In fact, a desperate measure was under way. At a little past midnight, two American whaleboats had departed the southern tip of Manhattan with a secret weapon in tow. Considering the technological limitations of the time, this weapon was—as George Washington later described it—“an effort of genius.”
Courage and Innovation Combined
On the night of 6–7 September 1776, a huge Royal Navy fleet lay at anchor in the waters between Staten Island and Manhattan, making a grand display of British sea power. One observer, looking out over the water at the many masts arrayed before him, noted that it seemed as though a forest had suddenly grown there. For the American Continental Army—waiting for the impending British attack on Manhattan Island—the situation seemed dire and wanting of desperate measures.
By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)