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This little-known battle, fought after the British surrender at Yorktown, was the last engagement of the Revolutionary War in New York.
The Battle of Johnstown was fought on October 25, 1781 between American forces commanded by Col. Marinus Willett and British forces commanded by Maj. John Ross and Capt. Walter Butler in Johnstown, Fulton County, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was an American victory and ended the last Tory uprising in the Mohawk Valley. The British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia six days earlier effectively ended the war in the Continental US.
During the Revolutionary War, the Mohawk Valley in central New York was torn between Patriots who advocated for American independence and Tories who wanted to remain loyal to the British Crown. John Johnson, whose estate was in Johnstown, was a prominent Tory who fled to Canada to escape arrest. He formed the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, which participated in annual raids into the valley.
In the fall of 1781, a substantial force of approximately 700 British regulars, militia, and Iroquois warriors entered the valley in order to destroy its agricultural yield before it could be used to supply the Continental Army. On October 25, approximately 416 American militia commanded by Col. Marinus Willett caught up with them outside Johnstown. Willett violated military convention by dividing his forces in the face of a numerically superior enemy.
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Over 240 years ago, this unassuming park in Manhattan was the scene of one of the patriot’s worst defeats during the Revolutionary War.
The Battle of Fort Washington was fought on November 16, 1776 between American forces commanded by Col. Robert Magaw and British and Hessian forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Hugh Percy and Wilhelm von Knyphausen in present-day Washington Heights, Manhattan, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was a complete British victory, with all American defenders killed, wounded, or captured.
In the fall of 1776, American aspirations of independence were at a low point. British General 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 under Col. Robert Magaw and a brigade commanded by Col. John Glover at Pell’s Point to contest any British landing.
Though Col. Glover delayed the British advance at Pell’s Point on October 18, he was forced to retreat. With General Washington’s defeat at White Plains ten days later, the path was clear for Howe’s army to march on Fort Washington. Col. Robert Magaw stubbornly held on despite Washington’s discretionary order that the fort be abandoned.
Continue reading “Bennett Park and Fort Washington, New York City”
A Mohawk war chief turns the tables on his ambushers in this obscure Revolutionary War battle in the wilderness of southern New York.
The Battle of Minisink was a failed ambush carried out by colonial militia against Mohawk war chief Joseph Brant and his volunteers during the Revolutionary War. On July 22, 1779, Lt. Colonel Benjamin Tusten and his militia set up an ambush above the Delaware River at Minisink Ford, but attacked prematurely. Brant encircled the militia who didn’t flee and won a crushing victory for the British and their allies. Today, this remote location is memorialized with walking trails, interpretive signs, and a monument.
In the summer of 1779, the British sent Brant’s Volunteers to disrupt colonial preparation for the coming Sullivan Expedition, in which the colonials planned to punish Britain’s Iroquois allies with a scorched earth campaign. Brant’s Volunteers raided the Delaware Valley and headed north into New York. Local militia formed to oppose the movement, and Lt. Colonel Benjamin Tusten reluctantly took command. They were joined by Colonel John Hathorn and 120 minutemen.
Brant’s Volunteers crossed Minisink Ford on July 22. A militia captain prematurely fired on an Indian scout, alerting them to the ambush. Brant quickly surrounded the colonial force, many of whom fled. The remaining militia put up a tenacious defense, but eventually ran out of ammunition and were overwhelmed. The militia lost 48 killed and 1 captured to Brant’s 3 killed and 10 wounded.
Continue reading “Minisink Battleground County Park in Sullivan County, 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.
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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.
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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.
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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”