Battle of Fort Washington

The Battle of Fort Washington was a British victory, and brutal loss to the Americans whose casualties were more than 6 times the British casualties.

In November of 1776, Fort Washington was the only point on Manhattan Island still held by the Americans. The Continental army was stationed at Harlem Heights near Fort Washington, led by General Nathanael Greene. They’d retreated here after the Battle of White Plains. General Nathan Greene was in charge of keeping an eye on their position against the British, and if he thought it necessary he was to give the order to withdraw.

The British, led by General William Howe, were planning three attack strategies: General Lord Percy was to attack from the South, General Mathews and Lord Cornwallis were supposed to cross Harlem River and attack from the East, while the main attack was going to be General Von Knyphausen and the Hessian troops on the front of the American’s position. General Howe decided that he would send a message to the Americans, giving them the chance to surrender before he sent in the attack.

View of the attack against Fort Washington and rebel redouts near New York on the 16 of November 1776 by the British and Hessian brigades. By Thomas Davies around 1776. | Public domain image, courtesy of New York Public Library at Wikimedia Commons.

In the early morning of November 15, 1776 a messenger was sent to the American’s fort asking them to surrender. The Americans, not knowing what was waiting outside their little fort, refused. Then all hell broke loose. At 10 a.m., Percy’s men attacked, followed by Mathews and Cornwallis at noon. They gained a hole on the fort, and British militia poured in.

At that moment, the Hessians crossed the river and began to attack the patriots from the head. The Americans were completely overwhelmed, and were forced to flee inside the fort. With all of the Americans pent up inside of Fort Washington, and the British firing unceasingly on them, the Patriots were forced to surrender Fort Washington and give up their last hold on Manhattan Island.

It was a sad loss for the American army. They lost 2,900 soldiers in the fight to keep Fort Washington. The British only lost 450 men before the Americans surrendered their position.