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ARP181 West Point Chain

American Revolution Podcast

30:35 min | 10 months ago

ARP181 West Point Chain

"Hello thank you for joining the american revolution today. Episode one eighty one. Though west point chain after the defeat and surrender of burgoyne northern army at saratoga the threat to upstate new york diminished greatly the british abandoned fort ticonderoga without a fight and retreated back to saint. John's general horatio gates reported back to congress that they had found the fort had been destroyed and abandoned in november. Seventeen seventy seven even after the british abandoned ticonderoga general guy. Carleton still commanded a british force in quebec general. Henry clinton still commanded a force in new york city but neither of them had a large force to succeed where general burgoyne had failed. The continentals did not know if the british might make another attempt to take control of the hudson river. The following year though in the months following the american victory at saratoga the continentals began assembling. An army led by general lafayette to invade quebec. However as i said in an earlier episode the lack of sufficient soldiers and supplies led to that mission being abandoned before it even got started. Also that spring the americans had debated an attack on philadelphia or new york city of the to new york still had far fewer british defenders however the presence of the british navy still made it a battlefield. For the americans genoa's shown of course was keeping his main focus on the british in and around philadelphia. Upstate new york pretty much became less of a focus for everyone. Congress left general gates in overall command of new york. Even though gates was serving as head of the born of war by this time and spent the winter and early spring of seventeen seventy eight near congress in york pennsylvania in upstate. New york general. Israel putnam served as the commander in the field. Gates is overall. Command was again. A bit touchy because putnam was more senior to gates and therefore outranked him. Everyone seemed to recognize. However that putnam was not a strong commander his command in upstate. New york was because no one expected a large scale combat in that area gates. Despite his role in the conway cabal still probably had the best reputation after his victory at saratoga. In december seventeen seventy seven general washington directed putnam to focus on building river. Obstructions along the hudson river. Although putnam spent part of the winter back home in connecticut. He did focus what he could with his army on building. The new hudson river defenses. The biggest obstacle for putnam. Was that just like the soldiers at valley forge. His men were starving and did not have sufficient clothing blankets and other supplies to work outdoors over the winter. Others however thought that putnam himself was simply not up to the job. New york governor. George clinton wrote to general gates that same month to say that while putnam was certainly brave soldier. He just wasn't up to the task of building river defenses. Remember that back in october. Seventeen seventy seven british general. Sir henry clinton had launched a raid from new york city capturing forts montgomery and clinton on the hudson river putnam had been in charge of the area including those forts at the time in november congress demanded an inquiry into the defense of those forts and wyatt had failed so badly. Washington put off the matter that winter as he was struggling with the difficulties at valley forge and dealing with the conway cabal that threaten his command. The army after about five months though in march seventeen seventy eight washington was able to turn his attention to putnam and begin the congressionally mandated inquiry. He relieved putnam of his command. While the inquiry against him proceeded washington's letter to putnam is almost apologetic. Saying that whether the charges are well. He'll grounded that they must be indulged. It seemed that new yorkers were refusing any support for the project as long as putnam remained in command so to resolve this washington. Put new york. General alexander mcdougall in command of the region. The court of inquiry would eventually absolve putting of any failures of command. It found that the loss of the fort's was the result of a lack of manpower. Mostly because almost all available soldiers had been sent to support general gates's army at saratoga. At the time of clinton's attack despite the acquittal putnam did not regain his commanded new york instead washington requested. That putnam go back to his home. State of connecticut to recruit more soldiers for the coming campaign before putnam left command. He had identified several occasions along the hudson river to build defences his successor. General mcdougal took up right. Where putnam left off. The americans looked at the four identified locations along the river where they should build obstructions and established offenses. This of course was not the first attempt to establish and build defenses as early as seventeen seventy five patriots planned for ways to prevent the british fleet from making. Its way up river to the hudson valley from new york city. That was why places like forts. Montgomery clinton and constitution existed along the river in the first place. Patriots had even constructed a chain across the river at fort montgomery and seventeen seventy six in order to block ships. That chain proved to be a disaster when they first deployed the six hundred yard chain across the river. It just broke from the strain of the river current after a repair and a second deployment. It broke again so they up for the winter figuring the ice would do a better job of preventing any boats from sailing up the river. Then their chain did finally in april of seventeen seventy seven. They once again deployed that chain at fort montgomery when the british finally did sail up the river that october the chain proved to be a minor nuisance for the british after they captured fort. Montgomery they were able to take their time cutting chain and then sail up river to fort constitution and then up to burn kingston new york after the british completed their rate and return to new york city. The americans focused on building new and better defenses that they hope to be in place for seventeen seventy eight. This time they turn to some european engineers for expertise specifically they looked to lewis leslie day. Read year a french captain. Who had received a continental commission as a lieutenant colonel of engineers in july seventeen seventy seven after his appointment to the hudson river project in the fall. Congress promoted ready to full colonel. Sedale ready a wanted to build a large chain near fort clinton and montgomery again close to where the old chain had been deployed. Everyone else on the project. Including the governor of new york and general putnam who didn't agree on much. Both agreed that they wanted the chain much further up river near fort constitution. It was at that point that there was a natural bend in the river. They would force any shifts to slow down and turn. The width of the river was not as great. They're meeting the chain. Did not have to be as long either. So radiate was overruled and construction began at fort. Constitution radiate began the work but complain so much about the site and the project that he asked to be relieved after a few months so he returned to washington's army for a new assignment. The project then turned to a new officer. Colonel tadeusz customer sco. The polish officer. Who most recently had been responsible for the american defenses at saratoga. And who would also been a part of the project to lay chain across the river at fort ticonderoga a year earlier to work with gush. Sco washington ordered colonel. Rufus putnam to join the project rufus. Grandfather was a cousin of israel putnam so the two men had a distant family relationship. But we're not really close. Israel putnam was of course from connecticut. Rufus putnam grew up in massachusetts. It was from there that he served in the french and indian war. He joined the siege of boston with his militia unit. Right after the battle of lexington cocker and when the continental army was form rufus putnam received. A commission as lieutenant colonel so putnam it earned his engineering cred by setting up. The dorchester heights defenses in one night. Those were the canons on dorchester heights. That forced burnished to evacuate boston. In early seventeen seventy six after that. Geno washington assigned putnam to work on the defenses at new york in december. Seventeen seventy six. His military career faltered when congress rejected his plan to form a corps of engineers. some sources. Say that putnam resigned. His commission and returned home to massachusetts in his memoirs. Putnam does not mention resigning. He says simply that he returned home to massachusetts to recruit more volunteers for the army. In late seventeen. Seventy seven following burgoyne invasion of new york putnam once again offered his services to the continental army and he led two regiments as a combat officer during the battle of saratoga. Although putnam was not directly involved in the building of defenses at saratoga putnam does say in his memoirs that he had discussions with kosciusko about the defenses so the two officers probably began to develop a relationship during that saratoga campaign. Both putnam and kosciusko agreed with the consensus idea that favored a chain across the hudson river at fort constitution because it was a narrow point in the river with the two right angles. Also the hills around the river caused the winds to shift suddenly so for sailing ships. It was difficult maneuver. Even without any defenses their crews would have to slow down and tack their sales to make the turns and navigate shifting winds the first effort to create defenses at that point though when to bernard romans in seventeen. Seventy five bernard. Romans was a dutch-born colonists who had moved to upstate. New york during the french and indian war he had married and settled into dutch-speaking community. There he worked as a surveyor and cartographer job that took him all over north america including extensive work in the florida's by seventeen seventy three. He was living in upstate. New york again as the population divided and took sides as loyalist or patriots. Romans decisively sided with the patriots. He traveled to boston where he was supposedly present at the boston tea party. He traveled throughout new england. Where among other things. He developed relationships with many of the patriot leaders so because of this and his engineering experience the patriot legislature in connecticut. Sat romans in seventeen seventy five to fort ticonderoga to assist with its capture. I time he got there. Colonel allen and arnold head already taken the fort so roman took his soldier south to capture for george like ticonderoga fort. George surrendered without a fight. Afterwards romans returned to ticonderoga and assisted benedict arnold with assessing the guns and ammunition that they had captured there as it became clearer that all out war was underway new york patriots focused on the need to fortify the hudson river. The continental congress recommended romans to the new york commissioners and they gave him the job of surveying the river and selecting key locations for fortifications and then he build this big asians romans working with several other locals selected martellus rock as the site to build a fort. This was a rocky island in the hudson river and there he said about building four constitution which later resulted in the island becoming known as constitution island. Romans began work on the fort. There which became a pretty considerable defensive fort with four bastions and seventy cannons but by the end of seventeen seventy five many. Were questioning the choice of the site and the cost of the fort construction. Although the site on constitution island made a land assault on the fort very difficult it also was not on high ground right across the river. A rocky point stood far above for constitution. Making it an obvious place to launch an artillery attack on the fort disputes between romans and the new york commissioners resulted in romans traveling to philadelphia to shore up support for his leadership of the project. Congress did not want to have ruled new york commissioners so they ended up. Reassigning him to be a captain of artillery and set him off to participate in the quebec campaign. After roma's departure for constitution fell into neglect. Many of the canons and other resources were redeployed down river. Where the continentals focused on. Fourth clinton and montgomery and fort independence the british expedition. Under general clinton destroyed those forts and seventeen. Seventy seven then. They made their way up to fort constitution. Which by this time only had a token garrison and at the site of the approaching british fleet that token garrison fled without a fight so the british destroyed for constitution and from there. They continued up river to burn the town of kingston before drawing back to new york city for more on that go back and see episodes one. Sixty four and one sixty six in january. Seventeen seventy eight. The americans once again began rebuilding the defenses in the area. As i said. I under luis de year then under rufus putnam and tadeusz cashew chicago. The men rebuilt for constitution. It was a little smaller than the original fort but capable of delivering fire against any ships making their way around the curve in the river then to protect fort constitution from the high ground on the western side of the river. They built for arnold named after general benedict arnold. For obvious reasons the fort would later be renamed for clinton however having established that fort it became obvious that there was even higher ground further to the west that could be used to capture for arnold so to prevent that the team constructed a third fort notice for putnam named for us. Builder rufus putnam for putnam would be the largest fort and would hold the largest garrison in the protection of the other for the next problem though. Was that if you want. Even a little further west there was even higher ground. which might be used to threaten fort putnam. So they're the engineers built yet another outpost. This one simply known redoubt number. Four to prevent any attack from there on fort putnam collectively. The forts on the western side of the river became known as west point. The defenders did not simply want to rely on artillery and the natural river bans to deter any naval advances up river to block passage. They constructed a large chain across the river. I've already mentioned the relative lack of success of other chains. this one. The defenders hoped will be different by making it even larger and stronger. The officer in charge of constructing the chain was captain thomas matching. The captain was an english born engineer. Who specialized in metallurgy and canal building in. Seventeen seventy two. His employer had sent him from england to new jersey to inspect a coppermine match an to stay in the colonies and settled in boston. He supported the patriots and obtained a commission in the continental army. He had been working on the hudson river. Defenses since seventeen seventy six and had been responsible for the fort montgomery chain which had proven to be such a disaster even so matching had the most experience in the area and was ready for another try. The new chain would have to span about six hundred yards each lincoln. The chain was made of iron bars. That were more than two inches square thick and weighed over one hundred pounds. Each the total weight of the chain was over a hundred eighty tonnes a fortunately the colonies had a rather large iron industry. At the time the war began the colonies were producing about thirty thousand tonnes of iron each year. Roughly fourteen percent of worldwide production so production of the chain went to a local new york forge relationship. Peter townsend now. If you're of a certain age that might make you ask who but no relation the forgeries over thirty miles away. And when asked if he could get the links overland to the fort over poorly marked roads towns and assured them that i can see for miles and two further doubt. He told you better. You bet to that the chain might break like the old one at four montgomery towns and assured them that we won't get fooled again and ask whether his young workers were up to the task. He told them they were talking about my generation at these. Were rough boys and that the kids are alright okay. I'll stop now. I promise the individual links had to be drawn on ox drawn sleds to new windsor up river from west point from there they floated down on rafts and were assembled together on site once in place. The chain rested on rafts to keep it afloat. Each raft was over fifty feet long and twelve feet wide series of ropes and pulleys allow the operators to adjust the chain as needed large stone. Filled boxes served as anchors on each side of the river to keep chain in place by april seventeen. Seventy eight the hundreds of men working to build and move the chain. How did in place across the hudson river along barrier was built about one hundred yards south of the chain to slow any ship that might try to build up enough speed to just break through. The chain. entire process took only about eight weeks from conception to completion. If ship had to pass upstream the team could lower portion of the chain to create a gap to prevent any destruction from winter ice. The team would have to pull the chain each winter and then redeployed in the spring as such it would take a team of hundreds of men to maintain it artillery. Batteries also sat right across the shore to fire any ships and prevent any direct assault on the coasts where the chain was the shore. Batteries were in turn protected by the series of forts sitting. Just above them. General samuel parsons served. As the first fort commander. He oversaw the building project. Almost from the beginning he would serve until general benedict. Arnold took command of the fort and summer. Seventeen eighty so over those first three years. The garrison worked to build and improve defenses. Kushko remained head engineer for several years. Working directly on the defensive features of the fort complex and again he would be stationed there seven eighty when he transferred to the southern theater. George washington considered west point to be a critical linchpin of continental defenses. He made west point his headquarters. In june seventeen seventy nine and remained there for several months before moving south to moorestown new jersey. The total size of the garrison was considerable and it varied over the course of the war but at times was over. Three thousand soldiers as such west point was generally considered to be an impregnable defensive point on the hudson river which the british would not be able to pass again the chain would remain in place for the remainder of the war and the british would never again attempt to make their way up the hudson river from new york city. I mean the only way the british might have a chance would be as if maybe they bribed the west point commander and convinced deterrent over the fort and the defenses and the garrison in exchange for a large sum of money and perhaps the commission in the regular army but hey. What are the chances of that happening next week. We're going to return to philadelphia as general how prepares to turn over command to general henry. Clinton hey thanks for joining the american revolution podcast. After show my thanks has always to trae. Nance and george davis for their continued support of this podcast at the alexander. Hamilton club level on patriot. And thanks to doug donnelly luke brooks chesler and warren potter for one time gifts. Fia pay pal also were sent out a thanks to my longtime patriot. Supporters adam bixby david rice and roger williams of ten crucial days dot org for their continued support. Also a quick note on the social media front. I've created an american revolution. Podcast group on me. We dot com me. We spelled m. e. w. e. is basically a facebook alternative for people who are sick of all the facebook censorship and other nonsense going on over there. Now i still plan to keep my facebook group going. But i will also start posting to me. We further those of you who may not like facebook anymore also for the facebook fans. I've also added a facebook page in addition to the facebook group. The point of the page is that it will just have posts about the podcast. If you're not looking for interaction with other people then you may prefer the page to the group. Just go to the facebook page and hit like a one word of warning there. Make sure you pick the right. American revolution podcast page. There are actually two pages called american revolution. Podcast the other pages from some guy who has his own podcast which is completely different from mine but has the same name i actually noticed. There's quite a few people following that other page. Who are fans of my podcast. So it may be that you guys just want of american revolution content from any source available or you may have signed up for the wrong page so make sure you connect to my page. This is the last episode that i will release in twenty twenty. I try not to mention current events in this podcast. But i know this really has been a tough year for many people so if you had a tough holiday season just remember that george washington finished out seventeen seventy five with most of his new england army abandoning him and going home leaving him in desperate straits then he finished out seventeen seventy six again with most of his army abandoned came after the british landing and takeover of new york and new jersey and washington. Much had to risk everything for a desperate christmas attack on trenton. A following year in seventeen seventy eight again with most of his army melting away. Washington celebrated christmas by commuting the death sentences of a couple of the soldiers among the hundreds who had deserted from valley forge so it we think we had a tough holiday season ourselves. It's probably not as bad as what washington and his men endured. If you did endure something that terrible this year my hope for you in the new year is that you come out of it stronger and better just like the continental army did This week i also wanna say a couple of apologies a couple of months ago. I recommended a new book called the ten key campaigns of the american revolution in my recommendation. I stated that the books editor was mark. Edward lendl in fact. The editor is edward. Langdale i must have had mark lendl's name still my head because i recommend another book from him about the conway cabal a couple of weeks prior so the ten key campaigns of the american revolution is edited by edward langbo my apologies to both men for the confusion and thanks to bury snyder for catching that error and pointing it out to me. So this week's episode was all about the creation of west point. The defensive complex would go on to become the scene of benedict arnold's treason something. I will of course talk about in a future episode. And it's real. Fame came from its establishment as the site of the us military academy even before the military academy leaders saw west point as a really important location when the army disbanded in seventeen eighty. Three congress retained only one hundred soldiers for the entire us army. Just one hundred. Half of the army about fifty men were stationed at west point. It would be about two more decades until the administration of thomas jefferson. That west point became the site of a military academy even then classes remained really small with only two or three students admitted in the first few years in the first ten years of the school a combined. Total of only fifty two cadets graduated much of the early forts have been demolished or built over as the academy has expanded over the years however some parts of the original ford's do still exist and have been preserved. I unfortunately much of it is not open to the public. Most of the west point chain was melted down and reused for other purposes. After the war ended they kept a for a time but for scrap in eighteen. Twenty nine however few links of the chain deal exist and are kept on display at the fort in the nineteenth century. Some scam artists sold some links that they claim were part of the west point. Chain these fraudulent links were much larger than the links that were actually used yet some museums including the smithsonian still thought they had original links which they kept on display until nineteen ninety. My book recommendation. This week is a biography of one of the men responsible for building west point all the peasant prince thaddeus goose and the age of revolution by alex stores. In sqi cosco's go led an amazing life with his time in america. Only one part of it. After the revolution he returned home to continue the fight to free his native poland. There is some debate on how to pronounce the man's name. Some say cosco some say kosciusko some say kosciusko. The man had lots of locations named after having america and each locality seems certain of its pronunciation but each one is different. I won't pretend to know how he pronounced it himself. So we have to live with the disagreement. in any event though cosco's life is worth reading about. So i'd recommend getting a copy of the peasant prince tadeusz couscous go any age of revolution. My online recommendation. This week. we'll tell you more about a less remembered officer involved in the creation of a point. Rufus putnam was a colonel for most of the war but was one of the last officers to receive a commission as brigadier general. Just a few months before the treaty of paris. He played several critical roles over the course of the war and had an interesting story. That is not while remembered. The war. rufus putnam goes on to play a crucial role in the settlement of ohio. If you don't know as much about him as you think you should and you wanna learn more a good place to start is with his own memoirs archive dot org has the memoirs of rufus putnam available for free online or download as always you can search for at archive dot. Org or use the direct link on my website or blog to blog dot m. rev podcast dot com and find this episode. Or you can go to my website at www dot com rev. Podcast dot com. We're have a link to the current weeks recommendation as well as a page with all of my past weekly recommendations. Well that's all for this week. I hope you will join me again next week. For another american revolution podcast.

putnam hudson river Rufus putnam new york general gates saratoga conway cabal new york city washington fort fort montgomery west point general clinton congress patriots upstate connecticut continental army army New york