The American War for Independence, like any great historical episode, has its share of legends and mythology. The period from 1775 to 1783, perhaps more than any other period in our short history, went through the wringer of nineteenth century romanticism perhaps a little worse for the wear. Students of the period too often find that many aspects of the Revolution have become pseudo-historical. The history of one action in particular, the storming of Stony Point, suffers from a number of myths that still persist, even into the twenty-first century. Five main tales surround Gen. Anthony Wayne’s victory over the British garrison at Stony Point in the wee hours of July 16, 1779.
Wayne’s Corps of Light Infantry spent June and early July 1779 encamped in the vicinity of the ruins of Fort Montgomery and “Sandy Beach,” today’s Highland Falls, New York. Here they trained and got used to having Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne, a tough, demanding, yet devoted field officer, as their commander. Six miles south of Fort Montgomery (as the crow flies) lay King’s Ferry, a vital crossing of the North or Hudson’s River for the Continental Army, which had been occupied by the British since May 31. By late June, Gen. Sir Henry Clinton had brought off the majority of his forces, leaving about 1,000 at King’s Ferry (Stony and Verplank Points) with roughly 500 on each side commanded respectively by Lt. Col Henry Johnson of the 17th Regiment of Foot and Lt. Col. James Webster of the 33rd Regiment. Generals Washington and Wayne, with help from Maj. “Light Horse” Henry Lee and Capt. Allan McLane, came up with a plan to take Stony Point. The American Light Infantry marched from Fort Montgomery over Dunderberg Mountain towards their objective on July 15, 1779 in the greatest secrecy. This much is fact. What was purported to happen next, however, is not.
According to legend, as the Light Infantry marched past Doodletown towards Springsteel’s Farm near the enemy garrison, they bayoneted all the dogs of the civilian population to prevent them from barking at the passing troops and warning the British of their approach. Told and retold throughout the nineteenth-century, the tale has become canon. The famed traveler Benson Lossing wrote in his Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution that “All the dogs in the neighborhood had been killed the day before, that their barking might not give notice of strangers near.” The popularity of Lossing’s book, which was initially published in 1850, has certainly spread the story and placed it in the collective American memory, especially as for so long Lossing was seen as authoritative. Even as recently as 2009 did the story appear in publication: “Wayne dispatched squads of soldiers to detain any nosy civilians and bayonet any dogs whose barking might betray the attack.” Another source, from 1973, gets even wilder: “Some of the soldiers noticed packs of dogs being brought in by Light Horse Lee’s scouts. Wayne had given orders that every dog within three miles of Stony Point should be brought in or destroyed.” Many more have made related claims. The earliest reference to the dogs being slaughtered, which may have inspired the tale, comes from the diary of Commodore Sir George Collier of the Royal Navy: “it was said that [the Americans] had taken the precaution to kill every dog two days before that was within some miles round the post, to prevent their approach being discovered by their barking.” One only need check the Washington Papers to see that in neither orders nor correspondence between Washington and Wayne are there even passing references to dogs. Also, a glance at a period map of the area between Fort Montgomery and Stony Point shows that it was sparsely populated; it is also unreasonable to assume most households owned a dog.
What General Wayne did in fact order for the safety of the Light Corps on their march was a bit different. On the morning of the march (July 15) Wayne ordered Capt. James Chrystie of the 3rd Pennsylvania Regiment to “fix upon the proper place … to prevent any person from going or coming out from the enemy … You are to take and keep all the male inhabitants in the vicinity of the enemy’s lines until further orders.” No dogs were ordered harmed. Civilians were taken and kept. The area, like the rest of the Lower Hudson Valley, was not entirely pro-American, and so no risk could be taken of any intelligence getting to the British.
One of the often repeated phrases between Washington and Wayne was supposed to have been said during the planning of the storming of Stony Point. As it goes, Washington was to have noticed Wayne looking disgruntled, confused, etc., regarding the initial plan to take the post. When questioned, Wayne was to have replied to assure Washington of his confidence, “General, if you only plan it, I’ll storm Hell!,” echoing the hot-headed, sometimes impulsive mannerisms of Wayne (admittedly not too far from the mark), to which the cool and collected Commander-in-Chief was to have replied “Perhaps, General Wayne, we had better try Stony Point first.” Glenn Tucker mentions the story in his 1973 biography of Wayne. He mentions that Washington Irving first related it, that it may be “a tradition,” but still includes it in his book. In his citations, he mentions that numerous authors had repeated the story without citing a source. Lossing mentions it too: “’General I’ll storm hell if you will only plan it.’ He possessed the true fore of the flint, and was always governed by the maxim ‘where there’s a will there’s a way.’” The tale even appears in 1847 in a newspaper, the American Flag, printed in American occupied Matamoras, Mexico, during the Mexican-American War, probably to bring some Revolutionary fervor to the soldiers of the Mexican conflict. Again, the story is not sourced.
Another erroneous phrase, perhaps more an oral tradition (in the author’s experience) is the claim that as the Light Infantry ascended the steep slopes of the point, they cried out “Remember Paoli!” Paoli Tavern was near the site in Pennsylvania where Wayne was attacked on September 20, 1777 by Gen. Edward “No Flint” Grey, at night and with bayonets. Though not the “massacre” commonly remembered, Wayne did suffer a number of casualties. Despite that unpleasant affair, Wayne was not ordered to take Stony Point as retribution, even though like Grey’s attack it was done with bayonets at night. Don Loprieno, who wrote the most recent and best-researched volume on Stony Point, says very simply “No witnesses to the battle on either side report hearing [Remember Paoli].” In reality, the men had been ordered to maintain strict silence during the advance and initial attack. Once they had entered the works with some strength, they were to call out the watchword, really a phrase, “The Fort’s Our Own.” Wayne wrote to Washington to explain his final plan the day of the action: “When the works are forced and not before, the victorious troops will give the watch word [The Forts our own] with repeated, and loud voices … After the troops begin to advance to the works, the strictest silence must be observed.” 
One of the most legendary figures of the American War for Independence was Peter Francisco. Supposedly of Portuguese origin and left on a dock somewhere in Virginia as a youth, Francisco is shrouded in myth. His supposed role at Stony Point is more or less as follows: charging up the slopes in the southern column of attack, he, with either bayonet or his massive broadsword (ordered for him by Washington himself, of course) was second into the works, where while or just prior to fending off many British troops, he received a great wound in the abdomen.
Here is what we do know: firstly, Francisco did exist (the author has heard claims he did not), and he did serve in the Revolution. He may have indeed been one of the biggest soldiers, as he is often said to be (a good reason why so many myths are attached to him). In 1779, not only was he in Shelton’s company of the 6th Virginia Regiment, he was in the Light Infantry, which as a Virginian, meant he was in Col. Christian Febiger’s 1st Light Infantry Regiment. Francisco’s 1820 pension petition claims that he “volunteered himself under Col [François Louis de] Fleury to storm Stony Point fort on the North river, he was the second man who scaled the walls at the enemies fort on the right wing.” Much of this actually rings true; Lt. Col. de Fleury of the 1st Light Infantry commanded the vanguard of the right column. He detached twenty men in advance of his vanguard as a “forlorn hope” to clear obstacles and make way for the troops pouring in.
Considering his purported size, his having volunteered to clear the abatis (felled trees) would likely have been welcomed. What is questionable, however, is his being second in the fort; no one at the time made such a claim. Both de Fleury and Wayne in the weeks following the battle agreed that the second person to enter was Lt. George Knox of the 9th Pennsylvania, who commanded the forlorn hope of the main column. “It is unanymously acknowledged that the 1st man on the Rampart has been 1st … Lt. Colo. Fleury. 2D Lt … Knox … pensylvania Line. 3 … Serj Baker … virginia … 4 … Serjeant … Spencer … virginia … 5 … Serjeant Donlop … pensylvania.” One reason that it was important to note who entered the works and in what order, aside from the glory, was the prize money: “he [Wayne] solemnly engages to reward the first man who enters … five hundred dollars … to the second 400; to the third 300,” and so on. Later, Col. de Fleury asked Wayne that “the money to which I am entitled to be Delivered to my men 2d Lt. Knox begs the same.” While Francisco very well may have been in the forlorn hope, he was certainly not one of the first five to enter.
Another resounding myth is the role of one Pompey Lamb, slave to a local man, Captain Lamb, who lived just south of Stony Point. Lossing related that when Wayne’s men marched towards Stony Point, they “moved silently forward under the guidance of a negro slave belonging to a Captain Lamb who resided in the neighborhood.”  On arrival outside the post, “The negro, with two strong men disguised as farmers, advanced alone. The countersign was given to the first sentinel … while he was conversing with Pompey, the men seized and gagged him;” thus the way was open for the Corps of Light Infantry. Mr. Ten Eyck, the man running King’s Ferry when Lossing visited, related that “he knew this negro well.” That “Soon after the enemy took possession of the Point, Pompey ventured to go to them with strawberries to sell. He was kindly received … he carried on an extensive traffic with the garrison, and became a favorite with the officers.” Pompey was soon told by his master that he could no longer come to the British during the day, due to the agricultural season, and “unwilling to lose their supply of luxuries,” Pompey was given the countersign by the officers so he could come at night. Therefore, when Wayne arrived, Pompey had “a knowledge of the countersign.” 
Pompey Lamb probably existed. He appears on a militia list as ‘Pomp Lamb’ although it is a list put together in the first decade of the twentieth-century, which may damage its credibility. Assuming it is correct, and Lamb did exist, he is not once mentioned by anyone before, during, or after the battle, British or American. The idea of Lamb selling berries has two major stumbling blocks. For one, the claim that he sold berries “soon after the enemy took possession” does not hold much water. The British took the point on May 31. Early June is not typical strawberry season in New York. Another concern is the claim that the officers gave Lamb the countersign to enter the works at night. In the court martial of the British commander of the fort, the 17th Regiment’s Adjutant, Ens. Henry Hamilton, was very clear on the matter of nighttime access to the fort: “Lt. Col. Johnson would not allow of a Countersign, either the Night of the Attack or any other.” According to Hamilton, no passwords would permit the entry, even of a friend, into the works at night. It does not seem likely that an officer on night picket duty would endanger the garrison (and incur the wrath of his commanding officer) while supplies and fresh provisions were in no short supply. Don Loprieno summed up the tales of Francisco and Lamb accurately: “Lamb, like … Francisco, may have played some … role in the battle … but their colorful yet unconvincing stories are at variance with what is known.”
The Pay Tree
There remains one final myth, one that has recently resurfaced. Once again, Lossing recounts an early version of the story, perhaps the first one in print. Visiting eighty-eight year old Mr. Allison of Haverstraw, Lossing was told “of a black walnut-tree still standing by the roadside between Haverstraw and Stony Point under which … Pompey, took charge, as pilot, of Wayne’s assaulting force.” On his return north to King’s Ferry that evening, Lossing passed the tree and, stopping, took from it a branch suitable for a walking stick. The tree still stood in 1922, when it was mentioned in Historic American Trees: “The belief has been handed down among the residents of Stony Point, that under the old Walnut tree Washington paid the men after the battle.”
The tree in question did indeed exist, but whether it fell or was taken down is not known; it did not exist by 1990. In its place, an historic marker appeared in 2010, retelling the tale: “On this site stood the walnut tree where under its branches Gen George Washington paid his troops, 1779.” There exists no evidence that Washington ever personally paid his troops; as commander-in-chief, he was simply too busy. The tale fails to take into account two significant points. Firstly, the Light Infantry returned to Fort Montgomery after the attack and did not spend time in Haverstraw or the vicinity until the fall, where they were miles away from the tree. Secondly, the British repossessed Stony Point immediately after the battle. Col. Richard Butler (who commanded the 2nd Light Infantry Regiment), writing from Fort Montgomery, explained to Washington on July 19, three days post-action, that the enemy “took Immediate Possesion of the Point.” They would remain until October, so it seems unlikely that Washington would spend time quite so near a fortified enemy only to pay his men, as opposed to the safer and more convenient Hudson Highlands.
Many Revolutionary War battles, campaigns, and civilian activities have their myths, lore, and the like. Stony Point seems to endure a larger portion of such stories, with no particular reason as to why. Perhaps it was the speed of the action (under thirty minutes). Perhaps it was the nature of the assault. Perhaps the fame of General Wayne. Whatever the reason, the author wishes to burn off the fog of the above lore, and place this brilliant action under the lens of primary source documentation, in order to honor the troops who truly did endure the rigors of the Storming of Stony Point.
 Benson J Lossing,The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution; or Illustrations by Pen and Pencil, of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics, and Traditions of the War for Independence. Vol. I. (Glendale, NY: Benchmark Publishing Corporation, 1970), 746.
 Edward G. Lengel, “Bayonets at Midnight: The Battle of Stony Point,” www.historynet.com/bayonets-at-midnight-the-battle-of-stony-point.htm, accessed August 23, 2016.
 Glenn Tucker, Mad Anthony Wayne and the New Nation: The Story of Washington’s Front-Line General (Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1973), 151.
 Extract from the Journal of Commodore George Collier in Henry P. Johnston, The Storming of Stony Point on the Hudson: Midnight July 15, 1779: Its Importance in the Light of Unpublished Documents (New York: DaCapo Press, 1971), 134. The extract does not mention when it was written, but Commodore Collier died in 1795, so presumably sometime well before that.
 Most maps of the area show a few homesteads south of Donderberg Mountain: Storm’s, Clement’s, Parr’s, and Lamb’s (where Pompey lived). Even accounting for the possibility that there were more houses not included on the maps, the area, today’s Tomkin’s Cove (a hamlet within the town of Stony Point), is still lightly populated as compared to the rest of the county. Considering no other battle of the Revolution in which secrecy was an important factor has a story of assaulting dogs, it is unlikely to have happened at Stony Point. There are two other very significant points in relation to the myth: firstly, that killing the dogs, pets, or chattel of any family would turn them against the perpetrators, and secondly, dogs, like humans, yell, holler, and scream when bayoneted. Abnormal dogs sounds would certainly raise some suspicion; so too would (if all the dogs were killed) the absence of any barking. The author believes this myth to finally be disproven.
 Institution of the Society of the Cincinnati, Formed by the Officers of the American of the Revolution, 1783, With Extracts from the Proceedings of it’s General Meetings and from the Transactions of the New York State Society by John Schuyler, Secretary (New York: Society of the Cincinnati, 1886), 175. Captain Chrystie seems to have been in the confidence of Washington, and therefore Wayne.
 Tucker, Mad Anthony Wayne, 146, 265; Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book, 745.
 Isaac Neville Fleeson and J. R. Palmer, American Flag (Matamoras, Tamaulipas, Mexico), Vol. II No. 104, Ed. I, Monday, June 7, 1847, http://www.texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth478004/m1/1/?q=%22Stony+point%22, accessed August 18, 2016. Any planning of the engagement was done in the utmost secrecy. Aside from aides-de-camp, the only person who may have been present at a meeting between Wayne and Washington may have been Billy Lee, Washington’s valet. As the story does not seem to have originated from any of the above, this author feels safe in dispelling the quote as myth.
 For more on Paoli casualties see Todd Andrlik, “The 25 Deadliest Battles of the Revolutionary War,” Journal of the American Revolution (2014), https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/05/the-25-deadliest-battles-of-the-revolutionary-war/; Don Loprieno, The enterprise in contemplation: the midnight assault of Stony Point (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 2004), 73; Anthony Wayne to George Washington: Plan of Attack, July 15, 1779, Founders Online, National Archives, http://www.founders.archives.org/documents/Washington/03-21-02-0416-0002, italics in the original. One apocryphal but unique battle cry attributed to Stony Point was “Remember Ledyerd” in reference to Col. Ledyerd who was killed at Fort Griswold, Connecticut. Unfortunately for that theory, Ledyerd did not fall until 1781, when Ft. Griswold was attacked, two years after Stony Point. Francis Moore, Jr., Telegraph & Texas Register (Houston, TX), Vol 17, No. 19, May 7, 1852, http://www.texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth233386/m1/1/q=%22Stony+point%22, accessed August 18, 2016.
 Michael Schellhammer, “Peter Francisco: Fact or Fiction,” Journal of the American Revolution, https://allthingsliberty.com/2013/07/peter-francisco-fact-or-fiction/; Pension Application of Peter Francisco, transcribed by C. Leon Harris, Southern Campaign Revolutionary War Pension Statements & Rosters, http://www.revwarapps.org/w110221.pdf, accessed August 26, 2016; Loprieno, The Enterprise in Contemplation, 30; Wayne, Plan of Attack; de Fleury to Wayne in Charles J. Stille, Major-General Anthony Wayne and the Pennsylvania Line in the Continental Army (Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1893), 403.
 Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book, 744.
 ibid., 746.
 New York in the Revolution As Colony and State Vol. I, 1904, transcribed by Coralynn Brown, http://dunhamwilcox.net/ny/ny_rev_levies_orange.htm, accessed August 26, 2016.
 The author begs the reader’s forgiveness for inaccuracies in strawberry season; in his experience, the wild strawberries that used to grow at Stony Point were not large enough to sell until late June, not the first two weeks of the month.
 At night, when a sentry challenged someone approaching, they would exchange signs and countersigns to establish friend from foe. Signs and countersigns generally changed frequently to deter espionage.
 Testimony of Ens. Henry Hamilton in Loprieno, The Enterprise in Contemplation, 142, 79. The 17th Regiment had eight of the eleven infantry companies at Stony Point.
 Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book, 752-3.
 Katharine Stanley Nicholson, Historic American Trees (New York: Frye Publishing Company, 1922), 83.
 In the early 1990s, there was only a willow tree near the site. The site can be found at the northeast corner of the intersection of Rt. 9W and Filor’s Lane in Stony Point.
 Historical Marker Database, http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=33209
 Michael J. F. Sheehan, “The Unsuccessful American Attempt on Verplanck Point, July 16-19, 1779,” Journal of the American Revolution (December 10, 2014), http://allthingsliberty.com/2014/09/the-unsuccessful-american-attempt-on-verplanck-point-july-16-19-1779/.