Revolution, 1753-1783

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Author: George Washington  | Date: July, 1779

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Wayne Surprises and Storms Stony Point

WASHINGTON TO CONGRESS

ON THE 16th instant I had the honor to inform Congress of a successful attack upon the enemy’s post at Stony Point, on the preceding night, by Brigadier-General Wayne, and the corps of light infantry under his command. The ulterior operations in which we have been engaged, have hitherto put it out of my power to transmit the particulars of this interesting event. They will now be found in the inclosed report, which I have received from General Wayne. To the encomiums he has deservedly bestowed on the officers and men under his command, it gives me pleasure to add that his own conduct throughout the whole of this arduous enterprise, merits the warmest approbation of Congress. He improved upon the plan recommended by me, and executed it in a manner that does signal honor to his judgment and to his bravery. In a critical moment of the assault, he received a flesh wound in the head with a musket ball, but continued leading on his men with unshaken firmness.

I now beg leave, for the private satisfaction of Congress, to explain the motives which induced me to direct the attempt.

It has been the unanimous sentiment to evacuate the captured post at Stony Point, remove the cannon and stores, and destroy the works, which was accomplished on the night of the 18th, one piece of heavy cannon only excepted. For want of proper tackling within reach to transport the cannon by land, we were obliged to send them to the fort by water. The movements of the enemy’s vessels created some uneasiness on their account, and induced me to keep one of the pieces for their protection, which finally could not be brought off, without risking more for its preservation than it was worth. We also lost a galley which was ordered down to cover the boats. She got under way, on her return the afternoon of the 18th. The enemy began a severe and continued cannonade upon her, from which having received some injury, which disabled her from proceeding, she was run ashore. Not being able to get her afloat till late in the floodtide, and one or two of the enemy’s vessels under favor of the night, having passed above her, she was set on fire and blown up.

It is probable Congress will be pleased to bestow some marks of consideration upon those officers who distinguished themselves upon this occasion. Every officer and man of the corps deserves great credit, but there were particular ones whose situation placed them foremost in danger, and made their conduct most conspicuous…. I forgot to mention, that two flags and two standards were taken, the former belonging to the garrison, and the latter to the 17th regiment. These shall be sent to Congress by the first convenient opportunity.

WAYNE TO WASHINGTON

I HAVE the honor to give you a full and particular relation of the reduction of this point, by the light-infantry under my command.

On the 15th instant at 12 o’clock we took up our line of march from Sandy-beach, distant 14 miles from this place; the roads being exceedingly bad and narrow, and having to pass over high mountains, through deep morasses, and difficult defiles, we were obliged to move in single files the greatest part of the way. At eight o’clock in the evening, the van arrived at Mr. Springsteel’s, within one and a half miles of the enemy, and formed into columns as fast as they came up, agreeable to the order of battle annexed; viz. Colonels Febiger’s and Meig’s regiments, with Major Hull’s detachment, formed the right column; Colonel Butler’s regiment and Major Murfree’s two companies, the left. The troops remained in this position until several of the principal officers, with myself, had returned from reconnoitering the works. Half after eleven o’clock, being the hour fixed on, the whole moved forward, the van of the right consisted of one hundred and fifty volunteers, properly officered, who advanced with unloaded muskets and fixed bayonets, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Fleury; these were preceded by twenty picked men, and a vigilant and brave officer, to remove the abatis and other obstructions. The van of the left consisted of one hundred volunteers, under the command of Major Steward, with unloaded muskets and fixed bayonets, also preceded by a brave and determined officer, with twenty men, for the same purpose as the other.

At 12 o’clock the assault was to begin on the right and left flanks of the enemy’s works, while Major Murfree amused them in front; but a deep morass covering their whole front, and at this time overflowed by the tide, together with other obstructions, rendered the approaches more difficult than were at first apprehended, so that it was about twenty minutes after twelve before the assault began, previous to which I placed myself at the head of Febiger’s regiment or right column, and gave the troops the most pointed orders not to fire on any account, but place their whole dependence on the bayonet, which order was literally and faithfully obeyed. Neither the deep morass, the formidable and double rows of abatis, or the strong works in front and flank, could damp the ardor of the troops, who in the face of a most tremendous and incessant fire of musketry, and from cannon loaded with grape-shot, forced their way at the point of the bayonet, through every obstacle, both columns meeting in the center of the enemy’s works nearly at the same instant. Too much praise cannot be given to Lieutenant Colonel Fleury, (who struck the enemy’s standard with his own hand) and to Major Steward, who commanded the advanced parties, for their brave and prudent conduct.

Colonels Butler, Meigs, and Febiger conducted themselves with that coolness, bravery, and perseverance, that will ever insure success. Lieutenant Colonel Hays was wounded in the thigh, bravely fighting at the head of his battalion. I should take up too much of your Excellency’s time, was I to particularize every individual who deserves it, for his bravery on this occasion. I cannot, however, omit Major Lee, to whom I am indebted for frequent and very useful intelligence, which contributed much to the success of the enterprise, and it is with the greatest pleasure I acknowledge to you, I was supported in the attack by all the officers and soldiers under my command, to the utmost of my wishes. The officers and privates of the artillery exerted themselves in turning the cannon against Verplanck’s Point, and forced them to cut the cables of their shipping, and run down the river.

I should be wanting in gratitude was I to omit mentioning Captain Fishbourn and Mr. Archer, my two aids-de-camp, who on every occasion showed the greatest intrepidity, and supported me into the works after I received my wound in passing the last abatis.

Inclosed are the returns of the killed and wounded of the light infantry, as also of the enemy, together with the number of prisoners taken, likewise of the ordnance and stores found in the garrison.

I forgot to mention to your Excellency, that previous to my marching, I had drawn General Muhlenberg into my rear, who with three hundred men of his brigade took post on the opposite side of the marsh so as to be in readiness either to support me, or to cover a retreat in case of accident, and I have no doubt of his faithfully and effectually executing either, had there been any occasion for him.

The humanity of our brave soldiery, who scorned to take the lives of a vanquished foe calling for mercy, reflects the highest honor on them, and accounts for the few of the enemy killed on the occasion.

I am not satisfied with the manner in which I have mentioned the conduct of Lieutenants Gibbons and Knox, the two gentlemen who led the advanced parties of twenty men each—their distinguished bravery deserves the highest commendation—the first belongs to the sixth Pennsylvania regiment, and lost 17 men killed and wounded in the attack; the last belongs to the ninth ditto, who was more fortunate in saving his men though not less exposed.

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Chicago: George Washington, "Wayne Surprises and Storms Stony Point," Revolution, 1753-1783 in America, Vol.3, Pp.267-272 Original Sources, accessed July 6, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=MU225GSRBGGWCGH.

MLA: Washington, George. "Wayne Surprises and Storms Stony Point." Revolution, 1753-1783, in America, Vol.3, Pp.267-272, Original Sources. 6 Jul. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=MU225GSRBGGWCGH.

Harvard: Washington, G, 'Wayne Surprises and Storms Stony Point' in Revolution, 1753-1783. cited in , America, Vol.3, Pp.267-272. Original Sources, retrieved 6 July 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=MU225GSRBGGWCGH.