West Point

Fort Clinton and Constitution Island

Take a closer look at the fortifications on both sides of the Hudson River. Notice the S-curve in the Hudson River that made West Point such a strategic location.

Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 

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Fort Clinton

This large fort, named for New York General James Clinton, served as the focal point of the West Point garrison. Previously named after Benedict Arnold, the fort’s defenders quickly changed its title following Arnold’s infamous defection to the British in 1780. Cannons within the fort had a protected, clear shot at any enemy ships on the river.

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“Great Chain”

The curve in the Hudson River at West Point made this portion of the waterway difficult for ships to navigate. To make it even more problematic for enemy vessels, the Americans stretched an iron chain across the river from Constitution Island to West Point. The 500-yard chain weighed about 65 tons.

Learn more about the “Great Chain”
Army Wagons

These horse-drawn wagons appear to be heading down to the banks of the Hudson River in preparation for a ferry crossing to West Point. One wagon is carrying five unarmed soldiers who might be sick and are being moved to one of the Continental Army’s hospitals across the river.

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Constitution Island

Three redoubts (enclosed dirt fortifications), supported by cannon batteries and blockhouses, defended Constitution Island. West Point garrison commander Henry Knox ordered soldiers from the “Invalid Corps” to guard the island in September 1782. The sick, wounded, or old soldiers, however, struggled to do their duty on the island. Knox requested more healthy troops from General Washington to take their place.

A Veteran Soldier

The sergeant seen here saluting a superior officer has a white V-shaped badge sewn to his coat’s left sleeve. On August 7, 1782, General Washington ordered that soldiers who had served at least 3 years in the Continental Army with “bravery, fidelity and good conduct” should mark their coat sleeves with these “Badges of distinction.”

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