15 AHMP Revolutionary Barriers & Blazes
What extraordinary steps were taken by the Continental Army to limit British navigation of the Hudson River? What is a chevaux-de-fries, a boom, and a fire raft? Is it truly possible that a chain could be stretched across the Mighty Hudson? We will learn the answers to these questions in this episode.
In the 14th edition of American History for the Modern Patriot, we learned about the Separation of Powers which is a barrier created for us by our Founders to assure our liberty. We will learn in this episode about a series of great barriers created across one of the most important waterways during the American Revolution.
Strategists for the Continental Army, with drastically limited resources in comparison to their opponent, looked for clever ways to achieve success. It was far easier for both men and supplies to travel along the rivers than on foot. They knew that British would be crippled if their war and supply ships could not freely travel along the Hudson River. Not only did the ships carry supplies, but they carried soldiers, munitions, and communications as well. Of the river, George Washington said in a letter to General Israel Putnam on December 2, 1777: “The importance of the Hudson River in the present Contest, and the necessity of defending it, are Subjects which have been so frequently and fully discussed, and are so well understood, that it is unnecessary to enlarge upon them. These Facts at once appear, when it is considered that it runs through a whole State; that it is the only Passage by which the Enemy from New York, or any Part of our Coast, can ever hope to cooperate with an Army from Canada; that the possession of it is indispensably essential to preserve the Communication between the Eastern Middle, and Southern States; and further, that upon its Security, in a great Measure, depend our child Supplies of Flour for the subsistence of such Forces as we may have occasion for, in the course of the War, either in the Easter or Northern Department, or in the Country lying high up on the West side of it.” To understand how important the river was to the British, consider that in August, 1776, General William Howe and his brother Admiral Richard Howe had established a base of command at Staten Island that included approximately 34,000 troops and 427 ships. Out manned, out gunned, and out financed, the colonists had to use strategy to their advantage wherever they could.
Although it took some time to construct the first obstruction on the Hudson, on May 25, 1775, which was only weeks after the Battle of Lexington, the following resolve was passed by the Continental Congress:
“Resolved, that a post be also taken in the highlands on each side of Hudson's River and batteries erected in such manner as will most effectually prevent any vessels passing that may be sent to harrass the inhabitants on the borders of said river; and that experienced persons be immediately sent to examine said river in order to discover where it will be most adviseable and proper to obstruct the navigation.”
Before learning more about their attempts to block the river, let’s spend a moment learning about the installations that were built along the Hudson. They will be an important part of this story.
Fort Lee: located near the Hackensack Township in New Jersey, it is located across the river from Fort Washington. The fort was built just above Burdett’s Landing on what is known as the Hudson Palisades.
Fort Washington: located across the river from Fort Lee, and on the highest and northern point of the island of Manhattan. The fort sat on top of a large outcrop of rock known as Manhattan schist.
Fort Montgomery: located near Peekskill, New York, Fort Montgomery was built where the Popolopen Creek empties into the Hudson near Bear Mountain. It is near a site known as Anthony’s nose which is named for a formation known as St.