The Stony Point Battlefield Lighthouse, Stony Point

4.4
#138 of 413 in Historic Sites in New York State
Battlefield · Hidden Gem · Lighthouse
On May 31, 1779, British General Sir Henry Clinton, accompanied by over 5000 troops from the 17th, 63rd, and 64th Regiments and a company of German Jaegers, sailed up the Hudson River into Haverstraw Bay, 30 miles north of New York City, with the intention of taking possession of Stony Point. This small island promontory on the west bank of the river was held by a small detail of American soldiers who had been working to build a blockhouse and earthworks to protect the King’s Ferry crossing which connected Stony Point with Verplanck’s Point on the eastern shore. With the appearance of the British Army, the American troops were left with no choice but to burn the fortifications and flee upriver to report the incursion to their superiors.

Overnight the British were able to position artillery at the high ground of the promontory and aim down to a second American garrison across the river at Verplanck, called Fort Lafayette. Here, American soldiers had held fast in their completed blockhouse. By early morning the next day (June 1), a battery of guns and mortars, offloaded from British ships, fired from Stony Point onto Verplanck. Left with no other choice, the garrison of 75 troops and officers occupying Fort Lafayette eventually surrendered.

Once both sides of the river were in British hands, the building of the fortification on Stony Point began in earnest. The British cut down all of the trees on Stony Point to provide a field of fire – open ground which allowed those in the fort to see advancing enemy. The trees, natural rock outcrops and the earth itself were used to build the fort. With thousands of well supplied British troops at hand, great progress was made. A causeway was improved connecting the island to the mainland through a backwater marsh created when the Hudson flooded through at high tide.

The Stony Point garrison was led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Johnson. After several weeks the fort was nearly complete and the bulk of the British troops were sent back down river to New York City leaving behind approximately 650 soldiers to man the fort. A regiment of Loyal Americans from the Hudson Valley were also present in these ranks. The threat of these fortifications had been immediately brought to the attention of the commander of the American army, General George Washington, who called upon General Anthony Wayne to assist him in devising a plan to retake the position. The two reconnoitered the fortification building and Washington sent spies into the area to gather information in preparation for an assault on the British fort. To fight this particular battle, Wayne was assigned the elite American Corps of Light Infantry, assembled for the campaign of 1779.

The Battle of Stony Point took place in the overnight hours of July 15-16, 1779 by American troops armed only with unloaded muskets and fixed bayonets. This was done to avoid detection and preserve the key element of surprise. To avoid attacking their own men by mistake in the darkness, the American soldiers wore pieces of white paper in their hats.

Using a plan devised by General Washington and modified by General Wayne, the Americans marched south during the day from Sandy Beach near West Point, and arrived at Springsteel's farm, about a mile and a half from Stony Point, some eight hours later. Here they rested and waited for night to fall and the British camp in the garrison to sleep. At about midnight, the American troops advanced. As they approached they formed three attack columns. One column proceeded around the island and approached from the south across the marsh at low tide, the second and third columns crossed the causeway. The larger second column advanced along the northern shore of the island while the third column positioned themselves in the center of the British defenses. Once in position, the third column fired shots to divert the attention of British defenders as the north and south columns advanced towards the heart of the garrison.

General Wayne commanded the south column which was comprised of 700 men from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania regiments. These troops waded through the shallow waters of Haverstraw bay, around the outer abatis, and cut through a second (or inner) abatis closer to the river. Abatis were barriers made of trees that had been cut down and laid side by side like a high, thick fence. The tips of the entangled branches were sharpened to points and oriented toward the direction of a possible attack. These barriers spanned the island from north to south. The southern end of the outer abatis extended some 50 yards into the waters of Haverstraw Bay. Reconnaissance however, had proved that at low tide the waters around the end of the abatis was only two feet deep

Colonel Richard Butler commanded the north column consisting of 300 soldiers from Pennsylvania and Maryland while the diversionary force in the center consisting of 150 men in two North Carolina companies, was led by Major Hardy Murfree. The two attack columns were preceded by twenty volunteers called the "forlorn hope,” whose mission was to secure the British sentries and "remove obstructions." Within about a half-hour, the heaviest fighting had ended and by 1:00 A.M. the fort and garrison were in American hands. HUZZAH!

For more detail on the advance on the fort and the victory, read:

The Enterprise in Contemplation, The Midnight Assault of Stony Point, By Don Loprieno, and visit the Battlefield! The staff and volunteers will be glad to share with you the amazing exploits of the American attack and valiant defense the British garrison.

THE STONY POINT LIGHTHOUSE

The Stony Point lighthouse, built in 1826, is the oldest lighthouse on the Hudson River. After the construction of the Erie Canal in 1824 was completed, traffic on the Hudson greatly expanded and safety and security of navigation was aided by lighthouses. The canal, which transported goods and people across the heart of New York State, joined the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, via the Hudson River, to the Great Lakes. The lighthouses of the Hudson were critical in keeping traffic and commerce flowing. Eventually a network of 14 lighthouses were built.

In 1925 the old Stony Point Lighthouse was decommissioned and abandoned. A new modern light tower was constructed on the waters edge, replacing the need for the 99 year old stone octagon tower. In October 1995, the lighthouse was restored, re-lighted, and re-opened to the public by New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Originally, the Stony Point Lighthouse had seven oil lamps with reflectors. A Fifth Order Fresnel lens was installed in 1856 and a larger, fourth-order lens took its place in 1902. A Forth Order lens, similar to the one which was used at Stony Point Light, is now located in the site’s museum, is on loan from the United States Coast Guard.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Admission to the site is free. Special events may have a separate charge. Please call ahead for information and seating reservations for special events as needed.

The grounds are open daily from mid-April to the end of October from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and the museum is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 12:00 noon to 4:30 p.m.

On weekends, weather and staffing permitting, a living history soldier's camp is open with many hands-on activities including a 3:00 artillery drill and firing, 18th century blacksmithing demonstrations, open fire camp cooking, gardening, and military arts.

From November to mid-April, the site grounds are open Monday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and closed on weekends, Christmas, and New Year's Days.
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The Stony Point Battlefield Lighthouse reviews

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TripAdvisor
  • On a roundtrip vacation of the Hudson River Valley, my family visited the Stony Point Battlefield and Lighthouse located on the westside of the Hudson River, around 46 miles North of NYC and 14 miles....  more »
  • A nice piece of land on the Hudson River. On special occasions, they have volunteers in Revolutionary War period costumes providing interesting details on that period. A lot of mosquitoes in the.....  more »
Google
  • Nice park, history, and views from the lighthouse area. I was here in August on a nice summer day. Good place to relax and walk around.
  • Nice park, well groomed grounds. Parking is nowhere near light house. Serious up hill walk. There were a couple of handicap spots and two staff spots right by museum.
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