George Clinton was the newly elected Governor of the State of New York. As such he was also the Commander in Chief of the State Militia. Just a few hours prior to the Council of War he had escaped capture by the British. He had been commanding the troops at Fort Montgomery when it fell to the British. In the confusion of gunpowder smoke and dusk he had escaped across the river. From there he rode the winding four miles through the passes and valleys from Anthony's Nose to Continental Village. (probably along the route of the current South Mountain Pass Road).
Governor Clinton was seeking the man to whom he had sent two unanswered messages earlier in the day. That would be the portly General Israel Putnam, Commander of all of the Continental Troops in the Highlands. Putnam had just returned from Fort Independence by way of the Paper Mills (a route that would be close to the current Sprout Brook Road and the yellow line below.).
Yesterday Putnam had sent Clinton a note that the enemy had landed at Fort Independence (see red marker at bottom of map) and had requested that Clinton send "sixty men out of the Fort [Montgomery] to the top of Anthony's Nose to secure that Pass." Clinton complied with that order by sending out fifty men under the command of Captain Lee of Colonel Dubois 5th New York regiment. This left Clinton's small force at Fort Montgomery even more vulnerable.
It is likely that several militiamen were in the party ordered to Anthony's Nose. A militia private named Oliver Humphrey from New Windsor in McClaughrey's regiment stated in his pension record that he was ordered into a detachment to guard the chain on the other side of the river. Perhaps this was yet a separate party from Captain Lee's, but if it is not, the two parties must have been deployed very close to each other on Anthony's Nose. And if militia were employed, perhaps also a Campbell was lucky enough to be in this group that "remained in sight of the whole action until the fort was taken," but was not in the line of fire.
The letter that Governor Clinton had sent at 8:00 am on this day to General Putnam took eight hours to find itself in the hands of someone at the Headquarters for the Highlands!! (The HQ is presumed to have moved to Continental Village from Peekskill due to the presence of British in the River?). General Putnam was not present so it was opened by Colonel Wyllys. Clinton's intelligence of a large landing of British troops proceeding up the West of the Hudson was new to the officers on the East side. The Connecticut regiments of Wyllys, Meigs, and Webb immediately marched to the ferry across from Fort Montgomery but the firing had stopped and the forts had fallen by the time they arrived at the river.
Putnam confessed that he knew very early that day that the British had landed on the West shore of the Hudson as he could see the smoke from burning buildings, but he was not convinced they were marching toward Fort Montgomery and Fort Clinton (the sister fort on the opposite site of Popolopen Creek.). Putnam knew what a difficult march that would be. Certainly the British could bring no artillery with them on the unimproved roads in that part of the Highlands. So he took no action.
Just a few hours before the Council of War, Putnam had stopped at the Paper Mills to pen this very delinquent note to Governor Clinton.
"D'r General,With the fall of Fort Montgomery and Fort Clinton, the British had control of the Hudson River from New York City to Albany. They would spend the next several weeks raiding, plundering, and burning the villages and outposts from Fort Montgomery to Esopus (Kingston). The Continental Village would be one of their first targets, a major supply depot and encampment for the Northern Army.
I am this moment returned from Fort Independence, and find that the Party of the Enemy which were said to have landed last night at that Fort is without foundation, by the Inhabitants who lives just by Fort Independence, I am informed that the Enemy have Landed betwixt Kings Ferry and Dunderbarrack, if thats the case, they mean to attack Fort Montgomery by land, (which when I am sure off), shall Immediately Reinforce you.
I am D'r Genl. Your Very Hble.
Prior to becoming a supply depot, this area was just a "creek crossing" on the Post Road from New York to Albany. Its designation as the "Post Road" was as early as 1703. Hence it was well worn by the time of the Revolutionary War. The lively Canopus Brook crossed the road. Slightly downstream of its crossing the brook provided power for a grist mill, saw mill, and fulling mill owned by Loyalist Beverley Robinson. Yet further downstream was the paper mill mentioned by General Putnam (there was also a paper mill closer to Peekskill which could also have been the one where Putnam penned his note.) Built by John Keating in 1774, it would be burned to the ground by the British on October 9.
The first use of this area as a supply depot and encampment was likely in late 1776, perhaps as late as after the retreat from White Plains in November 1776. When a local monument was dedicated in 1921, Stuyvesant Fish said "The first troops to be stationed here in 1776 were three Connecticut brigades, in one of which my father's father, Nicholas Fish was Brigade Major. General Heath, who was in command, erected barracks in this place, and it came to be called Continental Village."
By March 12, 1777 the strategic nature of the spot was evident to General George Washington. He wrote in a letter to General Schuyler as follows:
"Under these considerations, I can not help thinking much too large a part of our force is directed to Ticonderoga. Peekskill appears to me a much more proper place, where, if the troops are drawn together, they will be advantageously situated to give support to any of the Eastern or Middle States. Should the enemy's design be to penetrate the country up the North River, they will be well stationed to cover it; if they move westward, the Eastern and Southern troops can easily form a junction; and besides, it will oblige the enemy to have a much stronger garrison at New York."
Because Peekskill itself was vulnerable to an attack by water (the Peekskill Creek was navigable up to the city), it was natural that the actual gathering place moved to the more defendable Continental Village. This fact was born out on March 22, 1777 when Peekskill was attacked by eight flat bottom boats driving the Americans to the safety of Gallows Hill in Continental Village.
By the summer of 1777 the Continental Village had barracks for 1500, storage for arms and munitions, baking ovens, herds of cattle, and possibly even a hospital.
Joseph Plumb Martin describes in his memoirs a place likely to be Continental Village, although he does not name it as such. His story starts near the end of May 1777:
"I was soon after this transaction, ordered off, in company with about four hundred others of the Connecticut forces, to a set of old barracks, a mile or two distant (from Peekskill) in the Highlands, to be inoculated with the small pox. We arrived at and cleaned out the barracks, and after two or three days received the infection, which was on the last day of May. We had a guard of Massachusetts troops to attend us. Our hospital stores were deposited in a farmer's barn in the vicinity of our quarters. One day, about noon, the farmer's house took fire and was totally consumed, with every article of household stuff it contained, although there were five hundred men within fifty rods of it, and many of them within five, when the fire was discovered, which was not till the roof had fallen in. Our officers would not let any of the inoculated men go near the fire, and the guard had enough to do to save the barn, the fire frequently catching in the yard and on the roof, which was covered with thatch or straw.....The importance of Continental Village was stated by the leader of the attack on Fort Montgomery, General Henry Clinton:
I had the small pox favorable as did the rest, generally; we lost none; but it was more by good luck, or rather a kind Providence interfering, than by my good conduct that I escaped with life. There was a considerable large rivulet which ran directly in front of the barracks [Canopus Brook?]; in this rivulet were many deep places and plenty of a species of fish called suckers. One of my roommates, with myself, went off one day, the very day on which the pock began to turn upon me, we went up the brook until we were out of sight of the people at the barracks, when we undressed ourselves and went into the water, where it was often to our shoulders, to catch suckers by means of a fish-hook fastened to the end of a rod; -we continued at the business three or four hours, and when we came out of the water the pustules of the small pox were well cleansed. We then returned to the barracks, and I, feeling a pretty sharp appetite after my expedition, went to the side of the brook where the nurses had been cooking and eating their dinners; I found a kettle standing there half full of stewed peas, and, if I remember rightly, a small piece of pork with them. I knew the kettle belonged to the nurses in our room, and therefore conceived myself the better entitled to its contents .....
I left the hospital on the sixteenth day after I was inoculated, and soon after joined the regiment,..... "
October 9, 1777 - Fort Montgomery “Major-Gen. Tryon, who was detached this morning with Emmerick’s chasseurs, fifty yagers and royal fusiliers and regiment of Trumback, with a three-pounder, to destroy the rebel settlement called the Continental village, has just returned and reported to me, that he has burned the barrack for fifteen hundred men, several store-houses and loaded wagons. I need not point out to your excellency the consequence of destroying this post, as it was the only establishment of the rebels on that part of the Highlands, and the place from whence any body of troops drew their supplies.”Continental Village was at least partially rebuilt and used during the remainder of the war by the Americans. When the post road was diverted to the new turnpike to the west in 1806 it left this historical area less traveled and less developed. The preservation of ruins appears to be quite unintentional. There are few markers and fewer trails. A map prepared by Ginny Gilbert [p. 9 http://philipstown.com/cvinfoguide.pdf] is a great help, but yet, to the out-of-town visitor who is respectful of private property, it is a challenge to get a feel for the scope of the 1777 village.
I hope to get some more specific information from local experts on this, but are a few tips if you go for a visit. http://joelcampbell1735.blogspot.com/2014/04/a-visit-to-continental-village-new-york.html
Court of Inquiry into the Loss of Forts Montgomery and Clinton, Alexander McDougall Papers, New York Historical Society.
A short history of Continental Village, http://philipstown.com/cvinfoguide.pdf and http://philipstown.com/cvhistory.pdf
George Clinton Papers
Lossings Pictorial Field-book of the Revolution