A small park and cemetery memorializes one of the most lopsided and controversial battles of the American Civil War.
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The Battle of Ball’s Bluff was fought on October 21, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Charles P. Stone and Col. Edward D. Baker and Confederate forces commanded by Col. Nathan “Shanks” Evans near Leesburg, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a humiliating defeat for Union forces, including the loss of a U.S. Senator, and led Congress to establish the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.
After the First Battle of Bull Run ended notions of a quick Union victory, President Abraham Lincoln authorized Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan to form the Army of the Potomac and plan another advance into Virginia. Leesburg, Virginia was a strategic town on the Potomac River, so McClellan ordered Brig. Gen. George A. McCall to investigate Confederate troop movements in the area. McClellan was under the impression that Confederate Col. Nathan “Shanks” Evans had abandoned Leesburg, when in fact his withdrawal was temporary.
On the night of October 20, 1861, Col. Charles Devens of the 15th Massachusetts Infantry sent a patrol across the Potomac River to recon the area. A jittery officer sent word that he had seen a Confederate camp, so Devens sent a raiding party of 300 men across the river the next morning. Though there was no camp, Colonel and U.S. Senator Edward Dickinson Baker, a close friend of Abraham Lincoln, ordered more Union troops to reinforce the 15th Massachusetts.
In this little-known Revolutionary War battle in the Bronx, skillful planning and marksmanship by American militia delayed a British landing long enough for George Washington’s army to escape destruction.
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The Battle of Pell’s Point (aka the Battle of Pelham) was fought on October 18, 1776 between American forces commanded by Col. John Glover and British forces commanded by General Henry Clinton near Pelham Manor (The Bronx), New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was a British victory, but delayed them long enough for General George Washington’s army to escape White Plains.
In the fall of 1776, American aspirations of independence were at a low point. British Gen. Sir William Howe had overwhelmed and driven the Continental Army commanded by Gen. George Washington out of New York City and Long Island. Washington aspired to escape north to White Plains to avoid being surrounded in Manhattan. He left several thousand men at Fort Washington and a brigade of 750 men commanded by Col. John Glover to contest a British landing at Pell’s Point.
At dawn on October 18, a British force of 4,000 men (mostly Hessian mercenaries) began landing on shore. Col. Glover saw their approach and carefully prepared a defense in depth, arranging his brigade in rows behind several stone walls. As the British approached, each row would fire and fall back to avoid being overwhelmed. Glover’s first line waited until the British troops were less than 30 yards away, then stood and poured a deadly volley into the redcoats.
George Washington’s daring raid across the icy Delaware River revived his battered army’s spirits and prevented total disaster for the Patriot cause. Today, the Capitol of New Jersey commemorates Washington’s 1776 victory.
After a string of defeats around southeastern New York and Long Island, George Washington’s army withdrew across the Delaware River to lick its wounds. Washington was joined by several other prominent American commanders, who needed a victory to hold together their ragtag band of militia over the winter. The victorious British commander, Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis, spread his army along the east bank of the Delaware to await the spring.
Washington decided to attack an isolated contingent of approximately 1,500 Hessian mercenaries camped at Trenton. A driving snowstorm prevented some of his plan from being implemented, but Washington crossed the icy Delaware under cover of darkness with 2,400 men. The Hessians, thinking victory was at hand, had spent Christmas celebrating and hadn’t provided proper security. As a result, they were caught off guard in the town streets.
After a running battle, Hessian Col. Johann Rahl made several attempts to organize his men and counter attack, but was mortally wounded. The remaining Hessians surrendered. Relatively light American casualties sweetened Washington’s victory. The Patriots lost only four killed and eight wounded to the Hessians’ 40 killed, 66 wounded, and 918 captured.
After over three centuries, few remember this raid on an Indian settlement in east-central New York, but a state historic site tells the story of the native people who once lived there.
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The Battle of Ganondagan (or Canagora/Gandagora) was fought on July 13, 1687 between French forces and their native allies commanded by Marquis de Denonville and Chief Athasata and a force of Seneca Indians near present-day Victor, New York during the Beaver Wars. The battle was both a tactical and strategic (albeit temporary) French victory. They succeeded in destroying Ganondagan and its grain stores, as well as several other nearby villages.
King Louis XIV appointed Jacques-René de Brisay de Denonville Governor General of New France in 1685, and he wasted little time in making an impression on the continent. In 1686, Denonville lured 50 chiefs of the Iroquois Confederacy to a meeting under a flag of truce, then put them in chains and shipped them back to Europe as galley slaves. The next spring he set out with approximately 800 colonial regulars, 900 Canadian militia, and 550 Indian allies on a punitive expedition to break the Seneca tribe. They landed at Irondequoit Bay on Lake Ontario on July 10, 1687.
On July 13, a stiflingly hot day, the French-led column made its way south toward the Seneca heartland and the village of Ganondagan. Seneca warriors decided to ambush Denonville’s army in a marsh approximately three miles north of the village. They divided into two groups of 300 and 500 men. The larger group would block Denonville’s advance while the smaller group would wait until his army passed before rising up and attacking them from the rear.
A roadside sign is all that marks the location of the first documented cavalry charge of the U.S. Army.
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The Battle of the Flockey was fought on August 13, 1777 between Tory militia forces commanded by Capt. John MacDonald (McDonnell) and American militia and dragoons commanded by Col. John Harper and Capt. Jean-Louis De Vernejoux southwest of Middleburgh in Schoharie County, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was an American victory and quelled the first Tory uprising on the New York frontier.
When the Revolutionary War broke out, the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys were divided between Patriots supporting independence and Tories supporting the British Crown. When British Maj. Gen. John Burgoyne began his campaign down Lake Champlain toward Albany, British loyalists on the frontier rose up. Patriots fortified several buildings along Schoharie Creek (a Mohawk River tributary), including a stone church near present-day Schoharie.
Local loyalists led by John McDonnell, Adam Crysler, and tavern owner Capt. George Mann trapped 20 Patriots in Johannes Becker’s stone house near Middleburgh, which was later called Middle Fort. Col. Harper escaped and rode to Albany, where he enlisted help from a 28-man troop of 2nd Continental Light Dragoons commanded by French mercenary Jean-Louis De Vernejoux. He returned with the dragoons and freed the militia at Middle Fort. From there, they rode south to clear the valley of Tories.
In 1777, a daring maneuver by George Washington surprised and defeated an isolated British force near modern-day Princeton University, reviving American hopes for independence. Today, the battlefield is preserved as a New Jersey state park.
After his victories in southeastern New York, British Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis had strung his army along the Delaware River to await the spring, but a successful surprise attack by George Washington on Trenton on December 26 stirred him to action. Cornwallis steadily maneuvered Washington into a precarious position. Rather than risk defeat in another standup fight with Cornwallis, Washington took 4,600 men on a nighttime march north to attack an isolated garrison at Princeton.
Washington met British Col. Charles Mawhood and 800 of his men 1.5 miles west of Princeton. Mawhood was heading toward Trenton when the opposing forces met. His men fired one volley and charged with bayonets, Maj. Gen. High Mercer was mortally wounded, and the Patriots fell back. General Washington arrived with reinforcements in the nick of time.
Colonial history is alive in the small Connecticut town of Ridgefield, where visitors can still see a British cannonball embedded in a wooden post in a former local tavern.
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The Battle of Ridgefield was fought on April 27, 1777 between American Colonial forces commanded by Maj. Gen. David Wooster and Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold and British forces commanded by Maj. Gen. William Tryon around Ridgefield, Connecticut during the Revolutionary War. The battle was a tactical success for the British, but their actions galvanized Patriot support in Connecticut. Enrollments in the Continental Army soared, and the British limited their operations in Connecticut to coastal raiding.
In spring, 1777, New York Royal Governor Maj. Gen. William Tryon landed on the Connecticut coastline with 1,500 regulars and 300 loyalist militia with the objective of destroying a military supply depot in Danbury, Connecticut. It took too long for colonial militia to muster to save the depot, and on the morning of April 27, the British torched Patriot homes in Danbury and moved south toward Ridgefield.
Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold, with approximately 500 men, erected barricades throughout Ridgefield, while Maj. Gen. David Wooster pursued the British with 200 men. Wooster harassed their rear guard, but at one point the British put up a stiff defense bolstered with cannon. Wooster reportedly called out, “Come on my boys! Never mind such random shots!” moments before being mortally wounded.