“Report of the work on Constitution Island”
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[REVOLUTIONARY WAR; WEST POINT].
Manuscript Document, n.d. [ca. 1780-1781], report on the works across from West Point, critiquing vulnerabilities in the banquettes, parapets, magazines, artillery positions, and a sallyport. From the papers of Col. Luke Drury. 2 pp., 6¾ x 6⅞ in.
“Report of the work on Constitution Island
N.o 5 has 50 yards of upper Banquet[te] compleatand 20 yards of parapet which has no Banquet exclusive of the Platform[.]it has a Temporary Magazeanfor ammunition made of Boards Sufficent for artillery and musquetry[.] wants two Iron kyes for makeing the gate fast [.]no Speers[,]water Cask, nor apperatus for the two peaces of artillery which are there.
N.o6 has 75 yards of Parrapet without any kind of Banquet whatever and with respect to other matters in the same State with N.o 5 except it has no kind of magazean for ammunition and from the whole area being a rock Impractable to pitch a tent.
N.o 7 has 50 yards of parrapt [,] is very incompleat. according to its designe the north Curtain (which is the propper Quarter of attack) haveing no upright Pickets nor Banquet in any part by which the parapet may be made use of[.] nor is there any proper conveanencies for assending the Parrapet <p.2.> in order for the defence of the upright Pickets besids while the North Curtin remains in its present stat men posted on the top of the parrapet will be (in every part of the work) intierly uncoverd and remain exposed to the fire of the Enimy from and [sic: any] advantagious posision to the Southward of the works.
The Salleport is a plank device with[out]any Conveanency for makeing it fast or Traverse for it defence.
No water Casks &c are here but the whole is an empty void.”
Early in the war, there was an American fort on Constitution Island, along with an improvised chain across the Hudson, but both were destroyed by British General Sir Henry Clinton during his autumn raid of 1777. When General Burgoyne was defeated and captured at Saratoga, far to the north, Clinton abandoned the site and went back to New York City. General Washington gave orders to rebuild in December, 1777. In January, 1778, Governor George Clinton and Generals James Clinton and Israel Putnam inspected the sites to determine whether to build on the location of the destroyed works. West Point was chosen as the site of a major new American fortification commenced in January, 1778 to protect the mid-Hudson River and maintain communication between New England and the rest of the states. Colonel Thaddeus Kosciusko directed the construction at West Point and, on Constitution Island, built three redoubts and a battery to protect the east end of the huge, 80-ton iron chain which stretched across the Hudson from West Point. From July to December, 1779, Washington established his main headquarters at West Point, and this was a period of heavy construction on both sides of the river. In late September, 1780, the discovery of commandant Benedict Arnold’s plan to turn over West Point to the British provoked grave anxiety within the American high command. American soldiers were stationed on the island until the end of the war in 1783.