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Wayne takes Stony Point

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

July 16.—This morning, General Wayne, with the light infantry, consisting of about twelve hundred men, drawn from the whole of the American army on each side of the North River, surprised the British garrison, consisting of five hundred men, commanded by a Colonel Johnson, in their works at Stony Point, on the west side of King’s Perry, and made the whole prisoners, with the loss of four Americans killed, and General Wayne slightly wounded.1

The detachment marched in two divisions, and about one o’clock came up to the enemy’s pickets, who, by firing their pieces, gave the alarm, and with all possible speed ran to the fort, from every quarter of which, in a short time, they made an incessant fire upon our people. They, with fixed bayonets and uncharged pieces, advanced with quick but silent motion, through a heavy fire of cannon and musketry, till getting over the abbatis, and scrambling up the precipices, the enemy called out, “Come on, ye damn’d rebels; come on!” Some of our people softly answered, “Don’t be in such a hurry, my lads; we will be with you presently.” And accordingly, in a little more than twenty minutes from the time the enemy began first to fire, our troops, overcoming all obstructions and resistance, entered the fort. Spurred on by their resentment of the former cruel bayoneting, which many of them and others of our people had experienced, and of the more recent and savage barbarity of plundering and burning unguarded towns, murdering old and unarmed men, abusing and forcing defenceless women, and reducing multitudes of innocent people from comfortable livings to the most distressful want of the means of subsistence;—deeply affected by these cruel injuries, our people entered the fort with the resolution of putting every man to the sword; but the cry of “Mercy! mercy! dear Americans! mercy! quarter! brave Americans! quarter! quarter! “disarmed their resentment in an instant; insomuch that even Colonel Johnson, the commandant, freely and candidly acknowledges that not a drop of blood was spilt unnecessarily. Oh, Britain! turn thine eye inward,—behold, and tremble at thyself!2

Colonel Fleury, who commanded the van-guard and behaved with his usual gallantry, was the first man who mounted the bastion and struck the British flag. All our officers and men behaved with remarkable bravery. They were even emulous to go upon the Forlorn Hope, which was decided by lot, when one gentleman thereby excluded from that command, spoke of himself as a child of misfortune from the cradle, while the other leaped for joy.

Of the Americans, about twenty-five are killed, and upwards of fifty wounded, among whom are General Wayne, who received a slight wound on the side of his face;3 Colonel Hay, of Pennsylvania, a wound in his thigh; and of Colonel Meigs’s regiment, Captain Phelps, wounded in the arm; Captain Selden, badly in the hip; Lieutenant Palmer, in the arm and thigh; Ensign Hall, in the hip, and his arm broken; five of the wounded privates are dead, the rest likely to recover.

Of the enemy killed, about sixty; and of whom was Colonel Few, of the 17th grenadiers, who was too obstinate to submit, and another officer who has died of his wounds. Their wounded are also supposed to be about sixty, among whom are two or three officers. The prisoners of the enemy amount to four hundred and five, including the commandant, Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson, of the 17th regiment, and twenty-three other officers, all of whom are to be sent off to Pennsylvania.

Among the prisoners are two sons of Beverly Robinson, (of New York, now a Colonel in the service of the enemy against his country!) and a son of the late Rev. Dr. Auchmuty, late rector of Trinity Church. It was with great difficulty these three were saved by our officers from being sacrificed to the resentment of the soldiery, who being about to retaliate upon them with bayonets, (the usage our people have repeatedly received from the British troops,) they begged for mercy, and to excite pity, said they were Americans. This plea proving them to be traitors as well as enemies, naturally increased the fury of the soldiers, who were upon the point of plunging bayonets into their breasts, when they were restrained by their officers.4


1 New Hampshire Gazette, July 27.
2 A correspondent in England says:—”The American account of Stony Point is as pompous a parade of their courage as the French displayed of their manoeuvres in our channel. The fact is, that they surprised the garrison, and bayoneted the men after the surrender was made. Had Colonel Johnson and his party been prepared for their reception the Americans would have fled at the very sight of the British bayonets; and in that case have as disgracefully retreated without making the attempt, as they shamefully afterwards abandoned the conquest they had made.”—Upcott, v. 389.
3 When the gallant General Wayne received his wound in storming the fort at Stony Point, he was a good deal staggered, and fell upon one knee. But the moment he recovered himself, he called to his aids, who supported him, and said, “Lead me forward, if I am mortally wounded, let me die in the fort.”—New Hampshire Gazette, September 1.
4 New York Journal, August 2.