New York & New Jersey Campaign > Battle of Fort Washington

Battle of Fort Washington

Background

The Battle of Fort Washington was a battle fought in New York on November 16, 1776 during the American Revolutionary War between the United States and Great Britain. It was a British victory that gained the surrender of the remnant of the garrison of Fort Washington near the north end of Manhattan Island. It was one of the worst Patriot defeats of the war.

After defeating the Continental Army under Commander-in-Chief General George Washington at the Battle of White Plains, the British Army forces under the command of Lieutenant General William Howe planned to capture Fort Washington, the last American stronghold on Manhattan. General Washington issued a discretionary order to General Nathanael Greene to abandon the fort and remove its garrison – then numbering 1,200 men[6] but which later to grow to 3,000[2] – to New Jersey. Colonel Robert Magaw, commanding the fort, declined to abandon it as he believed it could be defended from the British. Howe's forces attacked the fort before Washington reached it to assess the situation.

Howe launched his attack on November 16. He led an assault from three sides: the north, east and south. Tides in the Harlem River prevented some troops from landing and delayed the attack. When the British moved against the defenses, the southern and western American defenses fell quickly. Patriot forces on the north side offered stiff resistance to the Hessian attack, but they too were eventually overwhelmed. With the fort surrounded by land and sea, Colonel Magaw chose to surrender. A total of 59 Americans were killed and 2,837 were taken as prisoners of war.

After this defeat, most of Washington's army was chased across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania, and the British consolidated their control of New York and eastern New Jersey.

New York & New Jersey Campaign Battles

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