On August 19, 1779 “Lighthorse” Harry Lee and a force of about 200 Continental soldiers (a mixed force of dragoons and infantry) attacked the British fort at Paulus Hook which consisted of an abatis outside of breastworks, inside of which were blockhouses and a magazine. The magazine was Lee’s goal.
The Fort was guarded by a mixed force of Provincials, Invalid Brigade, and a few dozen men from the Knyphausen Regiment. The total force defending the fort was about 250.
Lee split his force into three columns and attacked the fort about 3AM, quickly taking the fort’s guns, thus silencing any hope of sounding the alarm to forces across the harbor. A large number of men barricaded themselves in a blockhouse and kept up a steady fire on the American forces, and Lee attempted to burn them out at least once but quit—at least one of his stated reasons was that there were women and children in the blockhouse as well as wounded soldiers, though it may have actually had more to do with the difficulty of setting a proper fire on the blockhouse while under harassing fire from the enemy.
About 4:00 or 4:30, with daylight starting to come on Lee had to retreat or risk being discovered and surrounded by reinforcements from New York. His mission was only a partial success, in that he was not able to take the magazine. However he did manage to take 158 prisoners and wound or kill 50 of the enemy.
He lost two killed and three wounded.
In thanks for the mission Lee was granted a gold medal by Congress by way of reward, and the men were given $15,000 to split among themselves. Two men, Lieutenants McCallister and Rudolph were promoted to Captain because they had led the forlorn hope.