Letter from Anthony Wayne to George Washington
Wayne, Anthony, 1745-1796
Volume 14, Pages 327-330
GENERAL ANTHONY WAYNE TO GENERAL WASHINGTON.
[Letters to Washington, Vol. 3, p. 323.]
Stoney Point, July 17, 1779.
I have the honor of giving you a full and particular relation of the reduction of the post 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 8 o'clock in the evening the van arrived at Mr. Springsteel's, within 1½ miles of the enemy, and formed into Columns as fast as
-------------------- page 328
they came up, agreeable to the order of Battle annexed, viz.: Colonels Febiger's and Meggs' regiments with Major Hull's detachment, formed the right Column, Colo. Butler's right 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 musquets and fixed bayonets, under the command of Lieut. Colo. Fleury; these were preceded by twenty picked men and a vigilant and brave officer, to remove the abbatis and other obstructions. The van of the left consisted of one hundred volunteers, under the command of Major Stewart with unloaded musquets 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, whilst Major Murfree amused them in front; but a deep morass covering the 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 reg't 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 abbatis, or the strong works in front and flank could damp the ardour of the troops, who, in the face of a most tremendous and incessant fire of musquetry, 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 enemies' works nearly at the same instant. Too much praise cannot be given to Lieut. Colo. Fleury (who struck the enemies' standard with his own hand) and to Major Stewart, who commanded the advanced parties, for their brave and prudent conduct.
Colonels Butler, Miggs & Febiger conducted themselves with that coolness, bravery and perseverance that will ever ensure success.
-------------------- page 329
Lieut. Col. Hay 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 & forced them to cut the cables of their shipping and run down the river.
I would be wanting in gratitude were I to omit mentioning Capt. Fishbowen and Mr. Archmy, two aides-de-Camp, who on every occasion shewed the greatest intrepidity and supported me into the works after I had received my wound in passing the last abbatis.
Enclosed 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 inform your Excellency that previous to my marching I had drawn Gen. Muhlenberg into my rear, who, with three hundred men of his Brigade, took part on the opposite side of the march, 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 Soldiers, who scorned to take the lives of a vanished 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 advance parties of twenty men each; their distinguished bravery deserves the highest commendation. The first belongs to the 6th Pennsa. Regt. and lost 17 men, killed and
-------------------- page 330
wounded, on the attack; the last belongs to the ninth Do. He was more fortunate in saving his men, tho' not less exposed.
I have the honor to be, with great respect,
Your Excellency's most obt. hble. Servt.