The Battle of Sag Harbor, May 1777

A daring raid on Long Island loyalists results in a bloodless victory for colonial rebels during the Revolutionary War.

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The Battle of Sag Harbor (aka Meigs’ Raid) was fought on May 24, 1777 between American patriot forces led by Col. Return Jonathan Meigs and British loyalist forces commanded by Cpt. James Raymond near Sag Harbor on Long Island, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The raid was a stunning success, with the Americans capturing British fortifications at bayonet point without a single casualty.

During the Revolutionary War, Sag Harbor was an important port on Long Island used to resupply British troops and launch raids across Long Island Sound on states like Connecticut. In May 1777, one such raiding party docked at Sag Harbor to join the 70-man Loyalist battalion stationed in a palisade on Meeting House Hill. Patriot Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs assembled a force of 234 men to attack the garrison and spoil their plans, although only 170 made it to Long Island.

Meigs’ small force landed in the early morning hours and divided into two parties. The first headed to the harbor to destroy British boats, and the second, with bayonets fixed, aimed to take the garrison on Meeting House Hill. The attacks took the Loyalists by surprise and only one shot was fired. The Patriots killed six men, captured 90, and destroyed a dozen boats before returning triumphantly to Connecticut.

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North Anna Battlefield Park in Hanover County, Virginia

See Civil War trenches, and walk in the footsteps of Union and Confederate soldiers at this beautifully preserved and little-known battlefield.

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The Battle of North Anna was fought from May 23 to May 26, 1864 between the Union Army of the Potomac commanded by Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Gen. Robert E. Lee in Hanover County, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was inconclusive. Neither side gained a decisive advantage, and Grant decided to continue moving south toward Richmond.

After the brutal Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, General Grant again tried to outflank Lee, but Lee was one step ahead and established a strong defensive position behind the North Anna River. On May 23, Confederate Maj. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox’s division opposed a river crossing by Union Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren’s V Corps at Jericho Mills, but Wilcox was outnumbered 2-to-1 and withdrew.

The Army of Northern Virginia then settled into a defensive formation designed to trap pieces of Grant’s army on the river’s southern side. With their backs to the river, the much larger Union Army would be vulnerable to attack. Unfortunately for the Confederates, General Lee developed a debilitating stomach ailment, and his inexperienced corps commanders were in no shape to direct his army.

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Laurel Hill Battlefield in Belington, West Virginia

See where amateur armies of North and South squared off in this early Civil War battle fought before the Battle of Bull Run.

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The Battle of Belington (Laurel Hill) was fought from July 7 to 11, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Morris and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett in Barbour County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was technically a draw, but defeat at Rich Mountain on July 11 compelled Garnett to abandon his fortified camp at Laurel Hill.

Following an ignominious Confederate defeat at the Battle of Philippi in early June, Brig. Gen. Garnett took command of Confederate forces in western Virginia and fortified two key mountain passes: one at Laurel Mountain leading to Leadsville and the other at Rich Mountain to Beverly. Lt. Col. John Pegram commanded a smaller force at Camp Garnett in Rich Mountain, while Garnett stayed at Camp Laurel Hill with 4,000 men.

Garnett knew his prospects for victory were slim. “I don’t anticipate anything very brilliant–indeed I shall esteem myself fortunate if I escape disaster,” he wrote. His pessimism would be tested on July 7, when Brig. Gen. Morris arrived with his 3,500-man brigade and made camp in nearby Belington (where he soon received reinforcements, bringing his total to 4,000). The two sides skirmished for several days. Morris’ orders were to “amuse” his opponent and prevent him from reinforcing Rich Mountain.

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Fort Anne and Battle Hill

Efforts by the American Battlefield Trust have recently preserved the scene of this obscure Revolutionary War battle in New York’s Hudson Valley.

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The Battle of Fort Anne was fought on July 8, 1777 between American forces commanded by Col. Pierse Long and Henry van Rensselaer and British forces commanded by Lt. Col. John Hill near present-day Fort Ann, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was a tactical draw: both sides withdrew after running low on ammunition, although American forces abandoned Fort Anne shortly after.

In early summer 1777, British Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne began his campaign to control Lake Champlain and the Hudson Valley in order to sever New England from the rest of the colonies. He seized Fort Ticonderoga on July 5, and American forces retreated south. On July 7, British forces defeated an American rear guard at the Battle of Hubbardton. Lt. Col. John Hill’s 9th Regiment of Foot, numbering about 200 British regulars, pursued a small American force south of Lake Champlain toward Fort Anne.

When the Americans arrived at Fort Anne, they fortuitously met Col. Henry Van Rensselaer and an additional 400 militiamen. On the morning of July 8, they turned on their pursuers, aided by information gathered from a spy who posed as a deserter. The British retreated to a wooded hill north of the fort. For several hours, American militia took cover behind trees and angled to surround the beleaguered British.

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Fairfax Court House Battlefield in Fairfax, Virginia

Visit this antebellum courthouse and site of an early Civil War skirmish, fought weeks before the Battle of Bull Run.

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The First Battle of Fairfax Court House was fought on June 1, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Lt. Charles H. Tompkins and Confederate forces commanded by Capt. John Q. Marr at Fairfax Court House, Virginia during the American Civil War. This small and inconclusive battle was the first land engagement of the war with fatal casualties, resulting in 24 total dead, wounded, or captured.

On May 31, 1861, Union Brig. Gen. David Hunter ordered Lt. Charles Henry Tompkins of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry Regiment to recon Confederate forces around Fairfax Court House. Early the next morning, June 1, his 50 to 86-man force ran into approximately 210 untrained and ill-equipped Confederate militia in the village, some of whom didn’t even have weapons or ammunition. The militia scattered.

Nearby, Confederate Capt. John Q. Marr attempted to rally his men, but he was shot and killed in a field west of the Methodist church. Lt. Col. Richard S. Ewell, a future Confederate general, was wounded as he emerged from a hotel, but escaped, and 64-year-old William “Extra Billy” Smith, a politician and another future general, helped him take charge. Together, their rag-tag force repelled several more Union attempts to ride through town.

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Moores Creek National Battlefield in Pender County, North Carolina

This quick and stunning patriot victory turned back British hopes of holding onto North Carolina during the Revolutionary War.

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The Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge was fought on February 27, 1776 between American patriot forces led by Col. James Moore and British loyalists led by Lt. Col. Donald MacLeod near Wilmington, North Carolina during the American Revolutionary War. The short battle was a resounding Patriot victory, which led to North Carolina voting in favor of independence.

In 1775, Royal Governor Josiah Martin fled North Carolina after his house was attacked by rebellious colonists, and the British Army sailed from Ireland and New England to stamp out the insurrection. Martin raised a force of approximately 1,500 Loyalists in North Carolina, principally consisting of Scotch Highlanders, to arm and join with the British regulars. The Patriots moved to prevent the two forces from joining.

Two units of Patriot militia, led by Col. James Moore and Richard Caswell, tried to intercept the Loyalists before they reached the coast. Caswell reached Widow Moore’s Creek Bridge first and threw up fortifications to block their approach. The Patriot troops were bolstered by a cannon and a swivel gun they called “old Mother Covington and her daughter.”

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Fox’s Gap Battlefield at South Mountain, Maryland

The deaths of two opposing generals underscore the fierce fighting that occurred in the shadow of southern Maryland’s idyllic mountain scenery.

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The battle for Fox’s Gap, part of the larger Battle of South Mountain, was fought on September 14, 1862 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Jesse L. Reno and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill in Frederick and Washington counties, Maryland during the American Civil War. The battle was a Union victory, with Confederate forces abandoning the mountain pass and retreating toward Sharpsburg.

After General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia destroyed the Union Army of Virginia at the Second Battle of Manassas, Lee saw an opportunity to invade Maryland, threaten Washington, DC, and possibly influence European powers to recognize Confederate independence. Lee divided his army and sent one wing to capture Harper’s Ferry, Virginia and the other into Maryland. A copy of his orders fell into enemy hands, however, and for once Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan acted swiftly to catch Lee off guard.

McClellan sent elements of his reconstituted Army of the Potomac to capture three strategic gaps in South Mountain, hoping to sever Lee’s army and destroy it in detail. The mountain passes were known as Turner’s Gap, Fox’s Gap, and Crampton’s Gap. Because of the distance between them, the Battle of South Mountain was actually three separate engagements, though they all took place in a single day.

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Sharon Springs Battlefield

New York’s Mohawk Valley was the scene of brutal fighting during the American Revolution. This obscure battle ended a particularly nasty raid that began with one settlement in ruins.

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The Battle of Sharon Springs was fought on July 10, 1781 between British and American Indian raiders commanded by Capt. John Doxtader and American forces commanded by Col. Marinus Willet east of Sharon Springs in Schoharie County, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was an American victory and many of the British loyalist forces and their Native American allies were killed and the rest scattered.

During the Revolutionary War, the Mohawk Valley in central New York was the scene of brutal fighting between patriots committed to American independence and loyalists committed to remaining under the British Crown. Many settlements and homesteads were raided and burned. On July 9, 1781, John Doxtader and approximately 300 Iroquois Indians and Loyalists attacked the frontier settlement of Currytown, killing a number of people and taking nine prisoner.

That night, they retired to a camp in Sharon Springs Swamp. The next day, Col. Marinus Willett sallied forth from Fort Plain and attacked their camp with a force of approximately 150 men. Despite being outnumbered 2-to-1, the Patriots used the dense terrain to their advantage and lured the raiders into a trap.

The Patriots lost five killed and nine wounded, and the Loyalists suffered approximately 40 casualties. Unfortunately, they were too late to rescue the nine prisoners from Currytown. When the battle began, the raiders beat them with tomahawks and dumped them in shallow graves. One man survived his injuries and crawled to safety.

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