The Upper Works was the main British defensive position. As in the Outer Works, an abatis spanned the width of the peninsula. Included in the abatis were artillery positions, but these weapons, mostly heavy ship guns, were intended for long-range, daytime targets and were kept unloaded at night when an attack was not considered likely. The guns were also extremely cumbersome. Brigadier General James Pattison described the difficulty of hauling cannon to the summit of Stony Point when the British were fortifying the peninsula:
"58 Men in Harness, besides many more shoving at the Wheels, were
scarcely able to get up a heavy 12 [pounder] ?. "
Four companies of the 17th Regiment and a detachment from the Loyal American Regiment were posted in the Upper Works, but the fortification was unfinished, being open on the east side toward the river. Scouts had informed the British commander, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Johnson, that Americans meant to attack Stony Point, and he eliminated passwords so noone could enter the fortifications at night. He also divided his forces in anticipation of a daytime assault. In the darkness and confusion of the battle, the men in the advanced posts could not retreat in time to defend the Upper Works. Had the upper fortifications been completed and the entire garrison posted there, the Light Infantry might have been repulsed.