The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776

The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776

by David Price
The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776

The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776

by David Price


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The Battle of Harlem Heights is an underappreciated milestone in American military history. The engagement on upper Manhattan Island on September 16, 1776, was the first successful battle for George Washington’s troops in the quest for independence from Great Britain and presaged the emergence of an effective fighting force among the citizen-soldiers who made up the Continental Army. The cooperative effort of regiments from New England, Maryland, and Virginia—whose men lacked any sense of national identity before the Revolution—indicated the potential for this fledgling army to cohere around a common national purpose and affiliation and become the primary instrument for securing America’s right to self-rule.
The action began when a contingent of rangers led by Col. Thomas Knowlton of Connecticut encountered British light infantry while conducting a reconnaissance mission on Washington’s orders. What began as a skirmish transformed into a full-fledged battle as both sides reinforced, and a heavy engagement continued for several hours until, with ammunition running low, the British withdrew. Washington decided not to pursue and risk confrontation with a larger force, thereby keeping his army intact. In The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776, David Price conveys the significance of the Continental Army’s first victory and highlights the role of one of its key participants, the largely forgotten Knowlton—the “father of American military intelligence”—who gave his life during the action while urging his rangers forward. No matter how many times U.S. Army troops have recorded a battlefield success over the past two and a half centuries—whether on American soil, in a European wood, across a Middle Eastern desert, or on a Pacific island—one thing about that history remains indisputable. They did it first at Harlem Heights.

Small Battles: Military History as Local History
Mark Edward Lender and James Kirby Martin, Series Editors
Small Battles offers a fresh and important new perspective on the story of America’s early conflicts. It was the small battles, not the clash of major armies, that truly defined the fighting during the colonial wars, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the hostilities on the frontiers. This is dramatic military history as seen through the prism of local history—history with a depth of detail, a feeling for place, people, and the impact of battle and its consequences that the story of major battles often cannot convey. The Small Battles series focuses on America’s military conflicts at their most intimate and revealing level.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594163944
Publisher: Westholme Publishing
Publication date: 01/06/2023
Series: Small Battles
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 664,951
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

David Price is the author of a trilogy about the “Ten Crucial Days” of the American Revolution—John Haslet’s World: An Ardent Patriot, the Delaware Blues, and the Spirit of 1776;The Road to Assunpink Creek: Liberty’s Desperate Hour and the Ten Crucial Days of the American Revolution; and Rescuing the Revolution: Unsung Patriot Heroes and the Ten Crucial Days of America’s War for Independence. He is a historical interpreter at Washington Crossing Historic Park in Pennsylvania and Princeton Battlefield State Park in New Jersey, and holds degrees in political science from Drew University and Rutgers University. He lives in Lawrence Township, New Jersey.

Table of Contents

List of Maps viii

Series Editors' Introduction ix

Introduction xiii

1 An Unequal Contest 1

2 The Rise of Thomas Knowlton 37

3 Reconnaissance and Resistance 68

4 Perspective 109

Notes 123

Bibliography 145

Acknowledgments 157

Index 159

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