To aid Lieutenant General John Burgoyne's British army stalled at Saratoga, Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton sailed from New York with 3,000 British, German, and Loyalist soldiers and a flotilla of warships. On the morning of October 7, 1777, Clinton landed 2,100 of his men on the west side of the Hudson River near Stony Point. This force followed a narrow trail through the mountains, where they ran into a party of 30 men sent from Fort Clinton to detect the British advance. After beating the Americans back, Sir Henry Clinton sent 900 men around Bear Mountain to attack Fort Montgomery. The rest would wait to attack Fort Clinton until the first group had reached Fort Montgomery.
In the afternoon, the British began an assault on both forts, which were defended by no more than 700 men. At Fort Montgomery, the Americans kept the British at bay as the two sides exchanged musket fire. When the Americans refused to surrender, the British stormed both forts. Taking advantage of the growing dark and the smoky haze from the battle, many of the Americans escaped, but as many as 275 were taken as prisoners to New York City where they remained for much of the war.
Following the battle, the British destroyed Fort Montgomery, garrisoned Fort Clinton, and burned New York's capital at Kingston. Then, receiving orders to join Sir William Howe's army near Philadelphia, Clinton's men destroyed Fort Clinton and sailed back down the Hudson. Although captured and destroyed, the forts had presented enough of an obstacle to keep the British forces in New York from aiding Burgoyne's army. The following year, in 1778, the Americans began rebuilding their defenses, this time at west Point.
The Coded Message
D[ea]r Sir. W. Howe is gone to the Chesapeake bay with the greater part of the army. I hear he has landed but am not certain[.] I am left to command here with too small a force to make any effectual diversion in your favor[.] I shall try something at any rate. It may be of use to you. I own to you I think Sr. W.'s move just at this time the worst he could take[.] much joy on your success.
Sir Henry Clinton sent this coded message to General Burgoyne, who lost the hourglass-shaped cipher necessary to decode it properly. Nevertheless, Burgoyne got the gist of the message and replied that Clinton should do what he could to help. You can see the coded message within the hourglass shading on the letter and read its transcription above. Courtesy Clemnents Library University of Michigan.