New York and New Jersey campaign

New York and New Jersey campaign

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The New York and New Jersey campaign was a series of battles for control of New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 and the state of New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 in the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 between British
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 forces under General Sir William Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, KB, PC was a British army officer who rose to become Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American War of Independence...

 and the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 under General George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 in 1776 and the winter months of 1777. Howe was successful in driving Washington out of New York City, but overextended his reach into New Jersey, and ended the active campaign season in January 1777 with only a few outposts near the city. The British held New York for the rest of the war, using it as a base for expeditions against other targets.

First landing unopposed on Staten Island
Staten Island
Staten Island is a borough of New York City, New York, United States, located in the southwest part of the city. Staten Island is separated from New Jersey by the Arthur Kill and the Kill Van Kull, and from the rest of New York by New York Bay...

 on July 3, 1776, Howe assembled an army composed of elements that had been withdrawn from Boston in March following their failure to hold that city
Boston campaign
The Boston campaign was the opening campaign of the American Revolutionary War. The campaign was primarily concerned with the formation of American colonial irregular militia units, and their transformation into a unified Continental Army...

, combined with additional British troops, as well as Hessian troops rented from several German principalities. Washington had New England soldiers as well as regiments from states as far south as Virginia. Landing on Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

 in August, again without opposition, Howe drove Washington north to White Plains, New York
White Plains, New York
White Plains is a city and the county seat of Westchester County, New York, United States. It is located in south-central Westchester, about east of the Hudson River and northwest of Long Island Sound...

. At that point Howe returned to Manhattan to capture forces Washington had left in the north of that island.

Washington and much of his army crossed the Hudson River
Hudson River
The Hudson is a river that flows from north to south through eastern New York. The highest official source is at Lake Tear of the Clouds, on the slopes of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains. The river itself officially begins in Henderson Lake in Newcomb, New York...

 into New Jersey, and retreated all the way across the Delaware River
Delaware River
The Delaware River is a major river on the Atlantic coast of the United States.A Dutch expedition led by Henry Hudson in 1609 first mapped the river. The river was christened the South River in the New Netherland colony that followed, in contrast to the North River, as the Hudson River was then...

 into Pennsylvania, shrinking due to ending enlistment periods, desertions, and poor morale. Howe ordered his troops into winter quarters in December, establishing a chain of outposts from New York to Burlington, New Jersey
Burlington, New Jersey
Burlington is a city in Burlington County, New Jersey, United States and a suburb of Philadelphia. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city population was 9,920....

. Washington, in a tremendous boost to American morale, launched a successful strike against the Trenton garrison
Battle of Trenton
The Battle of Trenton took place on December 26, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, after General George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton, New Jersey. The hazardous crossing in adverse weather made it possible for Washington to lead the main body of the...

 after crossing the icy Delaware River
Washington's crossing of the Delaware
Washington's crossing of the Delaware River, which occurred on December 25, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, was the first move in a surprise attack organized by George Washington against the Hessian forces in Trenton, New Jersey...

, prompting Howe to withdraw his chain of outposts back to New Brunswick
New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick is a city in Middlesex County, New Jersey, USA. It is the county seat and the home of Rutgers University. The city is located on the Northeast Corridor rail line, southwest of Manhattan, on the southern bank of the Raritan River. At the 2010 United States Census, the population of...

 and the coast near New York, while Washington established his winter camp at Morristown
Morristown, New Jersey
Morristown is a town in Morris County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the town population was 18,411. It is the county seat of Morris County. Morristown became characterized as "the military capital of the American Revolution" because of its strategic role in the...

. During the remaining winter months, both sides skirmished frequently
Forage War
The Forage War was a partisan campaign consisting of numerous small skirmishes that took place in New Jersey during the American Revolutionary War between January and March 1777, following the battles of Trenton and Princeton...

 as the British sought forage and provisions.

Britain maintained control of New York City and some of the surrounding territory until the war ended in 1783, using it as a base for operations elsewhere in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

. In 1777, General Howe launched a campaign to capture Philadelphia
Philadelphia campaign
The Philadelphia campaign was a British initiative in the American Revolutionary War to gain control of Philadelphia, which was then the seat of the Second Continental Congress...

, leaving General Sir Henry Clinton in command of the New York area, while General John Burgoyne
John Burgoyne
General John Burgoyne was a British army officer, politician and dramatist. He first saw action during the Seven Years' War when he participated in several battles, mostly notably during the Portugal Campaign of 1762....

 led an attempt to gain control
Saratoga campaign
The Saratoga Campaign was an attempt by Great Britain to gain military control of the strategically important Hudson River valley in 1777 during the American Revolutionary War...

 of the Hudson River
Hudson River
The Hudson is a river that flows from north to south through eastern New York. The highest official source is at Lake Tear of the Clouds, on the slopes of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains. The river itself officially begins in Henderson Lake in Newcomb, New York...

 valley from Quebec that failed at Saratoga. Northern New Jersey was the scene of skirmishing between the opposing forces for the rest of the war.

Background



Not long after the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 broke out in April 1775, British
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 and colonial
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 troops clashed in the Battle of Bunker Hill
Battle of Bunker Hill
The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17, 1775, mostly on and around Breed's Hill, during the Siege of Boston early in the American Revolutionary War...

. When news of this expensive British victory reached London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, General William Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, KB, PC was a British army officer who rose to become Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American War of Independence...

 and Lord George Germain
George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville
George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville PC , known as the Hon. George Sackville to 1720, as Lord George Sackville from 1720 to 1770, and as Lord George Germain from 1770 to 1782, was a British soldier and politician who was Secretary of State for America in Lord North's cabinet during the American...

, the British official responsible for its North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

n colonies, decided that a "decisive action" should be taken against New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 using forces recruited from throughout the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 as well as troops hired from German principalities of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

.

General George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

, recently named by the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

, echoed the sentiments of others that the city was "a post of infinite importance", and began the task of organizing military companies in the New York area when he stopped there on his way to take command of the siege of Boston
Siege of Boston
The Siege of Boston was the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War, in which New England militiamen—who later became part of the Continental Army—surrounded the town of Boston, Massachusetts, to prevent movement by the British Army garrisoned within...

. In January 1776 Washington ordered Charles Lee
Charles Lee (general)
Charles Lee was a British soldier who later served as a General of the Continental Army during the American War of Independence. Lee served in the British army during the Seven Years War. After the war he sold his commission and served for a time in the Polish army of King Stanislaus II...

 to raise troops and take command of New York's defenses. Lee had made some progress on the city's defenses when word arrived in late March 1776 that the British army had left Boston after Washington threatened them from heights
Fortification of Dorchester Heights
The Fortification of Dorchester Heights was a decisive action early in the American Revolutionary War that precipitated the end of the siege of Boston and the withdrawal of British troops from that city....

 south of the city. Concerned that General Howe was sailing directly to New York, Washington hurried regiments from Boston, including General Israel Putnam
Israel Putnam
Israel Putnam was an American army general and Freemason who fought with distinction at the Battle of Bunker Hill during the American Revolutionary War...

, who commanded the troops until Washington himself arrived in mid-April. At the end of April Washington dispatched General John Sullivan
John Sullivan
John Sullivan was the third son of Irish immigrants, a United States general in the Revolutionary War, a delegate in the Continental Congress and a United States federal judge....

 with six regiments to the north to bolster the faltering Quebec campaign
Invasion of Canada (1775)
The Invasion of Canada in 1775 was the first major military initiative by the newly formed Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. The objective of the campaign was to gain military control of the British Province of Quebec, and convince the French-speaking Canadiens to join the...

.
General Howe, rather than moving against New York, withdrew his army to Halifax
City of Halifax
Halifax is a city in Canada, which was the capital of the province of Nova Scotia and shire town of Halifax County. It was the largest city in Atlantic Canada until it was amalgamated into Halifax Regional Municipality in 1996...

, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

, and regrouped while transports full of British troops, shipped from bases around Europe and intended for New York, began gathering at Halifax. In June he set sail for New York with the 9,000 men assembled there, before all of the transports arrived. German troops, primarily from Hesse-Kassel
Hesse-Kassel
The Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel or Hesse-Cassel was a state in the Holy Roman Empire under Imperial immediacy that came into existence when the Landgraviate of Hesse was divided in 1567 upon the death of Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse. His eldest son William IV inherited the northern half and the...

, as well as British troops from Henry Clinton's ultimately unsuccessful expedition to the Carolinas
Battle of Sullivan's Island
The Battle of Sullivan's Island or the Battle of Fort Sullivan was fought on June 28, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, also known as the American War of Independence. It took place near Charleston, South Carolina, during the first British attempt to capture the city from American rebels...

, were to meet with Howe's fleet when it reached New York. General Howe's brother, Admiral Lord Howe
Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe
Admiral of the Fleet Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe KG was a British naval officer, notable in particular for his service during the American War of Independence and French Revolutionary Wars. He was the brother of William Howe and George Howe.Howe joined the navy at the age of thirteen and served...

, arrived at Halifax with further transports after the general sailed, and immediately followed.

When General Howe arrived in the outer harbor of New York, the ships began sailing up the undefended Narrows
The Narrows
The Narrows is the tidal strait separating the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn in New York City. It connects the Upper New York Bay and Lower New York Bay and forms the principal channel by which the Hudson River empties into the Atlantic Ocean...

 between Staten Island
Staten Island
Staten Island is a borough of New York City, New York, United States, located in the southwest part of the city. Staten Island is separated from New Jersey by the Arthur Kill and the Kill Van Kull, and from the rest of New York by New York Bay...

 and Long island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

 on July 2, and started landing troops on the undefended shores of Staten Island that day. Washington learned from prisoners taken that Howe had landed 10,000 men, but was awaiting the arrival of another 15,000. General Washington, with a smaller army of about 19,000 effective troops, lacked significant intelligence on the British force and plans, and was uncertain exactly where in the New York area the Howes intended to strike. He consequently split the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 between fortified positions on Long Island, Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

 and other mainland locations, and also established a "Flying Camp
Flying Camp
In the American Revolutionary War, the Flying Camp was a military formation employed by the Americans in the second half of 1776.After the British evacuation of Boston in March 1776, General George Washington met with members of the Continental Congress to determine future military strategy...

" in northern New Jersey. This was intended as a reserve force that could support operations anywhere along the Jersey shore of the Hudson.

Capture of New York City



The Howe brothers had been granted authority as peace commissioners by Parliament, with limited powers to pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict. King George III was not optimistic about the possibility of a peace, "yet I think it right to be attempted, whilst every act of vigour is unremittingly carried on". Their powers were limited to granting of "general and special pardons" and to "confer with any of his Majesty's subjects". On July 14, pursuant to these powers, Admiral Howe sent a messenger with a letter addressed to "George Washington, Esq." across the harbor. Washington's adjutant, Joseph Reed
Joseph Reed (jurist)
Joseph Reed was a Pennsylvania lawyer, military officer, and statesman of the Revolutionary Era. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and, while in Congress, signed the Articles of Confederation...

, politely informed the messenger that no person with that title was in their army. Admiral Howe's aide wrote that "the Punctilio of an Address" should not have prevented the letter's delivery, and Howe was said to be visibly annoyed by the rejection. A second request, addressed to "George Washington, Esq., etc." was similarly rejected, although the messenger was told that Washington would receive one of Howe's adjutants. In that fruitless meeting, held July 20, Washington pointed out that the limited powers the Howe brothers had been given were not of much use, as the rebels had done no wrong requiring an amnesty.

In late August, the British transported about 22,000 men (including 9,000 Hessians) to Long Island. In the Battle of Long Island
Battle of Long Island
The Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn or the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, fought on August 27, 1776, was the first major battle in the American Revolutionary War following the United States Declaration of Independence, the largest battle of the entire conflict, and the...

 on August 27, 1776, the British outflanked
Flanking maneuver
In military tactics, a flanking maneuver, also called a flank attack, is an attack on the sides of an opposing force. If a flanking maneuver succeeds, the opposing force would be surrounded from two or more directions, which significantly reduces the maneuverability of the outflanked force and its...

 the American positions, driving the Americans back to the Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn
Brooklyn Heights is a culturally diverse neighborhood within the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Originally referred to as 'Brooklyn Village', it has been a prominent area of Brooklyn since 1834. As of 2000, Brooklyn Heights sustained a population of 22,594 people. The neighborhood is part of...

 fortifications. General Howe then began to lay siege to the works, but Washington skillfully managed a nighttime retreat
Withdrawal (military)
A withdrawal is a type of military operation, generally meaning retreating forces back while maintaining contact with the enemy. A withdrawal may be undertaken as part of a general retreat, to consolidate forces, to occupy ground that is more easily defended, or to lead the enemy into an ambush...

 through his unguarded rear across the East River
East River
The East River is a tidal strait in New York City. It connects Upper New York Bay on its south end to Long Island Sound on its north end. It separates Long Island from the island of Manhattan and the Bronx on the North American mainland...

 to Manhattan Island. Howe then paused to consolidate his position and consider his next move.


During the battle, the British had captured General John Sullivan
John Sullivan
John Sullivan was the third son of Irish immigrants, a United States general in the Revolutionary War, a delegate in the Continental Congress and a United States federal judge....

. Admiral Howe convinced him to deliver a message to Congress in Philadelphia, and released him on parole. Washington also gave his permission, and on September 2 Sullivan told the Congress that the Howes wanted to negotiate, and had been given much broader powers to treat than those they actually held. This created a diplomatic problem for Congress, which did not want to be seen as aggressive, which is how some representatives felt a direct rejection of the appeal would appear. Consequently, Congress agreed to send a committee to meet with the Howes in a move they did not think would bear any fruit. On September 11, the Howe brothers met with John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

, Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

, and Edward Rutledge
Edward Rutledge
Edward Rutledge was an American politician and youngest signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. He later served as the 39th Governor of South Carolina.-Early years and career:...

 in the Staten Island Peace Conference
Staten Island Peace Conference
The Staten Island Peace Conference was a brief meeting held in the hope of bringing an end to the American Revolution. The conference took place on September 11, 1776, at Billop Manor, the residence of Colonel Christopher Billop, on Staten Island, New York...

. It had exactly the outcome the Americans expected.

During this time, Washington, who had previously been ordered by Congress to hold New York City, was concerned that he might have escaped one trap for another, since the army was still vulnerable to being surrounded on Manhattan. To keep his escape routes open to the north, he placed 5,000 troops in the city (which then only occupied the lower portion of Manhattan), and took the rest of the army to Harlem Heights
Morningside Heights, Manhattan
Morningside Heights is a neighborhood of the Borough of Manhattan in New York City and is chiefly known as the home of institutions such as Columbia University, Teachers College, Barnard College, the Manhattan School of Music, Bank Street College of Education, the Cathedral of Saint John the...

. In the first recorded use of a submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

 in warfare, he also attempted a novel attack on the Royal Navy, launching the Turtle
Turtle (submarine)
The Turtle was the world's first submersible with a documented record of use in combat. It was built in Old Saybrook, Connecticut in 1775 by American Patriot David Bushnell as a means of attaching explosive charges to ships in a harbor...

in a failed attempt to sink the , Admiral Howe's flagship.

On September 15, General Howe landed about 12,000 men
Landing at Kip's Bay
The Landing at Kip's Bay was a British amphibious landing during the New York Campaign in the American Revolutionary War on September 15, 1776, occurring on the eastern shore of present-day Manhattan....

 on lower Manhattan, quickly taking control of New York City. The Americans withdrew to Harlem, where they skirmished the next day
Battle of Harlem Heights
The Battle of Harlem Heights was fought during the New York and New Jersey campaign of the American Revolutionary War. The action took place in what is now the Morningside Heights and west Harlem neighborhoods of Manhattan in New York City on September 16, 1776....

, but held their ground. Rather than attempting to dislodge Washington from his strong position a second time, Howe again opted for a flanking maneuver. Landing troops with some opposition
Battle of Pell's Point
The Battle of Pell's Point , also known as the Battle of Pelham, was a skirmish fought between British and American troops during the New York and New Jersey campaign of the American Revolutionary War...

 in October in Westchester County, he sought once again to encircle
Encirclement
Encirclement is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces. The German term for this is Kesselschlacht ; a comparable English term might be "in the bag"....

 Washington. To defend against this move, Washington withdrew most of his army to White Plains
White Plains, New York
White Plains is a city and the county seat of Westchester County, New York, United States. It is located in south-central Westchester, about east of the Hudson River and northwest of Long Island Sound...

, where after a short battle
Battle of White Plains
The Battle of White Plains was a battle in the New York and New Jersey campaign of the American Revolutionary War fought on October 28, 1776, near White Plains, New York. Following the retreat of George Washington's Continental Army northward from New York City, British General William Howe landed...

 on October 28 he retreated further north. This isolated the remaining Continental Army troops in upper Manhattan, so Howe returned to Manhattan and captured
Battle of Fort Washington
The Battle of Fort Washington was fought in the American Revolutionary War between the United States and Great Britain on November 16, 1776. It was a decisive British victory, forcing the entire garrison of Fort Washington to surrender....

 Fort Washington
Fort Washington (New York)
Fort Washington was a fortified position near the north end of Manhattan Island and was located at the highest point on the island. The Fort Washington Site is listed on the U.S...

 in mid November, taking almost 3,000 prisoners. Four days later, Fort Lee, across the Hudson River
Hudson River
The Hudson is a river that flows from north to south through eastern New York. The highest official source is at Lake Tear of the Clouds, on the slopes of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains. The river itself officially begins in Henderson Lake in Newcomb, New York...

 from Fort Washington, was also taken. Washington brought much of his army across the Hudson into New Jersey, but was immediately forced to retreat by the aggressive British advance.
General Howe, after consolidating British positions around New York harbor, detached 6,000 men under the command of two of his more difficult subordinates, Henry Clinton, and Hugh, Earl Percy
Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland
Lieutenant-General Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland, FRS was an officer in the British army and later a British peer...

 to take Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport is a city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States, about south of Providence. Known as a New England summer resort and for the famous Newport Mansions, it is the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport which houses the United States Naval War...

 (which they did without opposition on December 8), while he sent General Lord Cornwallis
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis KG , styled Viscount Brome between 1753 and 1762 and known as The Earl Cornwallis between 1762 and 1792, was a British Army officer and colonial administrator...

 to chase Washington's army through New Jersey. The Americans withdrew across the Delaware River
Delaware River
The Delaware River is a major river on the Atlantic coast of the United States.A Dutch expedition led by Henry Hudson in 1609 first mapped the river. The river was christened the South River in the New Netherland colony that followed, in contrast to the North River, as the Hudson River was then...

 into Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 in early December.

Reactions


The outlook of the Continental Army—and thus the revolution itself—was bleak. "These are the times that try men's souls", wrote Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

 in The American Crisis
The American Crisis
The American Crisis was a series of pamphlets published from 1776 to 1783 during the American Revolution by 18th century Enlightenment philosopher and author Thomas Paine. The first volume begins with the famous words "These are the times that try men's souls". There were sixteen pamphlets in total...

. Washington's army had dwindled to fewer than 5,000 men fit for duty and would be significantly reduced after enlistments expired at the end of the year. Spirits were low, popular support was wavering, and Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 had abandoned Philadelphia, fearing a British attack. Washington ordered some of the troops that returned from the failed invasion of Quebec
Invasion of Canada (1775)
The Invasion of Canada in 1775 was the first major military initiative by the newly formed Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. The objective of the campaign was to gain military control of the British Province of Quebec, and convince the French-speaking Canadiens to join the...

 to join him, and also ordered General Lee's troops, which he had left north of New York City, to join him. Lee, whose relationship with Washington was at times difficult, made excuses and only traveled as far as Morristown, New Jersey
Morristown, New Jersey
Morristown is a town in Morris County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the town population was 18,411. It is the county seat of Morris County. Morristown became characterized as "the military capital of the American Revolution" because of its strategic role in the...

. When Lee strayed too far from his army on December 12, his exposed position was betrayed by Loyalists, and a British company led by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton
Banastre Tarleton
General Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB was a British soldier and politician.He is today probably best remembered for his military service during the American War of Independence. He became the focal point of a propaganda campaign claiming that he had fired upon surrendering Continental...

 surrounded the inn where he was staying and took him prisoner. Lee's command was taken over by John Sullivan, who finished marching the army to Washington's camp across the river from Trenton
Trenton, New Jersey
Trenton is the capital of the U.S. state of New Jersey and the county seat of Mercer County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Trenton had a population of 84,913...

.

The capture of Lee presented the Howes with a problematic prisoner. As with a number of other Continental Army leaders, he had previously served in the British Army. Because of this the Howes at first treated him as a deserter
Desertion
In military terminology, desertion is the abandonment of a "duty" or post without permission and is done with the intention of not returning...

, with threats of military punishment. However, Washington intervened, tying the treatment of Lee to the treatment of prisoners he held. Lee was ultimately treated well, and apparently offered the British commanders advice on how to win the war. Because the Americans did not have a prisoner of comparable rank, Lee remained a prisoner in New York until 1778, when was exchanged for Richard Prescott
Richard Prescott
Richard Prescott was a British officer, born in England.He was appointed a major of the 33rd Regiment of Foot, on 20 December 1756, transferred to the 72nd Regiment of Foot on 9 May 1758, and on 14 December 1761, lieutenant-colonel of the 17th Regiment of Foot, before in May 1762, transferring to...

.
The failure of the Continental Army to hold New York also brought about a rise in Loyalist activity. The British actively recruited in New York and New Jersey to build regiments of provincial militia, with some success. Loyalists in these areas may have been motivated by seeing elements of the rebel army head home after their enlistments ended. One New York Patriot militia leader wrote that thirty of his men, rather than reenlisting with him, had instead signed up with the enemy. On November 30 Admiral Howe offered amnesty to anyone that had taken up arms against the Crown, provided they swore an oath to it. Washington responded with his own proclamation suggesting that those who did not renounce such oaths should immediately go behind British lines. As a result New Jersey became a civil battlefield, with militia activity as well as spying and counterspying continuing for the rest of the war.

News of the capture of New York was favorably received in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, and General Howe was awarded the Order of the Bath
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

 for his work. Combined with news of the recovery of Quebec, circumstances suggested to British leaders that the war could be ended with one more year's campaigning. News of Admiral Howe's amnesty proclamation was met with some surprise, as its terms were more lenient than the hardliners in the government expected. Politicians opposed to the war pointed out that the proclamation failed to mention the primacy of the Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

. Furthermore, the Howes were criticized for failing to keep Parliament informed of the various peace efforts they embarked on.

Howe's strategy



With the campaign at an apparent conclusion for the season, the British established a chain of outposts stretching from Perth Amboy
Perth Amboy, New Jersey
Perth Amboy is a city in Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States. The City of Perth Amboy is part of the New York metropolitan area. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city population was 50,814. Perth Amboy is known as the "City by the Bay", referring to Raritan Bay.-Name:The Lenape...

 to Bordentown
Bordentown, New Jersey
Bordentown City is in Burlington County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city population was 3,924. Bordentown is located at the confluence of the Delaware River, Blacks Creek and Crosswicks Creek...

 and entered winter quarters. They controlled much of New York and New Jersey and were in a good position to resume operations in the spring, with the rebel capital of Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

 in striking distance. Howe detached General Clinton with 6,000 men to occupy Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport is a city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States, about south of Providence. Known as a New England summer resort and for the famous Newport Mansions, it is the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport which houses the United States Naval War...

 as a base for future operations against Boston and Connecticut (Clinton occupied Newport in early December without opposition.) Howe then sketched a campaign for the following year in a letter to Lord Germain: 10,000 men at Newport, 10,000 for an expedition to Albany (to meet an army descending from Quebec), 8,000 to cross New Jersey and threaten Philadelphia, and 5,000 to defend New York. If additional foreign forces were available, operations could also be considered against the southern states.

Washington's counterstrike


While worrying over how to hold his army together, Washington organized attacks on the relatively exposed British outposts, which were as a result continually on edge due to ongoing militia and army raids. German commanders Carl von Donop
Carl von Donop
Count Carl Emilius von Donop was a Hessian colonel who fought in the American Revolutionary War.-Origins and ambitions:...

 and Johann Rall, whose brigades were at the end of the chain of outposts, were frequent targets of these raids, but their repeated warnings and requests for support from General James Grant were dismissed.
Beginning in mid-December, Washington planned a two-pronged attack on Rall's outpost in Trenton, with a third diversionary attack on Donop's outpost in Bordentown. The plan was aided by the fortuitous presence of a militia company that drew Donop's entire 2,000-man force away from Bordentown to the south that resulted in a skirmish at Mount Holly
Battle of Iron Works Hill
The Battle of Iron Works Hill, also known as the Battle of Mount Holly, was a series of minor skirmishes that took place on December 22 and 23, 1776, during the American War of Independence...

 on December 23. The consequence of this action was that Donop was not in a position to assist Rall when Washington's attack on Trenton took place. On Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 night, Washington and 2,400 men stealthily crossed the Delaware
Washington's crossing of the Delaware
Washington's crossing of the Delaware River, which occurred on December 25, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, was the first move in a surprise attack organized by George Washington against the Hessian forces in Trenton, New Jersey...

 and surprised Rall's outpost
Battle of Trenton
The Battle of Trenton took place on December 26, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, after General George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton, New Jersey. The hazardous crossing in adverse weather made it possible for Washington to lead the main body of the...

 the following morning, killing or capturing nearly 1,000 Hessians. This action significantly boosted the army's morale, but it also brought Cornwallis out of New York. He reassembled an army of more than 6,000 men, and marched most of them against a position Washington had taken south of Trenton. Leaving a garrison of 1,200 at Princeton
Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton is a community located in Mercer County, New Jersey, United States. It is best known as the location of Princeton University, which has been sited in the community since 1756...

, Cornwallis then attacked Washington's position on January 2, and was three times repulsed before darkness set in. During the night Washington once again stealthily moved his army, going around that of Cornwallis with the intention of attacking the Princeton garrison.

Hugh Mercer
Hugh Mercer
Hugh Mercer was a soldier and physician. He initially served with British forces during the Seven Years War but later became a brigadier general in the Continental Army and a close friend to George Washington...

, leading the American advance guard, encountered British soldiers from Princeton under the command of Charles Mawhood
Charles Mawhood
Lt. Col. Charles Mawhood was the British commander at the Battle of Princeton.His military service began with purchase of a cornetcy in 1st Dragoon Guards . He served in the Seven Years' War , initially as a Captain in the 15th Light Dragoons, then transferred to 18th Light Dragoons...

. The British troops engaged Mercer and in the ensuing battle
Battle of Princeton
The Battle of Princeton was a battle in which General George Washington's revolutionary forces defeated British forces near Princeton, New Jersey....

, Mercer was mortally wounded. Washington sent reinforcements under General John Cadwalader
John Cadwalader (general)
John Cadwalader was a commander of Pennsylvania troops during the American Revolutionary War.-Early life:...

, which were successful in driving Mawhood and the British from Princeton, with many of them fleeing to Cornwallis in Trenton. The British lost more than one quarter of their force in the battle, and American morale rose with the victory.
The defeats convinced General Howe to withdraw most of his army from New Jersey, only leaving outposts at New Brunswick
New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick is a city in Middlesex County, New Jersey, USA. It is the county seat and the home of Rutgers University. The city is located on the Northeast Corridor rail line, southwest of Manhattan, on the southern bank of the Raritan River. At the 2010 United States Census, the population of...

 and Perth Amboy. Washington entered winter quarters at Morristown, having retaken most of the state from the British. However, provisions for both armies were limited, and commanders on both sides sent out parties to forage for food and other supplies. For the next few months, they engaged in a forage war
Forage War
The Forage War was a partisan campaign consisting of numerous small skirmishes that took place in New Jersey during the American Revolutionary War between January and March 1777, following the battles of Trenton and Princeton...

, in which each targeted the foraging parties of the other. This led to numerous skirmishes and minor confrontations including the Battle of Millstone
Battle of Millstone
-External links:*...

. The British also sniped with each other over the subject of provisions. Lord Percy resigned his command after a series of disagreements with Howe came to a head over the ability of the Newport station to provide forage to the New York and New Jersey forces.

Aftermath


The British gained control of New York harbor and the surrounding agricultural areas, and held New York City and Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

 until the war ended in 1783. The Americans suffered significant casualties and lost important supplies, but Washington managed to retain the core of his army and avoid a decisive confrontation that could have ended the war. With the bold strokes of Trenton and Princeton, he had regained initiative and boosted morale. The areas around New York City in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut were an ongoing battleground
Northern theater of the American Revolutionary War after Saratoga
The Northern theater of the American Revolutionary War after Saratoga consisted of a series of battles between American revolutionaries and British forces, from 1778 to 1782 during the American Revolutionary War. It is characterized by two primary areas of activity...

 for the rest of the war.

The early reports that General Howe sent to his superiors in London concerning the battles at Trenton and Princeton attempted to minimize their significance, blaming Rall for Trenton, and trying to recast Princeton as a nearly successful defense. Not everyone was fooled by his accounts, in particular Lord Germain. In a letter to the Hessian General Leopold Philip von Heister
Leopold Philip de Heister
Leopold Philip de Heister was a Hessian general who fought for the British during the American Revolution. He was a crippled veteran of many campaigns when he was selected to command the Hessian troops that were hired by the British government for service against the American colonies...

 Germain wrote that "the officer who commanded [the forces at Trenton] and to whom this misfortune is to be attributed has lost his life by his rashness." Heister in turn had to report the loss to his ruler, Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, with the news that not only had an entire brigade been lost, but sixteen regimental colors and six cannon as well. The news reportedly enraged Frederick, who broadly suggested that Heister return home (which he did, turning over command of the Hessian forces to Wilhelm von Knyphausen
Wilhelm von Knyphausen
Wilhelm Reichsfreiherr zu Innhausen und Knyphausen was a general from Hesse-Cassel. He fought in the American Revolutionary War, during which he led Hessian mercenaries on behalf of the British Empire.-Biography:His father was colonel in a German regiment under the Duke of Marlborough...

). Frederick also ordered extensive inquiries into the events of 1776, that took place in New York from 1778 to 1782. These inquiries created a unique archive of materials about the campaign.

The news of Washington's successes reached Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 at a critical time. Britain's ambassador to France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Lord Stormont
David Murray, 2nd Earl of Mansfield
David Murray, 2nd Earl of Mansfield KT, PC , known from 1748 to 1793 as The Viscount Stormont, was a British politician. He succeeded to both the Mansfield and Stormont lines of the Murray family, inheriting two titles and two fortunes.-Life:Mansfield was the son of David Murray, 6th Viscount of...

, was preparing complaints to France's foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes
Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes
Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes was a French statesman and diplomat. He served as Foreign Minister from 1774 during the reign of Louis XVI, notably during the American War of Independence....

, concerning the semi-secret financial and logistical support France had been giving to the rebels. Stormont had learned that supplies bound for America were to be shipped under French flags, where they had previously sent under American colors. He wrote that the French court was extremely happy with the news, and that the French diplomatic position noticeably hardened: "that M. de Vergennes is hostile in his heart and anxious for the success of the Rebels I have not a shadow of a doubt."

Next steps



The British planned two major operations for the 1777 campaign season. The first was an ambitious plan to gain control of the Hudson River
Hudson River
The Hudson is a river that flows from north to south through eastern New York. The highest official source is at Lake Tear of the Clouds, on the slopes of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains. The river itself officially begins in Henderson Lake in Newcomb, New York...

 valley, whose central thrust was a move along Lake Champlain
Lake Champlain
Lake Champlain is a natural, freshwater lake in North America, located mainly within the borders of the United States but partially situated across the Canada—United States border in the Canadian province of Quebec.The New York portion of the Champlain Valley includes the eastern portions of...

 by the army from Quebec under General John Burgoyne
John Burgoyne
General John Burgoyne was a British army officer, politician and dramatist. He first saw action during the Seven Years' War when he participated in several battles, mostly notably during the Portugal Campaign of 1762....

. Execution of this plan ultimately failed
Saratoga campaign
The Saratoga Campaign was an attempt by Great Britain to gain military control of the strategically important Hudson River valley in 1777 during the American Revolutionary War...

, ending with the surrender of Burgoyne's army at Saratoga, New York
Saratoga, New York
Saratoga is a town in Saratoga County, New York, United States. The population was 5,141 at the 2000 census. It is also the commonly used, but not official, name for the neighboring and much more populous city, Saratoga Springs. The major village in the town of Saratoga is Schuylerville which is...

, in October. The second operation was General Howe's plan to take Philadelphia, which, after a difficult start, met with success
Philadelphia campaign
The Philadelphia campaign was a British initiative in the American Revolutionary War to gain control of Philadelphia, which was then the seat of the Second Continental Congress...

 in September.


Washington's strategy in 1777 continued to be a basically defensive one. He successfully fended off an attempt by Howe to draw him into a general engagement in northern New Jersey, but was unable to prevent Howe's later success taking Philadelphia. He did send material help to General Horatio Gates
Horatio Gates
Horatio Lloyd Gates was a retired British soldier who served as an American general during the Revolutionary War. He took credit for the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga – Benedict Arnold, who led the attack, was finally forced from the field when he was shot in the leg – and...

, who was tasked with defending against Burgoyne's movements. Major General Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold V was a general during the American Revolutionary War. He began the war in the Continental Army but later defected to the British Army. While a general on the American side, he obtained command of the fort at West Point, New York, and plotted to surrender it to the British forces...

 and Daniel Morgan
Daniel Morgan
Daniel Morgan was an American pioneer, soldier, and United States Representative from Virginia. One of the most gifted battlefield tacticians of the American Revolutionary War, he later commanded troops during the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion.-Early years:Most authorities believe that...

's riflemen all played a notable role in the defeat of Burgoyne, following which France entered the war
France in the American Revolutionary War
France entered the American Revolutionary War in 1778, and assisted in the victory of the Americans seeking independence from Britain ....

.

Legacy


In the urban environments of Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

, Brooklyn, and Trenton
Trenton, New Jersey
Trenton is the capital of the U.S. state of New Jersey and the county seat of Mercer County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Trenton had a population of 84,913...

 there are plaques and other memorials placed to commemorate the actions that took place in and around those locations. The Princeton Battlefield
Princeton Battlefield
The Princeton Battlefield is where American and British troops fought each other on January 3, 1777 in the Battle of Princeton during the American Revolution. The battle ended when the British soldiers in Nassau Hall surrendered...

 and Washington's Crossing
Washington's Crossing
Washington's Crossing is a Pulitzer Prize winning book written by David Hackett Fischer and part of the "Pivotal Moments in American History" series...

 are National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

s, with state parks also preserving all or part of the locations where events of this campaign occurred in those areas. Morristown National Historical Park
Morristown National Historical Park
Morristown National Historical Park consists of three sites, the Ford Mansion, Fort Nonsense, and Jockey Hollow that were important during the American Revolutionary War, which began in 1775 and was ended in 1783 by the Treaty of Paris...

 preserves locations occupied by the Continental Army during the winter months at the end of the campaign.

Further reading



ISBN 0-306-81329-7 (2003 paperback reprint).

External links