Chaining the Hudson: The Fight for the River in the American Revolution (VINTAGE)
This well-researched chronicle covers the struggle for control of the Hudson highlands and of the strategically vital waterway itself from 1775 to 1783. The narrative is concerned principally with military/naval inventions produced by "rebel genius" for use in that particular zone of operations during the Revolutionary War. They include flaming-tower signal systems, ingenious shallow-water obstructions and the first torpedo-carrying submarine. With one exception, none were great successes. In 1778, Lt. Thomas Machin of the Continental Army devised and directed the forging and assembly of a 1700-foot chain, which was then winched across the Hudson at West Point and provided with a shock-absorbing boom. The barrier proved to be a turning-point in the war, as it prevented the Royal Navy from ascending the river and splitting the colonies. Diamant's ( Bernard Romans ) painstaking reconstruction of this remarkable engineering feat is impressive. He goes on to trace the chain's fate after its "honorable retirement" in 1782.