Alexander Hamilton: Youth to Maturity, 1755-1788

By Broadus Mitchell | Go to book overview

7
New Jersey Retreat and Retaliation

CAPTAIN Alexander Hamilton, after months of drill and supplying members of his artillery company to work on the defenses of Manhattan Island, must have been among the most attentive to the warning of Washington in general orders of August 8, 1776: ". . . the Movements of the enemy, and intelligence by Deserters, give the utmost reason to believe, that the great struggle, in which we are contending for every thing dear to us, and our posterity, is near at hand. . . ." The commanding redoubt which Hamilton's unit had helped to construct would be the first to give the alarm on approach of the British transports. "A Flag in the day time, or a light at Night, in the Fort on Bayard's hill, with three Guns from the same place fired quick, but distinct, is to be . . . a signal for the troops to repair to their . . . posts, and prepare for action. . . ." All drums would beat immediately.1 Possibly Hamilton would be the very one to run up the flag or light, and order fuses put to the three quick guns. Mounting tension was not relieved when six days later orders announced that the enemy had been embarked for some time and were prevented only by bad weather from attacking. Our troops were to keep two days' victuals ready dressed and canteens filled. Directions for the signal were repeated.2

The Bayard's Hill stronghold (at what is now the intersection of Canal and Mulberry streets), had the best elevation of the works designed to protect the little city of New York, then confined to the

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