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CLINTON ON THE ALERT.
within six miles of Fort Montgomery. General Clinton apprehended they might mean to take advantage of a dark night, and slip by him in the deep shadows of the mountains. The shores were high and bold, the river was deep, the navigation of course safe and easy. Once above the Highlands, they might ravage the country beyond, and destroy certain vessels of war which were being constructed at Poughkeepsie.
To prevent this, he stationed a guard at night on the furthest point in view, about two miles and a half below the fort, prepared to kindle a blazing fire should the ships appear in sight. Large piles of dry brushwood mixed with combustibles, were prepared at various places up and down the shore opposite to the fort, and men stationed to set fire to them as soon as a signal should be given from the lower point. The fort, therefore, while it remained in darkness, would have a fair chance with its batteries as the ships passed between it and these conflagrations.
A private committee sent up by the New York Convention, had a conference with the general, to devise further means of obstructing the passage of ships up the river. Fire rafts were to be brought from Poughkeepsie and kept at hand ready for action. These were to be lashed two together, with chains, between old sloops filled with combustibles, and sent down with a strong wind and tide, to drive upon the ships. An iron chain, also, was to be stretched obliquely across the river from
Fort Montgomery to the foot of Anthony's Nose, thus, as it were, chaining up the gate of the Highlands.
For a protection below the Highlands, it was proposed to station whale-boats about the coves and promontories of Tappan Sea and Haverstraw Bay; to reconnoiter the enemy, cruise about at night, carry intelligence from post to post, seize any river craft that might bring the ships supplies, and cut off their boats when attempting to land. Galleys also, were prepared, with nine-pounders mounted at the bows.
Colonel Hay of Haverstraw, in a letter to Washington, rejoices that the national Congress are preparing to protect this great highway of the country, and anticipates that the banks of the Hudson were about to become the chief theatre of the war.
THE VAN CORTLANDT FAMILY.-Two members of this old and honor. able family were conspicuous patriots throughout the Revolution. Pierre Van Cortlandt, the father, at this time about 56 years of age, a stanch friend and ally of George Clinton, was member of the first Provincial Congress, and president of the Committee of Public Safety. Governor Tryon had visited him in his old manor-house at the mouth of the Croton, in 1774, and made him offers of royal favors, honors, grants of land, etc., if he would abandon the popular cause. His offers were nobly rejected. The Cortlandt family suffered in consequence, being at one time obliged to abandon their manorial residence: but the head remained true to the cause, and subsequently filled the office of lieutenant-governor with great dignity.
His son Pierre, mentioned in the above chapter, and then about 27 years of age, had likewise resisted the overtures of Tryon, destroying a major's commission in the Cortlandt militia, which he sent him. Congress, in 1775, made him lieutenant-colonel in the continental service, in which capacity we now find him, acquitting himself with zeal and ability.
QUESTION OF COMMAND BETWEEN GATES AND SCHUYLER.-CONDITION OF THE ARMY AT CROWN POINT. - DISCONTENT AND DEPARTURE OF SULLIVAN.FORTIFICATIONS AT TICONDEROGA. — THE QUESTION OF COMMAND ADJUSTED.-SECRET DISCONTENTS.-SECTIONAL JEALOUSIES IN THE ARMY.SMALLWOOD'S MACARONI BATTALION.-CONNECTICUT
HILE the security of the Hudson from invading ships was claiming the attention of Washington, he was equally anxious to prevent an irruption of the enemy from Canada. He was grieved, therefore, to find there was a clashing of authorities between the generals who had charge of the Northern frontier. Gates, on his way to take command of the army in Canada, had heard with surprise in Albany, of its retreat across the New York frontier. He still considered it under his orders, and was proceeding to act accordingly; when General Schuyler observed, that the resolution of Congress, and the instructions of Washington, applied to the army only while in Canada; the moment it retreated within the limits of New York, it came within his (Schuyler's) command. A letter from Schuyler to Washington, written at the time says: "If Con
gress intended that General Gates should command the Northern army, wherever it may be, as he assures me they did, it ought to have been signified to me, and I should then have immediately resigned the command to him; but until such intention is properly conveyed to me, I never can. I must, therefore, entreat your Excellency to lay this letter before Congress, that they may clearly and explicitly signify their intentions, to avert the dangers and evils that may arise from a disputed command."
That there might be no delay in the service at this critical juncture, the two generals agreed to refer the question of command to Congress, and in the meantime to act in concert. They accordingly departed together for Lake Champlain, to prepare against an anticipated invasion by Sir Guy Carleton. They arrived at Crown Point on the 6th of July, and found there the wrecks of the army recently driven out of Canada. They had been harassed in their retreat by land; their transportation on the lake had been in leaky boats, without awnings, where the sick, suffering from small-pox, lay on straw, exposed to a burning July sun; no food but salt pork, often rancid, hard biscuit or unbaked flour, and scarcely any medicine. Not more than six thousand men had reached Crown Point, and half of those were on the sick list; the shattered remains of twelve or fifteen very fine battalions. Some few were sheltered in tents, some under sheds, and others in huts hastily formed of bushes;
DISCONTENT OF GENERAL SULLIVAN.
scarce one of which but contained a dead or dying man. Two thousand eight hundred were to be sent to a hospital recently established at the south end of Lake George, a distance of fifty miles; when they were gone, with those who were to row them in boats, there would remain but the shadow of an army.*
In a council of war, it was determined that, under present circumstances, the post of Crown Point was not tenable; neither was it capable of being made so this summer, without a force greatly superior to any they might reasonably expect; and that, therefore, it was expedient to fall back, and take a strong position at Ticonderoga.
General Sullivan had been deeply hurt that Gates, his former inferior in rank, should have been appointed over him to the command of the army in Canada; considering it a tacit intimation that Congress did not esteem him competent to the trust which had devolved upon him. He now, therefore, requested leave of absence, in order to wait on the commander-in-chief. It was granted with reluctance. Before departing, he communicated to the army, through General Schuyler, his high and grateful sense of their exertions in securing a retreat from Canada, and the cheerfulness with which his commands had been received and obeyed.
On the 9th of July, Schuyler and Gates returned to
* Col. John Trumbull's Autobiography, p. 285, Appendix.