From Lieutenant Colonel William De Hart
Newark [N.J.] May 30. 1779
by a Verry Intelligent Person from Bergen, this day I have the following Intelligence—that the Enemy have, March’d All their force yesterday Morn Out Beyond Kings Bridge, which they had Cut Down & Plac’d the Militia to Guard it, that All the Troops, were Call’d from Long Island, & but A few Left at Staten Island, Only Buskirks Regt of New Levies, left at Powles Hook & Hobuck. A large Number of flat Bottom’d Boats Gone up the North River, All the Horses Press’d from Bergen, some Taken from Long & Staten Island A body of 700 Horse Gone with them. their force Said About 4000.1 I Am Sr your Most Hum. Servt
Wm D: Hart
ALS, DLC:GW. Robert Hanson Harrison docketed the letter “acknowledged 31 with thanks for the intelligence,” but no reply has been found.
1. The recently concluded and highly successful British expedition to Virginia (see William Maxwell to GW, 3 May, n.2), had comprised the first stage in Gen. Henry Clinton’s plan of campaign for the spring of 1779. The second stage would consist of an advance up the Hudson River to King’s Ferry, the capture of the American fortifications at Verplanck Point and Stony Point, N.Y., followed, depending on the arrival of long-anticipated reinforcements from England and the West Indies, by a possible attack on West Point. The capture of King’s Ferry and its supporting forts would severely hamper the movement of men and supplies across the Hudson River between New York state and New England. “An action with Mr. Washington’s army was likewise comprised within the operations I proposed,” Clinton explained in his memoirs. “For, should he be tempted to hazard one in the defense or recovery of his Stony Point or Verplanck’s forts, I very well knew he must for that purpose have met me in an angle between the mountains and the river, on terms replete with risk on his part and little or none on mine” (Willcox, American Rebellion description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends , 122–23).
Clinton’s preparations to move up the Hudson River were detected by American spies and reported to GW (see Elijah Hunter to GW, 21 May, and Israel Shreve to GW, 23 May). GW accordingly alerted Maj. Gen. Alexander McDougall to take measures for the protection of West Point, and ordered Maj. Gen. Israel Putnam to prepare to reinforce McDougall if necessary (see GW’s letters to McDougall and Putnam of 24 May). On 28 May, Clinton assembled approximately 6,000 troops at King’s Bridge, N.Y. On the following day British Commodore George Collier’s naval squadron arrived off Sandy Hook, N.J., bearing about 2,000 troops under Maj. Gen. Edward Mathew that had just finished ravaging southeast Virginia. Clinton, as planned, sent Collier up the Hudson that same day; and on 30 May about 4,500 of his troops at Kings Bridge, including the “Light Infantry, British and Hessian Grenadiers, 17th, 63d, 33d, 64th, 300 Yagers, Dismounted Legion, Ferguson’s Corps, and Robinson’s provincials,” embarked at the Philipse manor house, about five miles north of King’s Bridge, and accompanied Collier up the Hudson (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 194).
A fair wind favored the British expedition, which moved quickly up the Hudson, and on 31 May, Clinton set his troops ashore at two places. Maj. Gen. James Pattison, accompanied by Clinton, landed on the west shore of the Hudson about three miles below Stony Point with three infantry regiments, a jäger detachment, and some light artillery. The American garrison at Stony Point burned a blockhouse and fled, and Pattison captured the post at 2:00 P.M. On the east side of the river, meanwhile, Maj. Gen. John Vaughan landed about eight miles below Verplanck Point with the grenadiers and light infantry, the 33d Regiment, and Loyalist and German detachments. Vaughan immediately advanced on the American positions, supported by fire from British shipping and artillery that had been moved up to Stony Point, and on 1 June the American garrison, consisting of a captain and about 70 men, surrendered.
The British capture of King’s Ferry and its supporting forts on both sides of the Hudson happened too fast for GW to stop. The threat to West Point, only 12 miles above King’s Ferry, nevertheless induced GW to break camp at Middlebrook on 3 June and move his army to support McDougall. Clinton meanwhile strengthened the newly captured positions at King’s Ferry, made occasional feints toward West Point, and awaited the arrival of the promised reinforcements from England and the West Indies before deciding what to do next. Later that month, Clinton weakened his forces at King’s Ferry in order to conduct raids along coastal Connecticut; and GW took advantage of the opportunity to send Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne in a daring and successful surprise assault against Stony Point on 15 July. Wayne evacuated the fort a few days later. Clinton’s reinforcements arrived on 25 Aug., but by that time the campaign season essentially had ended (see GW to William Livingston, 4 May, n.2). For more on the British move up the Hudson River and capture of King’s Ferry, see Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 279–81; Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 17:144–46; Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 160–72; Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 193–95; Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 178–79; and Willcox, American Rebellion description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends , 122–26.