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 V:
Finally, A Dreary Blockhouse
Chapter 17:
The Last March

With the campaigns at an end, the guns quiet and the final British evacuation of New York awaited, the strategic and tactical importance of the Highlands and the Ramapos and the significance of Smith's Clove as a passageway for the army ceased, and the wild Orange corridor with its rattlesnakes reverted again to the remote defile it had been when the war began. But even with the end of conflict and the army a shadow of what it had been, the Clove was to serve one more time as a route for one more march of Washington's Continentals – a march directed not against an enemy, as so often before, but again against mutineers.

On June 25 and 26, two letters, one following the other, reached Washington at Newburgh from a frightened Congress with the alarming news that hundreds of armed Pennsylvania soldiers had surrounded the State House in Philadelphia in which it sat and had threatened the delegates unless their demands for redress were met; and with it came an appeal that the commander-in-chief dispatch such force as he thought proper to quell the disturbance.

For Washington, it was again mutiny, an insult to Congress, and a demonstration of arrogance, folly and wickedness. Well inured by now to the ways of insurrection, he responded immediately and dispatched an order to Knox at West Point to place three regiments of infantry and a detachment of artillery under marching orders for Pennsylvania and to dispatch them immediately, and once again he assigned command to Robert Howe who knew how to handle a situation like this.

He returned word to Congress on June 25 that upwards of 1,500 effectives of “tried fidelity” were on the march and would encamp "this night” at the Forest of Dean. Howe, riding down from New Windsor to join the troops in the Clove the next morning, had orders from the commander-in-chief to travel light and unincumbered with baggage and with only two pieces of artillery; his route to be by way of Ringwood, Pompton, Morristown and Princeton to Trenton and then down the Delaware to Philadelphia, and once there his activity was to be governed by his own discretion and the orders of Congress.

Brigadier-General John Paterson, who commanded one of the two Massachusetts brigades that had arrived at the Point only two days earlier, departed with the greater part of the army by the same road (now Route 293) leading to the Forest of Dean taken by Howe when he crushed the Pompton mutiny. After laying overnight at the ironworks, Paterson entered the Clove at Earl's tavern in the dawn hours of the twenty-sixth, and shortly before 7:00 arrived at the house of one Reynolds on the Clove Road between the taverns of Smith and June, where he halted to allow his troops time to cook their provisions and eat. According to Erskine, this dwelling stood on the west side of what is now Route 32 near Dunderberg Place in Central Valley.

Barely ten minutes after arriving, Paterson received a message from Knox that had been sent the preceding night, reiterating the urgency for the march still existed and he hoped Paterson would be able to reach Ringwood by nightfall. Paterson returned word from “Reynolds' House, Smith's Clove,” that he would push on without delay and expected to reach the ironworks by that time, but his march was being slowed because some of his men lacked shoes; but he finished in a hearty mood that “nothing shall be wanting on my part to facilitate the wishes of Congress, my General, and yourself.”

Howe joined him somewhere in the corridor and took over the over-all command of the column, which was nearly four times the strength of that which he had led against the luckless Jerseymen two years earlier. The troublemakers in the City of Brotherly Love dispersed before Howe and Paterson reached their destination. Two of the ringleaders were court-martialed and were sentenced to die, but were pardoned; and in October, Paterson and the brigade returned to West Point (the Pennsylvanians, though, disliked having the New Englanders so close to them for such a length of time). In November, Washington and Knox and troops from West Point descended the Hudson Valley and participated in the American reoccupation of New York at the final evacuation. The war was over.

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