The Battle of White Plains: The American War of Independence


The mere fact that the Continental Army fought on an equal footing with the British despite having half their troops left made this battle a moral boost no matter what the outcome.

5. Context

The Battle of White Plains took place on October 28, 1776. It was an integral battle of the American Revolutionary War in the campaigns of New York and New Jersey. It is considered one of the most important battles in American military history. The Battle of White Plains took place as a result of the defeat suffered by American settlers at the Battle of Long Island in August 1776. As a result of this loss, George Washington and his army were forced to watch and guard. wait for British General Howe and his army. next move, in order to best prepare to do theirs. Continental troops were spread across Manhattan Island and across the Hudson River on mainland New Jersey. On October 12, General Howe, with 90 support boats and 4,000 troops, sailed up the East River to Throg’s Neck. His troops land there, in order to establish a fortified line along the Hudson River, bypassing the American army and preventing it from finding an emergency exit. Such a position would allow Howe to easily transport his workforce, the most professional army of its time, to strike anywhere along Manhattan and the New Jersey coastline of his choosing. However, the British interior path was blocked by troops and swamps. Howe and his troops were forced to return to their boats and traveled 3 miles north to Pell’s Point. There, on October 18, British troops landed again with the same aim of taking a strangulation position.

4. Make-up

William Howe led a combined force of professional British and Hessian soldiers under contract with naval support along the waterways, aided by native loyalists. The Joint Command of George Washington and Majors Generals Joseph Spencer and Alexander led a group of Continental Army volunteers. Some estimates place the total size of the British and their supporters in the battle at 7,500, compared to just over 3,000 for the Continentals. Both sides used straight muskets from the regular infantry, rifles from the more skilled riflemen, and smaller amounts of support box cannons.

3. Description

The two sides bided their time and organized their respective strategies, as military and civilian leaders speculated on the cause of the fire that swept through New York City on September 21, which Howe accused Washington of starting a arson against its British occupier. As Washington spoke of its woes in New York to the Continental Congress, William Howe returned to action on October 12. While he hoped to avoid a costly assault on the US military, whose troops were entrenched in the hills of northern Manhattan, his prospects of gaining ground and surrounding the mainland without massive casualties proved unworkable. Instead, he eventually sent his soldiers by boat to positions along the banks of the East River. Inland were around 750 infantrymen under the command of John Glover, who gathered his troops behind stone walls and then attacked the British Army. As the British took their place, the US military retreated to reorganize. After a few minor attacks, the British broke off and the US Army withdrew. This battle delayed the movements of the British to allow time for Washington to move further with its army to a position about 18 miles from White Plains, while avoiding being surrounded by the enemy. On October 22, Washington established a defensive line at White Plains. General Howe and his troops finally arrived in White Plains on October 28, with the goal of attacking a strategic hill that the Continentals held outside the city, as he understood how important it was. Washington failed to hold them back to defend Charleton Hill, and the British Army won the battle, with more than 200 Americans killed, wounded, missing or captured.

2. Result

Even though both sides remained in their positions for another two days, General Howe made a plan to attack the US Army again the next day, but was unable to do so due to heavy rains. Washington was fortunate enough to protect its army by establishing a camp in the north. On November 1, Howe discovered that Washington had in fact escaped his grip. British troops returned to Manhattan. On November 5, Howe directed his troops south, in order to finish driving the troops of his enemy’s army out of Manhattan. The battle itself left 47 British forces dead, 182 wounded and 4 missing, and 50 dead, 150 wounded and 17 captured or missing in the Continental Army.

1. Importance

Eventually, Washington managed to cross the Hudson River with most of its army, leaving New England regiments behind in order to guard the supply stores. Later, the British caught him through New Jersey and the state of Pennsylvania. Washington saw the opportunity to win the battle and boost the morale of its nation and crossed through Delaware and surprised Rall’s troops in the resulting Battle of Trenton. This was just one of a long series of tactical retreats that Washington used to continually improve its position and ultimately win the war. Some argue that the “Headless Horsemen” in Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow tale were inspired by a soldier from Hessen in the service of the British who lost his head in the Battle of White Plains. Two US Navy ships, a Casablanca-class escort aircraft carrier launched during WWII and a Mars-class combatant launched before the Vietnam War, were named USS White Plains in honor of the battle. Each year, the Town of White Plains also holds commemorative events to celebrate the battle.


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