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 2:
The Continentals Arrive

The immediate order for the military occupation of Smith's Clove came from Peekskill on November 13, when a council-of-war called by Heath unanimously agreed that four hundred men should be sent to the entrance of the Highlands west of the river to take post "at or near Sidman's Bridge across Ramepough," and that the 10th Continental Infantry, Colonel John Tylor, and the 17th Continental Infantry, Colonel Jedediah Huntington, be detached from Parsons' brigade and assigned the undertaking. Huntington, senior in rank, was given command.

Heath passed on Washington's instructions: that Huntington was to camp at the Clove and cover his troops "with all possible dispatch" in log houses if timber was available, and turn his attention to the fortification of the pass. Lieutenant Thomas Machin, and engineer would be sent to assist him. Heath concluded: "Your own and good judgement and knowledge of discipline renders it needless for me to say anything on that head, being confident that you will see that good order is kept. You will take particular care that as soon as the men get covering, the tents are collected and stored."

As the colonels were to find out, even getting to the Clove was a problem. Joined by Captain John Bryant's artillery company, the two regiments sailed downstream to King's Ferry on the Orange shore near Haverstraw; but to New Englanders it was as if they were heading into an unknown land. They were informed the Clove was fifteen miles distant, then twenty, and the exactlocation of the bridge seemed to move like a jack-in-the-lantern; and it was with difficulty Huntington was able to convince the country people along the road they were not lost as their route was entirely different from that taken only days before by Washington's soldiers on their way to New Jersey.

Colonel Ann Hawkes Hay of the Haverstraw militia, a "hearty friend to our cause," according to Huntington, was of great help in arranging transport for the tents and baggage and provisioning for the soldiers, and finally volunteered himself to guide the regiments to the bridge. At Haverstraw on the fourteenth, Huntington also conferred with Lieutenant Machin, a capable Staffordshire-born engineer who promised to be at Sidman's in two days. Expectations were that the regiments would reach the bridge by nightfall on the fifteenth.

The line of march from Haverstraw was by way of the highway that ran to the Kakiat crossroads, then west and south to John Suffern's tavern at the Point of the Mountain, and into the Clove to the bridge across the river in the westernmost part of the Precinct of Haverstraw where they took post. The bridge location was at the present crossing of the river by Route 59.

Writing to Heath from Haverstraw on the fourteenth while his troops were on the march, Huntington, half-facetiously and almost with a tone of regret, remarked that "If I must depart from the British army, it is some consolation to me that I may come as a barrier to the frontiers against the Indians; but to be serious (you may forgive the digression) I will do the best to answer your expectations."

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