The Battle of White Plains

The Battle of White Plains was a battle in the British campaign to take New York and New Jersey. It was a British victory.

In September 1776, General George Washington and 14,500 troops were stationed in the northern part of Manhattan Island, near the west side of the Bronx River. Meanwhile, General William Howe, whose army was stationed in various locations throughout Manhattan, was planning to try and outflank Washington’s army by with a landing to the east of the Bronx River.

General George Washington, Rembrandt Peale
Public domain image.

However, when Howe’s army landed, they were driven back on to their boats by American soldiers and forced to land farther up the river at Pell’s Point. After this, Washington’s army moved and positioned itself at White Plains on the east bank of the river. Here they waited for another attack from Howe’s army. As anticipated, Howe’s army followed Washington up the river.

In preparation for Howe’s army, Washington secured his position between the Bronx River and the River Crotton. Washington sent a Connecticut regiment under Colonel Joseph Spencer out to try and slow the British troops down, while he moved several regiments out to reinforce Chatterton Hill.

Joseph Spencer and his men crossed the Bronx River and exchanged gunfire with the British the front of the British army. Howe’s troops were force to retreat across the river, where they were met by the fire of the troops stationed on Chatterton Hill. They tried to take the hill, but were unable to get around the gunfire, so the British troops retreated to a nearby hill on the same side of the river.

General Sir William Howe by H.B. Hall
Public domain image, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

While General Howe and his commanding officers regrouped on their battle strategy, the British soldiers fired heavily on Chatterton Hill. Their fire sent the American soldiers into a panic, and they began to retreat. Just then, General McDougall arrived and rallied the troops into a makeshift defensive line.

After this, Howe issued orders for most his soldiers to wait atop the hill, while a small detachment of troops was sent to take Chatterton Hill. They broke off into two sections, one of which was to attack the Americans’ right while the other attacked the center. It did not take long for the Americans to scatter the attackers on the right with their musket fire, however the attack took out most of the American’s defense from their flank, leaving their back exposed.

The soldiers on Chatterton Hill fired down on the attack to the center, and temporarily forced them to stop, but their exposed back proved to be a problem and forced them to begin a fighting retreat. As they began to retreat down the back of the Hill, the British started moving up the front. George Washington ordered a formal retreat, and an American battalion nearby provided cover as the remaining soldiers retreated from Chatterton Hill, thus delivering White Plains up to General William Howe.

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