Fort Constitution

Fort Montgomery (Hudson River)

Fort Montgomery is the name of a fortification built on the Hudson River during the American Revolution. It was one of the first major investments by the Americans in strategic construction projects. It is a National Historic Landmark.

Fort Montgomery in the American Revolution

Fort Montgomery was located at the confluence of Popolopen Creek and the Hudson River near Bear Mountain in Orange County, New York. The fortifications consisted of a river battery of six 32-pound cannons, a boom and cable across the Hudson River (see Hudson River Chain), and landward redoubts connected by ramparts, all situated on a cliff promontory rising 100 feet (30 m) above the river. The fort was commanded by General George Clinton, who was the newly appointed governor of the state. Fort Montgomery and its companion fortification Fort Clinton (on the southern bank of the Popolopen) held a combined garrison of roughly 700 American soldiers. These men were from the 5th NY Regiment, Lamb's Artillery and Ulster County Militia.

The strategic importance of the ability to control navigation along the Hudson River was obvious to both the Americans and the British from the outbreak of open hostilities. The Hudson was the major means for transportation of supplies and troops throughout a large portion of the northeast. The eventual location of the fort was noted for its strategic advantage as a well-placed location for controlling navigation along the river as early as the seventeenth century. Only a month after the first open armed conflict in Lexington, the Continental Congress indicated its intent to build fortifications in the Hudson highlands for the purpose of protecting and maintaining control of the Hudson River. On May 25, 1775, the Continental Congress passed a resolution to construct fortifications along the Hudson River in order to retain control of the waterway that "…a post be also taken in the Highlands on each side of Hudson’s River and batteries erected in such a manner as will most effectually prevent any vessels passing that may be sent to harass the inhabitants on the borders of said river…"

James Clinton and Christopher Tappan, both lifetime residents of the area, were sent to scout appropriate locations for the required fortifications. The initial site chosen was further to the north at West Point, and construction of the fortifications to be named Fort Constitution began. However, difficulties in construction and management of the original plan of fortifications and the escalating costs involved led to its abandonment. The location on Popolopen Creek across from Anthony's Nose was proposed, and the materials and resources from Fort Constitution were redirected to the construction at the new location. Construction began on the new Fort Montgomery in March 1776.

The strategic importance of the opposite bank of Popolopen Creek was quickly realized, as it was an elevated cliff terrace that had full view of the location of Fort Montgomery, so a smaller fortification named Fort Clinton was built there as well. The placement of these two forts and their associated cannon batteries effectively controlled this stretch of the Hudson River. However, in addition to the fortifications, a major engineering project was conceived to effectively blockade any naval traffic on the river. A boom and chain were built across the river to provide a physical barrier in addition to the combined firepower of the fortifications.

In July 1776, a committee appointed by the New York convention, which included John Jay, Robert Livingston, George Clinton and Robert Yates was appointed to "devise and carry into execution" measures for "obstructing the channel of Hudson's river, or annoying the navigation of the said River." It bemoaned the situation of its arms, and made measures to procure more cannon.

Battle of Fort Montgomery

On October 6, 1777, a combined force of roughly 2,100 Loyalists, Hessians, and British regulars led by Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton attacked Forts Montgomery and Clinton from the landward side (which was only partially completed) with support from cannon fire from British ships on the Hudson River. The land columns attacking from west of the fort consisted of the New York Volunteers, the Loyal American Regiment, Emmerich's Chasseurs, the 57th and the 52nd Regiments of Foot. By the end of the day, both forts had fallen to the British, who burned the forts and tore down the stonework buildings.

The battle was a pyrrhic victory for the British, however, as the campaign against Forts Montgomery and Clinton caused delays that would give American forces the upper hand at the Battle of Bemis Heights in Saratoga. The reinforcements for which British General John Burgoyne was waiting were held up, and Burgoyne was forced to surrender at Saratoga ten days later with his reinforcements still far to the south.

Historic Site

The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1972. It is operated as a museum by New York State.



Further reading

  • Fisher, C. (2004). The Most Advantageous Situation in the Highlands: an archaeological study of Fort Montgomery State Historic Site. Cultural Resources Survey Program Series No. 2. New York State Museum. ISBN 1-55557-174-3
  • Roberts, R. (1980). New York's Forts in the Revolution. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 0-8386-2063-9

External links

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