George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, 3 July 1779

From Brigadier General Anthony Wayne

Fort Montgomery [N.Y.]
3rd July 1779 10. OClock A.M.

Dear General

In Obedience to your Excellencies Orders1 I have Reconnoitre the Situation of the Enemy at Stony point & the approaches to them in the best manner that Circumstances would admit2 & Returned late last evening to this place.

The sketch herewith transmitted (which differs but little from that made the Other day by Colo. Butler) will give you a General Idea of the Strength of their Works on the West Side3 which in my Opinion are formidable—(I think too much so for a Storm) & to attempt to Reduce it by Regular Approaches will require time as there is no ground within less distance than a half a mile but what it commands.

The Works on Verplanks point are by no means so formidable as those on this side—altho’ they consist of four Redoubts viz. the one made by us Called La Fayette—with fraise & Dit⟨c⟩h4 the second Situate to the N.W. on the Rising ground near the River in which is a block House—the third thrown up round a Strong Stone House East of Fort La fayette & on the Margin of a Rising ground Commanding the Causway from the Chu⟨r⟩ch5—the fourth is Situate on the East Side of the Creek & Marsh, on a hight point of Rocks commanding all the Ground in its vicinity & overlooking the causway (it has also a block House) these last three are Surrounded with Abbatis but not paired nor cou’d I discover any Embrasures perhaps they fire in Barbet.6

I am clear that they have not more than [  ] men on Stony point & about [  ] on Verplanks point7 in all of which I am joined in Opinion by Colo. Butler & Major Stewart8 who were with me on this duty & on whose judgment I much rely.

Upon the Whole I do not think a Storm practicable—but perhaps a Surprize may be Effected—could we fall on some Stratagem to draw them out—a thought has struck me that as no party of force has ever yet been down or Appeared to the Enemy—& as I have ground to believe that an Inhabitant being near Stony point acts a double part & of course will give them every Information in his power—which goes no further than to the usual rout & number of the Reconnoitring parties—they may be Induced to Attempt an Ambuscade—or if they shou’d not attempt this a few of our people Appearing near may bring a party out in pursuit which may give an Opening to enter with them.

shou’d your Excellency Incline to Reconnoitre the works tommorrow morning or next day I will have a proper Disposition made of the Light Corps so as to Effectually cover you, or Attempt the surprize in case it meets your Approbation—the Troops at the forrest of D[e]ane may Co-operate with us if thought necessary.9 Interim I am Your Excellencies Most Obt Huml. Sert

Anty Wayne

ADfS, PHi: Wayne Papers.

2At this place on his draft manuscript, Wayne first wrote “possible.” He then struck out that word and wrote “that Circumstances would admit” above the line.

3Neither the enclosed sketch of the enemy works at Stony Point, N.Y., nor Col. Richard Butler’s sketch has been identified. Butler, who commanded the light infantry corps before Wayne’s arrival, now led two light infantry battalions.

4Maj. Gen. Alexander McDougall had ordered construction of this redoubt, which became known as Fort Lafayette, on 31 Dec. 1778 (see the second letter from McDougall to GW, 15 April, and n.2 to that document).

5This structure probably was a mission church because neither of the two congregations then organized in the area had built churches on or in the immediate vicinity of Verplanck Point, N.Y. (see Scharf, Westchester County, description begins J. Thomas Scharf. History of Westchester County, Including Morrisania, Kings Bridge, and West Farms, which have been Annexed to New York City. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1886. description ends 2:384–88). It also is possible that Wayne simply misidentified the structure.

6For another contemporary reconnaissance of the works at Verplanck Point, see Rufus Putnam to GW, 13 July.

7In a letter dated 4 July, Maj. Gen. James Pattison, then in New York City, wrote George Townshend, British master general of ordnance, that their forces had left “for the Defence of the Block-Houses & Redoubts raised at Verplanck’s Point, the 33rd Regt, Loyal Americans, and Ferguson’s Corps making about 500, with a Detachment of one Subaltern & 28 Artillery.

“The Troops left at the opposite Post of Stoney Point amount to nearly the same Number, and consist of the 17th Regt, 2 Companies of the 71st Grenadiers and a part of the Loyal Americans, with a Detachment of Artillery of 1 Capt. 2 Lieuts. 5 Non Commiss[ione]d Officers & 42 Privates” (Pattison, “Letters,” description begins “Official Letters of Major General James Pattison.” Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1875, 8 (1876): 1–430. description ends 86–87).

8Wayne is referring to Maj. John Steward of the 2d Maryland Regiment. Steward then commanded a battalion of light infantry.

9GW replied to Wayne from his headquarters at New Windsor on 4 July: “I this morning received your letter of yesterday and am obliged to you for your observations and the sketch you send me.

“The arrival of the Southern post expected tomorrow, will detain me here; but the next day I shall have the pleasure of being with you very early in the morning, for the purpose you mention. You may make such a disposition of your corps as you think proper (LS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, PHi: Wayne Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

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