During 1779, armies under the command of American General George Washington and British General Sir William Clinton were locked in a strategic stalemate. The entry of the French into the war as American allies had shifted the strategic initiative and caused the British government to order Clinton to dispatch significant forces to the West Indies and southern colonies. The reduction in his available forces hampered Clinton’s efforts to bring Washington to a decisive engagement. Clinton decided to launch an attack north from New York to establish a base of operations that would allow an attack on the American fortress at West Point. In late June 1779 Clinton moved men and materiel into position for his thrust up the Hudson while Washington cautiously responded by moving his army north. Clinton struck on 3 July 1779, capturing the strategic Kings Ferry crossing of the Hudson River along with American forts at Stony Point and Verplank’s Point.
Soon after Washington began to develop an audacious plan to recapture the strongpoint and restore American fortunes. After organizing an elite force of light infantry, Washington spent several days observing the British position at Stony Point and collecting intelligence on British defenses. He proposed a nighttime assault. At midnight on 15 July, 1779 Washington directed Brigadier General Anthony Wayne to lead 1,300 men against the British defenders of Stony Point. In little over one hour the American light infantry captured Stony Point
With news of the American victory Washington quickly rode to the fort to congratulate Wayne and his men. Recognizing that he had neither the troops nor the resources needed to defend Stony Point against an expected British counterattack Washington ordered all supplies and arms to be removed, prisoners marched into captivity and the fortifications destroyed. Although the British did successfully reoccupy Stony Point several days later, the Americans trumpeted their unexpected victory and a chagrined General Clinton concluded a further offensive up the Hudson River towards West Point would be pointless.