, Research Paper
The Hudson Valley During the American Revolution
The Dutch settled the Hudson Valley in the early 17th century. The Hudson Valley was of great commercial and military importance during the pre-revolutionary period. During the American Revolution the Hudson was a strategic waterway and the site of many historic events, especially in the region of Newburg and West Point. Many battles were fought and many lives were changed by the Revolution in the Hudson Valley.
In the pre-revolutionary period the Hudson Valley was of great importance. In 1765 the Stamp act Congress met to shake the existing government established by the English. American opposition to the Stamp Act began shortly after its passage in March 1765. The colonists were fed up with “taxation without representation”, and desired change. The Stamp Act Congress met in New York City in October 1765. Delegates from nine colonies attended, and petitioned the king for repeal of the act, denouncing it as taxation without representation. Many British merchants joined in this appeal. Their exports of manufactures to the colonies had increased markedly since 1750 and they feared the effects of American refusal to pay commercial debts amounting to millions of pounds. On October 31, the day before the Stamp Act was to go into effect, 200 merchants in New York City vowed to stop importing British goods, beginning the First No importation Movement. Then they joined storekeepers, artisans, sailors, and laborers in a mass protest meeting. On the next night, 2000 residents surrounded the fort where the stamps were being guarded and then plundered the house of a British officer (French, pg 56). These mob actions prompted the lieutenant governor to ask General Thomas Gage, the British military commander in North America, to rout the protesters by force.
In Albany the local merchants joined in no importation agreements. Groups of artisans, calling themselves Sons of Liberty, forcibly prevented the distribution of stamps and forced the resignation of the stamp collectors. The colonial elite—merchants, planters, and assembly leaders—did not condemn this resort to violence; some even encouraged it. Nearly everywhere, British authority was challenged, and the imperial forces lacked the power or the determination to prevail. The Stamp Act Congress that met in New York was the first step to unity among the colonies. In March of 1766, the Stamp Act was revoked, marking the first victory in the long journey to America’s independence. But, it was a small one and it was only the beginning of the long struggle to total freedom.
The preliminary step to political freedom was the Albany Congress in 1754; this plea for independence fell on to deaf ears. It took the Stamp Act Congress to make the changes proposed by the Albany congress. This congress was a precedent for American unity. They were to form”Grand Council” to change the political and social lifestyle of the individuals living in the Hudson Valley (Crowley, pg 84). The Congress failed due to the level of control it desired. The American people at that time were not ready to give power to a new form of legislation. The country was attempting to release itself of a great power; the people did not want to see a repeat of the tyranny the colonists saw from English.
During this time social groups began to form. One particular group was the Sons of Liberty. This group had the soul purpose to intimidate British officials. This secret patriotic society had its roots in the Committee of Correspondence. The “Committees” were colonial groups organized prior to the outbreak of the Revolution and were established for the purpose of formally organizing public opinion and coordinating patriotic actions against Great Britain. Although it began as a secret society, for reasons of safety and anonymity, the organization quickly sought to build a broad, public base of political support among the colonists in the Hudson Valley (French, pg 45). From 1768 until the end of the war, the Sons of Liberty remained in active correspondence with each colony. They organized the people into effectively resist the unfair British taxation and financial strangulation of the Hudson Valley. Groups like this one pushed the colonies into merging with each other. Once together as a whole, the colonists were able to develop their own individuality and defeat the British Army for their independence.
Cities in the Hudson Valley region saw a great deal combat and political change during the Revolution. In 1777 Kingston was selected as the first capital of New York State, and during the same year it was the scene of the adoption of the first state constitution, the initial meeting of the state legislature and supreme court, and the inauguration of George Clinton as New York’s first governor. In October 1777, the British sacked and burned the town, and the state capital subsequently was moved to Poughkeepsie (Hickey, pg 67). Another city burned by the British troops was Peekskill; this city was burned because it was an important patriot post. In Poughkeepsie the Constitution was ratified in 1788, during the time it was established as the temporary capital. Another city that saw the wrath of the Revolution was Newburg, during the Revolution it was the Continental Army’s last encampment. The house where George Washington had the troops stay is open to the public today as a museum (Fried, pg 88). Tarrytown is south if Newburg was the site of the capture of British spy, Major John Andre (Boylan, pg 96). During this period in time the city developed into a river port. Another city that was used, as a shipping point was Ossining, shipping ports were essential to the wining of the war because without supplies the Continental Army would not have succeeded in wining any battles in the Hudson Valley.
Stony Point is the site of the Treason house. This is the site that Benedict Arnold and John Andre met to discuss the surrender of West Point to the British forces. This particular city lost colonial control to the British forces, but regained power in 1779 (Jones, pg 61). The American forces did not attempt to hold the fort, but its capture was important in strengthening the morale of the Continental Army. In West Point troops of the Continental Army occupied the area in January 1778 during the American Revolution. As the key to the defense in the Hudson River valley, it was strongly fortified by the Americans; an iron chain was laid across the river between West Point and Constitution Island to prevent British vessels from proceeding up the river. In 1780 the American commander, Benedict Arnold, attempted to betray the post to the British, but his plan was upset by the capture of the British Major John Andr?. West Point became U.S. government property in 1790 (Jones, pg 63).
Certain pivotal battles took place in the Hudson Valley region. One of those battles took place near the city of White Plains, it was fought on October 28, 1776. This battle involved in the action were a force of approximately 2000 Americans, under the command of George Washington, and an estimated 13,000 British troops led by the British commander in chief Sir William Howe (Ferguson, pg 62). Washington had lost New York City to the British late that summer, repulsed a British advance at Harlem Heights on October 16, and withdrawn to White Plains on October 21. Despite poor morale from defeats and desertions, the Americans offered unexpectedly strong resistance. The British captured the hill after severe fighting. Howe, having decided that the Americans were still too strong; decided to wait for reinforcements before pressing his advantage. Washington drew back to a well-fortified position about 3 km (2 mi) north of White Plains. Because of Howe’s hesitation in continuing the attack, Washington was able to withdraw unhurriedly across the Hudson River to New Jersey. Howe lost an opportunity to destroy the Continental Army and thus to win the war in a single battle (Ferguson, pg 75). This was a major victory for the Continental Army. With the victory at White Plains the morale of the Continental Army was boosted
The Battle of Saratoga is considered to be the major turning point of the American Revolution. This battle proved to the world that the fledgling American army was an effective fighting force capable of defeating the highly trained British forces in a major confrontation. As a result of this successful battle, the European powers took interest in the cause of the Americans and began to support them.
In the British Campaign of 1777, Major General Burgoyne planned to advance forces to meet in Albany, New York. He led a group of troops, which moved southward along the Hudson River. A second group under General Barry St. Leger would serve as a diversionary attack, moving eastward from Canada along the Mohawk River (Jones, pg 74). General Howe would be expected to direct the third element of the attack. According to the plan, Howe would direct General Henry Clinton to move northward along the Hudson River and link up with Burgoyne in Albany. The goal of this plan was to isolate and destroy the Continental forces of New England.
Initially, the British plan appeared to be working. Burgoyne’s army continually pushed back the Americans southward along the Hudson River with only minor casualties. In an attempt to slow the British advances, the American General Philip Schuyler detached 1000 men under the command of Major General Benedict Arnold. This force moved west to thwart St. Leger’s eastward advance along the Mohawk River. Arnold returned with his detachment after repelling St. Leger in time to serve in the Battle of Saratoga (Boylan, pg 109).
The first Battle of Saratoga was at Freeman’s Farm. It was an indecisive battle fought 19 September 1777 in which Gates lost ground to the British Disagreements in tactics and personalities led to a heated argument between generals Gates and Arnold, and Gates relieved Arnold of command as a result. The Battle of Bemis Heights was the second battle of Saratoga, taking place October 7th when Burgoyne desperately attacked rebel defenses with his tired, demoralized army.
At Bemis Heights, Gate’s defensive tactics had insured a tactical victory for the Patriots. However, Arnold saw an opportunity to seize the offensive while Burgoyne was vulnerable and led a counterattack. This bold move so badly wounded the British forces that they surrendered days later at Saratoga. The attack began at roughly 3 PM, and the Americans repeatedly broke through the British line and pushed the enemy back, only to be repelled once the British leaders rallied their scattered forces to stage a counter- offensive. Benedict Arnold, who had been removed from command by Gates, saw an opportunity to press the advantage of the weakened British line and rode forward on his horse to take charge (Jones, pg 83). He led them towards the center of the British forces in an effort to separate the units and flank them, forcing a general withdrawal of the British forces into their fortified positions at Freeman’s Farm. At that point, Arnold led men to attack the British. With superior numbers on their side, the Americans were able to breach the breastworks of the redoubt and force the British forces. The Battle of Saratoga proved to be a major victory for the Continental Army, a pivotal battle that changed the face of the war. The French took notice to what the Americans were doing and as a result of this battle the French began to support the colonies with troops and supplies. The addition of the French was the end of the British army and the colonies went on to a total victory.
The Hudson Valley region went through many changes during the era of the Revolution. While Americans struggled to win the independence of the United States, they were also creating new republican institutions of government to replace royal authority. In the process they had to work out the full implications—political, social, and intellectual—of life in a republican nation. The country would not be the same after the struggle for independence was over for the American people. The road to a unified nation was a long a complex one, but without the courage of the people in the Hudson Valley and the rest of the nation, society would not be the same.
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Jones, Thomas. History of New York during the Revolutionary War: New York, New York Times, 1968
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