At the top of Inwood Hill in north Manhattan, situated right over the Hutson River sat Fort Cockhill (or Cox’s Hill, as General Washington called it.) Cockhill was the northernmost of a series of outposts and forts that were constructed on Manhattan Island (then known as York Island) to prevent the British advance down the Hudson River.
Unfortunately, Fort Cockhill was stormed by Hessian mercenaries late in 1776 and used as a position to leapfrog southward to Fort Tryon and on to Fort Washington. Now it is just a handful of stone blocks in a clearing.
By the time we finished hiking the Indian Caves and the remains of Fort Cockhill, it was sleeting on us and we hiked onward to the next stop – Fort Tryon Park with its steep climb up past The Cloisters to the second-highest point on Manhattan.
The highlight of our climb up and around The Cloisters was learning about Margaret Corbin.
Margaret Corbin was married to a Revolutionary War soldier and followed him into battle as many women did with their husbands. The Corbins were manning a canon overlooking the Hudson, when her husband was shot and killed.
Mrs. Corbin took over the canon and continued firing upon the British/Hessian forces until she was shot, destroying her arm, shoulder, and breast. She survived but was disabled and received an official military pension for the remainder of her life.
That makes her officially our first American female wounded warrior!
Some years later, her body was moved to West Point Academy with a beautiful, impressive monument.
A large part of the text of the Declaration of Independence is a list of grievances against the King, including,
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us…
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people…
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
A great illustration of these grievances is the Dyckman Farmhouse, a late-1600’s Dutch Colonial house in northern Manhattan near Forts Tryon and Washington. The Dyckman House was built by William Dyckman to replace his previous home which had been destroyed in the war.
When the British were besieging those forts, they housed their Hessian mercenaries (expendables) throughout the area in tiny huts barely larger than some doghouses I’ve seen.
The Dyckman House is now a museum and one of the Hessian huts has been moved into the back yard and preserved there. The Farmhouse and the huts serve to corroborate the complaints in the Declaration about the British quartering troops among us, destroying private property, and transporting mercenaries to America.