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along the river, and order out militia. Powder and ball were sent to Tarrytown, before which the hostile ships were anchored, and yeoman troops were stationed there and along the neighboring shores of the Tappan Sea. In a little while the militia of Dutchess County and Cortlandt's Manor were hastening, rudely armed, to protect the public stores of Peekskill, and mount guard at the entrance of the Highlands.
No one showed more zeal in this time of alarm than Colonel Pierre Van Cortlandt, of an old colonial family, which held its manorial residence at the mouth of the Croton. his regiment he kept a dragon watch along the eastern shoro of the Tappan Sea and Haverstraw Bay; while equal vigi lance was maintained night and day along the western shore, from Nyack quite up to the Dunderberg, by Colonel Hay and his regiment of Haverstraw. Sheep and cattle were driven inland, out of the reach of maraud. Sentinels were posted to keep a lookout from heights and headlands, and give the alarm should any boats approach the shore, and rustic marksmen were ready to assemble in a moment, and give them a warm reception.
The ships of war which caused this alarm and turmoil lay quietly anchored in the broad expanse of the Tappan Sea and Haverstraw Bay; shifting their ground occasionally, and keeping out of musket-shot of the shore, apparently sleeping in the summer sunshine, with awnings stretched above their decks; while their boats were out taking soundings quite up to the Highlands, evidently preparing for further operations. At night, too, their barges were heard rowing up and down the river on mysterious errands; perriaugers, also, paid them furtive visits occasionally; it was surmised, with communications and supplies from tories on shore.
While the ships were anchored in Haverstraw Bay, one of the tenders stood into the Bay of Peekskill, and beat up within long shot of Fort Montgomery, where General George Clinton was ensconced with six hundred of the militia of Orange and Ulster Counties. As the tender approached, a thirty-two pounder was brought to range upon her. The ball passed through her quarter; whereupon she put about, and ran round the point of the Dunderberg, where the boat landed, plundered a solitary house at the foot of the mountain, and left it in flames. The marauders, on their way back to the ships, were severely galled by rustic marksmen from a neighboring promontory.
The ships, now acquainted with the channel, moved up 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 Conven
tion had a conference with the general, to devise further means of obstructing the passage of ships up the river. Firerafts 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 Antony'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 theater of the war.
THE VAN CORTLANDT FAMILY.-Two members of this old and honorable family were conspicuous patriots throughout the Revolution. Pierre Van Cortlandt, the father, at this time about fifty-six 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 aban
don the popular cause. His offers were nobly rejected. 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 twenty-seven 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-Southern Troops-Smallwood's Macaroni BattalionConnecticut Light-Horse
WHILE 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 authority 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 Congress 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 smallpox, 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; 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