Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site in Oriskany, New York

An unassuming park in central New York State commemorates the bloodiest battle of the Revolutionary War.

The Battle of Oriskany was fought on August 6, 1777 during the siege of Fort Stanwix, it was an attempt by Tories and British Iroquois allies to ambush a colonial relief column headed for the fort. Heavy rain and dogged defense by the colonists and their Oneida allies saved them from destruction. Today, a tall granite obelisk marks the battle’s location.

As British forces lay siege to Fort Stanwix, 800 Tryon County militia and Oneida warriors under General Nicholas Herkimer rushed to its defense. The British, however, were alerted to their approach and a force of approximately 1,200 British and Iroquois braves under Sir. John Johnson and Joseph Brant planned an ambush. Just six miles from their objective, in a marshy ravine, Seneca warriors waited for the column of Colonial militia.

Impatient, the Seneca warriors opened fire before completely entrapping the Colonial militia. General Herkimer was shot in the leg, but refused to be carried from the field. “I will face the enemy,” he said. A thunderstorm interrupted the fighting, giving the colonists time to establish a last line of defense on a hill while British reinforcements left their camps outside Fort Stanwix to join the battle. This allowed the Fort Stanwix defenders to sally forth and attack the British camps. Seneca Indians at the ambush site retreated to protect their camp, and the remaining British withdrew.

Continue reading “Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site in Oriskany, New York”

Battle of White Plains Historic Site in White Plains, New York

The hustle and bustle of city life obscures the grounds over which two armies fought one of the largest battles of the Revolutionary War.

The Battle of White Plains was fought on October 28, 1776 during George Washington’s retreat from New York City during the Revolutionary War. Washington positioned his depleted Continental Army on hills near White Plains, New York. British General William Howe, with 13,000 men, drove the Continental Army off strategic high ground, but poor weather allowed them to escape. Today, the battle is memorialized by several small monuments and interpretive signs at a park.

In late October 1776, following the battles at Harlem Heights and Pell’s Point, General Washington withdrew northward to counter an attempted encirclement by General Howe. He established 3-mile long defensive positions, including two lines of earthworks, anchored by swampy land near the Bronx River on one flank and Chatterton’s Hill on the other.

The British plan was to attack the Continental’s right flank at Chatterton’s Hill. Hessians under the command of Colonel Johann Rahl crossed the Bronx River and occupied a hill on the extreme right while British cannon pounded the defenders on the hill. After fierce fighting, the Hessians outflanked Continental positions, and a charge by cavalry dragoons drove them off the hill. Heavy rain delayed further attack, and by the time General Howe advanced on November 1, Washington’s army was gone.

Continue reading “Battle of White Plains Historic Site in White Plains, New York”

Newtown Battlefield State Park in Elmira, New York

Visitors to this historic site camp and picnic where a notorious Mohawk leader was finally defeated by American forces during the Revolutionary War.

The Battle of Newtown, August 29, 1779, was the culminating battle of the Sullivan Expedition, a punitive expedition led by American Maj. General John Sullivan and Brig. General James Clinton against Tories (British loyalists) and four Iroquois Confederation tribes who sided with the British during the Revolutionary War. They destroyed over 40 Iroquois villages and stores of winter crops in the future heartland of New York State. Today, the Battle of Newtown is commemorated at Newtown Battlefield State Park.

In the summer of 1779, the Revolutionary War on the northern frontier became a border war, with skirmishes and massacres as Tories and their Iroquois allies sought to sew havoc among their rebellious neighbors. They were led by John Butler, leader of an irregular militia called “Butler’s Rangers,” and Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), a Mohawk leader and commander of “Brant’s Volunteers.” They and approximately 250 Butler’s Rangers and 1,000 Iroquois warriors fortified a hill overlooking the Chemung River.

Maj. General Sullivan and 3,200 Continental regulars and two militia companies discovered their position, which was just ten miles upriver from their base camp in northern Pennsylvania. Despite attacking uphill against a fortified position, the Colonials were successful because they maneuvered through the dense swamp and forest to strike at the Loyalist’s flanks and rear. Eleven were killed and 23 wounded in the assault. The British and Iroquois lost 17 killed and 16 wounded.

Continue reading “Newtown Battlefield State Park in Elmira, New York”

Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, New York

The ruins of a colonial-era fort on the Hudson tell the tale of a daring raid by an American general who earned the nickname “Mad Anthony.”

The Battle of Stony Point was a daring nighttime attack on July 16, 1779 by Brig. General “Mad Anthony” Wayne and 1,350 picked colonial troops on the British garrison at Stony Point during the Revolutionary War. Stony Point was not a true fort, but had been fortified with entrenched firing positions, redans, and abatis. Much of these works can still be seen today, albeit covered with grass. A lighthouse was built at the location in 1828 to guide ships along the Hudson River.

Under cover of darkness, Lt. George Knox led a “Forlorn Hope” of 20 men who volunteered to lead the attack. They knew they probably wouldn’t survive, but someone had to do the job. The men advanced across a chest-deep swamp to reach the British works. Their orders threatened death for any man who spoke, fired his musket, or retreated. Aside from a diversionary formation of two companies, most men only carried muskets with fixed bayonets and no ammunition. They were expected to overwhelm the British in hand-to-hand combat.

Though Brig. Gen. Wayne himself was wounded in the head, the attacked succeeded brilliantly. The Americans moved too swiftly up the hill for the British cannons to depress in time to be used effectively. Only 15 were killed and 83 wounded. They captured 546 British prisoners. Though the colonists carried off cannons and supplies, they abandoned Stony Point, as it had debatable strategic value.

Continue reading “Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, New York”

Battle Pass in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York

Alternatively named the Battle of Brooklyn or Battle of Brooklyn Heights, the Battle of Long Island was fought on August 27, 1776 between General George Washington’s Continental Army and British Generals William Howe and Charles Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War. It was the largest battle of the war and a British victory. Today, much of the battlefield is preserved within Prospect Park, with outlying areas nearby. Several small monuments commemorate key locations in the battle.

After the successful Siege of Boston and the Declaration of Independence, George Washington correctly surmised the British would move to secure strategic naval ports around New York City. The colonists secured and fortified key terrain on the islands around the city. The British arrived in force, with approx. 32,000 men and 400 ships. Opposing them were 30,434 colonial regulars and militia. Only about half of these forces would participate in the battle.

On August 27, approx. 10,000 colonial troops met 20,000 British regulars and Hessian mercenaries near Brooklyn Heights. The British divided their forces and attacked the Continental Army from two sides around Battle Pass. Hard fighting by American Brig. General Samuel H. Parsons and Colonel Samuel J. Atlee inflicted heavy casualties on the British.

Continue reading “Battle Pass in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York”