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Letter from the Commissioners for Fortifications to the New-York Congress



Fort-Constitution, December 7, 1775.

SIR: Yours of the 3d instant, covering extracts of a letter from Lord Stirling, dated the same day, by which we find six companies, of ninety men each, are ordered up to this post, besides those already here. As to the orders to have sufficient barracks completed for one thousand men, we beg leave to observe, that it is not in our power to get done; the additional one (from the first plan) is not this day completed with filling in, but other ways fit and finished for troops, Captain Grenell' s and Captain Halbert' s companies being, with part of Captain Ledyard' s, quartered in them. The first barrack, a single story, four rooms, twenty men in a room, is occupied by our artificers and labourers. We have ordered, eight days ago, another barrack of eighty feet by twenty, two stories high, with a garret, to be framed at New-Windsor; but the badness of the weather up here, by what we can learn, has prevented the person employed from getting the timber together to begin to frame. We shall hurry him, and may be able to get it raised and covered, but the stacks of chimneys and filling in much doubt if it can be done, as we have neither brick nor lime for it, and if we had, unless more favourable weather than for this fortnight past, could not much work at, as our mortar is continually freezing in the mortar-house. We beg leave to mention our frequent desire to know what number of men would be wanted to remain this winter at this post, as a government to us; in particular, in ours to Mr˙ John Berrien of the 15th ultimo, your not then nor since making a House, he could not give us a direct answer.

We could not take the artificers from the works of defence had materials (and we directions) for more barracks been on the spot. Artificers and labourers must have covering, and fire to go to. While they continue they take up the room of the first barrack; when they be dismissed, the two barracks now built will contain three hundred men.

We would also beg leave to refer the honourable Provincial Congress to ours of the 10th ultimo, in which we informed them what barracks we had then, to which we have never been honoured with an answer. Our mentioning these things is from a distress we are in on finding so many men ordered up to this post, when we never expected any more than three hundred to winter here, and, hearing nothing to induce us to think otherwise, provided, as well as circumstances and time permitted, for only that number.

As to procuring fire-wood, we are very ready to do it; but it must be bought and brought by water here. We think this comes more properly under the direction of the Commissary to the troops to he quartered here. We have been down in the sloop Liberty, examining the river as low as Slaughter' s Landing, and find the depth of water, from there to this post, greatly to exceed the information we have had. We also took a view of Pooploop' s Hill, and found its situation the best by much for any defensive works in the Highlands. A little to the north of the house, on the hill, is a place where a battery of heavy cannon would obstruct any enemies coming up, as it commands the river down and up, the length of point-blank


shot. Timber in plenty, near, to be had. No enemy can land at Haverstraw and cross the mountain, to annoy it by land. The height of the place, about one hundred feet above the river, and is not much wider over to Anthony' s Nose than at this post. From Pooploop' s Hill, we understand, there is a tolerable road, and can be made, with ease, much better to the West-Point. From there an enemy might bring cannon by land against this post.

We beg you will be pleased to lay the above before the honourable Congress.

And are, sir, your humble servants,


To Nathaniel Woodhull, Esquire.