December 24 & 27, 2020 – Stony Point, NY
Length: Approximately 2 miles
Max elevation: 151 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 180 ft.
Route type: Lollipop Loop
Free Web Map: Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site Map – Stony Point Battlefield Interpretive Map
Trailhead parking: 44 Battlefield Rd, Stony Point, NY 10980
Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site is located on a knobby promontory projecting into the Hudson River in the town of Stony Point, NY. It is the only preserved Revolutionary War battlefield in Rockland County. The site of a successful midnight assault led by Brigadier General “Mad” Anthony Wayne against a British Garrison on July 15-16, 1779. The site also hosts the oldest lighthouse (1826) in the Hudson Valley. The lighthouse is not presently open for tours, as repairs must be made.
Today, a portion of the original battlefield, where Sir Henry Clinton placed his earthworks and batteries, has been preserved as a New York State Park. In addition to an historic lighthouse from the early 19th century and memorial arch, the park also includes a museum dedicated to the battle located in the visitors center, and also hosts several educational programs like guided tours and historical reenactments, that can teach visitors about military and civilian life in Revolutionary America.
Admission to the site is free. Special events may have a separate charge. Please call ahead for information and seating reservations for special events as needed. The grounds are open daily from mid-April to the end of October. From November to mid-April, the site grounds are open Monday to Friday and closed on weekends, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Days. Call 845-786-2521 for information and hours of operation.
Please note: As an historic site, and a cemetery of Revolutionary War soldiers, they do not permit dogs or bicycles beyond the Memorial Arch, and no recreational games, or cooking fires are allowed.
There is good birding throughout the site year-round. Park in the parking lot when the site is open and enjoy birding throughout the grounds. You may park outside the grounds on the town’s Park Road, and walk into the site in the early morning, before dusk, or on weekends in the winter. Do not park on the sites drive, Battlefield Road, at any time as it is a marked tow-away zone. There are diverse habitats for birds including a freshwater swamp area at the entrance, woodlands, meadows, lawns and a small beach on the Hudson River on the south side of the peninsula. During winter, Bald Eagles roost in the trees near the river’s edge.
Stony Point is a rocky prominence that extends about a 1/4-mile into the Hudson River. At high tide, Stony Point, surrounded by marshes, became an island connected to the mainland only by a narrow causeway. At its highest, the point is about 150 feet above sea level, and steep.
When the British captured this rocky peninsula in May 1779, they began to construct an earthen fortress intended to disrupt Washington’s Continental Army in the Hudson Highlands and block the King’s Ferry crossing below. Naturally defensible, Stony Point was further improved by the addition of two rows of abatis (trees laid branch-side towards the enemy), felled from the site. The first abatis formed the “outer” works, and extended into the water south of the point. The second abatis was half way on the promontory and enclosed the “upper” works, or the “table of the hill”.
Two months later, on July 16, George Washington and Brigadier General “Mad” Anthony Wayne launched a daring nighttime assault that surprised the garrison and allowed American forces to gain control of the fort in under an hour.
George Washington gave Wayne orders to take Stony Point in a midnight bayonet charge. Wayne would command a force of about 1,300 Light Infantrymen. The Light Infantry were hand-picked men from various Continental regiments that formed an elite corps of some of the best American soldiers. Washington gave Wayne instructions to send the Light Infantry in through three different points “with fixed Bayonets and Muskets unloaded.”
Shortly after midnight on July 16, 1779, the three columns moved out. One column proceeded around the island and approached from the south across the marsh at low tide, the second and third columns crossed the causeway. The larger second column advanced along the northern shore of the island while the third column positioned themselves in the center of the British defenses. Once in position, the third column fired shots to divert the attention of British defenders as the north and south columns advanced towards the heart of the garrison.
As Wayne’s column began to cross the marsh, they slugged through water that came up to their chests. The men pushed forward into the darkness. As soon as they came to the other side, they began to dash up the steep slopes towards the first line of British defenses. Within about a half-hour, the heaviest fighting had ended.
Lt. Colonel Francois de Fleury was the first man into the inner works and pulled down the British flag flying there and exclaimed, “The fort’s our own!” After more bloody hand to hand combat, it was clear that further resistance by the British was futile, and Lt. Colonel Henry Johnson and the British troops surrendered. By 1:00am, Stony Point was in American hands.
The battle resulted in 15 Americans killed and 83 wounded. The British had lost 20 killed, 74 wounded and 472 captured.
For more history of the Battle of Stony Point, see links at bottom of page.
In 1826, the first lighthouse on the Hudson River was constructed at historic Stony Point to mark the southern entrance to the Hudson Highlands. The completion of the Erie Canal the previous year, which linked New York City to America’s heartland, increased traffic on the Hudson River dramatically, and the need for navigational aids was paramount. The thirty-foot-tall octagonal Stony Point Lighthouse, built of blue split stone, was constructed by Thomas Phillips of New York City, at a cost of $3,350. There have been three keeper’s dwellings at Stony Point. The original six-room stone dwelling was torn down in 1879 and replaced by a dwelling on the flat land just west of the lighthouse. The second house was razed and replaced by another structure, built closer to the river in 1938.
The second lighthouse keeper’s home stood a few steps below the octagonal lighthouse. The house was enclosed by a picket fence. At the base of the light are a few guests or tourists.
The Lighthouse guided mariners through the narrow pass between Stony and Verplanck Points until 1925. In its 99 years, only one vessel ran aground, with no reported fatalities, a testament to the vigilance of the lightkeepers, notably Nancy Rose, who tended the light for 47 years.
Through the efforts of the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, the Palisades Park Interstate Commission, and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, restoration of the lighthouse began in 1986. The exterior was repaired and painted, and the lantern was reglazed. On October 7, 1995, restoration was complete, and the light was activated for the first time in seventy years. The automated light, operated by solar power, beams a flash of light once every four seconds.
The movement for the acquisition of Stony Point as a state park began in 1895. The property was acquired through the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society (ASHPS), which became the trustees of the original 35 acres of property. In 1898, the state began acquiring land associated with the Battle of Stony Point, including the oldest lighthouse built along the Hudson River, which dates to 1826 and belonged to the federal government. By 1978, the state had amassed 87 acres. After subsequent land acquisitions, the current site is now comprised of 137 acres. The state historic site opened to the public in 1902 and the museum, featuring exhibits about the battle and the lighthouse, was built in 1936. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961.
The site is now operated as Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site and is a beautiful mix of woods and tended lawns, with commanding panoramic views of the Hudson River looking north to the Hudson Highlands and south to Haverstraw Bay. The site features a self-guided walking trail and a museum displaying artifacts uncovered during archaeological digs. Also on the grounds is the Stony Point Lighthouse, the Hudson River’s oldest, which protected the southern entrance to the Hudson Highlands from 1826 to 1925.
Most of the trails are paved paths that lead visitors throughout the site. There are several grassy footpaths as well. This State Historic Site is geared more towards people that are looking for a leisurely walk with Hudson River views and learning about American History. On any given day during the winter, one can spot Bald Eagles riding on rising columns of warm air known as thermals or perched in the trees.
There is also a self-guided walking tour. This tour brings you from the fort’s outer works, around the southern crest of the point, up to the lighthouse, around the north end of the point and returns to the outer works, with illustrated interpretive signs along the way describing the defensive positions, batteries, and accounts of the British soldiers who manned them. On this path, visitors pass the spot where Wayne entered the fort, where Lieutenant colonel de Fleury struck the British colors, and where Colonel Febiger accepted the surrender of Lieutenant Colonel Johnson, the Crown commander. Behind the museum, a spur path brings you out to the King’s Ferry Overlook and through the area where Colonel Butler’s column entered the fort.
Having been to this site on numerous occasions, I was looking for an easy walk with some Hudson River views and this spot fit the bill. This is a good place to just wander around, enjoy some fresh air and hopefully spot some Bald Eagles or Hawks. I visited the Site on Christmas Eve day while there was some snow on the ground and returned several days later after the rain washed away the snow. We parked in the lot on our first visit and on Park Road when we returned on the 27th. It’s a nice walk up Battlefield Road which follows the shore of the fresh water wetlands.
Points of Interest:
- Battlefield Road ~ This paved park road winds its way along the fresh water wetlands and makes for a pleasant walk if parking your vehicle on Park Road.
- Fresh Water Wetlands ~ There are diverse habitats for birds including a freshwater swamp area at the entrance. Great Blue Herons, Wood Ducks, Belted Kingfishers and Canadian Geese are just a few of the birds that one can spot along this area.
- Memorial Arch ~ Following the acquisition of the property, the Daughters of the Revolution of the State of New York, with the consent and under the supervision of the ASHPS, began the erection of a stone archway at the entrance to the reservation as a tribute to the memory of the American patriots who fought for American independence on that historic ground.
The corner stone was put in place on October 17, 1908.
The Memorial Arch, designed by Mr. H.K. Bush-Brown of Newburgh, NY, and built out of native rock of Stony Point with the exception of some of the granite trimmings, stands at the entrance to the bridge which leads across the West Shore Railroad cut to the the Reservation. The masonry measures 32 feet in width, 12 feet in depth and 23 feet in height. The archway is 12 feet wide, 12 feet deep and 15 feet in height.
Over the archway is the inscription “Stony Point State Park.” Just underneath is “The fort’s our own,” The words that were said when the British flag was taken down. The keystone of the arch has the letters, “S N Y.”
On either side of the archway there are tablets that are now faded. The northern tablet bears the following inscription: STONY POINT, A BRITISH OUTPOST COMMANDING THE KING’S FERRY, ASSAULTED AND TAKEN, JULY 15-16, 1779 BY THE CORPS OF LIGHT INFANTRY COMMANDED BY ANTHONY WAYNE. RE-NAMED FORT WAYNE. ACQUIRED BY THE STATE OF NEW YORK 1897. THE AMERICAN SCENIC AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION SOC. CUSTODIAN.
The southern tablet bears the following inscription: THE SOCIETY DAUGHTERS OF THE REVOLUTION OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK ERECTED THIS GATEWAY, GRATEFULLY COMMEMORATING THE SACRIFICES OF PATRIOTS FOR AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE AND THEIR GALLANT ACTION AT THIS PLACE. DEDICATED AND PRESENTED TO THE STATE, 1909.
- Stone Gazebo ~ From a gazebo at the southern crest of the point, visitors can view the majestic Hudson River and the hills of Westchester and Rockland Counties. This stone gazebo dates back to at least 1908.
- Horse Trough ~ Located near the museum on the circular drive, it is not your standard horse trough, as one can see in the images below. Rocks were used to build the trough as well as the wall behind it. The trough dates to about 1902, when the battlefield opened to the public. Many visitors arrived by boat at the landing on the north side of the peninsula and were taken by horse and wagon up the steep slope to the battlefield site. Horses could quench their thirst at the trough. To accommodate human thirst, a water fountain is located on the opposite side.
- Stony Point Lighthouse ~ Stony Point Lighthouse, the oldest on the Hudson, marked the entrance to the Hudson Highlands for nearly a hundred years and was built in 1826. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1925 and was acquired by the parks commission in 1941. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
The specifications called for the construction of “an octagonal Pyramid, to be built of blue split stone and the best quick lime and sand mortar.” The building plan stated that the tower was to have three stories and a cellar for the storage of whale oil. A wooden stairway would lead from the first floor to the second, and a wooden ladder would connect the second floor with the lantern in the glass-enclosed top of the lighthouse. On December 1, 1826, the lighthouse, complete with copper roof and ventilator, was finished, at a cost of $3,350.
Benches near the lighthouse provide visitors with a place to relax and enjoy the south-facing views of the Hudson River Valley.
- Stone Viewing Platform ~ At the northern crest of the point, visitors can enjoy north-facing views of the Hudson River from a stone viewing platform.
The stone platform also provides a good view of the lighthouse.
- Picnic Shelter ~ The stone picnic shelter overlooking the Hudson River, is currently being renovated.
- Museum ~ The stone museum was built in 1936 and is divided into two galleries: one for the Battle of Stony Point, and one for the nineteenth century lighthouse. The Battle Gallery hosts a number of artifacts – clay pipes, chevaux-de-frise remnants, musket balls, infantry camp axes, the sword of Colonel Brinkerhoff, and some of the artillery pieces Wayne’s men captured the night of the attack. The Lighthouse Gallery has panels explaining the 99-year history of the lighthouse, including photographs of its keepers, residence buildings, gardens, and lens. Special mention goes out to Nancy Rose, who maintained the light longer than anyone – nearly fifty years. In the gallery is an original fourth-order Fresnel lens beautifully restored by the United States Coast Guard, just like the one that would have been housed in the lighthouse to safely guide mariners into the Hudson Highlands.
On November 11, 1960, a plaque was mounted on a rock near the museum building. It reads: “This tablet is to commemorate the heroic capture of the fortress of Stony Point by troops of the light infantry under the command of Maj. Gen. ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne the night of July 15-16, 1779.”
- King’s Ferry Overlook ~ Behind the museum, a spur path brings visitors out to the King’s Ferry Overlook and through the area where Colonel Butler’s column entered the fort.
The hulk of an old fishing boat lies partially submerged in the river below. That wreck has been there since at least 2003. The name on the bow, which is no longer visible, once read: “King’s Ferry.”
- Living History ~ On weekends from April to October, weather and staffing permitting, a living history soldier’s camp is open, highlighting 18th century military life. There are many hands-on activities including an artillery drill, cannon and musket firings, 18th century blacksmithing demonstrations, open fire camp cooking, gardening, military arts and children’s activities. Contact the Site for details and times at (845) 786-2521.
- Birds of Prey ~ Thanks to conservation efforts, the Bald Eagle, which had been so close to extinction, has made a remarkable comeback, particularly on the Hudson River. One of the highlights of a winter visit to Stony Point is seeing Bald Eagles roosting in treetops or soaring overhead, attracted by the open water and plentiful fish. Turkey Vultures can be seen year round and Hawks during migration season in the early Fall.
There is a lot to do and see at Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site. Visitors can visit the museum (when open), walk through the living history military camp, watch the live reenactments as uniformed interpreters fire muskets (when available). Signs are strategically placed around the site so visitors may conduct a self-guided walking tour. Step back in time and march in the footsteps of Brigadier General “Mad” Anthony Wayne and his soldiers as they charged up the hill and stand with the lightkeepers as they watched over the thousands of ships passing Stony Point every year, protecting our nation’s commerce. A great place to visit year round for the entire family.
Historical features, Hudson River views, Stony Point Lighthouse, Bald Eagles.
Limited Winter hours, Site closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day
- Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site
- The Battle of Stony Point – American Battlefield Trust
- How Washington Won the Battle of Stony Point
- Rockland Audubon Society
- Stony Point Battlefield – Palisades Parks Conservancy
- Stony Point Lighthouse
- Stony Point Lighthouse – Hudson River Lighthouse Coalition
- Stony Point Battlefield and Lighthouse
- The Storming of Stony Point – American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society (PDF)
- Biography of General Anthony Wayne – USHistory.org