Sunday, July 16, 2017

July 16, 1779, The Battle of Stony Point took place.

 Stony Point is on the eastern bank of the Hudson river and Verplanck's Point on the opposite shore, they were key to the control of the Hudson. 
A British garrison of between 600 and 700 men occupied Stony Point under the command Lieutenant Colonel Henry Johnson.
Stony Point was surrounded by water on three sides. On the mainland side of the point flowed a swampy steam that flooded at high tide and was crossed by one causeway.

Watching the British actions from atop nearby Buckberg Mountain, General George Washington decided to attack utilizing the Continental Army's Corps of Light Infantry. Commanded by Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, 1,300 men would stage a night time attack against Stony Point in three columns. The first, led by Wayne and consisting of around 700 men, would make the main attack against the southern side of the point. This was to be supported by an attack against the northern side by 300 men under Colonel Richard Butler. Major Hardy Murfree was ordered to stage a diversionary attack against the main British defenses with around 150 men. This effort was to precede the flank attacks and serve as signal for their advance.

To ensure surprise, Wayne's and Butler's columns would make the assault with their muskets unloaded and relying solely on the bayonet. Approaching Stony Point, the Americans benefited from heavy clouds which limited the moonlight. As Wayne's men neared the southern flank they found that their line of approach was flooded with two to four feet of water. Wading through the water, they created enough noise to alert the British pickets. As the alarm was raised, Murfree's men began their diversionary attack.

Responding to Murfree's diversion, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Johnson rushed to the landward defenses with six companies from the 17th Regiment of Foot. Wayne’s flanking columns succeeded in overwhelming the British and cutting off those engaging Murfree.

A stunning victory for Wayne, the fighting at Stony Point saw him lose 15 killed and 83 wounded, while British losses totaled 19 killed, 74 wounded, 472 captured, and 58 missing. In addition, a host of stores and fifteen guns were captured. Washington ordered Stony Point abandoned the next day as he lacked the men to fully protect it.


Also on this date in 1812
Soon after the outbreak of the War of 1812, the British forces on St Joseph's Island moved toward the American held Mackinac Island. The British forces consisted of 45 regular soldiers under the command of Captain Roberts plus 180 Canadian Voyageurs from the North West Company and 400 Indians.

On the night of July 16th the British landed at a sheltered cove of the island and the next morning were in position on the hill above the fort with cannon and muskets aimed down into it.

When confronted by the British, Lieutenant Porter Hanks the American commander amazingly uttered "War! What War?" 

Fort Mackinac - Mackinac Island
1798 North Blockhouse at Mackinac

A full month has passed since the United States declared war on Great Britain, but this is the first Lieutenant Hanks has heard of it.

He had never been warned by his own government that they were declaring war. 

Lieutenant Hanks had 61 regular soldiers in the sturdy fort. Hanks had a choice, he could fight to the last man and become a hero or surrender. If it were a matter of facing just the 45 British regulars he might have done that. But he was also facing the Indian warriors whose savagery was said to be without limits, and therefore he may be fighting to not only the last man but the last women and child as well.

The American commander had no choice but to surrender and agree to the British terms, one of which was that his troops be paroled to their homes and not take part in the war until they can be exchanged for British soldiers who have been captured.

The American Government will pay a big price for not warning all their forces that they had declared war. This bloodless battle is also one of the most significant. The news of the capture of Michilimackinac Island will touch off a chain of events that will frustrate the Americans in their attempt to seize British North America, an enterprise that most of them believe to be, in Thomas Jefferson's much quoted phrase, "A mere matter of marching."

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