An American Revolutionary War Rarity
Rare Revolutionary War Chart showing the American defenses at Fort Clinton and Fort Montgomery, on the eve of the Battle of Fort Montgomery.
This is the right section of Des Barres chart, with the left section including a general chart of the Hudson River, from Stony Point to New Windsor and Newburgh, not present.
On October 6, 1777, the British Army, led by Henry Clinton, attacked Forts Montgomery and Clinton, supported by cannon fire from British ships on the Hudson River. By the end of the day, both forts had fallen to the British, who burned the forts and tore down the stonework buildings. However, the battle was a pyrrhic victory for the British. The campaign against the forts caused delays in reinforcing General John Burgoyne at Saratoga, where Americans forced the British surrender ten days later at the Battle of Saratoga before Clinton's forces could arrive.
The present map, which depicts the Forts and the River defenses prior to the battle, is from The Atlantic Neptune, the finest large scale sea atlas of the United States and Canadian Atlantic coastline ever produced. The maps in the atlas were produced over a seven-year period (1775-82), and are well known for their accurate portrayal of various sounds, bays, bars, harbors as well as navigational hazards. This atlas was used extensively by the Royal Navy during the American Revolution.
Fort Clinton & Fort Montgomery
Fort Clinton and Fort Montgomery were a pair of American Revolutionary War fortifications located at the confluence of the Popolopen Creek and the Hudson River.
Fort Clinton stood on the south side of Popolopen Gorge, and its companion fort, Fort Montgomery, stood on the north side. The forts defended a Hudson River Chain that stretched from Fort Montgomery on the west side of the Hudson River to Anthony's Nose on the east side. The sites of both forts are in present-day Highlands, Orange County, New York.
Fort Clinton's garrison of 300 soldiers was smaller than Fort Montgomery's, but it was built on higher ground, and its defenses were more complete. The fort was commanded by General James Clinton, for whom it was probably named.
On October 6, 1777, Forts Clinton and Montgomery were attacked by the British 63rd Regiment led by Sir Henry Clinton. The Battle of Forts Clinton and Montgomery was intense but brief: Both forts were overrun within an hour, and the wounded General James Clinton retreated with his men through Popolopen Gorge. Fort Clinton and Fort Montgomery were razed by the British, and the iron chain they defended was dismantled.
Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres (1721-1824) was born in either Paris or Basel, Switzerland, to a Hugueont family. He studied under the great mathematician Daniel Bernoulli at the University of Basel before immigrating to Britain, where he trained at the Royal Military College, Woolwich.
Upon the outbreak of hostilities with France in 1756, he joined the British Royal American Regiment as a military engineer. He came to the attention of General James Wolfe, who was impressed with his charting ability. During this period, he also worked with the legendary future explorer, James Cook, on a monumental chart of the St. Lawrence River.
Des Barres is best known for the Atlantic Neptune, was a remarkable, multi-volume set of sea charts and coastal views prepared from recent surveys, some of which were overseen by Des Barres in Nova Scotia after the Seven Years’ War. The maps, charts, and views were prepared under the supervision of Des Barres and employed as many as twenty engravers and assistants. They were produced over the course of a decade, from 1774 to 1784, in time to be used by the Royal Navy in the American Revolution.
After the Revolution, Loyalists were resettled throughout Canada. As part of this process, a new colony was created by separating Cape Breton from Nova Scotia. Des Barres, who already owned extensive lands in the Maritimes, served as lieutenant governor of Cape Breton Island from 1784 to 1787. He later served as governor of Prince Edward Island from 1804-1812.
Des Barres lived an exceptionally long life, even by today's standards, finally dying at age 102. Des Barres' funeral was held at St. George's Round Church in 1824 and he is buried in Halifax.