Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Omnipresent Henry Lee

The Battle of Paulus Hook was a daring raid on the British fort at Paulus Hook (now in Jersey City) across from Manhattan.  It was proposed by then Major Henry ("Light Horse Harry") Lee following the success of the Americans at Stony Point.  Following a night time expedition, on August 19, 1779 Lee, with 400 men, surprised the British, took some 150 prisoners, and then beat a retreat.  Washington wrote Congress that Lee "displayed a remarkable degree of prudence, address and bravery upon this occasion, which does the highest honor to himself and to all the officers and men under his command.

This is a view of the spot of the fort today:

This is at the intersection of Washington Street and Grand Street in Jersey City, looking towards New York.  Landfill and the development of the area, coupled with the construction of the Morris Canal nearby, makes it hard to get a real sense of terrain, as one does at Stony Point.  Nonetheless, the obelisk visible in the photograph helps orient us.  Lee received a Congressional gold medal for his efforts.  Though perhaps more well  known generally for his service in the Southern Theater of the Revolutionary War, this officer was one of those keystones of Washington's command.  It is interesting to walk in his steps, even if the ditches, mills, streams and swamps, and indeed the actual coastline, have been altered.

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