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Clinton, Henry, Sir (1738?-1795) [Clerical copy of report on battle of Fort Montgomery]

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04768 Author/Creator: Clinton, Henry, Sir (1738?-1795) Place Written: Fort Montgomery, New York Type: Manuscript Date: 9 October 1777 Pagination: 11 p. : docket ; 24.1 x 19 cm.

Report on General Clinton's feint northward up the Hudson in support of General John Burgoyne's southward thrust. But in the late summer and early fall of 1777 Clinton, who was given vague orders, decided not to move his forces against Albany, which was Burgoyne's destination, but to only create a diversion that extended little further than Kingston, about 40 miles south of Albany. In October, he moved up the east side of the Hudson and crossed to the west side at Stony Point. With a force of about 3,000, he moved north against the combined forces of about 600 Americans led by General George Clinton at Forts Clinton and Montgomery. The Americans held the forts until nightfall of 6 October, but after losing almost half of their defenders, they withdrew. On the margins of several pages are lists of units that fought in the engagements being reported upon. Also mentions several ships that were used earlier in the campaign.

In the last Letter which I had the honour to write to Your Excellency, I mention'd my intention with the small force that could be spared from the important Post you had left under my command, to make an Attack upon Forts Clinton Montgomery & ca your Excellency recollects the situation of those, Forts, that they are separated by a Creek which each other by a Bridge.
In my opinion the only way of effecting it, was by a Coup de Main in the supposed unguarded [2] State they then were. The Commodore and I having made our Arrangements, and every proper Jealousy having been given for every object but the real One, the little Army, consisting of about 3000 Men arrived off Verplancks Point, proceeded by the Gallies under the Command of Sr James Wallace. On our appearance the Enemy retired without firing a Shot, leaving a twelve pounder behind them, and Sr James moved up to Peaks kiln Neck to mask the only communication they had across the river on this side of the Highlands. -
At day break on the 6th the Troops disembark'd [3] on Fort Clinton to push if possible, & dislodge the Enemy from their advanced station behind a Stone breast work, having in front for half a mile a most impenetrable Abbatis; this the General by his good disposition obliged the Enemy to quit, tho supported by Cannon, got possession of the Wall, & there waited the motion of the Cooperationg Corps, when I joined him, & soon afterwards heard Lt Col Campbell begin his attack. I chose to wait a favorable moment in it before I ordered the Attack on the side of Fort Clinton which was a circular height, defended by a line for Musquetry with a Barbel Battery in the Center of three Guns, & flanked by two Redoubts: the approaches to it through a continued Abbatis of 400 yards defensive every inch, & exposed to the fire of ten [4] Rices of Cannon. As the Night was approaching, I determined to seize the first favorable instant. A brisk attack on the Montgomery side, the Gallies with their Oars approaching, firing, & even striking the Fort, the Men of War that moment appearing crowding all the Sail to support us, the extreme ardour of the Troops, in short, all determined me to order the Attack; Genl. Vaughams spirited behaviour, & good Conduct did the rest: having no time to lose, I particularly ordered that not a shot should be fired, in this I was strictly obeyed, & both Redoubts & ca were stormed. Genl. Tryon advanced with one Battalion to support Genl Vaughan in case it might be necessary, & he [5] arrived in time to join in the Cry of Victory. Trumbacks Regiment was posted at the Stone Wall to cover our retreat in case of misfortune. The Night being dark, it was near eight oClock before we could be certain of the success of the Attack against Fort Montgomery which we found afterwards had succeeded at the same instant that of Fort Clinton did; and that by the excellent disposition of Lt Col. Campbell, who was unfortunately killed pm the first Attack, but seconded by Col. Robinson of the Loyal American Regiment. By whose knowledge of the Country I was much aided in forming my Plan, & to whose spirited Conduct in the execution [6] of it, I impute in a great measure the success of the Enterprize. Our loss was not very considerable, excepting in some respectable Officers who were killed in the Attack
About Ten oClock at night the Rebels set fire to their two Ships, Montgomery & Congress, some Gallies and other armed Vessels; with their Cannon, Stores & ca in them.
I have the honour to send to your Excellency a return of the Cannon, Stores & ca taken: that of Stores is very Considerable, this being, I believe their principal Magazine.
The Commodore has assisted me with his [7] at Stony Point. The Avant Garde of 500 Regulars and 400 Provincials Commanded by Lt. Col: Campbell, with Col: Robinson of the provincials under him began its March to occupy the pass of Thunder Hill. This Avant Garde after it had passed that Mountain was to proceed by a detour of Seven Miles round the Hills, & Debouchee in the rear of Fort Montgomery, while Gen: Vaughan with 1200 Men was to continue his March towards Fort Clinton, covering the Corps under Lt. Col: Campbell, & aportie to cooperate by Attacking Fort Clinton, or in case of [8] misfortune to favour the retreat, Major Genl Tryon with the remainder, being the rear guard, to leave a Battalion at the pass of the Thunder Hill to open our Communication with the Fleet.
Your Excellency recollecting the many, & I may say extraordinary difficulties of this March over the Mountains, every natural obstruction, & all that could invent to add to them, will not be surprized that the Corps intended to attack Fort Montgomery in the rear, could not get to its ground before 5 oClock, about which time I order'd General Vaughans Corps aportee to begin the Attack [9] advice, & every effort of the Fleet. We sent a joint summons to Fort Constitution, but our Flag meeting with an insolent reception, unknown in any War, we determined to chastise, & therefore in Embarkation under Major Genl. Tryon, & Sr. Hames Wallace with the Gallies was ordered. They found the Fort evacuated in the greatest confusion, the Store houses burnt, but their Cannon were left unspiked. The Commodore immediately order'd Sr. James Wallace up the River, & if it should be possible to find a passage through the Chevause de Frize between Polipus Island & the Main, he may probably do most essential Service. [10] In Justice to Capt. Pownall who commanded the flat Boats, & the Officers under him, I must mention to your Excellency that that Service could not have been more Zealously or punctually attended to.
H: C.
PS. Oct 9th. 10 oClock at night.
Major Gen: Tryon who I detached this morng. With Emmericks Chasseurs, 50 yagers, the Royal Fuzileers, & Regiment of Trumback with two Three-pounders, to destroy the Rebel Settlement called the Continental Village, has just returned & reported to me that he has burned Barracks for 1500 Men. [11] Several Store houses, & loaded Waggons. The extreme badness of the weather making it necessary to be as expeditious as possible no account could be taken of the Store; but I believe them to have been Considerable. I need not point out to your Excellency the consequence of destroying this Post, as it was the only establishment of the Rebels in that part of the Highlands; & the place from whence any neighbouring body of Troops drew their supplies.
Fannings & Byards Corps march'd from Verplanks point to Cooperate with Genl. Tryon, but finding be met with no opposition, they were order'd back to their post.

Notes: [The following was written in a column at the top of page 7] 52d. & 57th Regts. Loyal Americans N: York Volunteers & Emmericks Provincial Chasseurs. [on the same page near the bottom the following text appeared] Grenadiers, & light Infantry. 26th & 63d Regts. 1 Company 71st 1 Troops dismounted Dragoons. Hessian Chasseurs [The following was written in a column at the top of page 8] Royal Fuzileers & Trumbacks Regt.

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