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Battle of Harlem Heights

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Surnames/tags: American_Revolution 1776
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Battle of Harlem Heights

Battle of Harlem Heights
Part of: the American Revolutionary War
Date: September 16, 1776
Location: Morningside Heights, Manhattan, New York
Result: American victory
Belligerents: United States, Great Britain


Fought during the New York and New Jersey campaign of the Revolution, action took place in what is now the Morningside Heights and west Harlem neighborhoods of Manhattan.

The Continental Army, under Gen. Washington, Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene, and Maj. Gen. Israel Putnam, totaling around 1,800 men, held a series of high ground positions in upper Manhattan against an attacking British division of about 5,000 under Maj. Gen.l Alexander Leslie.

While in pursuit, British troops made a tactical error by having light infantry buglers sound a fox hunting call, "gone away." It was meant to insult Washington, a keen fox hunter who learned the sport from Lord Fairfax during the French and Indian War ... since "Gone away" means a fox is in full flight from hounds on its trail.

The Continentals, in orderly retreat, were infuriated and galvanized to hold ground. After flanking British attackers, Americans slowly pushed the British back.

Washington's troops end the pursuit after British withdrawal, and the battle helps restore Continental Army morale after several defeats. It was also Washington's first battlefield victory of the war.

After a month without any major fighting between the armies, Washington was forced to withdraw his army to White Plains when the British moved into Westchester County and threatened to trap Washington in Manhattan. Washington suffered two more defeats, at White Plains and Fort Washington. After these two defeats, Washington and the army retreated across New Jersey to Pennsylvania. The New York and New Jersey campaign ended after the American victories at Trenton and Princeton. (1)

United States

Commanders and leaders:
George Washington
Thomas Knowlton †
Nathanael Greene
Strength: 1,800
Casualties and losses: 30 killed, 100 wounded

Great Britain

Commanders and leaders:
Alexander Leslie
William Howe
Strength: 5,000
Casualties and losses: 92-390 killed and wounded



  • The battle of Harlem Heights, September 16, 1776: with a review of the events of the campaign, Henry Phelps Johnston, Pub. for the Columbia University Press, The Macmillan Co., 1897 - 234 pages. GoogleBook.

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