Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883

Volume I, Page 642

Wages in the Highlands.-- As already shown, a man with two yoke of oxen or two span of horses usually commanded $4. a day; carpenters 7-6 or $0.03 1/2, foremen $1.50; blacksmiths $1.37 1/2 to $1.50, foremen $2; artificers same as blacksmiths; ship-wrights $1.50, foremen $3.12 1/2; captains of companies $3; female cooks for different companies 5 s 3d, or $0.65 1/2.

The Obstructions at West Point, how Handled.--Every season on the approach of winter, the chain and boom were taken on shore with their floats, and replaced in the spring. This, as the reader may suppose, was to prevent the ice from carryiny them off. Capt. Eben Williams, who cantoned two winters in the Highlands, assured the writer that he, with his company of Massachusetts infantry, assisted both seasons in removing and replacing those obstructions. Two other companies of troops were engaged with his own in this arduous duty, making a force of about 100 men; and we may conclude that the modus operandi was directed by Engineer Machin, as he usually wintered at New Windsor. Capt. W. assured me that they had at command all the boats they needed, and, at times, one or more sloops. They used a large windlass, loosened one end of the chain and its floats, and gradually drew it upon the opposite shore, where he said it made a huge pile, and such would especially be the case with the boom. Mr. Ruttenber in his Hudson River Obstructions, page 146, alluding to this statement, scouted the idea of the labor being thus performed, by saying: "The simple fact in reference to thia is, that one end of the chain and of the boom, being loosened from its fastening, a windlass was employed to swing the body around to the shore, a very simple process and easily accomplished."

This were easier said than done. Possibly the writer who penned this sentence, knew better how the labor was performed than did the men who executed it. My informant assured me it could not be done in the manner here guessed at. He said those works had to be drawn directly across, for if they swung round to the shore-as they would with the tide, if they did not break themselves loose-they could not possibly be drawn up the stream again: and we may readily imagine that if the chain had been allowed to swing by the current of the stream to one shore, the floats would most likely be broken if not lost. The greatest difficulty to overcome in the labor was to keep the moving mass up the stream as much as possible. The windlass was arranged to draw across and not up the stream.

Joseph Gilbert, of Oswego county, assured the writer in 1862, that his grandfather was at West Point in 1778, and aided in putting the great chain across the river. He told his friends that while it was being done one end of the chain swung down the stream a little, and it was with very great labor got back and restored to its intended position.

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