THE BATTLE OF FORT MONTGOMERY
A SHORT HISTORY
by Jan Sheldon Conley
From "October 6, 1777" in the Chronology::
"Lieutenant Colonel Mungo Campbell and several British regulars approach the fort with a flag of truce indicating that they wish to avoid `further effusion of blood.' Clinton sends Lieutenant Colonel William S. Livingston to meet the enemy. The British officer requests that the patriots surrender. They are promised that no harm would come to them. Livingston, in turn, invites Campbell to surrender and promises him and his men good treatment. Fuming at this audacity, the British resume the fight. British ships working against an ebb tide attack the forts and American vessels. A steady volley ensues with each side receiving a share of the bombardment. British officers Campbell and Vaughan close in on all sides of the twin forts. Leading his men into battle, Campbell is killed in a violent attack on the North Redoubt of Fort Montgomery. Vaughan's horse is shot from under him as he rides into battle at Fort Clinton.
The defenders are overpowered by sheer numbers and the British gain possession of Forts Montgomery and Clinton. Those who were not killed or did not escape are shipped to the infamous Sugar House Prisons in New York City and then onto British "hell ships" (prison ships) in the harbor. A "return," or report of prisoners, is sent to communities in the Highlands to inform families of their loved ones' capture. It is up to the families to send provisions lest the prisoners starve. Countless patriots perish on the prison ships."
Forts Montgomery and Clinton, located just south of West Point, were built for the defense of the Hudson Highlands in 1776. It was here that British and loyalist troops overwhelmed Brigadier General George Clinton's outnumbered patriots in October 1777. Although the Americans lost the battle for the Highlands, a relative handful of Americans aided in delaying British reinforcements from joining General John Burgoyne in the upper Hudson Valley and allowed General Horatio Gates to gain much needed militia reinforcements in time to ultimately win Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga.
The author is descended from a Fort Montgomery militiaman and served as the first secretary of the Fort Montgomery Battle Site Association.
39 pages, illustrated, 5.5 x 8.5, 2002
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