The Strategic Hudson Valley in the American Revolution
View of the Hudson River from New Windsor, New York looking south toward Cornwall Bay
West Point, "The Key to the Continent" is just around this gap in the mountains. It is perched on the mountains directly above the Hudson and its cannons commanded any river traffic below. New York City, a British stronghold, lies 60 miles down river. The British wanted to take this corridor. If they had done so, they could have controlled the vital Hudson waterway going north to Albany, Lake George and Lake Champlain all the way to Canada. It was a classic divide and conquer strategy that threatened to split the American colonies in two!
For as legend has Ben Franklin saying upon signing the Declaration of Independence, Americans needed to "hang together" or they would surely "hang separately."
The American colonies had already dodged this threat once with Benedict Arnold's actions in Canada, on Lake Champlain and at the Battle of Saratoga. These actions foiled British plans to fulfill this strategy.
Looking at the view in the photo above, can you see why Benedict Arnold's subsequent treason, which would have handed over fortress West Point to the British, was so dangerous?
But "it ain't over till it's over." British troops still occupied New York City! Where would they go? Would thy again go north up the Hudson River and attempt to divide New England from the rest of the colonies as they had already tried to do? Was the American victory secure or would there be more fighting? What would happen if there were more hostilities? Washington wanted his army near enough to hold the British in check. New Windsor, 60 miles up river from New York City was chosen as a community that had a good supply of food, water and timber. It was also a town that supported the war, which was in important point. Keep in mind that, according to John Adam's famous estimate, only about a third of American colonists were for the revolution, a third were against it, and a third were neutral.
Arriving in April 1782, General Washington made his headquarters at the Hasbrouck House in nearby Newburgh. It would be his final headquarters and the place where he spent more time than any other during The Revolution. His house is there today and you can visit it. The 6,000-8,000 soldiers he brought with him from the great states of New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maryland built The New Windsor Cantonment covering 1,600 acres and including some 700 log cabins in which they lived.
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