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 6:
The Militia Take Over

Clinton, serving as brigadier of both the Orange and Ulster militia, was quick to realize, along with Heath, that the immiment departure of the Connecticut troops would leave the vital Smith's Clove corridor without a man for defense, and proposed marching the two militia regiments he then had at Paramus - Woodhull's from Orange and McClaghry's from UIster - to Ramapo to cover the Clove and upper Bergen, from where a screen of guards and patrols could be spread out between Ringwood and Paramus to give protection "to the few Friends we have in this Quarter" and also "scourge our Enemies."

Clinton and his militiamen, like Heath, also moved on the twenty-second, and with their arrival at Ramapo the responsibility for Clove defense shifted from the 10th and 17th Continental Infantry to Clinton and the Orange and Ulster militia.

The New Englanders remained a few more days before also pulling back to Peekskill; Huntington writing from the "Clove" on the twenty-third that he was sending his baggage to Haverstraw, and Clinton writing on the same day that both regiments "are to leave this in a Day or two." As of December 31, with the establishment of a new army, the 10th and 17th Continental Infantry ceased to exist; Huntington went to the colonelcy of the 1st Connecticut, and Tyler to a generalship in the militia.

During the five weeks they served at the isolated post, and despite inclement weather and interrupted duty elsewhere, the two colonels at least had been able to fortify the pass. They, like everybody else, were suddenly thrust into the vortex of a collapsing cause and into a paradox of attempting to establish a post and defend it at the same time.

The militiamen of Jesse Woodhull's Cornwall regiment and James McClaghry's 2nd Ulster were billeted, as best could be, on the Ramapo and New Antrim inhabitants. On the third day - Christmas Day - after their arrival, a night patrol was ordered made ready but was countermanded when the soldiers paraded, and then, according to the chronicler with McClaghry: "The Evaning Ensued with Delightful sports; full flowing Bowls & Jolly Souls, Spirits Elivated with Liquer, and Harts Infam'd by the Beauty of woman, Two Engagees, the Third Carrys away the Prise; great Disappoint Ensues."

And on that same Wednesday night, while Christmas festivity was partaken at Ramapo, twenty-four hundred men with eighteen field pieces, remnants of a beaten army and moving on a desperate gamble, crossed the Delaware seventy miles distant through driving ice, and in snow and sleet and chilling cold started on a nine-mile march towards a town called Trenton. And on Thursday, the twenty-sixth, it snowed all across New Jersey and into New York.

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Arden, New York, 10910
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