George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, 27 July 1779

From Brigadier General Anthony Wayne

West Point 27th July 1779


The Circumstances situation & Numbers of this Army, as well as that of the Enemy—which your Excellency was pleased to lay before the Council of General Officers last evening1—I have fully Considered, & am of Opinion that something ought to be attempted in order to draw Genl Clinton’s attention towards Kings Ferry, which will not only give great Security to the Adjacent States—but leave it in your power to cover this post, the possession of which, I believe to be the main Object of the Enemy cou’d they once draw your Army out of protecting distance.

In order to effect this, about 5000 men should march down, & one half of them take post in the Vicinity of Smith’s white House2—and the remainder in front of Spring Steels with their left on the River, North of Stoney point, & Erect two Batteries—one on the Hill where the felled trees lay, in front of the point, the Other on a high piece of ground near the River and North of Kings Ferry—which enfilades not only the Works on Stoney point—but also Verplanks point, & from which there are roads leading to Spring Steels, practicable for Artillery with a little Opening into the gorge of the Mountain in the Rear of Storms where it may be protected, should the Enemy move up in force so as to prevent us from drawing it off by Suffrens.

I would not wish to make use of more than four pieces of Ordnance on this side—i.e. two heavy twelves & two Eight Inch Howzs. on traveling Carriages with One Hundred rounds of Amunition per Gun—more may be ready in Waggons to be brought from Suffrens if wanted.

I wou’d in Addition to this advise the moveing down One Thousand or Fifteen Hundred men in the East side with two travelling twelves & one or more Howzts. which would Annoy & distract them on Verplanks point—keeping a good look out down the River so as to have timely notice of the Approach of the Enemy, & to fall back Occationally.

to this will be objected—“the practicability of the Enemy passing up the River in their Vessels & Investing West point, or landing at Doodle town & falling on our rear, together with the scarcity of Amunition”—to obviate these Objections I answer, that three or four Thousand men in the works & Vicinity of West point will be sufficient to guard against a Storm—& should the Enemy effect a Landing in our rear either at Doodle town, or Fort Montgomery, I will undertake with the Light Corps to secure that Quarter, part of the Amunition taken at Stoney point will be sufficient for our purpose without breaking in upon our old Stock.

I have no Idea of it being practicable for the Enemy to pass up the River in force Undiscovered by us, we certainly shall always keep such a watchful eye on their movements as to give time to draw off our Artillery before they can possibly effect a Landing, and to take post so as to prevent us.

shou’d we by this Manoeuvre draw them into a focus, it answers the end we wish—and we have no further buisness there, but should Sr Henry Clinton leave these posts to be defended by the troops now in possession of them, they will Inevitably fall into our hands,4 in either case we shall attain our purpose—i.e. by obliging the Enemy to spend the Campaign in Marching & Counter Marching up the North River, or reduce their Garrisons, which is performing more than Congress have any right to expect from the force under your Excellencies Immediate Command.

Whether it will be most advisable to move5 & attack them before they have Effected their Works—& before a Reinforcement arrives from Europe, or to wait until they Complete their fortifications & make detatchments, so as not to be in a Condition to Succour their posts & annoy us in our approaches, your Excellency will best determine. Interim I have the Honor to be with every Sentiment of Esteem Your Excellencies most Obt & very Huml. Sert

Anty Wayne

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, PHi: Wayne Papers; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

2The country house of William Smith, a prominent Loyalist, was about three miles south of Kings Ferry on the west side of the road to Haverstraw and served as the residence of his brother Joshua Hett Smith, who later was implicated in Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold’s treason (see Van Doren, Secret History, description begins Carl Van Doren. Secret History of the American Revolution: An Account of the Conspiracies of Benedict Arnold and Numerous Others drawn from the Secret Service Papers of the British Headquarters in North America now for the first time examined and made public. New York, 1941. description ends 289; see also Lossing, Pictorial Field-Book, description begins Benson J. Lossing. The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution; or, Illustrations, by Pen and Pencil, of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics, and Traditions of the War for Independence. 2 vols. New York, 1851–52. description ends 2:150-52).

3For a return listing ammunition captured in the successful attack on Stony Point, N.Y., on the night of 15-16 July, see Wayne to GW, 16 July (first and second letters), n.1.

4For the British reoccupation of Stony Point on 19 July, see Richard Butler to GW, that date, and n.2 to that document.

5At this place on his ALS, Wayne wrote and then struck out the word “Immediately.”

Index Entries