Connected successfully  The Okie Legacy: Vol 18, Iss 39 Battle of Harlem Heights of 1776

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                             Volume 18, Issue 39 -- 2016-10-28                     

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Battle of Harlem Heights of 1776


The Battle of Harlem Heights was fought during the New York and New Jersey campaign of the American Revolutionary War. The action took place in what is now the Morningside Heights and east into the future Harlem neighborhoods of northwestern Manhattan Island in what is now New York City on September 16, 1776. It was an inconclusive fight which revived American morale but had no particular benefit for either side.

General Washington was in considerable anxiety at the inability of his troops to stand up to the British and Germans of General Howe's army. The Americans were being driven off the Island of New York (Manhattan). On the 15 September 1776, a British force had landed at Kipp's Bay on the west side of the island and the Virginia militia had fled before them. Washington held only the northern plateau of the island, around the fortification of Fort Washington on the Hudson shore.

It was on 16 September 1776, Washington sent a party of New England Rangers under Captain Thomas Knowlton to scout the British movements to the South of his position.

Capt. Knowlton descended from the northern plateau into an area of lower ground known as the Hollow Way and on to the next plateau. Washington's party of 120 men encountered the British light infantry picquet and firing broke out. More British troops from the 42nd Highlanders came up and the small party of Rangers was forced to retreat in some haste, with the British in pursuit.

The Americans on the northern plateau were particularly enraged to hear the British using derisive fox hunting calls. Washington then ordered a force forward to lure the party of British further onto the plateau, while a second force moved around the British right flank and cut them off from he southern plateau and further reinforcement.

The light infantry and highlanders took the bait and moved further onto the northern plateau as the Americans fell back before them. The American flanking party encountered some British troops and firing broke out, as they moved south, warning the light infantry that they were in a perilous position. The British retreated to a field in the Hollow Way where they were joined by troops from the 33rd Foot, some Hessian battalions and guns, all while they were under persistent attack. The fighting continued for an hour until the imminent arrival of more British forces caused Washington o call his troops back.

Around 70 British were killed and the same number of Americans in this skirmish. Captain Knowlton was also killed.

This was an important action for the Americans in that it was the Virginia militia who had fled the British the day before who fought steadily and effectively alongside the Northern Rangers, going along way to restoring the confidence of the American army in itself. The Armeicans chased the British off the heights in to what is now the park.

The Battle of Harlem Heights was a minor engagement, but showed the American troops they could win in battle after the loss on Long Island and the embarrassment of Kip's Bay.
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