In the Revolution, a British deserter could become a traitor to the Crown by joining the Continental Army and there become a hero. Chains Across the River tells the enthralling tale of one such soldier, Captain Thomas Machin, a brilliant engineer of flawed character born, educated and trained in England. He enlisted in the British Foot and was posted to Boston, where he saw action at Breed's Hill before deserting to join the Continentals.
Observing Machin's engineering skill and practical bent, Washington ordered Machin to the Hudson River, there to imagine, design and install obstructions to block the British Armada gathering in New York Harbor. Both sides believed control of the river a strategic necessity.
The immensity of Washington's charge was matched by Machin's audacity in imagining obstructions capable of stopping an 850-ton warship under full sail and following tide. He installed a chain at Fort Montgomery and, when the British overran that Fort and cut the chain, he installed another at West Point.
Filling out the story of Thomas Machin are the unforgettable women in his life, Elizabeth Van Horne and Caroline Filippante.
Why historians devote little attention to Machin is explained by what didn't happen on the Hudson. The British cut the first chain without testing it and never sailed against the second. Washington and Machin understood the chain could deter without being tested. In these pages the known facts about Machin have been woven into an Homeric-like tale of daring, adventure, intrigue and triumph.