earls Mill—and General St Clairs will make use of the one at the Widow Van ambroes.

A Battalion from the right division2 is to move on the Road leading from Junes’s Tavern towards Haverstraw, to prevent our right being turned undiscovered.

The remainder of that division is to endeavour to gain the enemys left Flank,3 if they should move on the Road from Kings Ferry directly to the Furnace—by Doodles town to the same place—or from Fort Montgomery thither.

General St Clair in either of these cases is to attempt gaining the enemys right Flank.

Baron de Kalb under these circumstances is to oppose them in Front.

If on the other hand the enemy should rely more upon Water transportation, sending a part of their force early from Fort Montgomery by Land, along the River Road, in that case Lord Stirling will endeavour to fall upon their rear. Baron de Kalb upon their left Flank—While General St Clair opposes them in Front endeavouring to prevent them from taking possession of the heights back of our Works on Stony hill4 & Fort Putnam.

Each division is to take especial care that they are not out flanked, & for this & other valuable purposes, are to keep as extended a line, and their Troops in as open order as they possibly can to be under proper command—Each division is to keep a reserve for the purpose of giving support, or in case of necessity to cover a retreat.

It is expected that the Troops will advance boldly upon the enemy—and by no means, nor under any pretence whatsoever throw away their ammunition at long shot—A Musquet had better never be discharged than fired in so wasteful, shameful, & cowardly a manner.

As the Country is covered with Wood—is close—& much broken, it will be necessary for the Major Generals to fix upon certain beats, or signals, for advancing in the whole, or part, retreating, &ca.

In case individuals, or parties should get seperated from the main body (to prevent which every possible care should be used) Smiths Tavern (present head Quarters) is to be the first place of rendezvous—and Chester the second,5 if circumstances should so require.

AD, DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 31543; Df, DLC:GW, series 9. GW’s autograph manuscript is docketed in the writing of his secretary Robert Hanson Harrison. The docket was dated 12 June 1779 and reads: “Order of defence in case of an Attempt on West point.”

1In response to GW’s instructions, major generals Israel Putnam, Nathanael Greene, Johann Kalb, and Arthur St. Clair met at Smiths Clove, N.Y., on 15 June to establish signals and beats. Minutes from that meeting read: “In case the Enemy should make an attempt upon the posts at the West Point, in order that there may be the less danger of falling into confusion, and that the several Divisions may act with the greater uniformity, and the different parts mutually support each other; the following Signals by beat of Drum are agreed upon:

“The long Roll, beat once distinctly, will be the signal for the right wing to advance; twice for the Left, and three times for the whole Division to commence the attack.

“The short Troop will be the signal for the right wing to retreat; the Pioneers March for the Left, and the retreat for the whole Division to retire.

“The Communication is to be kept up as far as practicable, by messengers, Runners, and Expresses between the different divisions as it is conceived no signals can be sufficient for that purpose.

“The General Officers are further of opinion, that no signals can be concerted by them proper for alarming the Militia (tho’ it is important there should be such establish’d) as they are not sufficiently acquainted with the situation of the Country; nor are they informed whether any measures have been adopted for that purpose; or if there have been what they are. They, therefore, think it expedient for General Putnam immediately to write to Governor Clinton on the subject; and desire him to inform whether any plan has been fallen upon, and if not, that he will propose such an one as he thinks will be most conducive to answer the purpose in Question” (Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers, description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends 5: 87–88).

2In this instance, Major General Stirling commanded the right division.

3At this place on the draft manuscript, GW inserted “or rear” above the line in his own writing.

4GW is referring to Rocky Hill near West Point (see GW to Arthur St. Clair, 20 July, and n.2 to that document, and Map 2 in this volume).

5For Chester, N.Y., see General Orders, 10 June, and n.2 to that document.

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