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 five articles that appeared in Volumes 19 -23 of the OCHS Journal between 1990 and 1994. These articles will be presented in multiple sections over the next few years.]

Part II:
War in the Clove
Chapter 14:
Prelude for Disaster

In September the Highland garrison was drained of troops to reinforce Washington. Early in the month, Putnam had been instructed to hold 1,500 soldiers in readiness to march to Pennsylvania, then the number was increased to 2,500, and on September 27 an urgent demand reached Peekskill from the commander-in-chief that the full complement – Malcom's regiment included – be forwarded without delay. “No considerations,” he said, “are to prevent it.” The troops removed would have to be replaced by militia.

Putnam immediately ordered Malcom to join his regiment with Parsons' brigade and informed him he would send “some militia” to guard the stores in the Clove, and at the same time dispatched an order to Brigadier-General Clinton to send two hundred militiamen from Fort Montgomery, properly officered, into the corridor as a replacement. Within short time, there was also apprehension that an attack on Fort Montgomery “by way of the Clove” was intended by a “great force” reported at Paulus Hook.

Everything was suddenly fraught with danger. The removal of so large a force endangered the entire Highland defense; at month's-end Putnam's remaining strength at Peekskill amounted only to about 1,000 Continentals and 400 militia, many without arms “and what is worse”, he dejectedly informed Congress, “it would be deem'd unsafe to trust them.” Even with all this, a new specter was taking form, for on the very day — the twenty-seventh — when Putnam received Washington's order for the total 2,500, he also heard of the arrival at New York of reinforcements from Europe for the British garrison.

On the night of October 3 and 4 he went to the offensive with about 3,000 men and started towards the Highlands by land and water, first to Tarrytown, then to Verplanck's Point, and then on October 6, feinting in one direction, attacking in another, he adroitly out-maneuvered Putnam and transferred his main force to the west shore at King's Ferry and marched across the Dunderberg to capture Forts Clinton and Montgomery, stubbornly but futilely defended by the Clinton brothers and an outnumbered garrison.

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