In reaction to Sir Henry Clinton's move against Stony Point, the Continental Army marched north from New Jersey, to protect West Point, and a plan was devised to counter the British advance.
Apprised of the formidable British defenses at Stony Point by Captain Allan McLane, and American officer who had gained entrance to the enemy fort, General Washington determined that a frontal attack in daylight would most likely fail. Consequently, a night assault, to be led by Brigadier General Anthony Wayne of Pennsylvania, was planned.
Wayne commanded the Corps of Light Infantry, a select force which probed enemy lines, fought skirmishes, and executed difficult missions. Two columns - a total of 1150 men - would comprise the Continental force. The main assault group of 700 men, commanded personally by General Wayne, would wade through the waters on the southern flank. At the same time, a smaller, secondary column would approach from the north. To eliminate the possibility of accidental gunfire and preserve the key element of surprise, both columns were armed with unloaded muskets and fixed bayonets. In the center of the peninsula, two companies of North Carolina troops, commanded by Major Hardy Murfree, would fire volleys to distract the British and divert the fort's defenders. An additional force of 300 men, under General Peter Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, would be held in reserve. At midnight, July 15, 1779, the attack would begin.