"The Shot Heard 'Round the World"
Date: April 19, 1775
Location: Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts and the roads in between
Victor: The Cause for American Independence
Defeated: British Army in America
On April 19, 1775, British General Thomas Gage dispatched 700 British troops
commanded by Lt. Col. Francis Smith to Concord, Massachusetts, 16 miles
northwest of Boston, to seize munitions that the Patriots had been stockpiling.
Word of the British departure from Boston was quickly spread by Paul Revere in
his famous ride, and by the time the British reached the village green at Lexington,
through which they had to pass, they found 70 Minutemen waiting for them under
the command of Capt. John Parker . When ordered by the British to disperse, The
Shot Heard Round the World was fired and the American Revolution was begun.
The British then fired upon the Minutemen, killing 8 and wounding 10. The British
suffered 1 wounded.
The British continued the 6 miles to Concord and the Americans retreated to the
North Bridge just outside the town. While the main body of soldiers accomplished
their mission of seizing the gunpowder, a small contingent of British troops
skirmished again with the colonists, now numbering several hundred. 3 British
soldiers and 2 Americans were killed in this battle. As they returned to Boston,
the British were under constant assault from Massachusetts militiamen, who
inflicted 273 casualties.
The opening engagements of the American Revolution, April 19, 1775. After the
passage (1774) of the Intolerable Acts by the British Parliament, unrest in the
colonies increased. The British commander at Boston, Gen. Thomas Gage,
sought to avoid armed rebellion by sending a column of royal infantry from Boston
to capture colonial military stores at Concord. News of his plan was dispatched to
the countryside by Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott. As the
advance column under Major John Pitcairn reached Lexington, they came upon a
group of militia (the minutemen). After a brief exchange of shots in which several
Americans were killed, the colonials withdrew, and the British continued to Concord.
Here they destroyed some military supplies, fought another engagement, and began
a harried withdrawal to Boston, which cost them over 200 casualties.
The Capture of Fort Ticonderoga
May 11, 1775
Fort Ticonderoga lay on the shores of Lake Champlain. Called Fort Carillon by the
French, it was renamed Ticonderoga by the British after it was captured in 1759.
The fort was positioned to cut the colonies in half, and two Americans, Ethan Allen
and Benedict Arnold, were determined to capture the fort. Allen was approached by
Connecticut citizens to lead his men known as the Green Mountain men to take the
fort. Meanwhile Benedict Arnold had himself been appointed to the same task by the
Massachusetts committee of safety. The two men argued over command, but this
did not deter them from attacking the fort. On May 11th, all the men who could fit
were loaded in boats and set off for the fort. The men defending the garrison of
Ticonderoga were surprised in their beds. Allen called out to Lieutenant Joceyln
Feltham, "Come out of there you dammed old rat!" When Feltham asked on whose
authority, Allen stated," in the name of Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress."
The fort, with its heavy artillery, fell without a shot being fired.
Also Known As: Battle of Breed's Hill
Date: June 17, 1775
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Victor: Maj. General William Howe
Defeated: General Israel Putnam
After retreating from Lexington in April, 1775, the British Army occupied Boston
for several months. Realizing the need to strengthen their position in the face of
increasing anti-British sentiment in and around Boston, plans were developed to
seize and fortify nearby Dorchester Heights and Charlestown peninsulas. The
peninsulas offered a commanding view of the seaport and harbor, and were important
to preserving the security of Boston. The Americans caught word of the British plan,
and decided to get to the Charlestown peninsula first, fortify it, and present sufficient
threat to cause the British to leave Boston. On 16 June, 1775, under the leadership
of Colonels Putnam, and Prescott, the Patriots stole out onto the Charlestown
Peninsula with instructions to establish defensive positions on Bunker's Hill.
For reasons that are unclear, they constructed a redoubt on nearby Breed's Hill.
The next morning, the British were astonished to see the rebel fortifications upon
the hill and set out to reclaim the peninsula.
General Howe served as the commander of the British main assault force and led
two costly and ineffective charges against the Patriot's fortifications without inflicting
significant casualties on his opponents. After obtaining 400 reinforcements which
included sorely needed ammunition for his artillery, Howe ordered a bayonet charge
to seize Breed's Hill. In this third attempt, the British were finally able to breach the
breastworks of the American redoubt and the Patriots were forced to retreat back
to the mainland.
This battle, though victorious, proved costly for the British. Of the 2400 British
soldiers in Howe's command, the 1054 casualties accounted for nearly forty percent
of their ranks. The American casualties were 441, including 30 captured, with most
being inflicted during the retreat. The battle served to proved to the American people
that the British Army was not invinsible. It became a symbol of national pride and a
rally point of resistance against British rule.
The Battle of Bunker Hill
June 17, 1775
After the Battles of Lexington and Concord, two armies faced one another in Boston,
the Army of New England, and the British Army. The New England Militia had
surrounded Boston and the British army occupied it. Neither side had occupied
Dorshester Heights or Bunker Hill which had clear strategic importance. In early
June General Gage ordered the occupation of the Heights beginning June 16th.
Word of Gages plans reached the Colonist and they decided to act first. On the
evening of June 16th Colonel William Prescott on orders of General Artemas Ward
led two Massachusetts regiments and his own artillery company plus a large work
detail headed out of Cambridge and occupied Bunker Hill. There they decided to dig
in and fortify Breed Hill. Through the night the American troops worked to created a
fortified position. With first light the British ships at anchor in the harbor noticed the
American forces on the hills and began firing. General Gage ordered an attack on
the American forces. The attack was led by General Howe with a force of 2200 men.
They embarked on twenty eight large barges, a formidable force of redcoats. They
landed unopposed on Moultons point. Howe had a complicated plan for a two pronged
attack. The plan complexity and disregard for the capabilities of the Americans were
its undoing. The 23rd Regiment, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, headed for the redoubt.
The Americans who had limited gunpowder held their fire until the British were within
fifty feet, then they opened fire on the thick column of British soldiers before them. A
British officer described it: "Our Light Infantry were served up in companies, and were
devoured by musket fire." The British attack broke. Meanwhile the attack above on
the railed fence by the Grenadiers ran into similar trouble. Once again the Americans
held their fire until the British were close by. Two attacks of the Grenadiers were
successfully turned back. However, the Americans were soon running out of ammunition.
On the third attack the British succeeded in overrunning the redoubt. Most of the
Americans succeeded in withdrawing. Thirty were caught in the redoubt and killed
by the British. The hero of Bunker Hill was Salem Poor, an African American. The
Americans were forced to withdraw, Bunker Hill was in British hands, but 226
British soldiers died taking the Hill and 828 were wounded. The Americans lost
140 killed and 271 wounded.
The Battle of Bunker Hill began with a British assault on a collection of unproven
continental regiments on June 17, 1775. About 2500 redcoats crossed the Charles
River by ferry to march on the hills of Charleston, where resistance was to have been
weakened by gunfire from the many ships at the mouth of the river. The battle plan
seemed sound, but it resulted in disaster for the British side.
At first the well-ordered redcoat columns "advanced with confidence," one officer
recalled. The patriots, low on ammunition, waited with grim resolve from their position
on Breed's Hill, just below Bunker Hill.
"Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes,"
a patriot officer was said to have instructed his men.
The British troops did ultimately take the hill, but not without a staggering loss of life.
On the third assault, the redcoats took the hill as the militiamen ran out of
gunpowder and retreated. With more than 1000 British killed or wounded,
General Henry Clinton called the battle: "A dear bought victory. Another such
would have ruined us."
The Battle of Fort Moultrie and Long Island
June 28, 1776
The first day of the memorable year 1776 was marked by two events that are
still remembered in Revolutionary annals -- the burning of Norfolk by the fleet
of Governor Dunmore, who had been driven to the sea by the infuriated people
of Virginia; and the unfurling of the flag over the Continental army at Cambridge.
Before the close of this same month, January, General Clinton was sent from
Boston to hold the colonies of the South. In May he was joined in southern
waters by Sir Peter Parker with an English fleet of ten warships, bearing a body
of troops under the command of Lord Cornwallis, who was destined later to be a
leading figure in the war. Meantime, in February, a fierce battle had occurred in
North Carolina at the mouth of Moore's Creek between a thousand patriots, led
by Colonel Richard Caswell, and sixteen hundred Tories, mostly Scots, under
the leadership of Donald Macdonald, who had fought for the young Stuart
Pretender at the battle of Culloden thirty years before. The patriots were
completely successfu1, routing the enemy and taking nine hundred prisoners,
including the commander.1
The fight at Moore's Creek worked like magic on the people of North Carolina,
and in a few days ten thousand men were armed and ready to expel the invaders
of their soil. Clinton now decided not to land his troops, as he had intended.
After the arrival of Parker and Cornwallis they moved southward for the purpose
of capturing Charleston. But in front of the city on Sullivan's Island the Americans
had made a strong breastwork of palmetto logs and sandbags, and this was
defended by several hundred men commanded by one of the leading heroes of
the war, William Moultrie.2
The English fleet attacked the rude fort on the 28th of June; but the elastic
palmetto logs proved an admirable defense, and a terrific bombardment of ten
hours did little damage. On the other hand, the American fire was well aimed,
and nearly every shot took effect. The flagship received more than twenty shots
and was almost wrecked, while every other ship but one was seriously crippled.
The heroism displayed in the defense of the fort, afterward called Fort Moultrie,
was equal to that of Bunker Hill or of any other engagement in the war. It was on
this day that Sergeant William Jasper, an illiterate youth who could not even read,
made a name for himself in the history of his country by an act of momentary
reckless heroism. The flagstaff was broken by a cannon ball, and the flag fell
outside the fort. Jasper leaped down the embrasure in the face of the enemy's fire,
gathered up the fallen banner, and planted it in the sand on the bastion. And the
story is still related at the American fireside as an example of the heroic valor of
the men of the Revolution.
After spending three weeks in repairing his ships, Clinton sailed for New York, and
the South was free from invasion for nearly three years, when it became the scene
of the final conflict of the war.
The success of Washington at Boston and of Moultrie at Charleston sent a wave of
exultation over the land; but this was followed by a feeling of depression caused by
half a year of unbroken disasters. The British had decided to sever the colonies in
twain -- to cut off New England from the South -- by occupying New York City and
conquering the Hudson Valley. General William Howe came down from Halifax, and
was joined by his brother, Admiral Howe, with a powerful fleet from England; and
these were joined in the New York harbor by Clinton and Cornwallis from the South.
At the same time Sir Guy Carleton was ordered to descend with an army from
Canada, to capture Ticonderoga, and to hold possession of the upper Hudson.
In August the British had thirty two thousand veterans on Staten Island. To oppose
this force Washington, who, divining the intention of the enemy to strike New York,
had moved his army thither in the early spring, could muster but eighteen thousand
men, and many of these were new recruits and in no sense to be compared with
veteran soldiers. Before opening hostilities Admiral Howe offered the olive branch,
which he had fresh from Lord North, a gracious offer from the king to pardon all rebels
who would lay down their arms and assist in restoring order. It was sent by special
messenger to "George Washington, Esq." But as "George" Washington, the citizen
and planter, had no authority to deal with national questions, and as "General"
Washington had not been addressed, he declined to receive the communication.
The next act in the drama was the opening of hostilities. Washington occupied
Manhattan Island, and Brooklyn Heights, which commanded the city. He had sent
Greene to fortify the latter, and now he manned it with half his army under the
command of Putnam. Howe determined to assault Brooklyn Heights. With twenty
thousand men the English advanced on the American position by different roads,
and in the early morning of August 27, they encountered the Americans whom
Putnam had sent out under Sullivan, who had taken the place of Greene, owing
to the illness of the latter. Sullivan was first attacked by a large body of Hessians
under Von Heister, and scarcely had the fight begun when he was assailed in the
rear by the main force. Between two galling fires, it was not possible for the
Americans to hold their ground, and nearly the whole force, including the
commander, were made prisoners of war. Another division of fifteen hundred
American troops, under Lord Stirling,3 was now assaulted by General Grant
and a little later by Cornwallis.
After four hours of desperate resistance, Stirling succeeded in getting his men
across a marshy stream to a place of safety, while he himself was taken prisoner,
and the struggle known as the battle of Long Island was over. About four hundred
had been killed and wounded on each side, and the British taken some eleven
Washington had witnessed the disaster from a distance with deep emotion.
"My God," he cried, "what brave fellows I must lose this day." Howe closed in
around the American fortress, and Washington, expecting an immediate storming
of the works, brought troops from Manhattan and raised the defense to ten
thousand men. But Howe decided to settle down to a siege. The American
commander seeing that he could not stand a siege, determined to elude his
enemy by night, and this he did with remarkable skill. The night was favorable,
as a dense fog enveloped the moving army. Every manner of craft on the East
River, from the yacht to the scow and rowboat, was pressed into the service; and
on the morning of the 30th, the entire army with its stores and artillery was safe in
New York, and Howe had lost the rarest opportunity of his life of crushing the
rebellion and ending the war. Had he been quick to surround Washington he
could have captured him and his ten thousand; but the delay was fatal.4
Lord Howe again made overtures for peace. He sent the captured Sullivan to
Philadelphia to make proposals to members of Congress and to request a
committee of conference. Franklin, Rutledge, and John Adams were appointed;
they met Howe on Staten Island, but as they refused to treat with hhn, except on
the ground of independent America, the conference came to nothing.
After losing Brooklyn Heights, Washington could no longer hold New York, and his
next move was to fall back with the army to the heights along the Harlem River.
But before Putnam, with the rearguard of four thousand men, could leave New York,
Howe had crossed the East River, and occupied the city. Putnam was in imminent
danger of capture, and was saved by the clever strategy of a woman. As Howe
reached Murray Hill, the fine country seat of Mrs. Murray, -- now a fashionable
portion of New York City, -- that lady sent him a pressing invitation to stop for
luncheon. Howe accepted the kind offer, and while he and his officers spent two
hours with their hostess, whom they no doubt supposed to be a loyalist, Putnam
made his escape up the Hudson to the main army; but in his haste he left behind
his heavy guns and many of his army equipments.
The great object of the British was now to get in the rear of Washington and to cut
off his retreat northward. But the Hudson was guarded by two strong forts -- Fort
Washington on the upper end of Manhattan Island and Fort Lee across the river
on the Palisades -- and for nearly a mouth the two armies lay glaring at each other.
After a skirmish on Harlem Plains in September, Washington moved his main army
to White Plains. Howe followed him, and, despairing of gaining his rear, made an
attack in front. This skirmish, known as the battle of White Plains, took place on
Chatterton's Hill near the American camp, and resulted in an American loss of
nearly one hundred and fifty men, and a British loss of over two hundred. Howe
refused to make a second attack, and retired down the Hudson after Washington
had taken a strong position at North Castle, near the scene of the battle.
The Battle of Great Bridge Virginia
The complete defeat of the British in the Virginia Colony at the Battle of Great
Bridge on December 9, 1775, seven months before the Declaration of
Independence, was at the time called the Second Battle of Bunker's Hill. It
resulted in the capture of Norfolk by the "rebels" (Americans) and the
bombardment and complete destruction of Norfolk three weeks later on
January 1, 1776. It ended the rule of the British Crown in Virginia.
Lord Dunmore, colonial governor of Virginia, has, in growing disfavor, retreated
from Williamsburg but in Norfolk was considered a "nest of Tories", and Dunmore
thought he was making headway against the rebellion by pillaging the plantations
of patriots, winning slaves over to his side and seizing printing presses. With just
one more regiment and a few more battalions, he wrote on the last of November,
1775, "I really believe we should reduce this colony to a proper sense of their duty."
On the other side General George Washington, commander-in-chief of the
Continental Army, urged that Dunmore "should be instantly crushed" lest his
forces grow. He wrote the president of the Continental Congress from New England:
"I do not mean to dictate, I am sure they will pardon me from freely giving them my
opinion, which is, that the fate of America a good deal depends on his being
obligated to evacuate Norfolk this winter or not."
According to contemporary accounts in the Virginia Gazette, Lord Dunmore, after
defeating the opposition at Kemp's Landing (now Kempsville) moved ten miles
south to Great Bridge on the South Branch of the Carolinas. Great Bridge was
the shipping point to nearby Norfolk of shingles, tar potash and turpentine from
the Carolinas. Finding resistance increasing, he built a stockade on the North
(Norfolk) side, removed the bridge planking, destroyed five or six houses on the
opposite shore and fortified the narrow causeway bridge approaches with two
twelve pound cannons.
Col. William Woodford, in charge of the second Virginia Regiment, was gathering
forces at Great Bridge of minute men from Fauquier, Augusta and Culpepper
Counties, in the western part of the Colony as well as volunteers from Princess
Anne and Norfolk Counties. Woodford reported two hundred fifty Carolina men
arriving under Colonel Vail "composed of regulars, minute men, militia and
volunteers..." The Virginia Gazette reported "150 gentlemen volunteers had
marched to Virginia from North Carolina on hearing of Lord Dunmore's insolences
Dunmore, misinformed of the strength of the opposition, sent sailors from the
Otter at Norfolk, "plus some sixty townsmen" on a surprise attack on Great
Bridge. In the early morning hours the column within fifteen steps of the
American forces before falling mortally wounded. Lieutenant Travis, in command
of the American advanced breastworks, had ordered his handful of twenty five
men to reserve their fire until the enemy came within fifty yards. The staggered
British were rallied under Lt. Samuel Leslie, who was later captured. Col.
Woodard's main group, moving through Great Bridge, received a heavy cannon
barrage. It was all over, however, in half an hour's time.
Royal authority in the Virginia Colony was at an end. It was a complete rout. The
loss of men to the British was reported as one hundred two killed or wounded,
and only eleven of Fordyce's grenadiers survived. Only one American was injured.
The British retreated to Norfolk. By the time George Washington had written the
Continental Congress from New England, Colonel Woodford was able to report
to Edmund Pendleton, president of the Convention at Williamsburg, that he and
Col. Robert Howe were in complete command in Norfolk with 1275 men, and
that the Tories and their families had removed themselves to Dunmore's ship,
Otter , in the harbor.
Americans Commanded by Gen. William Woodford
Forces Killed Wounded
1.000 - 1
British Commanded by Lord Dunsmore
Forces Killed Wounded
600 102* -
Date: December 31, 1775
Location: Quebec, Canada
Victor: Maj. General Guy Carleton
Defeated: Maj. General Richard Montgomery
Other Notables: Captain Daniel Morgan
In late June, Congress directed that action be taken against the British in
Canada. Washington detailed the task to Benedict Arnold to attack Quebec.
Arnold collected supplies and troops and, on September 11, set off. Arnold
believed that he would be able to travel by river to Quebec in twenty days.
Unfortunately, he underestimated the time and difficulty of getting to Quebec,
and it took Arnold 45 days of arduous traveling to reach Quebec. Many of his
men died or turned back along the way. By the end of October they had
neared Quebec, but a storm kept them away until November 13th. Arnold's
army was in no condition to attack, so they pulled away to recoup. They were
joined by 300 men led by Richard Montgomery, General Schuyler's second in
command who had just captured Montreal. On December 31, the American
forces assaulted Quebec, with 600 men led by Arnold from the North and 300
men led by Montgomery from the South. The British were waiting between
successive barriers. The Americans broke through the first line, but were
stopped by the second. Arnold was wounded in the leg and carried from the
battle field. Montgomery was killed by a bullet to the head, and the American
assault failed. Six hundred men were captured and 60 died in the attempt to
The Siege of Boston
July 1775 March 1776
On June 15th, 1775, the Continental Congress appointed George Washington
to be the commander of the Continental Army. In the course of a few meetings
in June, the Congress passed a series of resolutions that not only created the
army-delineated ranks but included a 50 article code of military conduct.
Washington arrived in Cambridge on July 2, two weeks after the Battle of Bunker
Hill. Washington's task was to convert the rag tag militia surrounding Boston into
an army, while at the same time tightening the noose around the British troops
occupying Boston. The siege had continued for many months when finally, in
February 1776, with much of Boston Harbor frozen, Washington proposed a direct
attack on the British forces in Boston. The Massachusetts committee on safety
rejected Washington's plans, and instead proposed that the still unoccupied
Dorchester Heights be seized. On the night of March 4th, after an extensive
exchange of artillery, much of it coming from Fort Ticonderoga, American troops
under the command of General Thomas seized the Heights. The Americans
brought with them prefabricated fortifications. Thus the British awoke the morning
of the March 5th to find American troops with artillery fortified in the Heights
overlooking Boston. The British commander General Howe was then informed by
his naval commander, Rear Admiral Molyneaux, that he would not be able to
keep his ships in the harbor with American artillery on Dorchester Heights.
Howe had two choices - attack the Americans or withdraw from Boston. After
giving serious consideration to attacking, he decided to withdraw. By March 17th,
the last of the British troops were loaded and, on the 27th, they sailed out of the
harbor. Boston was now in American hands.
Date: February 27, 1776
Location: Moore's Creek Bridge, North Carolina
Victor: Colonel James Moore
Defeated: Lt. Colonel Donald McLeod
"King George and Broadswords!" shouted loyalists as they charged across
partially dismantled Moores Creek bridge on February 27, 1776. Just
beyond the bridge nearly a thousand North Carolina patriots waited quietly
with cannons and muskets poised to fire.
The loyalists, mostly Scottish Highlanders wielding broadswords, expected to
find only a small patriot force. As the loyalists advanced across the bridge,
patriot shots rang out and dozens of loyalists fell, including their commanders.
Stunned, outgunned and leaderless, the loyalists surrendered, retreating in
confusion. Wagons, weapons and British sterling worth more than $1 million
by today's value were seized by the patriots in the days following the battle.
This dramatic victory ended British authority in the colony and greatly influenced
North Carolina to be the first colony to vote for independence. The Battle of
Moores Creek Bridge, coupled with the Battle of Sullivans Island near Charleston,
SC a few months later, ultimately led the 13 colonies to declare independence on
July 4, 1776.
In early 1776, Maj. General William Howe ordered Maj. General Henry Clinton to
sail south to rendezvous with Commodore Sir Peter Parker. Parker had sailed from
Cork, Ireland with Lt. General Charles Cornwallis and seven regiments of the British
Army. Clinton and Parker would meet off of Cape Fear River in North Carolina.
Generals Clinton and Cornwallis would then invade the Southern colonies,
capturing the important port city of Charleston, South Carolina. British
expectations were that there were large numbers of Tories clamoring to the
British cause against the few upstart Rebels. Some of these Tory forces were
also expected to rendezvous with General Clinton at Cape Fear.
On February 20, 1776, 1,600 Scottish Highlanders set out from the Cross Creek
area about 100 miles from the coast under the command of Brigadier General
Donald MacDonald. On February 26, they learned that 1,000 Rebels were
waiting with two cannon at Moore's Creek Bridge, which was six miles ahead.
General MacDonald was now too ill to actively command. A council of war was
held where MacDonald recommended caution, but the younger officers wanted
The Tory council of war decided to attack at dawn on February 27, 1776. Lt.
Colonel Donald McLeod took active command. At 1:00 A.M., they set out.
Although they numbered 1,600, they had only 500 firearms. When they reached
the bridge, they found empty entrenchments. The Rebels had withdrawn to the
other side of the bridge.
An advance party found half of the bridge planks had been removed and the two
stringers had been greased. But Lt. Colonel McLeod would not be denied. An
eighty man assault force armed with broadswords was assembled under the
command of Captain John Campbell. The assault force followed McLeod down
one stringer and Campbell down the other to the beat of drums and the Scottish
The Rebels held their fire until Campbell and McLeod crossed the creek and then
they let loose with their two cannon and musket fire. No one was left standing
on the bridge. Campbell and McLeod were killed immediately. Some Tories
fell into the creek and drown. Their companions who had watched their quick
defeat immediately retreated.
Thirty Tories were counted dead, while the Rebels had only two casualties,
one of whom later died of his wounds. 850 Tories were captured, including Brig.
General MacDonald. This quick defeat ended organized Tory activity in the area
for several years. Less than two months later in April, North Carolina became to
first state to vote for independence.
Maj. General Henry Clinton arrived at Cape Fear on March 12 to find no Tories.
He remained there until May 31, while Commodore Peter Parker's fleet straggled
in after having been dispersed during its crossing because of storms. Clinton and
Parker now discussed what to do since their invasion of North Carolina had
counted on Tories to augment their force. They settled on a direct assault on
Charleston, which would also end in defeat.
The Battle for New York
July - August 1776
On July 3, 1776, British troops landed on Staten Island. Over a period of six weeks,
British troop strength was increased so that it number over 32,000 by the end of
August. Meanwhile, General Washington was preparing his men as well as he could
under the circumstances. Washington was hampered by the British control of the sea,
which allowed them to conceivably attack either Long Island or Manhattan. Washington
decided to defend both vulnerable areas. On August 22, General Howe, the British
commander, began transporting troops across the bay from Staten Island to Long
Island. Washington decided to defend Brooklyn Heights by digging in around Brooklyn
Village. Washington fortified the Heights of Guan, a range of hills 100 to 150 feet in
height and covered by heavy brush and woods. The heights were broken by four passes.
The furthest away was the Jamaica pass. Only five soldiers were detailed to defend the
pass. On August 26th, Howe's troops quietly made their way to the Jamaica pass and
seized the five American guards there. The British advanced behind American lines
undetected until they reached the settlement of Bedford, where they opened fire. At
that point, British troops rushed through the Bedford pass. Two hundred fifty American
troops, under General Stirling, were surrounded on three sides. They fought bravely,
but were soon overwhelmed. American troops were forced back into Brooklyn Heights.
Cornwallis did not follow-up with an immediate attack on Brooklyn Heights.
Washington's advisors recommended a withdrawal before British frigates could block
the East River and any available means of escape. On the night of August 30th,
Washington successfully withdrew his troops across the East River to Manhattan.
Washington turned his attention to rebuilding his army. He was given instruction by
the Continental Congress that allowed him to withdraw from New York. Washington
began moving his supplies and wounded soldiers north from Manhattan. Meanwhile,
Howe had decided not attack the heavily fortified Manhattan, but instead to outflank
Washington and trap him. On September 13, Howe began to move his army across
the East River to Kips Bay, there he hoped to cut Washington off. The landing was
successful, and met only limited opposition. Washington's army, however, was able
to successfully move North to Harlem Heights. The next day, a brief skirmish took
place at Harlem Heights that became known as the Battle of Harlem. In this brief
battle, several hundred British light infantry were badly mauled by Colonel Thomas
Knowlton's Connecticut regiment. The Americans and the British began digging in.
On October 12, Howe once again moved his army to the north to outflank Washington,
this time at Throgs Neck. He landed there successfully, but his forces were bottled
up on the Neck, which, depending on the tides, was sometimes an island.
Washington decided to withdraw north to White Plains. The British slowly followed.
It took Howe ten days to arrive in White Plains. There, on October 28th, the British
troops captured Chattertons Hill, to the right of American lines. Washington soon
withdrew to New Castle, and Howe did not follow.
The Battle of Valcour Bay
October 11, 1776
Ever since the failure of the American invasion of Canada, it had been the intention of
Sir Guy Carleton, in accordance with the wishes of the ministry, to invade New York by
way of Lake Champlain, and to secure the Mohawk valley and the upper waters of the
Hudson. The summer of 1776 had been employed by Carleton in getting together a fleet
with which to obtain control of the lake. It was an arduous task. Three large York
vessels were sent over from England, and proceeded up the St. Lawrence as far as the
rapids, where they were taken to pieces, carried overland to St. John's, and there put
together again. Twenty gunboats and more than two hundred flat-bottomed transports
were built at Montreal, and manned with 700 picked seamen and gunners; and upon this
flotilla Carleton embarked his army of 12,000 men. To oppose the threatened invasion,
Benedict Arnold had been working all the summer with desperate energy. In June the
materials for his navy were growing in the forests of Vermont, while his carpenters with
their tools, his sailmakers with their canvas, and his gunners with their guns had mostly
to be brought from the coast towns of Connecticut and Massachusetts. By the end of
September he had built a little fleet of three schooners, two sloops, three galleys, and
eight gondolas, and fitted it out with seventy guns and such seamen and gunners as he
could get together. With this flotilla he could not hope to prevent the advance of such an
overwhelming force as that of the prepared enemy. The most he could do would be to
worry and delay it, besides raising the spirits of the people by the example of an
obstinate and furious resistance. To allow Carleton to reach Ticonderoga without
opposition would be disheartening, whereas by delay and vexation he might hope to
dampen the enthusiasm of the invader. With this end in view, Arnold proceeded down
the lake far to the north of Crown Point, and taking up a strong position between
Valcour Island and the western shore, so that both his wings were covered and he
could be attacked only in front, he lay in wait for the enemy. James Wilkinson, who
twenty years afterward became commander-in-chief of the American army, and
survived the second war with England, was then at Ticonderoga, on Gates's staff.
Though personally hostile to Arnold, he calls attention in his Memoirs to the
remarkable skill exhibited in the disposition of the little fleet at Valcour Island,
which was the same in principle as that by which Macdonough won his brilliant
victory, not far from the same spot, in 1814. On the 11th of October, Sir Guy
Carleton's squadron approached, and there ensued the first battle fought between
an American and a British fleet. At sundown, after a desperate fight of seven hours'
duration, the British withdrew out of range, intending to renew the struggle in the
morning. Both fleets had suffered severely, but the Americans were so badly cut
up that Carleton expected to force them to surrender the next day. But Arnold
during the hazy night contrived to slip through the British line with all that was left
of his crippled flotilla, and made away for Crown Point with all possible speed. Though
he once had to stop to mend leaks, and once to take off the men and guns from two
gondolas which were sinking, he nevertheless, by dint of sailing and kedging, got
such a start that the enemy did not overtake him until the next day, when he was
nearing Crown Point. While the rest of the fleet, by Arnold's orders, now crowded
sail for their haven, he in his schooner sustained an ugly fight for four hours with the
three largest British vessels, one of which mounted eighteen twelve pounders. His
vessel was woefully cut up, and her deck covered with dead and dying men, when,
having sufficiently delayed the enemy, he succeeded in running her aground in a
small creek, where he set her on fire, and she perished gloriously, with her flag
flying till the flames brought it down. Then marching through woodland paths to
Crown Point, where his other vessels had now disembarked their men, he brought
away his whole force in safety to Ticonderoga. When Carleton appeared before that
celebrated fortress, finding it strongly defended, and doubting his ability to reduce
it before the setting in of cold weather, he decided to take his army back to Canada,
satisfied for the present with having gained control of Lake Champlain This sudden
retreat of Carleton astonished both friend and foe. He was blamed for it by his generals,
Burgoyne, Phillips, and Riedesel, as well as by the king; and when we see how
easily the fortress was seized by Phillips in the following summer, we can hardly
doubt that it was a grave mistake.
The Philadelphia was one of a fleet of Continental gunboats that stopped the
advance of British forces on Lake Champlain during the Battle of Valcour Island
in 1776. Sunk during the battle, it was discovered and raised in 1935 by Lorenzo
F. Hagglund, a civil engineer who for many years exhibited it as a tourist attraction.
In 1939 a Smithsonian curator proposed buying the Philadelphia, citing a naval
historian who called it "the most amazing thing of the sort that he has seen.
" But the idea was rejected by museum officials, who balked at the price and
thought the gunboat better off in its "original surroundings." Twenty years later
the curator, Frank Taylor, had become the director of the new Museum of History
and Technology, and he still wanted the Revolutionary War relic for the collections.
In 1961 the Smithsonian acquired the gunboat and brought it to Washington, D.C.,
where it was displayed along with other naval artifacts salvaged from the lake bottom.
In 1991 detailed drawings of the gunboat were used to make a replica, the
Washingtons Retreat through New Jersey
The final act of the Battles of New York was the British capture of Fort Washington.
The Hudson River was guarded by Fort Washington and Fort Lee, but the British
managed to send ships past the forts without difficulty, thus limiting their usefulness.
The commander on the scene, Colonel Nathaniel Greene, believed that he could
hold the fort with the 3,000 men that he had. On November 27th, Howe struck the
outer defenses of the fort. They were too far away from the fort itself, and the British
broke through. After suffering heavy losses but acquitting themselves well, the fort
surrendered. Two thousand seven hundred twenty-two American were captured.
Howe soon took Fort Lee on the New Jersey side and pursued Washington's forces
all the way down New Jersey. He did not catch up, however, and Washington was
able to get away with his army more or less intact across the Delaware River.
Date: December 26, 1776
Location: Trenton, New Jersey
Victor: General George Washington
Defeated: Colonel Johann Rall
Other Notables: Maj. General Nathanael Greene
On December 26th, Washington's Army crossed the Delaware and surprised
the British at Trenton. The main attack was made by 2,400 troops under
Washington on the Hessian Garrison. Washington's troops achieved total
surprise and defeated the British forces. The American victory was the first
of the war, and helped to restore American morale.
Despite Washington's defeats in New York, he was not willing to sit idly by while
the British occupied all of New Jersey. The front lines of the British were occupied
by Hessians troops who held positions along the Delaware River opposite
Washington's troops in Pennsylvania. On Christmas Night, Washington surprised
the British by leading a group of 2400 troops across the Delaware. At the same time,
James Ewing was to seize the ferry just south of the city. Despite the ice floating
down the river, Washington succeeded in crossing the river and leading his men
and their artillery ashore. At a few minutes before 8:00, Washington and Ewing's
troops converged on Trenton. The Americans set up artillery that commanded the
streets of the city. As the Hessians who had been up late celebrating Christmas
took to the streets, they were struck down. The British commander, Colonel Rall,
was soon killed. Within an hour, the battle was over, 22 Hessians were dead, 98
were wounded and almost a thousand were being held prisoner. Only four Americans,
however, were wounded. Washington returned with his triumphant forces to
Pennsylvania. The next day, Colonel Caldwater who had failed to cross the river the
day before, crossed the Delaware with his troops and occupied the empty town of
Burlington. Two days later, Washington followed with his men. As the year ended,
Washington had 5000 men and 40 howitzers in Trenton.
Date: January 3, 1777
Location: Princeton, New Jersey
Victor: General George Washington
Defeated: Lt. Colonel Charles Mawhood
Other Notables: Maj. General Nathanael Greene
Gen. Howe responded to the fall of Trenton by sending 5,550 troops south from
New York through Princeton toward Trenton. Gen. Cornwalis' troops arrived in
Trenton late on the afternoon of the 2nd of January. Cornwalis found Gen.
Washington's troops along the ridge of the Assunpink Creek, and decided to
wait until the next day to attack. Overnight, Washington moved his troops out of
Trenton and into Princeton to the north. There, his advance force met a British
blocking force commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood. A desperate
fight ensued in Princeton, in which the Americans almost lost. Washington's timely
arrival on horseback, however, served to rally the Americans, and the Colonial army
defeated Mawhood's troops, forcing them to retreat to Trenton. Both armies were
spent, and Washington took his army into winter quarters in Morristown, while
Cornwalis withdrew to New Brunswick.
The Battle of Princeton
January 3, 1777
Gen. Howe responded to the fall of Trenton by sending 5,550 troops south from
New York through Princeton toward Trenton. Gen. Cornwalis' troops arrived in
Trenton late on the afternoon of the 2nd of January. Cornwalis found Gen.
Washington's troops along the ridge of the Assunpink Creek, and decided to wait
until the next day to attack. Overnight, Washington moved his troops out of Trenton
and into Princeton to the north. There, his advance force met a British blocking force
commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood. A desperate fight ensued in
Princeton, in which the Americans almost lost. Washington's timely arrival on
horseback, however, served to rally the Americans, and the Colonial army defeated
Mawhood's troops, forcing them to retreat to Trenton. Both armies were spent,
and Washington took his army into winter quarters in Morristown, while Cornwalis
withdrew to New Brunswick.
The Battle of Brandywine
September 10, 1777
On August 25, 1777, Gen. Howe moved his troops south by sea to threaten
Philadelphia. He landed his troops on the west side of the Elk River. After a week
of rest, Howe marched his troops north toward Philadelphia. George Washington
responded by marching his army south through Philadelphia to meet Howe. After
harassing Howe's advance for a few days, Washington placed his army behind
Brandywine Creek. The creek was crossable only at a number of fords. At 4:00
AM on the 10th of September, while part of his army was engaged in a
diversionary attack against Chads Ford, Howe took the bulk of his army on a long
march through back roads to cross at Trimble and Jeffries Fords at the end of
Washington's unanchored lines. Howe successfully crossed the fords and
brought his troops to Osborne Hill, outflanking Washington's troops. The
American troops redeployed, trying to block the British. At 4:00 PM, the British
troops set off down the hill to the music of the British Grenadier. They marched
through a hole in the American lines, but the Americans quickly converged on
them. The battle raged for hours. Desperate hand to hand fighting ensued. By
nightfall, Washington was forced to withdraw. The British had won the day, but
Washington's army was still intact.
The Battle of Oriskany
August 6, 1777
The British Northern Campaign called for the convergence of three separate forces:
Burgonyne's troops coming down via Fort Ticonderoga and Lake Champlain; Colonel
St. Leger's troops attempting to envelope the Mohawk valley; and 1,000 Native
American warriors. St. Leger expected to overwhelm the small dilapidated fort called
Fort Stanwix easily, since it was garrisoned by only a few Americans. What he found
instead was a rebuilt force with 550 Americans commanded by an energetic Colonel
Peter Gansevoort. That group was reinforced as he arrived by an additional 200
Massachusetts volunteers. St. Leger demanded the immediate surrender of the
fort, a demand that was summarily rejected. St. Leger started to lay siege to the
fort. Meanwhile, American Brigadier General Herkimer led a force of over 800 men
in a relief expedition to the fort. As the relief force noisily approached, St. Leger
sent a force primarily made up of Native Americans to ambush the approaching
relief column. Six miles from Fort Stanwix, near the village of Oriskany, they were
attacked as the column was traversing a deep ravine. The Americans were
surrounded, but they held their ground and fought bravely. Faced with no option
but to fight or die, they fought the enemy until they reached a standstill. Each
side lost over 150 men that day, and the American commander General Herkimer
was soon to die from his wounds. All thoughts of relieving the fort were forgotten.
St. Leger continued his investment of the fort with renewed vigor after the arrival of
his cannons. He once again demanded the surrender of the fort, threatening that,
if they did not surrender, he and the Native Americans would massacre not only
the defenders but the entire patriot population of the valley. The Americans once
again indignantly refused. Two men however snuck through the enemy lines to
appeal for help. Help was indeed coming, in the form of Benedict Arnold leading
part of Schuyler's army. Before he could arrive however, the dispirited Native
Americans had learned of his pending arrival, and revolted. St. Leger had no
choice but withdraw.
The Battle of Bennington
August 16, 1777
General Burgoyne's first major defeat occurred when he sent a force of Hessians
west of the Connecticut River to seize cattle and other supplies. The force,
commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Fredrich Baum, was ordered to head to
Bennington and seize rebel supplies. Awaiting Baum near Bennington were
nearly 2,000 American militia men led by John Stark of New Hampshire. At
Van Schaick Mill, Baum's forces ran into the advance guard of the American
forces, and both sides prepared for battle the next day, next to the Wallomsac
River. The British were in makeshift fortifications on a height north of the river.
On August 16, after a rain delay, Stark's men attacked. In a complicated
multi-pronged attack, they captured or killed the entire British force. By late
in the afternoon, a British relief expedition arrived. The relief expedition was
met by Warner's Green Mountain Boys. They forced the British to pull back.
With the help of Stark's forces, the withdrawal turned to a route. By the end
of the battle, 207 Hessians lay dead and 700 were captured. The Americans
lost 20 dead and another 40 wounded.
The Battle of Saratoga
September 19, 1777
Historians consider the Battle of Saratoga to be the major turning point of the
American Revolution. This battle proved to the world that the fledgling American
army was an effective fighting force capable of defeating the highly trained British
forces in a major confrontation. As a result of this successful battle, the European
powers, particularly the French, took interest in the cause of the Americans and
began to support them.
In the British Campaign of 1777, Major General Burgoyne planned a concentric
advance of three columns to meet in Albany, New York. He led the main column,
which moved southward along the Hudson River. A second column under General
Barry St. Leger served as a diversionary attack, moving eastward from Canada
along the Mohawk River. General Howe was expected to direct the third element
of the attack. According to the plan, General Henry Clinton, under the direction
of Howe, would move northward along the Hudson River and link up with Burgoyne
in Albany. Through this campaign, the British hoped to isolate and destroy the
Continental forces of New England.
Initially, the British plan appeared to be working, with British victories at
Ticonderoga and Hubbardton. Burgoyne's army continually pushed back the
Americans southward along the Hudson River with only minor casualties. The
Battle of Bennington marked the first significant American victory, when General
John Stark led the American militia to victory against a British resupply expedition.
In an attempt to slow the British advance, the American General Philip Schuyler
detached 1000 men under the command of Major General Benedict Arnold. This
force moved west to thwart St. Leger's eastward advance along the Mohawk River.
Arnold returned with his detachment after repelling St. Leger in time serve in the
Battle of Saratoga.
At the Battle of Freeman's Farm, the new commander of the Northern Department
of the American army, General Horatio Gates, lost an indecisive battle. During
this First Battle of Saratoga, fought 19 September 1777, the American forces lost
ground to the British forces under General Burgoyne. Disagreements in tactics and
personalities led to a heated argument between Generals Gates and Arnold.
General Gates relieved Arnold of command as a result. The Battle of Bemis
Heights was the second battle of Saratoga, taking place October 7th when Burgoyne
desperately attacked rebel defenses with his tired, demoralized army. At Bemis
Heights, Gate's defensive tactics insured a tactical victory for the Patriots.
However, Arnold saw an opportunity to seize the offensive while Burgoyne was
vulnerable and led a counterattack. This bold move so badly wounded the British
forces that Burgoyne surrendered days later at Saratoga.
On September 19, 1777 the Royal army advanced upon the American camp in
three separate columns within the present day towns of Stillwater and Saratoga.
Two of them headed through the heavy forests covering the region; the third,
composed of German troops, marched down the river road.
American scouts detected Burgoyne's army in motion and notified Gates, who
ordered Col. Daniel Morgan's corps of Virginia riflemen to track the British march.
About 12:30 p.m., some of Morgan's men brushed with the advance guard of
Burgoyne's center column in a clearing known as the Freeman Farm, about a
mile north of the American camp. The general battle that followed swayed back
and forth over the farm for more than three hours. Then, as the British lines began
to waver in the face of the deadly fire of the numerically superior Americans,
German reinforcements arrived from the river road. Hurling them against the
American right, Burgoyne steadied the wavering British line and gradually forced
the Americans to withdraw. Except for this timely arrival and the near exhaustion
of the Americans' ammunition, Burgoyne might have been defeated that day.
Though he held the immediate field of battle, Burgoyne had been stopped about
a mile north of the American line and his army roughly treated.
Shaken by his "victory," the British commander ordered his troops to entrench
in the vicinity of the Freeman Farm and await support from Clinton, who was
supposedly preparing to move north toward Albany from New York City. For
nearly three weeks he waited but Clinton did not come. By now Burgoyne's
situation was critical. Faced by a growing American army without hope of help
from the south, and with supplies rapidly diminishing, the British army became
weaker with each passing day. Burgoyne had to choose between advancing or
retreating. He decided to risk a second engagement, and on October 7 ordered
a reconnaissance-in-force to test the American left flank. Ably led and supported
by eight cannon, a force of 1,500 men moved out of the British camp. After
marching southwesterly about three-quarters of a mile, the troops deployed in a
clearing on the Barber Farm. Most of the British front faced an open field, but
both flanks rested in woods, thus exposing them to surprise attack.
By now the Americans knew that Burgoyne's army was again on the move and
at about 3 p.m. attacked In three columns under Colonel Morgan, Gen. Ebenezer
Learned, and Gen. Enoch Poor. Repeatedly the British line was broken, then
rallied, and both flanks were severely punished and driven back. Gen. Simon
Fraser, who commanded the British right, was mortally wounded as he rode
among his men to encourage them to make a stand and cover the developing
withdrawal. Before the enemy's flanks could be rallied, Gen. Benedict Arnold -
who had been relieved of command after a quarrel with Gates- rode onto the
field and led Learned's brigade against the German troops holding the British
Under tremendous pressure from all sides, the Germans joined a general
withdrawal into the fortifications on the Freeman Farm. Within an hour after
the opening clash, Burgoyne lost eight cannon and more than 400 officers
and men. Flushed with success, the Americans believed that victory was
near. Arnold led one column in a series of savage attacks on the Balcarres
Redoubt, a powerful British fieldwork on the Freeman Farm. After failing
repeatedly to carry this position, Arnold wheeled his horse and, dashing through
the crossfire of both armies, spurred northwest to the Breymann Redoubt.
Arriving just as American troops began to assault the fortification, he joined in
the final surge that overwhelmed the German soldiers defending the work. Upon
entering the redoubt, he was wounded in the leg. Had he died there, posterity
would have known few names brighter than that of Benedict Arnold.
Darkness ended the day's fighting and saved Burgoyne's army from immediate
disaster. That night the British commander left his campfires burning and withdrew
his troops behind the Great Redoubt, which protected the high ground and river flats
at the northeast corner of the battlefield. The next night, October 8, after burying
General Fraser in the redoubt, the British began their retreat northward. They had
suffered 1,000 casualties in the fighting of the past three weeks; American losses
numbered less than 500.
After a miserable march in mud and rain, Burgoyne's troops took refuge in a
fortified camp on the heights of Saratoga. There an American force that had
grown to nearly 20,000 men surrounded the exhausted British army. Faced with
such overwhelming numbers, Burgoyne surrendered on October 17,1777. By the
terms of the Convention of Saratoga, Burgoyne's depleted army, some 6,000 men,
marched out of its camp "with the Honors of War" and stacked its weapons along
the west bank of the Hudson River. Thus was gained one of the most decisive
victories in American and world history.
The Battle of Germantown
September 22, 1777
After the Battle of Brandywine, British Gen. Howe managed to outflank Gen.
Washington and make his way into Philadelphia. Nevertheless, Washington
was not willing to allow Howe to remain in Philadelphia unmolested. Early on the
morning of October 4th, Washington's troops attacked the British troops in
Germantown. There were 8,000 troops bivouacked there, and Washington's plans
called for a simultaneous attack by four converging forces. The Americans planned
to attack without firing, but shooting broke out very quickly from both sides. The air
around Germantown that early October morning was laden with a fog so thick that
American troops soon began firing on each other. Coordination between the various
attacking forces became impossible. As American forces fired on one another, Howe
counterattacked. The initiative moved to the British and the American forces were
forced to withdraw.
The Burgoyne Surrender
October 16th 1777
General John Burgoyne of the British Army. Burgoyne originally devised the plan
to march on Albany from Canada, although he was thwarted by Gates and Arnold
at Saratoga. Burgoyne typically traveled with 30 wagonloads of personal supplies
during the war.
Commanding the Artillery
1. Major Lithgow, Mass.
2. Colonel Cilley, New Hampshire
3. General Stark, New Hampshire
4. Captain Seymour, Connecticut
5. Major Hull, Mass.
6. Col. Greaton, Mass.
7. Major Dearborn, New Hampshire
8. Colonel Scammell, New Hampshire
9. Colonel Lewis, New York,
10. Maj. Gen. Phillips, British
11. Lt. General Burgoyne
12. General Baron Reidesel, German
13. Colonel Wilkinson
14. General Gates
15. Colonel Prescott, Massachusetts
16. Colonel Morgan, Virginia Riflemen
17. Brigadier General Rufus Putnam
18. Lt. Colonel John Brooks
19. Rev Hitchcock
20. Major R. Troup
21. Major Haskell, Massachusetts
22. Major Armstrong
23. Maj General Philip Schuyler, New York
24. Brig. Gen. Glover
25. Brigadier General Whipple, New Hampshire
26. Maj. M. Clarkson, New York
27. Major Ebenezer Stevens,
The Winter of 1777-1778
Valley Forge, 25 miles west of Philadelphia, was the campground of 11,000
troops of George Washington's Continental Army from Dec. 19, 1777, to June
19, 1778. Because of the suffering endured there by the hungry, poorly clothed,
and badly housed troops, 2,500 of whom died during the harsh winter, Valley
Forge came to symbolize the heroism of the American revolutionaries.
The soldiers represented every state in the new union. Some were still boys --
as young as 12 -- others in their 50s and 60s. They were described as fair, pale,
freckled, brown, swarthy and black. While the majority were white, the army
included both Negroes and American Indians. Each man had few possessions
and these he carried with him. His musket -- by far the most popular weapon --
a cartouche or cartridge box. If he had neither, the infantryman carried a powder
horn, hunting bag and bullet pouch. His knapsack or haversack held his extra
clothing (if he was fortunate enough to have any), a blanket, a plate and spoon,
perhaps a knife, fork and tumbler. Canteens were often shared with others and
six to eight men shared cooking utensils.
The first order of business was shelter. An active field officer was appointed for
each brigade to superintend the business of hutting. Twelve men were to occupy
each hut. The officers' hut, located to the rear, would house fewer men. Each
brigade would also build a hospital, 15x25 feet. Many of the Brigadier Generals
used local farmhouses as their quarters. Some, including Henry Knox, later
moved into huts to be closer to their men. The huts provided greater comfort
than the tents used by the men when on campaign. But after months of housing
unwashed men and food waste, these cramped quarters fostered discomfort
and disease. Albigence Waldo complained, "my Skin & eyes are almost spoil'd
with continual smoke." Putrid fever, the itch, diarrhea, dysentery and rheumatism
were some of the other afflictions suffered by the Continental troops.
Little is known about the women but there were women at Valley Forge. Junior
officers' wives probably remained in the homes of their husbands and socialized
among themselves. The enlisted men's wives lived and labored among the troops,
some working as housekeepers for the officers; others as cooks. The most
common positions were nurse and laundress. A washerwoman might work for
wages or charge by the piece.
The army was continually plagued with shortages of food, clothing and equipment.
Soldiers relied both on their home states and on the Continental Congress for
these necessities. Poor organization, a shortage of wagoners, lack of forage for
the horses, the devaluation of the Continental currency spoilage, and capture by
the British all contributed to prevent these critical supplies from arriving at camp.
An estimated 34,577 pounds of meat and 168 barrels of flour per day were
needed to feed the army. Shortages were particularly acute in December and
February. Foraging expeditions were sent into the surrounding countryside to
round up cattle and other supplies. In February three public markets opened.
Farmers were encouraged to sell their produce. Fresh Pork, Fat Turkey, Goose,
Rough skinned Potatoes, Turnips, Indian Meal, Sour-Crout, Leaf Tobacco,
New Milk, Cyder, and Small Beer were included in the list of articles published
in the Pennsylvania Packet and circulated in hand bills.
Entertainment at Valley Forge took many forms. The officers liked to play
cricket (known also as wicket) and on at least one occasion were joined by
His Excellency, the Commander-in-Chief. Several plays were staged including
Joseph Addison's "Cato" which played to a packed audience. A common
recreation was drinking, when spirits were available. And the soldiers liked to sing.
Throughout the winter and early spring, men were frequently "on command,"
leaving camp on a variety of assignments. Units were formed to forage for food,
some were granted furloughs, and individuals regularly returned to their home
states to recruit new troops. In January Jeremiah Greenman reported, "all ye
spayr officers sent home to recruit another regiment & sum on furlow."
On February 23, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin, Baron von Steuben,
arrived at Valley Forge to offer his military skills to the patriot cause. Washington
assigned him the duties of Acting Inspector General and gave him the task of
developing and carrying out a practical training program. Despite adverse
circumstances, Baron Friedrich von Steuben drilled the soldiers regularly and
improved their discipline.
Foreign officers were an essential part of the Continental Army. They provided
military skills which the Americans lacked. Some, including Steuben, the
Marquis de Lafayette and the Baron de Kalb came as volunteers. Kalb quickly
proved himself to Washington and Congress commissioned him a major general.
Lafayette was given the command of a division of Virginia light troops in
December 1777 and later took command of additional troops. Others, such
as Engineer Louis Lebque de Presle Duportail were "covert" aid given leave
from the French Army to provide assistance to the Americans. It was Duportail
who designed the Valley Forge Encampment.
With spring the balance shifted. New recruits arrived daily. Reluctantly, Nathaniel
Greene accepted the appointment as Quarter Master General and began to correct
the problems with supplies. Under Steuben's direction the Continentals had become
professionals, if not career soldiers. Morale improved as confidence grew.
General Orders, Tuesday. May 5, 1778 announced the alliance with France and
plans "to set apart a day for gratefully acknowledging the divine Goodness."
On June 19, 1778, six months to the day following their arrival, the
Commander-in-Chief General George Washington and the Continental Army
departed Valley Forge and marched to Monmouth, New Jersey to engage the
British in battle just nine days later.
This was the army that would continue to victory at Yorktown.
On the Schuylkill River, SE Pa., NW of Philadelphia. There, during the American
Revolution, the main camp of the Continental Army was established
(Dec., 1777-June, 1778) under the command of Gen. George Washington.
The winter was severe, food and clothing was inadequate, and illness and
suffering pervaded the camp. The number of ragged and half-starved troops
dwindled through desertion; the remaining men, about 11,000, talked of mutiny
but were held together by their loyalty to Washington and to the patriotic cause.
Two distinguished foreigners, French General Lafayette and Prussian General
Steuben, shared the misery of the troops; Steuben drilled and organized the
men, transforming the loose-jointed army into an integrated force. The site is
included in Valley Forge National Historic Park.
The Battle of Monmouth
June 28, 1778
As British General Clinton prepared to evacuate Philadelphia there was strong
sentiment in the Continental Army command that a cooperative effort between
their army and the newly allied French naval fleet might result in winning the war.
A French naval squadron consisting of 11 war ships along with transports carrying
4000 French troops sailed from France in May of 1778 and headed to America.
The fleet, commanded by Comte d'Estaing, was far superior than any Admiral
Howe (British) could immediately concentrate in American waters. This represented
a stronghold on strategic initiative in favor of the Americans, which General
Washington hoped to capitalize on.
Clinton received orders from England to detach 8000 of his roughly 10,000 man
force to the West Indies and Florida and evacuate the rest of his men from
Philadelphia to New York by sea. Instead, Clinton decided to move the entire
army to NY before making any detachments and to move them overland. His
decision was largely based on the fact that he didn't have the transports to
move his 3000 horses over sea. Clinton set out from Philadelphia with his
10,000 men, to include Tories from the region, on 18 June 1778. Washington
and his growing army of 12,000 men immediately occupied Philadelphia and
began pursuit of Clinton towards NY.
Washington was still undecided as to whether he should risk an attack on the
British column while it was on the march. He held a meeting of his command
staff, the Council of War, and attempted to find some resolve in that matter.
The council, however, was quite divided on the issue. The only unifying theme
was that none of Washington's generals advised in favor of a general action.
Brig Gen Anthony Wayne, the boldest of the staff, and Maj Gen Marquis de
Lafayette, the youngest of the staff, urged for a partial attack on the British
column while it was strung out on the road. Gen Lee, who had been captured
and exchanged and had rejoined the army at Valley Forge, was the most
cautious. He advised only guerilla action to harass the British column. On 26,
June 1778, Washington sided with a more bold approach but did not go so far
as issuing orders for a general action. He sent almost one-half of his army as
an advance force to strike at the rear of the British when Clinton made the
eminent move out of Monmouth Courthouse, which occurred on 28, June 1778.
Early in the morning on 28 June, Lee advanced upon unreconnoitered ground
and made contact with the British rear guard at Monmouth Courthouse.
Clinton reacted quickly and maneuvered to envelop the American right flank.
Lee felt that he was then faced by a superior force and fell into a retreat that
seems to have been quite confused. Washington was quite irate at the retreat
and spoke harshly at Lee. Washington then assumed a defensive position to
repel a possible British counter-attack.
The ensuing battle, involving the bulk of both armies, was fought on that hot,
sultry day and continued until nightfall with both sides holding their original positions.
George Rogers Clark and The Battle of Vincennes
February 23, 1779
King George III's Proclamation of 1763 gave the Indians the land west
Appalachian Mountains for their Hunting Grounds. The British used this to
their advantage. Colonel Henry Hamilton of the British Army paid the Indians
for any colonist scalps. This, of course, encouraged the Indians to attack the
white colonists and at the same time protected the British because they did not
want to lose the money they were receiving. Colonel Hamilton's nickname was
Colonel Hamilton was in command of Detroit, but Kaskaskia and Vincennes were
two other towns with a lot of British power. In all three towns the British would
supply the Indians with arms and ammunition that would be used against the
Colonists. George Rogers Clark convinced the Virginia assembly to give him
money to put a militia together to capture these three British strongholds.
On June 24, 1778, Clark and 120 men left Redstone, Virginia and arrived at
Kaskaskia on July 4th. Without firing a shot, Clark was able to take control of
Kaskaskia and all the French Canadians living there pledged allegiance to the
Colonies. Clark was able to convince Father Gibault, the French priest of
Kaskaskia, to travel to Vincennes and ask the people there to also pledge
allegiance to the Colonies. Father Gibault told the residents of Vincennes of
the spiritual value in uniting with the Colonists. Somehow, he was able to get
all the residents to pledge allegiance to the Colonies and soon an American
flag was flying in every home.
Soon Colonel Hamilton in Detroit heard how Kaskaskia had fallen to the
Colonists and then how the Vincennes' residents had turned against Britain.
He left Detroit in December 1778 with thirty soldiers, fifty French volunteers and
four hundred Indians and had taken back control of the Fort.
Clark was in Kaskaskia, Indiana just east of the Mississippi River. It was 240
miles almost directly eastward to reach Vincennes. The winter was cold and
Clark knew that the Wabash River would probably be flooded, but in early
February Clark and his men set out for Vincennes with forty-six men.
On February 23, 1779 Clark and his group were within three miles of the
Fort at Vincennes. They were able to take a British prisoner who told them
everything they needed to know. Clark knew he was outnumbered, so he
devised a plan to make it seem that there were a lot more men than forty-seven
storming the Fort. Vincennes sat on the top of a mountain. He had his men
march around in a circle around the fort. The British and the Indians thought
there were thousands of soldiers outside. The Indians ran for their safety. That
left about 150 British soldiers inside the fort.
Finally, Clark sent in a flag of truce and asked Colonel Hamilton to surrender.
Clark would not accept Hamilton's terms, because he thought Hamilton to be a
barbarian. To convince Hamilton that surrendering would be his only choice, he
took two Indian prisoners and with a tomahawk killed them in front of the Fort.
Colonel Hamilton and his men surrendered. One of Clark's French volunteers from
Kaskaskia, St. Croix, was put in charge of killing the prisoners sentenced to death.
When St. Croix lifted the tomahawk to kill a prisoner, a boy cried out "Save me."
St. Croix recognized the voice of his son, who was covered with Indian war paint.
George Rogers Clark spared his life.
George Rogers Clark was a young man, who was more of a frontiersman than a
soldier, but he led his small Army to a victory that would prevent the British from
ever having control over the Midwest.
The Battle of Stony Point
July 15, 1779
By 1778, the war had settled into a stalemate. Washington was encamped around
British-occupied New York. The British were unable to attack Washington, and
New York was too strongly defended for Washington to attack. In the meantime, a
war of plunder took place, with British troops taking part in various attacks on
civilians that began to turn even many of the royalist supporters against them.
General Conway, speaking to the House of Commons in 1779, stated: O the robe
and the mitre animating us in concert t massacre, we plunged ourselves into rivers
of blood, spreading terror, devastation, and death over the whole continents of
America; exhausting ourselves at home became the objective of horror in the eyes
of indignant Europe! It was our reverend prelates who led on this dance, which may
be justly styled the dance of death!Such is the horrid war which we have maintained
for five years." In May 1779, General Clinton led his troops up the Hudson River,
capturing the fort at Stony Point as well as the one at Verplanck. In response,
Washington personally prepared an assault to retake Stony Point. In the early
morning hours of July 15th, three columns of continental soldiers, 1200 men in all,
converged on the fort. The fort was swiftly overwhelmed. Fifteen American soldiers
were killed and 83 were wounded . Of the redcoats troops, 63 were killed, 74 were
wounded and 543 were taken prisoner.
The Battle of Savannah
On July 22, 1779, royal governor James Wright returned to Savannah, charged
with maintaining the peace. His first act was to roll back all laws to 1775,
essentially ending the established revolutionary government and the state of
Georgia, at least as far as the Loyalists were concerned. With him were an
entire staff of supporters including a vice-governor and justice of the courts.
Major General Benjamin Lincoln, recently appointed Southern commander of the
Continental Army, realized that the loss of Savannah was key and set out to
regain the coastal Georgia port. His first task was to raise 5,000 men. Second,
since raising a navy was out of the question, he tried to contact Admiral Valerie
D'estaing, whose French fleet had been raiding British outposts in the Caribbean
Sea. D'estaing's naval support, comprised of some twenty-two line ships, about
half that many support ships and 4,000 men was the only way to ensure that
British ships could not arrive to supply and support the town.
While Lincoln was preparing his troops, Revolutionary Georgia continued its
organization of a government in exile. From Heard's Fort John Wereat was
selected to head the executive branch of government. This was really a safety
measure so that if the council could not form a quorum decisions could be made.
Meanwhile, it was as if the loss of Savannah woke the American government to the
danger of losing the South. Washington dispatched General Casimir Pulaski and
his "Polish Legion" to the southern front. Pulsaki had been busy rewriting the book
on cavalry tactics and training American cavalry officers. The term "Polish Legion"
has all but been abandoned by modern historians because it is viewed as misleading.
Savannah proper lay on a low plateau, some 40 feet above the Savannah River.
On both the left and right sides marshes created tough obstacles through which
to advance. In front of the city a cleared plain of small rolling hills made it impossible
for a large group of men to advance without being seen from the redoubts that
encircled the city. These were the very reasons that James Oglethorpe chose the
site in 1733. It was easily defended by a relatively small group of men against
attacks by the Spanish or the Creek Indians. Defenses, in some cases dating
back almost 50 years could be used by the British to protect themselves.
On September 1, 1779, D'estaing arrived east of Savannah. Had he been as bold as
Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell had been less than a year earlier, he probably could
have captured the city by himself. Instead, he formed a line and waited for the
Continental Army. General Prevost also set to work on the city's defenses, ordering
boats grounded along the bank of the river, then manned defensively. He also
ordered a group of 800 men under the command of Col. John Maitland in Beaufort,
South Carolina to hold their position, but be ready to advance in support of the
city if needed.
Benjamin Lincoln left Charleston and joined General Lachlan McIntosh at Ebenezer.
From here the Continental Army advanced and began to take position around the city
on September 9. With the arrival of the opposing force, Governor James Wright
ordered able-bodied men to assist in building Savannah's defenses. Both Lincoln
and D'estaing knew that the siege would not be of long duration, for Britain would
find out about the naval blockade and send enough ships to break through
D'estaing's line. It was the belief of the American commanders that the British
would surrender if their escape routes were cut.
Finally, on September 16, 1779, General Lincoln and Commander D'estaing met at
D'estaing's headquarters in Thunderbolt and work began on "completing the
encirclement." Admiral D'estaing issued a surrender demand to General Augustine
Prevost. As Prevost considered the demand (which he eventually rejected), his
men worked feverishly on improving Savannah's defenses. The city of Savannah
was fully invested on September 23, although Prevost did call for the troops from
Beaufort, who apparently got through the Patriots with little difficulty.
Actual siege preparations were completed on September 23. For the next 2 weeks
British troops, Loyalist Tories and Negro slaves continued to work on the defenses
of Savannah while Benjamin Lincoln did little to improve his position. By October
4th no progress had been made towards a British surrender, so Admiral D'estaing
moved his ships into position and began a naval bombardment of the city. This did
not deter the British, who continued their task of improving the city's defenses.
Finally Lincoln and D'estaing agreed to attack the British positions across a broad
front on October 9th. Admiral D'estaing's plan called for five groups would move
forward, concentrating on a salient in the British line at Spring Hill where a group
of South Carolina militia appeared to be holding the line.
The day broke cool, with a morning breeze from the ocean. Some of the finest
American officers were now involved including Lincoln, McIntosh, Count Casimir
Pulaski, leader of the Polish Legion, and Lt. Col Francis "The Swamp Fox"
Marion. Pulaski had earned his Brigadier star after the Battle of Brandywine,
where his combined cavalry and light infantry legion saved the Continental Army
from disaster. General Pulaski and Col. Marion expressed strong disagreement
with the plan proposed by Admiral D'estaing, but obeyed orders. As the five units
attacked the British resistance stiffened. Still, Continental soldiers broke through
the redoubt in at least two places near Spring Hill. As the Americans carried the
wall of the redoubt, the colors were planted to show the soldiers the breach in the
line. Suddenly, British Regulars under the command of Col. John Maitland (the
reserves called up by General Prevost) advance and turn back the combined
French and Continental Army.
Sgt. William Jasper, trying to rally his men to hold the line against the British
grabbed the colors from the wall of the Spring Hill redoubt. He was struck and
mortally wounded by British fire. The American line at the redoubt began to
crumble under the intense pressure of Maitland's Regulars. General Pulaski,
seeing the line pull back, rode up and tried to rally the men as well when he
was mortally wounded by cannister. Pulaski and Jasper are carried back by
retreating Americans, but the colors remained in British hands.
Pulaski was taken to The Wasp and was buried at sea on October 15, 1779.
Both the American and the French remained in the area until October 16,
when Lincoln began an orderly withdrawal to Charleston. D'estaing set sail for
France over a two day period beginning October 19. Lt. Colonel John Maitland,
who had advanced from Beaufort, South Carolina in support of General
Augustine Prevost died on October 22, not the victim of the battle but
because of disease.
Bonne Homme Richard vs. Serapis
September 23, 1779
The most remarkable single ship duel of the American Revolution was between
the Bonne Homme Richard commanded by John Paul Jones and the HMS
Serapis. Early in 1779, the French King gave Jones an ancient East Indiaman
Duc de Duras, which Jones refitted, repaired, and renamed Bon Homme Richard
as a compliment to his patron Benjamin Franklin. Commanding four other ships
and two French privateers, he sailed 14 August 1779 to raid English shipping. On
23 September 1779, his ship engaged the HMS Serapis in the North Sea off
Famborough Head, England. Richard was blasted in the initial broadside the two
ships exchanged, loosing much of her firepower and many of her gunners. Captain
Richard Pearson, commanding Serapis, called out to Jones, asking if he surrendered.
Jones' reply: "I have not yet begun to fight!" It was a bloody battle with the two ship
literally locked in combat. Sharpshooting Marines and seamen in Richard's tops
raked Serapis with gunfire, clearing the weather decks. Jones and his crew
tenaciously fought on , even though their ship was sinking beneath them. Finally,
Capt. Pearson tore down his colors and Serapis surrendered. Bon Homme
Richard sunk the next day and Jones was forced to transfer to Serapis.
Siege of Charleston, South Carolina
Also Known As: 2nd Battle of Charleston
Date: April 2-May 12, 1780
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Victor: Lt. General Sir Henry Clinton
Defeated: Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln
Other Notables: Lt. General Charles Cornwallis, Major Patrick Ferguson,
Francis Marion, Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton
The Siege of Charleston
The British began a southern strategy by beginning a siege of Charleston,
South Carolina. The siege lasted until May 9th when British artillery fire was
close enough to set the town on fire and force a surrender. A perception
continued among the British that the South was full of loyalists just awaiting
the call from the British. At the end of December 1779 General Clinton
succumbed to this view and headed south with a small army. His goal
was to capture Charleston, South Carolina. Clinton approached steadily,
arriving opposite Charleston on April 1. He then began a classic
European siege. The British dug siege trenches ever closer to the wall
of the city. Day by day, week by week, the British got ever closer to the
wall of the city. In the meantime both sides exchanged artillery fire, the
Americans trying to make the British task as difficult as possible, while the
British hoped to terrify the Americans into submission. By the beginning of
May, the British had advanced within a few feet of the American lines. Their
artillery fire was soon becoming deadly and on May 9th many of the wooden
houses in Charleston were set on fire by the artillery fire. The city elders had
enough and requested that the American commander Lincoln surrender,
which he did. The British victory in Charleston was pyrrhic. There was no
popular uprising and instead South Carolina degenerated into a period of chaos.
Date: August 16, 1780
Location: Camden, South Carolina
Victor: Lt. General Charles Earl Cornwallis
Defeated: Maj. General Horatio Gates
Other Notables: Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton
The Battle of Camden
August 16, 1780
Early in the dawn hours of 16 August 1780, Otho Williams, surveying the
American line, noticed the British advancing up the road. He consulted
Captain Singleton of the artillery and it was determined that the British
could be no more than 200 yards off. Williams gave the order for an artillery
barrage and the British quickly unlimbered their guns and replied. The Battle
of Camden had begun in earnest.
Stevens, on the left, was ordered to move the Virginians forward and the
inexperienced and seldom reliable militia responded with hesitation. Williams
called for volunteers, led 80 or 90 troops to within 40 yards of the deploying
British, and delivered a harassing fire from behind trees. Lord Cornwallis,
positioned near the action and always alert, had noticed the Virginians'
hesitation and ordered Webster to advance on the right. In what was one of
the worst mismatches in military history, two of the best regiments to ever
serve in the British Army, the 33rd Regiment and the 23rd Regiment, with
the best trained light infantry in the world, came up against untrained and
unreliable troops on the American left. Seeing the perfectly formed line sweep
toward them with a mighty cheer then terrible silence, save the clanking of
cold steel bayonet on musket barrel, the Virginians broke and ran. A few
managed to get off a few shots and several of the British troops went down.
However, the pell-mell panic quickly spread to the North Carolina militia near
the road and soon the militia broke through the Maryland Continentals,
stationed in reserve, and threw that normally reliable troop into disarray.
Seeing the wholesale panic of his entire left wing, Gates mounted a swift
horse and took to the road with his militia, leaving the battle to be decided by
his more brave and capable officers. Incidentally, Gates covered sixty miles in
just a few short hours! Although the Congress later exonerated him for his
misconduct and cowardice, Gates never held a field command again.
Johann de Kalb and Mordecai Gist, on the American right wing, and the Maryland
Continentals were still in the field. One regiment of North Carolina militia did not
take part in the flight and fell back into the fighting alongside the Delaware
Continentals. Williams and de Kalb tried to bring Smallwood's reserve to the
left of the 2nd Brigade to form an "L." However, Smallwood had fled the battle
and the troop was without leadership. In the meantime, Cornwallis had advanced
strong troops into the gap and between the two brigades. At this point Lord
Cornwallis sent Webster and his veteran troops against the First Maryland
troops. Much to the credit of the Americans, they stood fast and went toe to
toe with the best regiments in the world for quite some time. However, after
several breaks and rallies, they were forced from the field and into the swamps.
Most of the Maryland troops, because of the inability of Tarleton's horse to
pursue in the terrain, escaped to fight another day.
Only the Second Maryland Brigade, the Delaware Continentals and Dixon's
North Carolina militia continued the battle. At this point, it was some 600
men against 2000. They had managed to check Rawdon's left and had even
taken a few prisoners. It should be noted here that in one of those strange
battlefield occurrences, the American's most experienced Continentals were
facing the British army's most inexperienced troops, the Royal NC Regiment.
Johann de Kalb personally led bayonet charge after bayonet charge for over
an hour. His horse had been shot out from under him and he had suffered a
saber cut to the head. In a final assault he killed a British soldier and then
went down to bayonet wounds and bullet wounds. His troops closed around
him and opposed yet another bayonet charge from the British. However, at
this point, Tarleton returned with his horsemen from the pursuit of the fleeing
militias and Cornwallis threw his horse troops on the American rear. The
remaining American troops stood for a few minutes and fought the onslaught
from all sides but finally broke and ran. The Battle of Camden was complete.
About 60 men rallied as a rear guard and managed to protect the retreating
troops through the surrounding woods and swamps. It should be noted that
in the manner of warfare in the 18th Century, Lord Cornwallis took Baron de
Kalb back to Camden and had him seen after by his personal physician.
Unfortunately, the Baron succumbed to his wounds. He is buried in Camden
and a monument has been erected to his memory on the old battlefield.
Casualties for the Battle of Camden for the British were 331 out of all ranks
for 2,239 engaged. This included 2 officers and 66 men killed, 18 officers
and 227 enlisted wounded, and 18 missing. The American casualties have
never been fully reckoned; however 3 officers died in battle and 30 were
captured. Approximately 650-700 of Gates soldiers were either killed or
taken prisoner out of 3,052 effectives engaged. The loss of arms and
equipment was devastating to the American cause.
The Treason of Benedict Arnold
September 21, 1780
Benedict Arnold was an embittered man, disdainful of his fellow officers
and resentful toward Congress for not promoting him more quickly and to
even higher rank. A widower, he threw himself into the social life of the city,
holding grand parties, courting and marrying Margaret Shippen, "a talented
young woman of good family, who at nineteen, was half his age" and failing
deeply into debt. Arnold's extravagance drew him into shady financial
schemes and into disrepute with Congress, which investigated his accounts
and recommended a court-martial. "Having ... become a cripple in the service
of my country, I little expected to meet [such] ungrateful returns," he
complained to Washington.
Faced with financial ruin, uncertain of future promotion, and disgusted with
congressional politics, Arnold made a fateful decision: he would seek fortune
and fame in the service of Great Britain. With cool calculation, he initiated
correspondence with Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander, promising to
deliver West Point and its 3,000 defenders for 2O,OOO sterling (about $1
million today), a momentous act that he hoped would spark the collapse of the
American cause. Persuading Washington to place the fort under his command,
Arnold moved in September 1780 to execute his audacious plan. On September
21, British Major Andre came ashore in full uniform near Havestraw from the HM
Vulture. There, he met Arnold to finalize the agreement. Unfortunately for them,
the Vulture then came under American fire and headed away, leaving Andre
stranded. Andre reluctantly donned civilian clothes and headed down the Hudson
with a safe conduct pass from Arnold. Near Tarrytown, Andre was captured by
three militiamen, who turned him over to the commander at North Castle. Andre
was found carrying incriminating papers. When Arnold was notified at breakfast
on April 23 that a British officer had been captured, he fled by boat to the Vulture.
Andre was later hung as a spy. Arnold received 6,000 Sterling from the British
government and an appointment as a brigadier general.
Arnold served George III with the same skill and daring he had shown in the
Patriot cause. In 1781 he led devastating strikes on Patriot supply depots: In
Virginia he looted Richmond and destroyed munitions and grain intended for
the American army opposing Lord Cornwallis; in Connecticut he burned ships,
warehouses, and much of the town of New London, a major port for Patriot privateers.
In the end, Benedict Arnold's "moral failure lay not in his disenchantment with
the American cause" for many other officers returned to civilian life disgusted
with the decline in republican virtue and angry over their failure to win a
guaranteed pension from Congress. Nor did his infamy stem from his transfer
of allegiance to the British side, for other Patriots chose to become Loyalists,
sometimes out of principle but just as often for personal gain. Arnold's perfidy
lay in the abuse of his position of authority and trust: he would betray West Point
and its garrison "and if necessary the entire American war effort" to secure his own
success. His treason was not that of a principled man but that of a selfish one,
and he never lived that down. Hated in America as a consort of "Beelzebub ...
the Devil," Arnold was treated with coldness and even contempt in Britain. He
died as he lived, a man without a country.
Date: October 7, 1780
Location: King's Mountain, South Carolina
Victors: Colonel John Sevier, Colonel Isaac Shelby, Overmountain Men/Patriot militia
Defeated: Major Patrick Ferguson
The Battle of King's Mountain
October 7, 1780
In North Carolina, Major Ferguson was patrolling with a force of over 1,000 Tory
supporters attempting to pacify the countryside. With violence and atrocities
rising on both sides, 1,200 militia men, most from North Carolina but with some
Virginians and South Carolinians, gathered to stop Ferguson and his troops.
When Ferguson became aware of the large contingent of militia gathering, he
decided it would be prudent to move back toward Cornwalis' larger forces. The
militia followed rapidly and, when Ferguson realized that they were overtaking him,
he organized his defenses atop King's Mountain, a wooded hill with a clear top.
On October 7, 1780 the militia arrived at the base of the mountain and surrounded
it. Soon they began scaling it on all sides. The patriots had the advantage that the
slopes of the mountain were very wooded, while the summit was not, exposing the
Tory troops to attack by the concealed Americans. The defenders' losses quickly
mounted and, when Ferguson was killed, the fight went out of the remaining soldiers.
Of the Tory troops, 157 were killed, 163 were severely wounded and 698 were captured.
The patriot militia lost only 28 killed and 62 wounded.
Date: January 17, 1781
Location: Cowpens, South Carolina
Victor: Brig. General Daniel Morgan
Defeated: Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton
Other Notables: Andrew Pickens
The Battle of Cowpens
January 17, 1781
After Gates had been defeated at Camden, the Continental Congress authorized
General Washington to appoint a new commander of the Southern armies.
Washington selected General Greene, who had recently resigned as Quartermaster
General. Greene headed south. Upon his arrival, Greene split his small army,
sending General Morgan to western South Carolina to menace the British troops
and attempt to threaten British Post 96. Cornwalis responded by sending Colonel
Tarleton, with about 1,000 soldiers, to Post 96. There, he received further orders
from Cornwalis to seek out and destroy Morgan's forces. Morgan had 600 Continental
soldiers and seasoned Virginia militia men, together with another 500 untrained
militia men. He decided to remain and fight Tarleton. Morgan placed his soldiers
on a gentle but commanding hill, deploying them in three lines. The most reliable
soldiers among the Continental troops and Virginia militia were placed just forward
of the crest. Below were two lines of militia, the furthest forward being the best
sharpshooters. Morgan did not expect that they would be able to stand against a
line of British regulars, so he gave them explicit orders that they were to fire three
rounds and then run to the place were the horses were being held. Morgan placed
130 mounted men in reserve under Colonel Washington. At 4:00 AM, Tarleton's
forces broke camp, and Morgan was duly notified. At 8:00 AM, Tarleton reached
American lines. Morgan went up and down the line repeating the famous words:
Don't fire until you see the white of their eyes! A fierce cry went out from the
British forces: Morgan responded loudly, They give us the British Hallo, boys.
Give them the Indian Hallo, by God! A wild cry went out from the Americans.
The sharpshooters took aim and fired. They did their job, firing two or three times
and running back to the second line. The British continued to advance and, as
the second line began to fire, the British began to run up the hill with bayonets
ready. The second line fled. British dragoons then tried to cut down the fleeing
Americans. Just then, Washington's cavalry appeared and chased away the
British cavalry. Morgan was awaiting the militia men where the horses were,
and he managed to turn them back around toward the battle. Meanwhile, the
final line of Continentals was holding off the British. The tactical situation forced
them to retreat slightly. Tarleton thought the battle had been won, and he
ordered a general charge. As they charged, Morgan ordered the retiring force
of Continentals to turn and fire. At the same time, the militia men were coming
up on the left. Once the British were halted in their tracks, the Americans began
charging with bayonets. Just then, the militia attacked from the left, and
Washington's cavalry attacked from the right. In what would become a classic
military victory, one of the most famous of the war, the entire British force was
captured. The British had lost 910 men, 110 killed and 800 taken prisoner, as
well as all of their supplies. The American lost only 73 people, 12 killed and 61
Date: March 15, 1781
Location: Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina
Victor: Lt. General Charles Cornwallis
Defeated: Maj. General Nathanael Greene
Other Notables: Lt. Colonel Henry Lee
The Battle of Guilford Court House
March 15, 1781
After Morgan's victory in the Battle of Cowpens, both Morgan and Greene knew
that Cornwallis would not allow the victory to go unavenged. At the same time,
Morgan did not want to give up his prisoners or supplies. Greene thus directed
his army north, while at the same time taking direct control over the troops of the
badly ailing Morgan. Greene then masterly withdrew northward, skillfully delaying
Cornwallis all the way. In order to catch up with the Americans, Cornwallis burned
his supply train and extra supplies. Greene retreated all the way back to Virginia,
pulling Cornwallis the whole way. When it became clear that Greene and the
Americans had gotten away, Cornwallis realized how exposed he was, with no
supplies in hostile territory. He began withdrawing southward. Greene and the
Americans followed. When the British arrived at Guilford Court House, Greene felt
the time was right to fight. Green had 4,300 troops, of which 1,600 were
Continental regulars, facing 2,200 British regulars. The battle lasted for most of the
day. The result was a British victory in the sense that the Americans were
dislodged from their positions and forced to withdraw. The cost to the British,
however, was too high. The British lost 93 killed and 439 wounded, while the
Americans lost 78 killed and 183 wounded. Cornwallis' army was now in tatters.
The Battle of Eutaw Springs
September 8, 1781
The last important engagement in the Carolina campaign of the American
Revolution was fought in Eutaw Springs 30 miles northwest of Charleston,
South Carolina. The American forces under General Nathaniel Greene attacked
at 4 AM, driving British troops under Colonel Alexander Stewart from the field.
Greene believed that if he could destroy Stewart he could end the British threat to
the south once and for all. The American attack floundered when the men stopped
to plunder the camp. The British then rallied and repulsed the Americans. The end
result however, was that the British were too weak to hold the field anymore. After
sunset, Stewart retreated toward Charleston. The battle was an important victory
for the Americans; it forced the British to remain within Charleston and prepared
the way for the siege of Yorktown.
Campaign Date: May-October 17, 1781
Location: Yorktown, Virginia
Victor: General George Washington
Defeated: Lt. General Charles Cornwallis
Other Notables: Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln, Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton
The Battle of Yorktown
October 6-19, 1781
The Battle of Yorktown began after the Battle of Guilford Court House. At that
time, British General Cornwallis moved his battered army to the North Carolina
coast, then, disobeying orders from General Clinton to protect the British
position in the Carolinas, he marched north to Virginia and took command from
Loyalist (Tory) General Benedict Arnold.
At the same time, General Washington was planning to attack New York with the
help of the French, who had been convinced by Benjamin Franklin to join the
Patriots. Because the British knew of the Patriots' plan to attack New York, they
did not send reinforcements to General Cornwallis in Yorktown. General Cornwallis
had been ordered to bring all his men to New York, but again he did not obey orders.
Instead, Cornwallis kept all of his troops, totaling about 7,500, and began fortifying
Yorktown and Gloucester, across the York River.
Washington sent his French aide, the Marquis de Lafayette, to Virginia in the spring
of 1781 with a few Continental troops. Lafayette observed Cornwalliss troop movements
up the Carolina coast and their settling in at Yorktown. Upon hearing this news,
Washington abandoned his plans to attack New York and Washington and French
General Rochambeau, with 2,500 Continental and 4,000 French troops, started their
march to Philadelphia. General Clinton realized the Americans were not going to
attack New York, and ordered the British fleet to the Chesapeake Bay.
On August 30, Admiral de Grasse, with the French fleet arrived at the Chesapeake
Bay and the British fleet from New York arrived on September 5. A naval battle
ensued, with the French navy driving off the British fleet. 3,000 French troops from
the naval fleet joined with General Washingtons army. After waiting a few days while
the British admirals Graves and Hood sailed back to New York, the Americans
attacked. Cornwallis was besieged by a Franco-American force of 16,000 troops.
They captured two main redoubts on October 14. The British launched a
counterattack but it failed. Cornwallis was outnumbered, outgunned, and was
running out of food. Realizing that his situation was hopeless, Cornwallis asked
for a truce on October 17. He surrendered to George Washington on October 19,
Back in New York, the British admirals had been deciding on how and when to
rescue Cornwallis. On October 17th a British fleet finally set sail out of New York,
but it was too late. And when General Clinton, who had been marching towards
Yorktown with 7,000 reinforcement troops, learned of the surrender, he turned back
to New York.
The surrender of Yorktown ended the fighting in the War for American Independence,
except for some minor fighting that continued in the south, and other battles that still
went on overseas. Losses on both sides were light: British and Hessian 156 killed
and 326 wounded; French, 52 killed and 134 wounded; American, 20 killed and 56
The Battle of Yorktown, is recognized as one of the most skillful military actions in
history. The British prime minister, Lord Frederick North, resigned after Cornwallis's
surrender. The new leaders signed the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783, which
officially ended the American Revolution.
The British Strategy
By 1778, British and American combatants in the north were stalemated, and a
quick end to the Revolutionary War was doubtful. The British now rekindled a
plan for putting down the rebellion by first controlling the southern colonies and
then sweeping north to total victory. The strategy began well. Savannah was
captured in late 1778, and Charleston fell in 1780. Lord Cornwallis, the British
commander in the south, then planned to move his troops through the Carolina
backcountry providing encouragement to loyalists there. Cornwallis' intent was
to enlist a strong loyalist militia which, supported by British regulars, would
control the backcountry. This proved successful as loyalist militia units formed
and maneuvered throughout the area. By the summer of 1780, British control of
South Carolina seemed assured, especially after Cornwallis' crushing defeat of
American forces at Camden in August, 1780. Cornwallis was ready to begin his
The British had secured Ninety Six as a base of operations in the backcountry
in June, 1780, and Cornwallis believed Ninety Six would be crucial to control of
the backcountry once the British Army moved northward out of South Carolina.
Cornwallis left Lieutenant-Colonel John Harris Cruger, a loyalist from New York,
in charge of Ninety Six. Cruger's instructions were to be "vigorous" in punishing
rebels and maintaining order in the area.
The Tide Turns
A series of events beginning in autumn, 1780, put the success of the British
Southern Campaign in doubt. In October, 1780, a patriot militia force defeated
Patrick Ferguson and his corps of loyalists at Kings Mountain Francis Marion
was campaigning against British loyalists in the low country of South Carolina,
and Thomas Sumter maneuvered his patriot forces against loyalists targets in
the South Carolina upcountry. In addition, Nathanael Greene, the new commander
of American forces in the south, had split his army to move more widely through
Cornwallls, fearing for Ninety Six and overall British control of South Carolina,
sent units to remove the patriot threat. The British lost many of the ensuing
encounters including a significant defeat at The Cowpens In January, 1781.
Cornwallis and Greene met each other in March, 1781, at Guilford Courthouse;
the British won this encounter but lost nearly a third of its force including some
of the best officers. Cornwallis then moved his army to Wilmington, and Greene
turned his attention back to South Carolina and Ninety Six. Greene hoped to
loosen the British hold on the backcountry by taking Ninety Six and forcing the
enemy to Charleston.
Greene set siege to Ninety Six in May, 1781, but never took the fort. He was
forced to lift the siege a month later as British reinforcements advanced toward
Ninety Six. The British abandoned Ninety Six in July and moved to the coast.
This signaled the end of British control of the interior. The Southern Campaign
was over. British forces surrendered at Yorktown four months later, effectively
ending the war.
Map of the Southern Campaign
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