Orange County Historical Society

Corridor Through the Mountains

Smith's Clove: Wartime Line of Communication and Passageway for the Continental Army, 1776-1783

Richard J. Koke

[Editor's Note: Richard J. Koke authored a series of three articles that appeared in Volumes 19, 20, and 21 between 1989 and 1991. These articles will be presented in multiple sections over the next few years.]

Part II:
War in the Clove
Chapter 11:
To Galloway's and Back

The ink was not long dry on the letter of commendation for Erskine when a report reached headquarters on Saturday evening, the nineteenth, one day after Arnold's departure, that British ships were standing up the Hudson and forty sail were heading eastward in Long Island Sound. There was no doubt now in Washington's mind but that Howe was on the offensive, and the decision was made to move to the east shore of the river both by way of King's Ferry and New Windsor.

The British craft that briefly had been in Haverstraw Bay had disappeared downstream, and with the King's Ferry passage at least temporarily clear, Stirling, divesting himself of his baggage, was to proceed with his division to the ferry and slip over to Peekskill, while Washington and the other three divisions and the artillery marched through the Clove to New Windsor. The tents were ordered struck at gun firing, everything was to be packed, and the troops ready to march at 5:00 in the morning.

In the early Sabbath of July 20, Stirling departed across Southern Orange and the divisions of Greene, Stephen and Lincoln and Knox's artillery, accompanied by the commander-in-chief, moved into the Clove and along what Washington described as "a very difficult and rugged Road." By nightfall he was eleven miles into the Corridor, with headquarters established at Galloway's "old log house," but some units continued even farther, Washington himself affirming that the first division advanced eighteen miles.

Colonel Timothy Pickering, the adjutant-general, made entry in his journal after their arrival at the tavern: "The General lodged in a bed, and his family on the floor about him. We had plenty of sepawn and milk and all were contented." The meager fare of "suppon" was a simple mixture of Indian meal and water boiled into a consistency. One member of the headquarters family, at least, the Marylander Tench Tilghman, who served Washington as an aide-de-camp for seven years, knew the primitive life within the Clove, for it was he who endured the distasteful journey through the valley in 1775 with Congress' Indian Commission.

Washington spent three days at Galloway's. Even when he arrived he had doubts about the enemy movements. On Monday he was writing to Putnam that the intelligence that occasioned his advance into the Clove had been "premature", and all he could do was reach out for information and remain where he was until reports could be better verified. "Our situation here is distressing," he again said, "and the conduct of Genl. Howe extremely embarrassing."

To Schuyler, he explained it further: "I cannot give you any certain account of Genl. Howe's intended Operations. His conduct is pussling and embarrassing beyond measure, so are the information which I get. At one time the Ships are standing towards the North River. In a little while they are going up the Sound, and in an Hour after they are going out of the Hook. I thinkin a day or two we must know something of his intentions."

By Tuesday, the twenty-second, reports all indicated that the fleet had fallen down to Sandy Hook, but it remained uncertain whether the ships had gone to sea and their destination was still unknown. Even to Congress that day, he had to admit: "We have been under great embarrassments respecting the intended operations of Genl. Howe and still are."

Seeking better ground for deployment than within the closed-in corridor in which the army was marking time, Washington directed in after orders issued from "Head Quarters, Galloway's, Smith's Clove," that the troops were to march at 5:00 in the next morning. Greene's division and the artillery were to return to Suffern's, and Lincoln and Stephen were to march with their two divisions farther into the Clove and over to Chester where they were to take post and await further orders.

The idea behind the move to Chester was simple: it was a position from where the divisions, if need be, could move to the Delaware by way of Warwick and through Sussex and the back country of northern and western Jersey; or, over to New Windsor to cross the river if the enemy - now, contrary to expectation - attempted to operate on the Hudson or in Long Island Sound.

On Wednesday, the army divided; Lincoln and Stephen moving to Chester, probably by way of the road that branched westward at Smith's tavern, while Washington, with Greene and the artillery, returned to the mouth of the Clove. For the use of his humble tavern and the spare fare provided there, "Galloway" was paid 4 5s. from the headquarters expense account on July 23.

Back at Ramapo later in the day, Washington announced in orders that the march of the army, "whenever it begins, will be made with the utmost dispatch." On Thursday he received information that the fleet had finally sailed on the day before from Sandy Hook. He surmised the Delaware as "the most probable destination." The orders went out. Greene's division and the artillery were to move in the morning. The two divisions at Chester were ordered to the Delaware; Stirling and Sullivan were recalled from across the Hudson, and scattered units in New Jersey were instructed to join the main force.

The embarrassing days at Smith's Clove came to an end on Friday, the twenty-fifth, when Washington left Ramapo and departed down the road on which he had come. Three days later he reached the Delaware. On July 31 he received word that the fleet had appeared off the Delaware capes, but on the next day he learned that it had disappeared at sea, heading eastward. It was again a cat-and-mouse game. It would be another three weeks before he would know for certain the whereabouts of the strange man.

As Rupert Hughes said in his magnificent biography of Washington: "It is legitimate for an enemy to deceive and slaughter but to embarrass is unpardonable."

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