Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: October 1979 Volume 17 Number 4, Pages 87–94

Anthony Wayne's Report of the Capture of Stony Point

Page 87

Two hundred years ago last July, at one o'clock in the morning of the sixteenth, Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, of Easttown township, recalled from a home leave to take command of a newly-formed Light Infantry unit, captured Stony Point, a British stronghold on the west side of the Hudson River below West Point.

With a loss of only 15 dead and 84 wounded, the American troops took the garrison, with 63 British soldiers killed and 70 wounded, and 543 men and three servants captured. The Americans also seized 15 guns and stores worth some $153,640, On the following day, the fort was completely dismantled, after which the Light Infantry was withdrawn and the post abandoned.

The action was described by one American officer (Col. Spotswood of Virginia) as the "greatest stroke that has been struck this war", while another (Gen. Adam Stephens) observed that it "added dignity to the American arms". Lafayette called it a "glorious affair". Even the English Commodore George Collier admitted "The rebels had made the attack with a bravery they never before exhibited".

But, as the Hon. Samuel W. Pennypacker, historian and former Governor of Pennsylvania, observed on the occasion of the dedication of the equestrian statue of Wayne at Valley Forge, "As an achievement, more important than the capture of the stronghold and the exhibition of valor and military skill was the fact that it created confidence and respect and aroused a sense of state and national pride, public virtues as much needed then as they are today,"

On the following pages is General Wayne's report to General Washington of the engagement. The original eight-page letter, in Wayne's handwriting, is in the collection of the Chester County Historical Society.

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Page 89

Stoney Point 17th July 1779


I have now the honor of giving your Excellency a full & particular acct of the Reduction of this post by the Light troops under my Command

On the 15th instant at 12. OClock we took up our line of March from Sandy Beach distant about 14 Miles from this place, --the roads being exceeding bad & narrow & having to pass OVER high Mountains & thro' such deep Morases and difficult defiles that we were Obliged the greatest part of the, way to move, in single files, --at 8. OClock in the evening the, van arrived at a M. SpringSteals within one Mile & a half of the Enemy's

Enemy's lines & formed into Columns as fast as they came up agreeable to the Order of Battle herewith transmitted (vide over) --Col Febiger's & Col' Meig's Regiments with Major Hull's detachment formed the Right Column Col Butler's Regiment and Major Humphrey's two companies the left.

The troops remained in this position until several of the principal Officers with myself had returned from Reconnoitring the Works, -- at half after Eleven (being the hour fixed on -- the whole moved forward --the van of the Right was Composed of One Hundred & fifty volunteers properly with fixed Bayonets and Unloaded Muskets, under the Command of Lieut Col Fleury preceded picked men headed by a vigilent Officer Officered by twenty to to remove the Abbatis & Other Obstructions

Page 90

The van of the left consisted of One Hundred volunteers also with fixed Bayonets & Unloaded Muskets under the Conduct of Major Steward These were likewise headed preceeded by twenty men under a Brave & Determined Officer.

At 12 OClock the assault was to begin on the Right & left flanks of the Enemy's Works & Major Murphy to amuse them in front, --but from the Obstructions thrown in our way & a deep Morass Surrounding their whole front and overflowed by the tide rendering the Approaches more difficult than at first apprehended, it was about twenty minutes after twelve before the Assault began --previous to which which I placed myself at the Head of Febiger's Regiment or Right Column & gave the troops the most pointed Orders not to Attempt to fire, but put their whole dependence on the Bayonet --which was most faithfully and literally Obeyed, — neither the deep morass, the formidable & double rows of Abbatis at the high & Strong works in front & flank could dampen the ardor of the troops --who in the face of a most tremendous & Incessant fire of Musketry, and from Artillery loaded with shells & Grape shot forced their way at the point of the Bayonet thro' every Obsticle, both Columns meeting in the center of the Enemy's works nearly at the same Instant.

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too much praise cannot be given to Lieut Colonel Colonel Fleury / who struck the enemy' s Standard with his own hand / & to Major Steward who commanded the Advanced parties, for their brave & prudent Conduct; Colonels Butler, Meigs, Febiger conducted themselves with that coolness, bravery and perseverance that ever will insure success; Lieut Col Hay was wounded in the thigh bravely fighting at the head of his Battalion --I shou'd take up too much of your Excellency's time was I to particularise every Individual who deserved it for his bravery on this Occasion, however I must acknowledge myself Indebted to Major Lee for. the frequent and useful Intelligence he gave me which Contributed much to the Success of the enterprise, --and it's with the greatest pleasure I acknowledge to you that I was Supported in the attack by all the Officers & Soldiers to the utmost of my wishes, & Return my thanks to the Officers & privates of Artillery for their alertness in turning the Cannon against the Enemy's work at Verplanks point, their Shiping which slipt their Cables and Immediately droped down the River.

I should be wanting in gratitude was I to omit mentioning Capt Fishbourn & Mr Archer my two aids de Camp, who on every Occasion shewed the greatest Intripidity & Supported me into the works I had recd my wound in passing the last Abbatis -­

Enclosed are, Returns of the killed & wounded belonging to the Light Corps, as also that of the, enemy together with the number of prisoners taken.

Page 92

Likewise of the Ordnance, & Stores found in the Garrison

I have forgot to inform your Excellency that previous to the attack I had drawn Genl Muehlingburg into my rear who with three hundred men of his Brigade took post on the Opposite side of the Marsh, was to be in readiness either to Support us, or to cover a Retreat in case of accident, & have not the least doubt of his faithfully & Effectually executing either had there been an Occastion for it.

The Humanity of our brave Soldiery who scorned to take the lives of vanquished foe's calling for mercy reflects the hightest honor on them & accounts for so few of the Enemy being killed on the Occation

I am not fully staisfied with the manner in which I have mentioned Lieut Gibbons of the 6th & Lieut Knox of the 9th Pennsa Regiments the two gentlemen who led the advanced parties of each Column -- the first had 17 men killed 6 wounded out of twenty --the latter tho not quite so unfortunate in that Respect was nevertheless equally exposed --they both behaved with an Intrepidity & address that would have given Credit to the oldest Soldier

I have the honor to be with Singular Respect

YOUR Excellency's most Obt & very Hum Servt

His Excellency Anty Wayne Genl Washington

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Hardly had the report been received than it created controversy. Its aftermath is described by John Hyde Preston, in his A Gentleman Rebel;

"Today," he observed, "the report seems fair, balanced, and generous. But certain officers took violent exception to it because they were either omitted from special mention or given what they fancied was only begrudging credit. Of course it was impossible, as Wayne said, 'to particularize every individual who deserves it for his bravery,' and he spoke only of those who came to his mind as being especially distinguished.

"Immediately the avalanche of protest, Meigs, from Connecticut, was the first to write. He as much as told Wayne that he had been dishonest and accused him of extreme partiality towards Pennsylvanians. Why did Wayne give such honors to Fleury, who was a Frenchman and one of the 'frog-eating gentry'? Why did Gibbons and Knox get the 'forlorn hopes'? Because they were Pennsylvanians? It evidently did not enter Meigs' head that the leaders of the 'forlorns' were drawn by lot out of a hat, and that no appointments were made.

"Wayne had not yet pacified Meigs when the knockout letter came from Isaac Sherman, burning with insults. Sherman told Wayne that his official report had 'tarnished the lustre of your character' and that Sherman's blood 'boiled at the thought of the state partiality shown. Poor Sherman had not been mentioned except in a remote way to John Jay, and there was no glory to display at home and abroad... He lost his temper and his dignity. He told Wayne that 'Nature recoils, and points out a mode, the only one of redress' — by which he meant that he would challenge his general to a duel if that general did not loudly sound his praises.

"Wayne threatened Sherman with court martial for his impru­dence, and closed his mouth. After a while the quarrels slowly died down; the futility of griping was too obvious."



Manuscript collection of the Chester County Historical Society

George F. Scheer and Hugh F. Rankin: Rebels and Redcoats. New York: The World Publishing Co. 1957

Samuel W. Pennypacker: Oration at Dedication of Equestrian Statue of Major-General Anthony Wayne 1908

John Hyde Preston: A Gentleman Rebel, New York: Farrar & Rinehart 1930


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