Battle of White Plains


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Battle White Plains

Original Map of the Battle of White Plains

Washington's HeadquartersWhite Plains, BATTLE AT. General Howe dared not attack the entrenched American camp on Harlem Heights, so he attempted to gain the rear of Washington's army, and hem them in on the upper part of Manhattan Island. To do this he landed a considerable force at Throgg's Point, Westchester county, and sent armed ships up the Hudson to cut off supplies for the Americans by water from the north and west. Perceiving the gathering of danger, George Washington called a council of war at his headquarters on Harlem Heights, which was the deserted mansion of Roger Morris, who married Mary Phillipse (see WASHINGTON, GEORGE). Morris had espoused the cause of the crown, and fled from his mansion with his family.

Morris HouseAt that council, held October 16, 1776, it was determined to extend the army beyond the King's Bridge into Westchester county, abandoning the island, excepting the strong work known as Fort Washington, on the highest point of the island. Arranged in four divisions, under Generals Lee, Heath, Sullivan, and Lincoln, the army concentrated at the village of White Plains, and formed an entrenched camp. The two armies were each about 13,000 strong. On the morning of October 28, after a series of skirmishes, 1,600 men from Delaware and Maryland had taken post on Chatterton's Hill, a lofty eminence west of the Bronx River, and to these General McDougall led reinforcements, with two pieces of cannon under Captain Alexander Hamilton, and took the chief command there. Washington, with the rest of the army, was on the lower ground just north of the village.

Chatterton's Hill


The British army advanced to the attack in two divisions, the right led by Sir Henry Clinton and the left by Generals De Meister and Erskine. Howe was with the latter. He had moved with great caution since his landing. Inclining his army to the left, he planted almost twenty field-pieces on the slope south of the village, and under cover of these a bridge was constructed, and British and German troops passed the Bronx and attacked the Americans on Chatterton's Hill. Hamilton's little battery made them recoil at first, but, being reinforced, they drove the Americans from their position. McDougall led his troops to Washington's camp, leaving the British in possession of the hill. Washington's breastworks were composed of cornstalks covered rather hastily and lightly by earth; but they appeared so formidable that Howe dared not attack them, but waited for reinforcements. Just as they appeared a severe storm of wind and rain set in. Washington perceiving Howe's advantage, withdrew under cover of darkness, in the night of October 31, behind entrenchments on the hills of North Castle, towards the Croton River. Howe did not follow; but, falling back, encamped on the heights of Fordham. The loss of the Americans in the skirmishes on October 26, and the battle on the 28th, did not exceed, probably, 300 men in killed, wounded, and prisoners; that of the British was about the same.



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