Croton River, known by the Indians as Kitchawonk, joins the Hudson in a bay crossed by the New York Central Railroad Croton draw-bridge. East of this point is a water shed having an area of 350 square miles, which supplies New York with water. The Croton Reservoir is easily reached by a pleasant carriage drive from Sing Sing, and it is a singular fact that the pitcher and ice-cooler of New York, or in other words, Croton Dam and Rockland Lake, should be almost opposite. About fifty years ago the Croton first made its appearance in New York, brought in by an aqueduct of solid masonry which follows the course of the Hudson near the Old Post Road, or at an average distance of about a mile from the east bank. Here and there its course can be traced by “white stone ventilating towers” from Sing Sing to High Bridge, which conveys the aqueduct across the Harlem River. Its capacity is 100,000,000 gallons per day, which however began to be inadequate for the city and a new aqueduct was therefore begun in 1884 and completed in 1890, capable of carrying three times that amount, at a cost of $25,000,000. The water-shed is well supplied with streams and lakes. Lake Mahopac, one of its fountains, is one of the most beautiful sheets of water near the metropolis, and easily accessible by a pleasant drive from Peekskill, or by the Harlem Railroad from New York. The old Indian name was Ma-cook-pake, signifying a large inland lake, or perhaps an island near the shore. The same derivation is also seen in Copake Lake, Columbia County. On an island of Mahopac the last great “convention” of the southern tribes of the Hudson was held. The lake is about 800 feet above tide, and it is pleasant to know that the bright waters of Mahopac and the clear streams of Putnam and Westchester are conveyed to New York even as the poetic waters of Loch Katrine to the city of Glasgow. The Catskill water supply, the ground of which was broken in 1907, is referred to in our description of Cold Spring and the Catskills.
Enter a grandparent's name to get started.
Just above Croton Bay and the New York Central Railroad draw-bridge will be seen the old Van Cortlandt Manor, where Frederick Phillipse and Katrina Van Cortlandt were married, as seen by the inscription on the old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow.
Teller’s Point (sometimes known as Croton or Underhill’s Point), separates Tappan Zee from Haverstraw Bay. It was called by the Indians “Senasqua.” Tradition says that ancient warriors still haunt the surrounding glens and woods, and the sachems of Teller’s Point are household words in the neighborhood. It is also said that there was once a great Indian battle here, and perhaps the ghosts of the old warriors are attracted by the Underhill grapery and the 10,000 gallons of wine bottled every season.
It was here the British warship “The Vulture,” came with Andre and put him ashore at the foot of Mount Tor below Haverstraw.
The river now opens into a beautiful bay, four miles in width,a bed large enough to tuck up fifteen River Rhines side by side. This reach sometimes seems in the bright sunlight like a molten bay of silver, and the tourist finds relief in adjusting his smoked glasses to temper the dazzling light.
Haverstraw, 37 miles from New York. Haverstraw Bay is sometimes said to be five miles wide. Its widest point, however, from Croton Landing to Haverstraw, is, according to United States Geological Survey, a little over four miles. The principal industry of Haverstraw is brick-making, and its brick yards reaching north to Grassy Point, are of material profit, if not picturesque. The place was called Haverstraw by the Dutch, perhaps as a place of rye straw, to distinguish it from Tarrytown, a place of wheat. The Indian name has been lost; but, if its original derivation is uncertain, it at least calls up the rhyme of old-time river captains, which Captain Anderson of the “Mary Powell” told the writer he used to hear frequently when a boy:
Quaint as these names now sound, they all are found on old maps of the Hudson.
High Torn is the name of the northern point of the Ramapo on the west bank, south of Haverstraw. According to the Coast Survey, it is 820 feet above tide-water, and the view from the summit is grand and extensive. The origin of the name is not clear, but it has lately occurred to the writer, from a re-reading of Scott’s “Peveril of the Peak,” that it might have been named from the Torn, a mountain in Derbyshire, either from its appearance, or by some patriotic settler from the central water-shed of England. Others say it is the Devonshire word Tor changed to Torn, evidently derived from the same source.
West Shore Railroad
The tourist will see at this point, on the left bank of the river, the tunnel whereby the “West Shore” finds egress from the mountains. The traveler over this railway, on emerging from the quiet valley west of the Palisades, comes upon a sudden vision of beauty unrivaled in any land. The broad river seems like a great inland lake; and the height of the tunnel above the silver bay gives to the panoramic landscape a wondrous charm. About a mile from the river, southwest of Grassy Point, on the farther side of the winding Minnissickuongo Creek, which finally after long meandering makes up its mind to glide into Stony Point Bay, will be seen Treason Hill marked by the Joshua Hett Smith stone house where Arnold and Andre met. The story of this meeting will be referred to at greater length in connection with its most dramatic incident at the old Beverley House in the Highlands. The Hudson here is about two miles in width and narrows rapidly as we pass Grassy Point on the west bank with its meadows and brick yards to
Stony Point, where it is scarcely more than half a mile to Verplank’s Point on the eastern bank. This was, therefore, an important pass during the Revolution. The crossing near at hand was known as King’s Ferry, at and before the days of ’76, and was quite an avenue of travel between the Southern, Middle and Eastern States. The fort crowning a commanding headland, was captured by the British, June 1, 1779, but it was surprised and recaptured by Anthony Wayne, July 15 of the same year. A centennial was observed at the place July 15, 1879, when the battle was “refought” and the West Point Cadets showed how they would have done it if they had been on hand a century ago. Thackeray, in his “Virginians,” gives perhaps the most graphic account of this midnight battle. The present light-house occupies the site of the old fort, and was built in part of stone taken from its walls. Upon its capture by the British, Washington, whose headquarters were at New Windsor, meditated a bold stroke and summoned Anthony Wayne, more generally known as “Mad Anthony,” from his reckless daring, to undertake its recapture with a force of one thousand picked men. The lines were formed in two columns about 8 p.m. at “Springsteel’s farm.” Each soldier and officer put a piece of white paper in his hat to distinguish him from the foe. No guns were to be loaded under penalty of death. General Wayne, at the head of the column, forded the marsh covered at the time with two feet of water. The other column led by Butler and Murfree crossed an apology for a bridge. During the advance both columns were discovered by the British sentinels and the rocky defense literally blazed with musketry. In stern silence, however, without faltering, the American columns moved forward, entered the abatis, until the advance guard under Anthony Wayne was within the enemy’s works. A bullet at this moment struck Wayne in the forehead grazing his skull. Quickly recovering from the shock, he rose to his knees, shouted: “Forward, my brave fellows”; then turning to two of his followers, he asked them to help him into the fort that he might die, if it were to be so, “in possession of the spot.” Both columns were now at hand and inspired by the brave general, came pouring in, crying “The fort’s our own.” The British troops completely overwhelmed, were fain to surrender and called for mercy. Wayne’s characteristic message to Washington antedates modern telegraphic brevity:”Stony Point, 2 o’clock a.m. The American flag waves here.Mad Anthony.” There were twenty killed and sixty wounded on each side. Some five hundred of the enemy were captured and about sixty escaped. “Money rewards and medals were given to Wayne and the leaders in the assault. The ordinance and stores captured were appraised at over $180,000 and there was universal rejoicing” throughout the land. “Stony Point State Park” was dedicated by appropriate ceremony July 16, 1902. At the close of Governor Odell’s address the flag was raised by William Wayne, a lineal descendant of the hero, and the cruiser “Olympia” of Manila fame boomed forth her tribute. Verplank’s Point, on the east bank (now full of brick-making establishments), was the site of Fort Lafayette. It was here that Baron Steuben drilled the soldiers of the American army. Back from Green Cove above Verplanck’s Point is “Knickerbocker Lake.”
North of Stony Point we see great quarries of limestone, the principal industry of the village of Tompkin’s Cove. Gravel is also shipped from this place for Central Park roads and driveways in New York City. The tourist, looking north from the forward deck of the steamer, sees no opening in the mountains, and it is amusing to hear the various conjectures of the passengers; as usual, the “unexpected” happens. The steamer turns to the left and sweeps at once into the grand scenery of the Highlands. The straight forward course, which seems the more natural, would land the steamer against the Hudson River Railroad, crossing the Peekskill River. It is said that an old skipper, Jans Peek, ran up this stream, years before the railroad was built, and did not know that he had left the Hudson, or rather that the Hudson was “left” until he ran aground in the shoal water of the bay. The next morning he discovered that it was a goodly land, and the place bears his name unto this day.
Peekskill, 40 miles from New York, is a pleasant city on the quiet bay which deeply indents the eastern bank. The property in this vicinity was known as Rycks Patent in 1665. In Revolutionary times Fort Independence stood on the point above, where its ruins are still seen. The Franciscan Convent Academy of “Our Lady of Angels,” guards the point below. In 1797 Peekskill was the headquarters of old Israel Putnam, who rivaled “Mad Anthony” in brevity as well as courage. It will be remembered that Palmer was here captured as a spy. A British officer wrote a letter asking his reprieve, to which Putnam replied, “Nathan Palmer was taken as a spy, tried as a spy and will be hanged as a spy. P. S.He is hanged.” This was the birthplace of Paulding, one of Andre’s captors, and he died here in 1818. He is buried in the old rural cemetery about two miles and a half from the village, and a monument has been erected to his memory. Near at hand is the “Wayside Inn,” where Andre once “tarried,” also the Hillside Cemetery, where on June 19, 1898, the 123d anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill, a monument was unveiled to General Pomeroy by the Society of the Sons of Revolution, New York. The church which Washington attended is in good preservation.
Near Peekskill is the old Van Cortlandt house, the residence of Washington for a short time during the Revolution. East of the village was the summer home of the great pulpit orator, Henry Ward Beecher. Peekskill was known by the Indians as Sackhoes in the territory of the Kitchawongo, which extended from Croton River to Anthony’s Nose.
Turning Caldwell’s Landing or Jones’ Point, formerly known as Kidd’s Point, almost at right angles, the steamer enters the southern gate of the Highlands. At the water edge will be seen some upright planks or caissons marking the spot where Kidd’s ship was supposed to have been scuttled. As his history seems to be intimately associated with the Hudson, we will give it in brief:
The Story of Captain Kidd
”My name was Captain Kidd as I sailed,” are famous lines of an old ballad which was once familiar to our grandfathers. The hapless hero of the same was born about the middle of the seventeenth century, and it is thought, near Greenock, Scotland. He resided at one time in New York, near the corner of William and Cedar Streets, and was there married. In April, 1696, he sailed from England in command of the “Adventure Galley,” with full armament and eighty men. He captured a French ship, and, on arrival at New York, put up articles for volunteers; remained in New York three or four months, increasing his crew to one hundred and fifty-five men, and sailed thence to Madras, thence to Bonavista and St. Jago, Madagascar, then to Calicut, then to Madagascar again, then sailed and took the “Quedah Merchant.” Kidd kept forty shares of the spoils, and divided the rest with his crew. He then burned the “Adventure Galley,” went on board the “Quedah Merchant,” and steered for the West Indies. Here he left the “Merchant,” with part of his crew, under one Bolton, as commander. Then manned a sloop, and taking part of his spoils, went to Boston via Long Island Sound, and is said to have set goods on shore at different places. In the meantime, in August, 1698, the East Indian Company informed the Lords Justice that Kidd had committed several acts of piracy, particularly in seizing a Moor’s ship called the “Quedah Merchant.” When Kidd landed at Boston he was therefore arrested by the Earl of Bellamont, and sent to England for trial, 1699, where he was found guilty and executed. Now it is supposed that the crew of the “Quedah Merchant,” which Kidd left at Hispaniola, sailed for their homes, as the crew was mostly gathered from the Highlands and above. It is said that they passed New York in the night, en route to the manor of Livingston; but encountering a gale in the Highlands, and thinking they were pursued, ran her near the shore, now known as Kidd’s Point, and here scuttled her, the crew fleeing to the woods with such treasure as they could carry. Whether this circumstance was true or not, it was at least a current story in the neighborhood, and an enterprising individual, about fifty years ago, caused an old cannon to be “discovered” in the river, and perpetrated the first “Cardiff Giant Hoax.” A New York Stock Company was organized to prosecute the work. It was said that the ship could be seen in clear days, with her masts still standing, many fathoms below the surface. One thing is certainthe company did not see it or the treasurer either, in whose hands were deposited about $30,000.
Southern Gate Of Highlands
On the west shore rise the rock-beaten crags of
The Dunderberg, the dread of the Dutch mariners. This hill, according to Irving, was peopled with a multitude of imps, too great for man to number, who wore sugar-loaf hats and short doublets, and had a picturesque way of “tumbling head over heels in the rack and mist.” They were especially malignant toward all captains who failed to do them reverence, and brought down frightful squalls on such craft as failed to drop the peaks of their mainsails to the goblin who presided over this shadowy republic. It was the dread of the early navigatorsin fact, the Olympus of Dutch mythology. Verditege Hook, the Dunderberg, and the Overslaugh, were names of terror to even the bravest skipper. The old burghers of New York never thought of making their week’s voyage to Albany without arranging their wills, and it created as much commotion in New Amsterdam as a modern expedition to the north pole. Dunderberg, in most of the Hudson Guides and Maps, is put down as 1,098 feet, but its actual altitude by the latest United States Geological Survey is 865 feet.
The State National Guard Encampment crowns a bluff, formerly known as Roa Hook, on the east bank, north of Peekskill Bay, a happy location in the midst of history and beauty. Every regiment in the State rallies here in turn during the summer months for instruction in the military art, living in tents and enjoying life in true army style. Visitors are cordially greeted at proper hours, and the camp is easily reached by ferry from Peekskill. A ferry also runs from Peekskill to Dunderberg, affording a hillside outing and a delightful view. It is expected that a spiral railroad, fourteen miles in length, undertaken by a recently organized corporation, but abandoned for the present, will make the spot a great Hudson River resort. The plan also embraces a palatial hotel on the summit and pleasure grounds upon the point at its base. Passing Manito Mountain on our right the steamer approaches Anthony’s Nose, a prominent feature of the Hudson.
Strangely enough the altitude of the mountains at the southern portal of the Highlands has been greatly overrated. The formerly accepted height of Anthony’s Nose has been reduced by the Geological Survey from 1,228 feet to 900. It has, however, an illustrious christening, and according to various historians several godfathers. One says it was named after St. Anthony the Great, the first institutor of monastic life, born A. D. 251, at Coma, in Heraclea, a town in Upper Egypt. Irving’s humorous account is, however, quite as probable that it was derived from the nose of Antony Van Corlear, the illustrious trumpeter of Peter Stuyvesant. “Now thus it happened that bright and early in the morning the good Antony, having washed his burly visage, was leaning over the quarter-railing of the galley, contemplating it in the glassy waves below. Just at this moment the illustrious sun, breaking in all his splendor from behind a high bluff of the Highlands, did dart one of his most potent beams full upon the refulgent nose of the sounder of brass, the reflection of which shot straightway down hissing hot into the water, and killed a mighty sturgeon that was sporting beside the vessel. When this astonishing miracle was made known to the Governor, and he tasted of the unknown fish, he marveled exceedingly; and, as a monument thereof, he gave the name of Anthony’s Nose to a stout promontory in the neighborhood, and it has continued to be called Anthony’s Nose ever since.” It was called by the Indians “Kittatenny,” a Delaware term, signifying “endless hills.” The stream flowing into the river south of Anthony’s Nose is known as the Brocken Kill, broken into beautiful cascades from mountain source to mouth.
Iona Island, formerly a pleasure resort and picnic ground. An old-time joke of the Hudson was frequently perpetrated on strangers while passing the island. Some one would innocently observe, “I own a island on the Hudson.” When any one obligingly asked, “Where?” the reply would be with pointed finger, “Why there.” But the United States Government owns it now against all comers, and its quiet lanes and picnic abandon have been exchanged for busy machine shops and military discipline. It is near the west bank, opposite Anthony’s Nose. A short distance from the island, on the main land, was the village or cross-roads of Doodletown. This reach of the river was formerly known as The Horse Race, from the rapid flow of the tide when at its height. The hills on the west bank now recede from the river, forming a picturesque amphitheatre, bounded on the west by Bear Mountain. An old road directly in the rear of Iona Island, better known to Anthony Wayne than to the modern tourist, passes through Doodletown, over Dunderberg, just west of Tompkin’s Cove, to Haverstraw. Here amid these pleasant foothills Morse laid the scene of a historical romance, which he however happily abandoned for a wider invention. The world can get along without the novel, but it would be a trifle slow without the telegraph. On the west bank, directly opposite the railroad tunnel which puts a merry “ring” into the tip of Anthony’s Nose, is what is now known as Highland Lake, called by the Indians “Sinnipink,” and by the immediate descendants of our Revolutionary fathers “Hessian Lake” or “Bloody Pond,” from the fact that an American company were mercilessly slaughtered here by the Hessians, and, after the surrender of Fort Montgomery, their bodies were thrown into the lake.
Fort Clinton and Fort Montgomery
The capture of Fort Clinton and Fort Montgomery was two years before Mad Anthony’s successful assault on Stony Point. Early in the history of the Revolution, the British Government thought that it would be possible to cut off the eastern from the middle and southern Colonies by capturing and garrisoning commanding points along the Hudson and Lake Champlain. It was therefore decided in London, in the spring of 1777, to have Sir Henry Clinton approach from the south and Burgoyne from the north. Reinforcements, however, arrived late from England and it was September before Clinton transported his troops, about 4,000 in number, in warships and flat-boats up the river. Governor George Clinton was in charge of Fort Montgomery, and his brother James of Fort Clinton, while General Putnam, with about 2,000 men, had his headquarters at Peekskill. In addition to these forts, a chain was stretched across the Hudson from Anthony’s Nose to a point near the present railroad bridge, to obstruct the British fleet. General Putnam, however, became convinced that Sir Henry Clinton proposed to attack Fort Independence. Most of the troops were accordingly withdrawn from Forts Montgomery and Clinton, when Sir Henry Clinton, taking advantage of a morning fog, crossed with 2,000 men at King’s Ferry. Guided by a sympathizer of the British cause, who knew the district, he crossed the Dunderberg Mountain by the road just indicated. One division of 900 moving on Fort Montgomery, and another of 1,100 on Fort Clinton. Governor Clinton in the meantime ordered 400 soldiers to Fort Montgomery, and his reconnoitering party, met by the Hessians, fell back upon the fort, fighting as it retreated. Governor Clinton sent to General Putnam for reinforcements, but it is said that the messenger deserted, so that Putnam literally sat waiting in camp, unconscious of the enemy’s movements. A simultaneous attack was made at 5 o’clock in the afternoon on both forts. Lossing says: “The garrisons were composed mostly of untrained militia. They behaved nobly, and kept up the defense vigorously, against a greatly superior force of disciplined and veteran soldiers, until twilight, when they were overpowered, and sought safety in a scattered retreat to the neighboring mountains. Many escaped, but a considerable number were slain or made prisoners. The Governor fled across the river in a boat, and at midnight was with General Putnam at Continental Village, concerting measures for stopping the invasion. James, forcing his way to the rear, across the highway bridge, received a bayonet wound in the thigh, but safely reached his home at New Windsor. A sloop of ten guns, the frigate “Montgomery”twenty-four gunsand two row-galleys, stationed near the boom and chain for their protection, slipped their cables and attempted to escape, but there was no wind to fill their sails, and they were burned by the Americans to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy. The frigate “Congress,” twenty-eight guns, which had already gone up the river, shared the same fate on the flats near Fort Constitution, which was abandoned. By the light of the burning vessels the fugitive garrisons made their way over the rugged mountains, and a large portion of them joined General Clinton at New Windsor the next day. They had left many of their brave companions behind, who, to the number of 250, had been slain or taken prisoners. The British, too, had parted with many men and brave officers. Among the latter was Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell. Early in the morning of the 7th of October, the river obstructions between Fort Montgomery and Anthony’s Nose, which cost the Americans $250,000, were destroyed, and a light flying squadron, commanded by Sir James Wallace, and bearing a large number of land troops under General Vaughan, sailed up the river on a marauding expedition, with instructions from Sir Henry to scatter desolation in their paths. It was hoped that such an expedition would draw troops from the Northern army for the protection of the country below, and thereby assist Burgoyne.”
Sir Henry Clinton, who had been advised by General Burgoyne that he must be relieved by October 12th, sent a messenger announcing his victory. Another of the many special providences of the American Revolution now occurs. The messenger blundered into the American camp, where some soldiers sat in British uniform, and found out too late that he was among enemies instead of friends. As Irving relates the incident in his “Life of Washington”:
“On the 9th (October) two persons coming from Fort Montgomery were arrested by the guard, and brought for examination. One was much agitated, and was observed to put something hastily into his mouth and swallow it. An emetic was administered, and brought up a silver bullet. Before he could be prevented he swallowed it again. On his refusing a second emetic, the Governor threatened to have him hanged and his body opened. This threat was effectual and the bullet was again ‘brought to light.’ It was oval in form, and hollow, with a screw in the centre, and contained a note from Sir Henry Clinton to Burgoyne, written on a slip of thin paper, and dated October 8th, from Fort Montgomery: ‘Nous y voici (here we are), and nothing between us and Gates. I sincerely hope this little success of ours will facilitate your operations.’ Burgoyne never received it, and on October 13th, after the battles of Bennington and Saratoga, surrendered to General Gates. Sir Henry Clinton abandoned the forts on hearing of his defeat, and returned to New York ‘a sadder and wiser man.'”
Passing Cohn’s Hook, pronounced Connosook, where Hendrick Hudson anchored on his way up the river September 14, 1609, we see before us on the right bank a point coming down to the shore marked by a boat house. This is Beverley Dock, and directly up the river bank about an eighth of a mile stood the old Beverley House, where Benedict Arnold had his headquarters when in command of West Point. The old house, a good specimen of colonial times, was unfortunately burned in 1892, and with it went the most picturesque landmark of the most dramatic incident of the Revolution. It will be remembered that Arnold returned to the Beverley House after his midnight interview with Andre at Haverstraw, and immediately upon the capture of Andre the following day, that Colonel Jamison sent a letter to Arnold, advising him of the fact. It was the morning of September 4th. General Washington was on his way to West Point, coming across the country from Connecticut. On arriving, however, at the river, just above the present station of Garrison, he became interested in examining some defenses, and sent Alexander Hamilton forward to the Beverley House, saying that he would come later, requesting the family to proceed with their breakfast and not to await his arrival. Alexander Hamilton and General Lafayette sat gaily chatting with Mrs. Arnold and her husband when the letter from Jamison was received. Arnold glanced at the contents, rose and excused himself from the table, beckoning to his wife to follow him, bade her good-bye, told her he was a ruined man and a traitor, kissed his little boy in the cradle, rode to Beverley Dock, and ordered his men to pull off and go down the river. The “Vulture,” an English man-of-war, was near Teller’s Point, and received a traitor, whose miserable treachery branded him with eternal infamy on both continents. It is said that he lived long enough to be hissed in the House of Commons, as he once took his seat in the gallery, and he died friendless and despised. It is also said, when Talleyrand arrived in Havre on foot from Paris, in the darkest hour of the French Revolution, pursued by the bloodhounds of the reign of terror, and was about to secure a passage to the United States, he asked the landlord of the hotel whether any Americans were staying at his house, as he was going across the water, and would like a letter to a person of influence in the New World. “There is a gentleman up-stairs from Britain or America,” was the response. He pointed the way, and Talleyrand ascended the stairs. In a dimly lighted room sat a man of whom the great minister of France was to ask a favor. He advanced, and poured forth in elegant French and broken English, “I am a wanderer, and an exile. I am forced to fly to the New World without a friend or home. You are an American. Give me, then, I beseech you, a letter of yours, so that I may be able to earn my bread.” The strange gentleman rose. With a look that Talleyrand never forgot, he retreated toward the door of the next chamber. He spoke as he retreated, and his voice was full of suffering: “I am the only man of the New World who can raise his hand to God and say, ‘I have not a friend, not one, in America!'” “Who are you?” he cried”your name?” “My name is Benedict Arnold!”
Andre’s fate on the other hand was widely lamented. He was universally beloved by his comrades and possessed a rich fund of humor which often bubbled over in verse. It is a strange coincidence that his best poetic attempt on one of Anthony Wayne’s exploits near Fort Lee, entitled “The Cow Chase,” closed with a graphically prophetic verse:
“And now I’ve closed my epic strain,
I tremble as I show it,
Lest this same Warrior-Drover Wayne
Should ever catch the poet.”
By a singular coincidence he did: General Wayne was in command of the Tarrytown and Tappan country where Andre was captured and executed. It is also said that these lines were published by one of the Tory papers in New York the very day of Andre’s capture. One of the old-time characters on the Hudson, known as Uncle Richard, has recently thrown new light on the capture of Andre by claiming, with a touch of genuine humor, that it was entirely due to the “effects” of cider which had been freely “dispensed” that day by a certain Mr. Horton, a farmer in the neighborhood.
It is impossible even in these later years, not to speak of twenty-five or fifty years ago, to travel along the shores of Haverstraw Bay or among the passes of the Highlands, without hearing some old-time stories about Arnold and Andre, and it would be strange indeed if a little romance had not here and there become blended with the real facts. Uncle Richard’s account is undoubtedly the best since the days of Knickerbocker. “Benedict Arnold, you know, had command of West Point, and he knew that the place was essential to the success of the Continental cause. He plotted, as everybody knows, to turn it over to the enemy, and in the correspondence which he carried on with General Clinton, young Andre, Clinton’s aid, did all the writing. Things were coming to a focus, when a meeting took place between Arnold and Clinton’s representative, Andre, at the house of Joshua Hett Smith, near Haverstraw. Andre came on the British ship “Vulture,” which he left at Croton Point, in Haverstraw Bay. Well,” so runs Uncle Richard’s story, “it took a long time to get matters settled; they ‘confabbed’ till after daybreak. Then Arnold started back to the post which he had plotted to surrender. But daylight was no time for Andre to return to the “Vulture,” so he hung round waiting for night.
“During that day, some men who were working for James Horton, a farmer on the ridge overlooking the river, who gave his men good rations of cider, drank a little too much of the hard stuff. They felt good, and thought it would be a fine joke to load and fire off an old disabled cannon which lay a mile or so away on the bank. They hauled it to the point now called Cockroft Point, propped it up, and then the spirit of funand hard ciderprompted them to train the old piece on the British ship “Vulture,” lying at anchor in the Bay. The “Vulture’s” people must have overestimated the source of the fire, for the ship dropped down the river, and Andre had to abandon the idea of returning by that means. He crossed the river at King’s Ferry, and while on his way overland was captured at Tarrytown.
“Of course, the three brave men who refused to be bribed deserve all the glory they ever had; if it were not for them, who knows but the revolutionary war would have had a different ending. But they never would have had a chance to capture Andre if it had not been for James Horton’s men warming up on hard cider. Hard cider broke the plans of Arnold, it hung Andre, and it saved West Point.” A boy misguided Grouchy en route to Waterloo. On what small hinges turn the destinies of nations!
All the way from Anthony’s Nose to Beverley Dock, where we have been lingering over the story of Andre, we have been literally turning a kaleidoscope of blended history and beauty, with scarcely time to note the delightful homes on the west bank, just above Fort Montgomery. Among them J. Pierpont Morgan’s and the Pells’, John Bigelow’s and “Benny Havens’,” or on the east bank of Hamilton Fish, just above Beverley Dock, Samuel Sloan and the late William H. Osborn, just north of Sugar Loaf Mountain; the mountain being so named as it resembles, to one coming up the river, the old-fashioned conical-shaped sugar-loaf, which was formerly suspended by a string over the centre of the hospitable Dutch tables, and swung around to be occasionally nibbled at, which in good old Knickerbocker days, was thought to be the best and only orthodox way of sweetening tea.
Buttermilk Falls, so christened by Washington Irving, is a pretty little cascade on the west bank. Like sparkling wit, it is often dry, and the tourist is exceptionally fortunate who sees it in full-dress costume after a heavy shower, when it rushes over the rocks in floods of snow-white foam. Highland Falls is the name of a small village a short distance west of the river, on the bluff, but not seen from the deck of the steamer.
The large building above the rocky channel is Lady Cliff, the Academy of Our Lady of Angels, under the Franciscan Sisters at Peekskill, opened September, 1900. It was originally built for a hotel, and widely known as Cranston’s Hotel and Landing. As the steamer is now approaching the west bank we see above us the Cullum Memorial Hall, completed in 1899, a bequest of the late George W. Cullum of the class of 1833. The still newer structure to the south is the officers’ messroom, crowning the crest above the landing.
West Point Military Academy
West Point, taken all in all, is the most beautiful tourist spot on the Hudson. Excursionists by the Day Boats from New York, returning by afternoon steamer, have three hours to visit the various places of history and beauty. To make an easy mathematical formula or picturesque “rule of three” statement, what Quebec is to the St. Lawrence, West Point is to the Hudson. If the citadel of Quebec is more imposing, the view of the Hudson at this place is grander than that of the St. Lawrence, and the ruins of Fort Putnam are almost as venerable as the Heights of Abraham. The sensation of the visitor is, moreover, somewhat the same in both places as to the environment of law and authority. To get the daily character and quality of West Point one should spend at least twenty-four hours within its borders, and a good hotel, the only one on the Government grounds, will be found central and convenient to everything of interest. The parade and drills at sunset hour can best be seen in this way.
The United States Military Academy.Soon after the close of the War of the Revolution, Washington suggested West Point as the site of a military academy, and, in 1793, in his annual message, recommended it to Congress, which in 1794 organized a corps of artillerists to be here stationed with thirty-two cadets, enlarging the number in 1798 to fifty-six. In 1808 it was increased to one hundred and fifty-six, and in 1812 to two hundred and sixty.
Up to 1812 only 71 cadets had been graduated. The roll of graduates now numbers about 5,000.
Each Congressman has the appointment of one cadet, supplemented by ten appointed by the President of the United States. These cadets are members of the regular army, subject to its regulations for eight years, viz: during four years of study and four years after graduating. The candidates are examined in June, each year, and must be physically sound as well as mentally qualified. The course is very thorough, especially in higher mathematics. The cadets go into camp in July and August, and this is the pleasantest time to visit the point.
The plans furnished by the architects of the new building will entirely change the appearance of the river front. The proposed massive structure crowning the cliff will “out-castle” the most massive fortifications of the walled cities of Europe. $7,500,000 has been appropriated to the work by Congress and the next generation will behold a new West Point.
Plateau Buildings and Memorials
In the rebuilding of the Post the Cadet Chapel, the Riding Hall, the Administration Building and some of the Officers’ Quarters will be removed. Most of the old important buildings, however, will not be disturbed, and the Chapel will be placed as it were “intact” on another site. The plan leaves untouched the Cadet Barracks, the Cadet Mess, the Memorial Hall, the Library and the Officers’ Mess. The tower of the new Post Headquarters will rise high and massive several stories above the other structures and present in enduring symbol the republic standing four square and firm throughout the ages.
In the “West Point Souvenir,” prepared by W. H. Tripp, which every visitor will prize, are many suggestions and descriptions of value. From many visits and many sources we condense the following brevities:
The Cadet Barracks was built in 1845-51 of native granite. In 1882 the western wing was extended adding two divisions.
The Academy Building is immediately opposite the Headquarters, of Massachusetts granite, erected in 1891-95, and cost about $500,000. It contains recitation and lecture rooms of all departments of instruction.
The Ordnance Museum contains an interesting and extensive exhibit of ancient and modern firearms, also many valuable trophies from the Revolutionary, Mexican, Civil and Spanish wars.
The Cadet Chapel, immediately north of the Administration Building, was erected in 1834. The chapel contains many valuable trophies of the Revolutionary and Mexican wars, including three Hessian and two British flags that were once the property of Washington. The walls have many memorial tablets and a famous “blank” of Arnold. Here also are several cannon surrendered at Saratoga, October 17, 1777.
The Administration Building was completed in 1871.
The Library adjoins the Cadet Chapel on the east, built of native granite in 1841, costing about $15,000. In 1900 the building was entirely reconstructed of fire-proof material by appropriation of $80,000. The exterior walls of the original building entered into the remodeled structure. The Library, founded in 1812, has about 50,000 volumes.
The Gymnasium adjoins the Barracks on the west, erected of native granite, costing $90,000.
Memorial Hall, plainly seen from the Hudson, completed in 1899, is of Ionic architecture. The building cost $268,000, a legacy bequeathed by Gen. George W. Cullum, built of Milford granite for army trophies of busts, paintings and memorials. The bronze statute of Gen. John Sedgwick in the northwest angle of the plain was dedicated in 1868. The fine cenotaph of Italian marble was erected in 1885. It stands immediately in front of Memorial Hall.
Kosciusko’s Monument was erected in 1828. It stands in the northeast angle of Fort Clinton.
The Chain-Battery walk runs from Kosciusko’s Garden northward to Light House Point, near which was the battery that defended the chain across the river in the Revolution. The scene is of great beauty and has been known for many years by the name of “Flirtation Walk.”
Battle Monument, West Point
The Battle Monument, on Trophy Point, is the most beautiful on the reservationa column of victory in memory of 2,230 officers and soldiers of the regular army of the United States who were killed or died of wounds received in the war of the Rebellion. It is a monolith of polished granite surmounted by a figure of Fame. The shaft is 46 feet in length, 5 feet in diameter, and said to be the largest piece of polished stone in the world. The cost of the work was $66,000. The site was dedicated June 15, 1864. The monument was dedicated in 1897. The address was by Justice Brewer.
Trophy Point, on the north side of the plain, overlooking the river and commanding a majestic view of the Hudson and the city of Newburgh, has been likened by European travelers to a view on Lake Geneva. Here are the “swivel clevies” and 16 links of the old chain that was stretched across the river at this point. The whole chain, 1,700 feet long, weighing 186 tons, was forged at the Sterling Iron Works, transported to New Windsor and there attached to log booms and floated down the river to this point.
Old Fort Putnam was erected in 1778 by the 5th Massachusetts Regiment under the direction of Col. Rufus Putnam. It was originally constructed of logs and trees with stone walls on two sides to defend Fort Clinton on the plain below. It was garrisoned by 450 men, and had 14 guns mounted. In 1787 it was dismantled, and the guns sold as old iron. Its brick arch casements overgrown with moss, vines, and shrubbery are crumbling away, but are well worth a visit. It is 495 feet above the Hudson. A winding picturesque carriage road leads up from the plain, and the pedestrian can reach the summit in 20 minutes. On clear days the Catskill Mountains are visible.
Fort Clinton, in the northeast angle of the plain, was built in 1778 under the direction of the Polish soldier, Kosciusko. Sea Coast Battery is located on the north waterfront, Siege Battery on the slope of the hill below the Battle Monument. Targets for the guns on both batteries are on the hillside about a mile distant. Battery Knox, which overlooks the river, was rebuilt in 1874 on the site of an old revolutionary redoubt.
While Fort Putnam was being built Washington was advised that Dubois’s regiment was unfit to be ordered on duty, there being “not one blanket in the regiment. Very few have either a shoe or a shirt, and most of them have neither stockings, breeches, or overalls. Several companies of inlisted artificers are in the same situation, and unable to work in the field.”
What privations were here endured to establish our priceless liberty! It makes better Americans of us all to turn and re-turn the pages of the real Hudson, the most picturesque volume of the world’s history.
West Point during the Revolution was the Gibraltar of the Hudson and her forts were regarded almost impregnable. Fort Putnam will be rebuilt as an enduring monument to the bravery of American soldiers.
The best way to study West Point, however, is not in voluminous histories or in the condensed pages of a guide book, but to visit it and see its real life, to wander amid its old associations, and ask, when necessary, intelligent questions, which are everywhere courteously answered. The view north seen in a summer evening, is one long to be remembered. In such an hour the writer’s idea of the Hudson as an open book with granite pages and crystal book-mark is most completely realized as indicated in the Highland section of his poem,
On either side these mountain glens
Lie open like a massive book,
Whose words were graved with iron pens,
And lead into the eternal rock:
Which evermore shall here retain
The annals time cannot erase,
And while these granite leaves remain
This crystal ribbon marks the place.
Under Spring’s delicate marshalling every hill of the
Highlands took its own place, and the soft swells of
ground stood back the one from the other in more and
more tender coloring.