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 III:
A Time for Thieves and Villains
Chapter 3:
A Cogent Appraisal

Sir Henry Clinton's grand Bergen forage two months later not only posed another threat to the Clove, but served to elicit from Washington his most compelling observation on the corridor's military significance. On September 22 a strong enemy force came ashore at Paulus Hook (now Jersey City) and advanced through the English Neighborhood and formed a line extending from the Hudson to New Bridge on the Hackensack. Swelled daily by reinforcements that brought their strength to 7,000, the British began a systematic forage of the Hackensack valley that went on for three weeks and stripped the farms, but the incursion became deadly when they surprised and butchered Baylor's elite Virginia dragoons on the upper Hackensack.

Colonel Hay and his Haverstraw militia, outnumbered twenty to one, were certain the enemy intended to push into lower Orange, but all they could do was avoid the British and plead for help from the governor and from across the Hudson. Though the British did not immediately penetrate as far inland as the raid of 1777, when they reached Zabriskie's mill on the Paramus road, the Americans were certain a push towards the Clove was in the making. Help, of sorts, from northern Orange amounting to about 180 militiamen from Woodhull's and Hathorn's regiments under Lieutenant-Colonels Elihu Marvin and Henry Wisner, Jr. came down through the Clove and marched into New Jersey and into Kakiat, but they and the others could do no more than hover in front of the enemy and remain outside his reach.

Washington, then in upper Dutchess, took measures to block any further enemy advance towards the Clove and the Highlands or towards Morristown. Lord Stirling was ordered over from the east shore to take general command and on September 27, five days after the British landing, Washington ordered Maxwell's brigade to move from Elizabethtown onto the heights near Acquackanonk, and directed Putnam to send Brigadier-General William Woodford and his 700-man Virginia brigade from the Highlands into Orange to blunt the probings of the British advance units, but cautioned that Woodford proceed without artillery in case the enemy struck and forced him to retreat into the Highland passes.

Woodford and Stirling crossed King's Ferry from Westchester on the twenty-ninth and advanced towards Kakiat and Clarkstown as word persisted that the enemy was moving towards the Clove. The attack on Baylor, which had taken place only the day before, had a sobering effect - So much so, that Stirling, according to word that reached the British, was so wary he seldom stayed more that one night in the same place and kept his baggage loaded and ready to move at a moment's notice.

Clinton's raid spent itself of its own accord, and the last foragers departed on October 15 with livestock and provender taken into the New York base from the Hudson River landings and on board sloops sent into the lower Hackensack.

On September 30, on receiving word from Woodford of his movements to oppose the British, Washington returned an acknowledgement and offered a cogent appraisal: "I am in hopes there is no foundation for the report you mention of the Enemy's being at the Clove. That pass is so exceedingly important that they should never be suffered to possess it; and whatever position you take should be calculated to give it perfect security."

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