Chaining the Hudson: The Fight for the River in the American Revolution

Chaining the Hudson: The Fight for the River in the American Revolution

Chaining the Hudson: The Fight for the River in the American Revolution

Chaining the Hudson: The Fight for the River in the American Revolution

Synopsis

Much of the Revolutionary War was fought along the Hudson River - which for five years was successfully blockaded by American forces via a massive chain across the river at West Point. Here is this important story, vividly and dramatically told, from logs, diaries, letters, and with many rare illustrations.

Excerpt

Nothing I have seen, heard, or reconsidered since the initial publication of this book has suggested any change in my fundamental thesis: that the massive chained/boom the Americans stretched across the Hudson River at West Point in the spring of 1778 played an essential role in the eventual success of the War of Independence. For five years, until the end of the struggle, the great chain at West Point, a war contract executed at a speed since unequaled, checkmated the overwhelming superiority of the Royal Navy. It reduced the enemy’s grand military design in the northern states to a series of dice-table passes in which Benedict Arnold and John Andre were merely high-stake chips. Confronted by Kosciuszko’s (and Washington’s) brilliantly evolving West Point defense-in-depth centered on the rugged wrought iron chain and its twin water batteries, protected by a great river bank fortress, in turn protected by four smaller hillside forts, in turn protected by eleven strategically placed artillery redoubts, the frustrated British high command was reduced to bribing rather than fighting its way past such formidable obstacles. Fear of the admittedly untested West Point Chain and its massed cannon prevented further British movement to fatally split New England from the other newborn United States along the hinge of the Hudson and Champlain Valleys. the enemy’s waterborne regular, mercenary, and tory troops moved instead to Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia—a shift in War Office strategy that climaxed in the total loss of a second expeditionary army. For the rest of the war, the chain at West Point—once ruefully saluted by the British commander as “the key of America”—remained unassailed. One reviewer of this book has characterized the huge linkage, removed each winter to barely escape the inexorable grip of tidal ice, as the “American . . .

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