Sunday, December 29, 2019

Episode 129 Prisoners of War

Following the New York campaign the British found themselves with thousands of American prisoners of war.

The Geneva Convention guaranteeing certain rights to prisoners of war was still more than a century in the future.  In the 18th Century, European armies typically took good care of enemy officers.  Sometimes enemy soldiers fared well, but sometimes not.  It was up to the captors how they wanted to treat their prisoners.  It was not unheard of simply to execute enemy prisoners under their care.

In the case of the Revolution, the British often did not consider captives even to be enemy prisoners.  They were British rebels.  Rebels or traitors, deserved execution, and not even quick executions.  Traditionally, the government used drawing and quartering, or other brutal deaths.  Of course, Gen. Howe was not going to start drawing and quartering people, but their lives and well being also were not a terribly high concern for the British leadership.

Condition on Prison Ship Jersey (from 13th Floor)
The British had thousands of prisoners from the capture of Fort Washington and from other battles fought in and around New York.  The navy also captured many more on American privateers, most of whom ended up in New York City.  Men were dumped into prison ships in New York harbor or in warehouses along the docks where they lived, sometimes for years in filth and cramped conditions, causing disease to kill many of them some estimates put the death rate as high as 70%.

Joshua Loring was responsible for the care of the prisoners.  General Howe was sleeping with his wife  Part of the tacit agreement the two men seemed to have was that Loring would ignore the affair and Howe would ignore what Loring did with the prisoners.  Loring received money to feed the prisoners, but pocketed most of it.  The prisoners often received spoiled food which only made them sick.  In some cases, they received no food at all, causing them to die from starvation.

Records are far from complete, but over the course of the war, even the most conservative estimates show that far more than 10,000 prisoners died while in captivity in New York, more than all battlefield deaths combined.  Some estimate the number of deaths at two or three times that amount.  The British dumped most of the dead unceremoniously into New York harbor, where their bones washed ashore for decades to come.  Others were buried in mass graves, often along with garbage.


Most patriot officers were treated little better than enlisted men.  Armies tended to treat officers better because they were gentlemen.  Captors could rely on their word that they would not try to escape, and could grant them relative freedom of movement and better conditions.  The British, however, did not hold in regard many American officers, who they did not consider gentlemen.  They were often farmers, shopkeepers and other workers from the same background as the enlisted men.  Initially, many captured officers received the same treatment as soldiers, held in the same prisons.

Van Cortlandt's Sugar House
Prison (from Wikimedia)
Over time, as the British settled into New York, they began separating officers into better quarters.  Even so, American officers were often crowded into rooms well beyond capacity.  The British crammed captured officers into small private homes around the city, which already suffered from housing shortages.

Captain Jabez Fitch, captured at the battle of Long Island, reported being kept in a house with two small downstairs rooms and one upstairs room that housed two dozen officers. Worse than the crowded living conditions were food rations.  The British army called for prisoners to receive two-thirds of a standard soldier rations.  Some modern calculations have determined this would give the average prisoner less than 1700 calories per day, not enough to sustain body weight for most men.  That, of course, was if they got what they were supposed to get.  The result of food shortages and corrupt officials resulted in prisoners receiving even less food most of the time.  Prisoners began to weaken and became more prone to disease.  After a short time, many began to die.

Officers could sometimes get permission to leave the home where they were held to purchase extra food at a market.  But that, of course, necessitated having money to do so.  Many had to rely on the sympathetic charity of local New Yorkers, most of whom were loyalists who barely had enough to feed themselves.

By fall 1776, General Howe permitted captured officers to walk around town during daylight hours without special permission.  Most, however, reported abuse by civilian Tories, as well as British and Hessian soldiers.  Enemy officers regularly suffered beatings and robberies if seen on the streets.  By early 1777, some officers were permitted to take parole on Long Island, if they could afford to pay room and board.  By that time, many had already died from harsh conditions in the city and many more remained terribly ill for months.

American General Samuel Parsons tried to get approval in the spring of 1777 to launch an invasion of Long Island, in part to liberate American prisoners living there.  General Washington expressed reservations, fearing that it would mean future prisoners would not be granted the liberty to stay on Long Island and that they would be put back in more cramped quarters in New York City.  He put the plan on hold.

Later that summer, after much of the British force left for Philadelphia, Parsons once again sought approval for an attack on Long Island, not only to liberate prisoners but also to capture Tories and destroy supplies needed to feed the British in New York.  I will cover the details of this raid in a future episode, but for now I’ll just say the result was as Washington feared, The British moved captured officers living on Long Island back to a prison ship in New York Harbor.  After a few weeks, however, they once again considered Long Island secure and returned the prisoners to the farms and villages where they had been living.

Enlisted Men

If things were bad for the officers, they were so much worse for enlisted men.  In addition to the prison ships, the British crammed hundreds, sometimes more than a thousand prisoners into buildings along the wharf.  One of the most notorious was the Sugar-house prison.  There were actually at least three sugar-houses in New York that the British converted into prisons.  These were large stone buildings once used to make rum from imported sugar.

Sugar House and Dutch Church, both used as prisons
(from Wikimedia)
Many others were housed in various churches around town.  All churches except Anglican churches became prisons for captured rebels.

Prisoners had already been beaten, stripped of clothes, blankets, and anything else of value before reaching the prison.  Most had to sleep on the floor, avoiding puddles of feces and urine left by the prisoners.  What little food they received was usually rotten or infested with vermin.  Some soldiers reported trying to boil out the vermin if possible before choking down the food.  Prisoners quickly formed into gangs where the strong preyed on the weak for scraps of food and anything else.

On top of that, the guards showed little mercy.  They did not recognize those in the prisons as prisoners of war.  To the guards, they were rebels and traitors, worse than common criminals. The commonly held view was that these men should simply be hanged and stop wasting resources. There are stories of guards kicking bowls of soup that civilians had left for the prisoners.  One prisoner asked a guard whether he might get some paper and writing materials to get word to his family.  In response, the guard ran him through with his sword, killing him.  Guards gratuitously beat prisoners, sometimes to death.

Abuse, cold, hunger, and disease quickly took their toll.  Prisoners died in large numbers.  Many prisons reported more than a dozen deaths each morning.  Corpses were left in the street to be hauled away for burial in mass graves or simply tossed into the harbor with the garbage.  An estimated two thirds of the prisoners captured at Fort Washington met their end in this way.  Many more thousands would die in the coming years as conditions did not improve much.  Some got moved to prison ships in the harbor.

Prison Ship Jersey (from Wikimedia)
Many ships that had transported troops to New York were no longer seaworthy, but could still hold men in their cold dark windowless hulls.  Some prisoners survived in these conditions for years.  That same year, Parliament had approved use of decommissioned ships to hold convicted criminals in London.  Many Whigs complained about the inhuman conditions of being held aboard ships with no light or fresh air.  The use of prison ships, in both London and New York became common and remained in place for years.

Prisoners did have one option to get out of these nightmarish conditions.  They could swear an oath of allegiance to the King and join the royal navy.  Very few took advantage of this option.  The notion of betraying their cause was one reason.  But the fact that the life of a British sailor was only slightly better than prisoner may have had an impact on their decision as well.  Given the horrific conditions of prison though, many British officers were surprised at how few soldiers agreed to switch sides.  They were not used to enlisted men who fought for principle.

The two sides did not engage in large scale prisoner exchanges until after the capture of Burgoyne’s army in late 1777.  So, for the time being, most prisoners were stuck without hope of release.

Prisoner Negotiations

Over the winter, General Washington began to receive reports of the horrific treatment that the British inflicted on captured prisoners being held in New York.  For a time, Washington could not respond.  Remember that he spent most of December 1776 trying to keep his retreating army together as its dwindling numbers fled to Philadelphia.  Then he spent several weeks in active combat fighting the first and second battles of Trenton and the battle of Princeton.

John Witherspoon
(from Wikimedia)
By mid-January 1777, General Washington found the time to write a scathing letter to General Howe complaining of the treatment and including affidavits from former prisoners.  Washington indicated that continued cruel treatment might result in acts of retaliation on loyalist civilians or British and Hessian prisoners under American control.  Having taken nearly 1000 mostly Hessian prisoners over the previous few weeks, General Washington now had some bargaining chips.  Even so, Washington did not propose a prisoner exchange.  When Howe proposed one in May, Washington declined. He knew that captured British soldiers were much more difficult to replace than captured Americans.  He also knew that exchanges would simply incentivize the British to capture more patriot militia and civilians for use in trade.

Most of the captured Hessians, after spending some time in Philadelphia ended up being shipped further west, where they stayed with German speaking communities in western Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia.  This was far enough inland that they had little hope of escaping back to the front lines.  Many of them found jobs and helped to counter the labor shortage.  Many communities had sent their men off to war and needed help with farming and manufacturing.  In some cases, prisoners spent their nights in custody and then went out during the day to work at jobs.  In other cases, a prisoner might live with a family on a farm responsible for his custody and would work and live on that farm.

Over the course of the war, as many as 3000 captured Hessians and other German speaking soldiers declined to return home when offered the chance.  They found life in America was better than the places they had left and opted to become Americans.

In response to Washington’s letters, Howe simply denied any ill treatment.  He claimed the number of deaths were exaggerated, that foul conditions were the result of prisoners’ own “indolence” in keeping their cells clean, and that no prisoner had complained to him or his officers about mistreatment.

In January, Congress appointed a committee to investigate prisoner abuse by the British.  Samuel Chase of Maryland chaired the committee. John Witherspoon, a New Jersey delegate did most of the work of taking testimony from former prisoners and preparing the final report which Congress published in May.  Newspapers published portions of the report all over the continent, with the expected result of increased animosity toward Britain’s barbaric treatment of prisoners.

Elias Boudinot
(from Wikimedia)
Congress also appointed a Commissary General.  They could not find an officer interested in the job.  After all, a bureaucratic position like that offered little opportunity to heroics and advancement.  Washington finally convinced a civilian Elias Boudinot to take the job, although he didn’t really want the job either.  Boudinot, a prosperous New Jersey lawyer, may have been recommended by one of Washington’s junior aides, Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton had boarded with Boudinot before the war when he was a college student.  Boudinot would be responsible for taking care of prisoners captured by the Continentals, as well as getting food, clothing, money, and other necessities to American prisoners in British hands.

Boudinot was also already acquainted with John Pintard, a New York merchant who agreed to serve as a resident agent to the prisoners in New York.  Both Boudinot and Pintard had married sisters of Richard Stockton, a New Jersey delegate to the Continental Congress.  Stockton, of course, was a prisoner himself at this time, as I discussed back in Episode 118.  Pintard had fled to New Jersey when the British invaded New York.  General Howe would not allow him to return in any official capacity since that would recognize the Continental Congress as a legitimate body.  However, Howe did give him permission to return to New York City in late April.  Pintard was able to work in an unofficial capacity to provide prisoners with supplies.

The next problem, of course, was that the Continental Congress had no supplies for the prisoners.  They gave Pintard some paper money they had printed, but no one in New York would accept what they regarded as worthless paper.  Most of the money he did raise went straight to Joshua Loring, to pay off debts for the food Loring had already provided to the prisoners.

Boudinet ended up spending a great deal of his personal money, as well as money borrowed from friends on his personal promise.  This allowed him to buy and distribute some items, but not nearly enough to be adequate.  I’ll leave discussion of other prisoner issues later in the war to future episodes.  But suffice it to say, American prisoners in British custody never had an easy time of it.

Prisoner Charles Lee

One prisoner who escaped such ill treatment was General Charles Lee.  As I mentioned back in Episode 118, The British capture of Lee was seen as the greatest British victory of the war up to that point. Lee’s first month or so was pretty harsh, held in chains and closely monitored as the leadership determined whether or not to treat him as a deserter.

After a few weeks of harsh treatment, General Howe changed the handling of this valuable prisoner.  He moved Lee from North Jersey into New York City.  There, he gave Lee comfortable quarters, and a generous food allowance.  Although he would not give Lee parole, he allowed him to have dinner guests of other British officers.

Charles Lee
(from Wikimedia)
As a former British officer, many officers treated him as a colleague when he arrived in mid-January 1777.  In London, Lord Germain instructed that Lee be returned to London for trial as a deserter.  Howe, though, refused to ship him across the Atlantic, after determining that Lee had resigned his commission before joining the Continental Army.

Lee’s treatment was not just Howe being nice.  Howe initially planned to ship Lee back to London in compliance with instructions.  He cancelled the plans after receiving notice from Washington, warning Howe that he was holding five Hessian officers and one British officer that he would treat in the same way Lee was treated.  If Lee went back to London for trial and execution, Washington would execute his prisoners.  This was the same thing Washington had done to protect Colonel Ethan Allen, who had been shipped back to London for trial and presumably execution as a traitor, but who was on his way back to America to join other prisoners in New York later that year.

The British kept Lee under constant guard.  He was too valuable a prisoner.  But he lived in relative comfort with a warm room and plenty of food.  He dined everyday with other British officers discussing the war, politics, and other matters.  The British even allowed the Americans to send over one of his dogs, as well as his personal servant.

Both General Howe and Admiral Howe dined with Lee on multiple occasions.  They were still looking for a peaceful settlement of the war, and hoped to use Lee to find a way to make that happen.  They allowed Lee to correspond with Congress and see if he could open up lines of discussion for negotiation.  Congress, however, did not bite, and refused to respond positively to any of Lee’s overtures.

Lee seemed happy to boast of his abilities and to criticize Washington’s leadership to British officers.  He even went so far as to draft a document recommending to General Howe a plan of attack against the Continental Army.  That plan, which bears some similarity to Howe’s actual plan of attack later that year, suggested Howe move his army by ship down to Maryland and cut off the southern states from the Continental Army.

It is unclear exactly what motivated Lee to provide the enemy with war plans.  Some have argued that it was an attempt to trick Howe into making this stupid move, which eventually resulted in him being removed from command.  I don’t think that is the case though.  I think this had more to do with Lee’s own ego.  He thought he was a brilliant strategist who could develop a plan of victory for either side.  This plan was simply proof of his brilliance.

In any event, Lee’s apparent cooperation with the enemy did not seem to land him in any trouble when he was exchanged more than a year later.  He would rejoin the Continental Army as one of its top generals in 1778.  Meanwhile thousands of other officers and men would linger in deplorable conditions for many years.  Many more soldiers and sailors would die in New York prisons than on all the battlefields of the war combined.

Next week: We head south again as Florida loyalists attack Georgia patriot forces at Fort McIntosh.

- - -

Next Episode 130 Fort McIntosh

Previous Episode 128 Fort Independence

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Further Reading


Compeau, Timothy J. Prisoners of War:

The HMS Jersey

Getty, Katie Turner “Misadventures in the Countryside: Escape from a British Prison” Journal of the American Revolution, May 7, 2019

Getty, Katie Turner “Walking Skeletons: Starvation On Board The Jersey Prison Ship” Journal of the American Revolution, March 11, 2019:

Getty, Katie Turner “Death Had Almost Lost Its Sting: Disease On The Prison Ship Jersey” Journal of the American Revolution, January 10, 2019:

O'Malley, Brian P. “1776-The Horror Show” Journal of the American Revolution, Jan. 29, 2019:

Wroblewski, Joseph E. “Elias Boudinot IV: America’s First Commissary General Of Prisoners”  Journal of the American Revolution, April 23, 2018

Dacus, Jeff “Charles Lee: The Gift of Controversy” Journal of the Am. Rev. Dec. 2013:

Knight, Betsy “Prisoner Exchange and Parole in the American Revolution” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Apr., 1991), pp. 201-222: (free to read with registration).

PODCAST Katie Turner Getty discusses life aboard New York Prison ships:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

The Detail and Conduct of the American War, under Generals Gage, Howe, Burgoyne, and Vice Admiral Lord Howe, (original reports and letters) The Royal Exchange, 1780.

The claim of Trinity church to having furnished burial places for some of the American prisoners, who died in the old Sugar house prison, New York, Privately Published, 1863.

Dandridge, Danske American Prisoners of the Revolution, The Michie Company, 1911.

Dring, Thomas Recollections of the Jersey Prison-ship, New York: P.M. Davis, 1831.

Johnston, Henry The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn, 1878.

Langworthy, Edward (ed) The Life and Memoirs of the Late Major General Lee, New York: Richard Scott, 1813.

Onderdonk, Henry Revolutionary incidents of Suffolk and Kings Counties; with an account of the Battle of Long Island and the British prisons and prison-ships at New York, New York: Leavitt & Co. 1849.

Moore, George H. The Treason of Charles Lee, New York: Charles Scribner, 1860.

Stiles, Henry Reed, Letters from the prisons and prison-ships of the revolution. New York: Privately Published, 1865.

Taylor, George Martyrs to the revolution in the British prison-ships in the Wallabout Bay, New York W.H. Arthur & Co. 1855.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Burrows, Edwin G. Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War, New York: Basic Books, 2008 (Book recommendation of the week).

Jones, T. Cole Captives of Liberty: Prisoners of War and the Politics of Vengeance in the American Revolution, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2019.

Lowenthal, Larry Hell on the East River: British Prison Ships in the American Revolution Perfect, Purple Mountain Press, 2009.

Mazzagetti, Dominick Charles Lee: Self Before Country, Rutgers Univ. Press, 2013.

Papas, Phillip Renegade Revolutionary: The Life of General Charles Lee, New York NYU Press, 2014.

Watson, Robert P. The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn: An Untold Story of the American Revolution, New York, De Capo Press, 2017.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Episode 128 Fort Independence

Last week I talked about the many skirmishes and small battles known as the Forage War in New Jersey in the months following the Battle of Princeton.  As the same time those battles were raging, George Washington also attempted to pressure the British forces in New York.  He wanted to open a second front against New York City attacking from the north. Doing so might force General Howe to withdraw all of his soldiers from New Jersey to ensure he could protect New York from a land attack.  It was an interesting strategy.  Unfortunately, Washington definitely chose his "B" team to lead the effort.

William Heath

To command the operation Washington chose General William Heath.  You may remember General Heath from back in Episode 55, when, as a general in the Massachusetts militia, he allegedly gave orders not to deliver the final blow to the retreating British as they returned from Concord.  The Continental Congress selected Heath as one of the first group of brigadier generals commissioned for the new Continental Army.

Heath played an important command role in the occupation of Dorchester Heights near Boston, thus forcing the British evacuation in March, 1776.  Pleased with his work, Congress promoted him to major general in August 1776, along with Joseph Spencer, John Sullivan, and Nathaniel Greene, just the British began their invasion of New York.

William Heath
(from Wikimedia)
Heath led several commands during the American losses in New York, and apparently did not particularly distinguish himself.  As the Continental Army retreated across New Jersey, Washington deployed Heath to a garrison farther up the Hudson River at Peekskill.  There, Heath fought with more senior generals, Charles Lee and Horatio Gates before receiving orders from Washington to move most of his army down into New Jersey.

General Lee had attempted to force Heath to give him some of the best regiments under his command.  To his credit, Heath resisted, saying he had orders from Washington to keep his troops in New York.  Lee tried to countermand those orders, saying Washington was not on the scene and did not foresee Lee’s need for the troops when he had issued the earlier orders. Eventually Lee backed down and let Heath keep his soldiers.

A few days later, Washington ordered Heath to bring his army into North Jersey.  Lee again requested that Heath join up with his army, but then begged off and said he did not need them.  Rather, Lee again tried to countermand Washington’s orders and told Heath to move his army back north to defend New England.  A few days later, the British captured Lee.  Heath spent the next few weeks raiding British supply transports and generally harassing the enemy in northern New Jersey.

After Washington’s raids on Trenton and Princeton, Washington moved the main Continental army back up to North Jersey, allowing Heath to move back into New York’s Hudson Valley.  As the Americans went on their New Jersey Forage War offensive in January, Washington directed Heath to launch an independent attack against New York, specifically Fort Independence, which the Americans had built just north of Fort Washington, in what is today the Bronx.  After expelling the Americans from New York, the British occupied Fort Independence as part of their defenses beyond the northern perimeter of New York City.

Benjamin Lincoln

Supporting Heath in this attack were several other officers who would also prove less than impressive.  General Benjamin Lincoln was a major general in the Massachusetts militia.  He did not, at this time, hold a commission in the Continental Army.  Lincoln was more politician than soldier.  He had served in the militia since the French and Indian War, though he saw no combat then.  His father was a wealthy colonist who had sat on the Governor’s Council.  Lincoln had won local office for many years and as a loyal patriot had served in the Massachusetts Provincial Congress.  He had done a reasonable job drilling militia and organizing supplies for the army, but had not really proven himself in battle.

Benjamin Lincoln
(from Wikimedia)
After the British evacuated Boston in the spring of 1775 and the Continental Army moved to New York, Lincoln had remained in Boston with General Artemas Ward.  There, he received credit for driving the remainder of the British Navy out of Boston Harbor, though the navy did not really put up much of a fight by that time, several months after the army had evacuated.

As things heated up in New York in late summer 1776, Massachusetts ordered Lincoln to take several thousand Massachusetts militiamen down to New York City.  They never made it though.  First, there was a plan to invade British occupied Long Island from Connecticut.  But by the time they were ready to go, the British had already taken New York City.  Next, the plan was to join Washington’s forces north of New York where they would soon fight the battles of Harlem Heights and White Plains.  But by the time they were ready to move, the three month enlistments of the Massachusetts militia had expired and they demanded to return to Massachusetts.  General Lincoln returned home with them.

He formed a new army and returned with them to Connecticut.  But by then it was late December and Washington was all the way down near Philadelphia.  Lincoln sat in Connecticut for a few weeks until Washington, emboldened by his success in New Jersey, ordered Lincoln to work with General Heath on the attack at Fort Independence.

Generals Wooster and Parsons

Joining Generals Heath and Lincoln was General David Wooster who we last saw in Episode 106.  There he had botched his command in Canada, and frustrated all the other officers around him.  Wooster was ticked off that he had only received a commission as a brigadier general in the Continental Army, even though he was a major general in the Connecticut militia.  He had returned to his home in Connecticut where he had suspended his active participation in the Continental Army in order to command the Connecticut militia.  In January 1777, he decided to join the campaign against Fort Independence.

Samuel Parsons
General Samuel Parsons, also in Connecticut at the time, got involved in the attack.  You may recall Parsons from back in Episode 59.  He was the colonel who met Benedict Arnold on the road just after the battles of Lexington and Concord, where they discussed attacking Fort Ticonderoga.  Parsons then set up the expedition led by Ethan Allen, who butted heads with Arnold before the two men took the fort together.

I haven’t mentioned Parsons much since then, but he played an active, if less than central role in many of the events of the early war.  He took a commission as a colonel in the Connecticut militia and participated in the siege of Boston and the fighting around New York.  He received a promotion as a Continental brigadier general in August 1776 in time to see action around New York.  By January 1777 he was back in Connecticut trying to recruit new regiments for the Continental Army.  When he heard that Heath would attempt to take back Fort Independence, he gathered up the men he had recruited thus far, and joined the mission.

Attacking Fort Independence

Fort Independence was not a particularly advanced structure.  It had four earthen walls with a few small stone buildings inside.  The Americans had built it in June 1776 as part of their defensive plan for New York.  They had abandoned it without a fight when the British and Hessians moved into the area in October.  The fort served as a Hessian outpost with a garrison of about 2000 soldiers holding the fort.  Some accounts say part of the garrison included a few hundred members of Roger’s Rangers, a regiment of loyalist militia.

Some of the details about the attack on the fort are a little sketchy.  Most sources indicate that General Heath had about 5000 - 6000 men at his disposal, and that he used about 3500 for the assault on the fort.

Heath divided his attack force into three divisions.  General Lincoln led a column from Tarrytown, along the Hudson River to attack the fort from the Northwest.  At the same time, General Wooster and General Parsons, moved from New Rochelle toward the fort, attacking it from the east.  A third column moved south from the center, between the two other columns.  General Heath moved with this column along with New York militia General John Morin Scott.

John Morin Scott
(from Wikimedia)
The plan was for each of the three columns to arrive at Fort Independence from a different direction at the same time.  They left on the night of January 17th, planning to attack the fort the following morning.  The initial assault carried out the plans with reasonable accuracy and surprised the defenders. The attackers engaged in a firefight with some of the outposts, warning the main fort of the coming attack.  The Americans overran multiple outposts at Valentine's Hill, Van Courtland's Fort, Williams' Fort, and the Negro Fort.

They American attackers captured a few dozen prisoners, and inflicted some casualties.  Most of the enemy fled back to the protection of the main fort.  In a rather short time, the Americans had secured the area, except for the main fort itself.  Rumors from the initial success got back to General Washington, saying that Heath had taken the fort.  Washington reported this to Congress before it could be confirmed.  When it turned out to be wrong, Washington was upset not just by the failure, but the fact that his incorrect report to Congress made him look like an idiot.

Even so, by afternoon, the Americans were closing in on Fort Independence itself, effectively surrounding it.  General Heath sent a message to the fort commander that he had twenty minutes to surrender or be attacked.  The Hessian commander had no inclination to give up without a fight and opened up on the attackers with the fort’s artillery.  According to some accounts, Heath did not know the defending garrison even had artillery.  Attackers near the fort had to scatter and pull back.

Now as I said, records for this battle are extremely sketchy, especially on the British side.  The British wanted to play down an American offensive against New York, and also tended to downplay any actions primarily involving Hessian troops rather than regulars.  I have yet even to find a definitive record of the name of the Fort’s commander.  Circumstantial evidence points to Major Ludwig Von Wurmb, who would shortly after this take command of the famous Jager Corps and play a more significant role in the Philadelphia campaign later in the year.  He would eventually rise to the rank of lieutenant general.  The fact that Von Wurmb was stationed in the area and would receive a promotion to lieutenant colonel just after the battle indicates that he may have been the commander.  But I’m just not certain on this point whether he commanded Fort Independence at the time of the battle.  The British records I have found, treat this battle as a minor skirmish, barely worth mentioning.  The American records only refer to “the German Commander” without naming him.  Whoever the German commander was, he was determined to put up a stiff resistance.

The Americans had only two small field cannon with them, with which they returned fire.  An artillery dual lasted the rest of the day.  But Heath simply did not have enough fire power to threaten the destruction of the fort’s defenses.

Heath made several attempts to maneuver the Continental troops into a better position to take the fort.  But this time the weather began to work against the Americans.

The day after the initial attack, January 19th, Heath attempted to move more artillery across a frozen creek to cut off the enemy and get into a better position to fire on the fort.  The temperature warmed overnight.  When the troops began to move that morning, the ice was too thin to support the cannon.  Heath had to call off the move and leave his forces where they were.

Fort Independence (from FortWiki)
When he could not position his cannon well against the fort, Heath used them instead to fire on a Hessian force across the Harlem River where the Hessians had placed their own supporting artillery.  The artillery dual lasted for a couple of days, with neither side willing to come down from their hill and cross the river in the face of enemy fire.

On January 23rd, Heath once again focused on the fort, building some fascines to put a line of soldiers close enough to keep up an accurate fire on the fort.  The move resulted in a few casualties but did not threaten the fort itself.

The following day, weather intervened again as a torrential cold January rain soaked everyone in the area.  It was especially miserable for the Americans, most of whom did not even have tents for shelter.  The bulk of Lincoln’s forces pulled out of the immediate battlefield to find shelter in area houses.

After many of the Americans had pulled back, the Hessians went on the offense.  On January 25th they deployed several detachments to take back the outposts where the Americans were now stationed.  The surprised militia quickly fell back under continued skirmishing but eventually counter attacked and forced most of the Hessians back into the fort.

Heath requested a large 24 pounder cannon and a howitzer to attack the fort.  After three shots, the cannon’s carriage broke, and the men who brought the howitzer neglected to bring any ammunition for it.

By January 29th a severe snow storm threatened to make conditions even worse.  General Heath held a council of war with his officers. They decided the fort was not worth the potential losses since there were no plans to use it as part of a larger offensive to take New York City back. With a major snowstorm was on the way, and without shelter, the army would suffer greatly if it remained in the field.  They voted to retreat and pulled their forces to the north, out of the area.  The various divisions pulled back to White Plains, New Rochelle, and Tarrytown where the soldiers could take shelter against the weather.

On February 6, Heath deployed a smaller brigade under Colonel Enos to retake the outposts.  But the Hessians were ready for them this time. Finally a suspected smallpox outbreak in the area made Heath decide that continued attempts to take Fort Independence were not worth it.  He returned to Peekskill.  General Lincoln removed his forces to New Jersey to join up with Washington near Morristown.


The attack on Fort Independence did force General Howe to redeploy some British Regulars from North Jersey to New York.  If the Americans were going to attempt an assault on New York, they would almost certainly do so from the north, where they would not be forced to cross the Hudson River in the face of the enemy.  The failure to take the fort though, ended any contemplation of further attacks.

Washington was disappointed by the poor attempt and wrote Heath an uncharacteristically critical letter after the action.  He called Heath’s behavior “farcical” and that they would “not fail in turning the laugh exceedingly on us.”  Heath’s mostly militia army reinforced the common view by regular soldiers that militia could not fight professional soldiers, even with greater numbers. Militia in New Jersey were proving that wrong, but the New England militia under Heath’s leadership did not challenge that dim view.

Although Heath would remain a major general in the Continental Army for the rest of the war, Washington never again gave him a command that might involve going into battle.  Shortly after this, Heath returned to Boston.  Following General Artemas Ward’s retirement, Heath took command in Boston, which by this time, the war had long left behind.

 Amazingly, General Lincoln, who seemed just as unimpressive as everyone else involved in the attack, received a commission in February directly to major general in the Continental army, the same rank he held in the Massachusetts militia.  An embittered General Wooster returned to Connecticut, and General Parsons began focusing on raids against Long Island, to deny the British any forage from there.

Occupied New York

The British remained secure in their occupation of New York City.  General Howe used the winter to relax, attending many banquets and balls hosted by various officers.  He also spent a good deal of his time sitting at gaming tables gambling with his fellow officers.  His mistress, Betsy Loring openly stayed by his side at many of these public events.

Aside from the top officers though, New York City had become a miserable place to live.  The fire in September that I discussed back in Episode 109 had left many residents without homes.  British officers had taken over homes of patriots who had fled the city.  But many loyalists from New Jersey and other places began to flood into the city looking for protection.  Housing rentals more than quadrupled and many citizens spent the winter sleeping outdoors in improvised shelters.

With martial law in place, the army quartered many of its soldiers in private homes, forcing people to provide rooms for them.  The army did little to clean up the city following the fighting season.  Trenches filled up with water.  People dumped their garbage in the streets.  Typhus, cholera, and other diseases took their toll on soldiers and civilians alike.

Military discipline also remained lax.  Soldiers roamed the streets without supervision, raping and murdering civilians, usually without consequence.  Soldiers also regularly robbed civilians, breaking into homes or mugging people in the streets.  One Hessian officer noted that he never went out unless he had at least two armed bodyguards with him for protection.  Whatever money the soldiers plundered, usually went for drink.  Drunken armed soldiers with no respect for civilians became a common sight for New Yorkers.

General Washington still wanted to retake New York, but by this time he recognized that there had to be other priorities.  The Americans would focus on annoying the British whenever they tried to deploy from the city, but did not seriously contemplate a direct attack.

- - -

Next Episode 129 Prisoners of War

Previous Episode 127 The Forage War

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account.
Mike Troy

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!

Further Reading


The Battle of Fort Independence:

Battle of Fort Independence:

Letter from Washington to Heath Feb. 4, 1777:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

The Detail and Conduct of the American War, under Generals Gage, Howe, Burgoyne, and Vice Admiral Lord Howe, (original reports and letters) The Royal Exchange, 1780.

Carrington, Henry Battles of the American Revolution, 1775-1781, A.S. Barnes & Co. 1876.

Edsall, Thomas History of the Town of Kings Bridge, New York: Private, 1887.

Hall, Charles S. Life and letters of Samuel Holden Parsons Major General in the Continental Army and Chief Judge of the Northwestern Territory, 1737-1789, Osteningo Publishing Co. 1905.

Heath, William. Memoirs of Major-General William Heath, New York: William Abbatt, 1904.

Kemble, Stephen The Papers of Stephen Kemble, Vol. 1, New York: New York Historical Society, 1884.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Ketchum, Richard The Winter Soldiers, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1973.

Mattern, David B. Benjamin Lincoln and the American Revolution. Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1998 (book recommendation of the week).

Schecter, Barnet The Battle for New York, New York: Walker Publishing, 2002.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Episode 127 The Forage War

Last week, Washington reversed the course of the war with his victory at Princeton, effectively retaking New Jersey.  General William Howe ordered General Cornwallis back to New York, and pulled all British and Hessian forces back to Brunswick and Amboy, two New Jersey towns just across the river from New York City.  Today we call these towns New Brunswick and Perth Amboy, in case you want to look them up on a map.

Forage War

New Jersey civilians who had taken General Howe’s oath of allegiance, in order to protect themselves and their property, now found themselves branded traitors by the patriots who once again controlled almost the entire state.  Patriot militia in New Jersey came out from hiding and began attacking British soldiers.  What became known as the “forage war” began.

Now that the British and Hessian forces were concentrated in large garrisons, the Americans could not attack them directly without great risk.  However, armies had to send out supply trains, reconnaissance parties, and messengers.  They also had to send out foraging parties to find food and forage for themselves and their horses.

When they left the safety of their entrenched bases, the militia had the chance to attack.  Today we would call this a guerrilla war, a term that would not come into use for a few more decades.  Some, at the time, referred to this as the petit guerre, French for “little war.” It consisted of groups of loosely organized and irregular troops without uniforms attacking the enemy and then fading back into the civilian population.

Mounted Soldiers
These attacks began spontaneously, without any orders from General Washington or anyone else.  Local militia simply picked up their guns and used the opportunity caused by the fighting to take advantage of any opportunity they saw.  On January 4, 1777, the day after the battle of Princeton, a small group of militia, about 20 men on horseback, attacked a British supply convoy near Brunswick.  They captured wagons full of winter clothing, which they sent to the Continentals still heading to winter quarters at Morristown.

In another attack that same day, militia shot two cavalrymen on patrol near Elizabethtown (modern day Elizabeth, NJ). The next day, British reported minor attacks near Newark and Rahway, and another at Bound Brook a day later.

At first, the British thought they could squash these raids with a show of force.  But they did not anticipate how numerous and aggressive the militia had become.  After the attack on the patrol near Elizabethtown, the commander sent out about sixty Hessians, accompanied by British cavalry, to clear out any militia nearby.  Technically they were not Hessians, because they were from another German State, Waldeck.  I am calling them Hessians for the sake of simplicity and will tend to use the term generically to refer to any German speaking soldiers hired by Britain, just as most English did at the time.

The show of force, instead of scattering the militia, found the Hessians and British in a pitched battle.  All of the Hessians were killed or captured.  Only a few of the British cavalry escaped on horseback to report the loss.  General Howe then ordered the garrison out of Elizabethtown and back to the larger encampment at Amboy.

The militia, however, were in no mood to let the enemy retreat.  They attacked the retreating column which was two regiments strong.  They took over 100 prisoners and captured most of the enemy’s baggage.

Even the well defended town of Amboy with over 5000 soldiers did not deter attacks.  Militia attempted at least two attacks on the town in the weeks following.  They could not breach the British defenses there, but they unnerved the garrison and made clear that the occupying British could not rest easy.

These initial raids inspired even more militia to take up arms and join the fight.  By January 7, one militia colonel thought that recent events led to more than 12,000 men in New Jersey actively fighting in the patriot cause.  I think that was an overestimate.  But militia throughout the state began to take to the field.  Many may have felt guilty for not opposing the occupation when the British first invaded.  Now that it was clear that they at least had a chance, every patriot sought to vindicate himself.

This spontaneous militia activation came at a critical time.  Remember back in late December, when Washington begged his soldiers to stay on for just a few more weeks to get through the critical battles at Trenton and Princeton?  Well, by late January, the critical part of the campaign was over and the Continental army was settled into its winter quarters at Morristown.  The soldiers, who had kepth their promise and remained for those crucial few weeks, were ready to go home.  Some were motivated by the victories to reenlist.  But even many of them wanted to get home for the winter and rest up for the coming spring campaign.  Washington also sent many of his best officers home to recruit new regiments.  He would need these regiments for the spring, but in the meantime, his Continental army shrank to below 2500 men, even fewer than he had during the dark days of December.

Washington had to rely on militia, not only to prop up his numbers around Morristown, but to keep the British occupied and on the defensive.  He did not want a surprise winter attack to threaten his own exhausted and weakened army.

William Maxwell

To fight the forage war, Washington turned to General William Maxwell.  Although Maxwell had only been commissioned a general in October 1776, he was an experienced officer.  Maxwell had moved to America from Ireland in the 1740’s.  While he was still a child his family settled in northern New Jersey.  He always retained his accent though, giving him the nickname “Scotch Willy.”

In 1755, Maxwell signed on for Braddock campaign (see Episode 6) where he probably met Washington for the first time.  During the French and Indian War, he served as a lieutenant in the New Jersey Blues, giving him combat experience.  As the war came to an end, Maxwell served as a British commissary officer at several frontier forts, where he survived Pontiac’s war.
William Maxwell (from Alchetron)

Maxwell eventually returned to New Jersey where he continued to serve as a militia officer.  He backed the patriot cause from the start.  When the Continental Army formed in 1775, Maxwell became colonel of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment.

He led his regiment as part of the relief column in early 1776, after the capture of most of the Northern Army at Quebec.  He saw combat during the American retreat at the Battle of Trois-Riviere, or Three Rivers.  Maxwell proved himself a capable combat officer as the Continentals retreated back to Fort Ticonderoga.

During the summer of 1776, Maxwell almost resigned his commission, after a younger officer, Arthur St. Clair, received promotion to general ahead of him.  St. Clair was not only younger, but seen as more of a brown noser to Congress rather than one who had accomplished anything in combat as Maxwell had done.  The promotion may have been political, but few officers from the Quebec campaign, which Congress saw as a failure, received promotion.  Maxwell also had a reputation as a hard drinker, which may have held him back.

In the end though, Maxwell put his ego aside and remain in the field to support the cause. Maxwell finally received his promotion to general in October 1776, but always had to contend with St. Clair having seniority over him.

General Maxwell had an independent command in northern New Jersey in December 1776.  Washington ordered him to organize the militia around Morristown to harass the enemy and also to secure boats along the Delaware River for use in transporting General Lee’s army over to Pennsylvania whenever they arrived.

After the battles at Trenton and Princeton, Maxwell helped to coordinate, organize, and supply militia actions to harass the British anywhere in New Jersey.  Many of the militia operated independently.  Maxwell, however, was able to organize many of the militia into larger fighting forces, able to take on British regiments and battalions.

In the weeks following the battle of Princeton, the British attempted to regroup and assert some control.  When smaller groups of British soldiers came  under attack, they responded by sending out even larger parties.  Instead of sending out a foraging party of several dozen men, they sent out several hundred, assuming more safety in numbers.  But that did not work either.

Battle of Millstone and others

On January 20, a British force of 500 to 600 soldiers attempted to move some supplies out near Somerset Courthouse and came under attack.  This turned out to be a pretty large battle.  General Philemon Dickinson, the younger brother of Congressman John Dickinson, led an army of 450 New Jersey militiamen and about fifty Pennsylvania riflemen to attack the British.  Dickinson had settled in New Jersey a decade earlier.  Like his brother, he was a lawyer but was also a competent militia officer who proved that militia could fight on their own.

Philemon Dickinson
(from Wikimedia)
The British not only had superior numbers, but also had several field cannon that they put into use.  They set up a defensive perimeter along the Millstone Creek to challenge the Americans.  The militia moved down river.  The ice was too thin to cross, but they broke through the ice and crossed the waste high creek.  There, they formed up on the other side and charged the British position.  Actual fighting only lasted about twenty minutes, as the British force gave way, abandoned their supply wagons and retreated from the field.

The British lost an estimated 25 killed or wounded, and another 12 taken prisoner.  The Americans lost four or five men, but captured most of the enemy’s wagons and supplies.  The British commander, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Abercromby, who had led the advance brigade on the road to Trenton the day before the second battle of Trenton, reported that he had been attacked by Continental soldiers, because he was convinced that no militia would ever fight so aggressively on their own.  Colonel Abercromby, by the way, would go on to become a general, a member of Parliament and Commander in Chief of India.

A few days later, January 23, another group of militia attacked two British regiments on the march near Brunswick.  Although the British regiments totaled over 700 officers and men, a group of 350 militia attacked them as they marched down the road.  Caught off guard, the British took an estimated 30 or 40 killed and a larger number wounded.

The next day the British attempted to take the offensive by sending 600 Regulars to attack a militia force near Quibbletown.  Although the British forced a retreat, the militia put up a defensive fire that led to significant British casualties.

The next week, British General William Erskine attempted to set a trap for the troublesome Americans, by sending out a small group of British soldiers on a foraging party.  When a group of fifty continentals attacked the foraging party, Erskine sprung a full battalion, including eight artillery pieces, against the fifty attackers.  But the Americans ignored the numbers and charged the British lines, throwing the surprised British into a panic.  The artillery eventually stopped the charge, but the British ended up retreating from the field, having lost another 36 dead and roughly 100 wounded

The British then tried to up their game again.  On February 8, Cornwallis himself led twelve battalions out into the field, daring the Americans to engage them.  The Continentals and militia were not sufficiently organized to confront such a large force directly, but continually fired on the enemy’s flanks with hit and run tactics similar to what the British experienced in the retreat from Concord.  The constant hit and run enemy fire eventually forced the army to retreat back to Brunswick.

Battle of Spanktown and others

A few weeks later, Colonel Charles Mawhood, the same officer who had fought the Americans at Princeton, led several brigades out to capture or destroy the militia that had been harassing them.  They found a small group of militia driving some cattle and sheep, and attempted to pursue them.  The fleeing militia ran over a hill.  As the British attempted to chase them down, a line of soldiers rose up from a hidden position behind the hill and fired a deadly volley into the British line.

It turns out, the Americans had set a trap of their own, as the 2000 British soldiers under Mawhood, hit General Maxwell’s NJ militia army.  The Americans devastated the British lines forcing them to retreat from the field.  The British suffered nearly 100 killed or wounded, while the Americans took only 14 casualties.

The battle took place near Spanktown, which is why it is sometimes called the battle of Spanktown.  Years, later, for some reason, the town decided to change its name from Spanktown to Rahway, which is why some historians refer to it as the battle of Rahway.  Regardless of the name, the Americans definitely spanked the regulars that day.

A few weeks later, on March 8, Mawhood tried to lead another expedition with two thousand troops, only to run into another American ambush commanded by Maxwell.  The ensuing battle led to another 20 American casualties and 60 British. Once again the British had to retreat from the field.

By April, Maxwell’s militia were engaging in regular raids on the pickets around Amboy, threatening one of the last major British position in New Jersey.  General Howe brought in reinforcements that had been deployed to Rhode Island to ensure the Americans would not take the British outpost at Amboy.

Britain on Defense

The continual attacks on British outposts took their toll.  The British abandoned Hackensack, soon occupied by General George Clinton, the Continental general, not to be confused with British General Henry Clinton.  As the Americans captured territory, they began to deal with the Tories who had backed the British during the occupation.  Many were arrested or saw the confiscation of their property.  Many others fled to New York or hid in the Pine Barrens.  Many who had signed the British oath of allegiance, now tore them up, as it was proof of their treason to the patriot cause.

Forage War (from Wikimedia)
The harassment of supply lines and foraging parties proved highly effective.  British regulars and Hessians remained hunkered down in Brunswick and Amboy.  Brunswick had been a village with a population of 400 people, now supported over 5000 soldiers.  Conditions were cramped and dirty, with little food or supplies.  Uniforms turned to rags over the winter.

General Cornwallis took command in Brunswick where he had to fight to get supplies from New York for his men.  He even paid for new uniforms for some of the Hessians out of his own pocket.  After a few weeks, food and supplies began to flow to the New Jersey outposts.  But the army remained cooped up in the towns along the river in miserable conditions.  Soon disease began to drain the army of even more soldiers.

Meanwhile, just across the river in New York City, General Howe remained in relative comfort.  Howe threw a big party to celebrate his investiture in the Order of the Bath, as well as the Queen’s birthday.  His officers celebrated with feasts, fireworks, and entertainment, even while is own army in New Jersey suffered from constant enemy attack.  Howe enjoyed the company of his mistress, Elizabeth Loring.  Her husband looked the other way as he grew rich on military prison contracts that led to the deaths of more Americans on British prison ships than all the battle deaths of the war combined.

General Howe’s attempt to end the war without a great deal of bloodshed was a failure.  Officers and men openly questioned his competence, and some even his dedication to the British cause.  Many grumbled that Howe was intentionally trying to lose the war because he supported independence.  There is no good evidence to support these accusations, but Howe’s loss of New Jersey led many to believe it was time for a replacement.  The Ministry, however, continued to support Howe.  They gave him another year to vindicate his leadership of the army.


The series of battles and engagements in northern New Jersey during the winter of 1777 are collectively known as the Forage War.  Because they did not involve famous general and because most of the battles were rather small, it is a commonly overlooked part of the Revolutionary War.  But the collective results were devastating.  The British and Hessians lost nearly 2000 killed, wounded, or captured during the various battles and skirmishes.  The fact that the remainder of soldiers were forced into crowded and dirty conditions without sufficient supplies, let disease take its toll on the army as well.

The numbers speak for themselves.  In August 1776, Howe had about 32,000 soldiers in his army.  He lost about 1500 in the battles over Long Island and New York.  He lost another 1000 or so at Trenton.  But by late winter, as Howe began requesting reinforcements for the spring campaign, he reported having only 23,000 soldiers, 14,000 of whom were healthy enough to fight.  Many of those killed had been from his best units, which he kept in the front lines during the winter fighting.  Those surviving, were demoralized and uninspired by their leadership.

In Britain, support for the war began to fail.  The war had been sold as a major offensive that would crush colonial resistance quickly, shock and awe.  Now, with huge expenditures and little results, the army wanted even more soldiers for another campaign which still did not guarantee any quick success. The Americans had proven themselves neither shocked nor awed.

Howe requested 15,000 German reinforcements for the 1777 campaign.  The request shocked officials in London who had thought his campaign had been largely a success and relatively bloodless, until the winter setbacks began to show just how much the war was costing the army.

When Howe learned he would only receive 7800 reinforcements for the spring campaign, he had to scale back on his war plans.  In only six months, the British invading force had gone from invincible and overwhelming armies prepared to pacify the continent, to the defensive occupiers of the greater New York City area only.

By contrast, the Continental Army grew over the winter.  Not only did they receive new recruits, but the officers and men fighting in New Jersey grew more experienced and confident of their fighting ability.  Also, the new recruits signed on for three year enlistments.  This meant that Washington would not have to replace his army each year, and would have a professional core of soldiers whose training and experience would remain with the army.

Of course, the Forage War was only one effort to challenge the British during the winter and spring of 1777.  Next week, we will look at Continental attempts during this same time period to retake Fort Independence in New York.

- - -

Next Episode 128 Fort Independence

Previous Episode 126 Battle of Princeton

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account.
Mike Troy

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!

Further Reading


Sobel, Thomas Thorleifur "William Maxwell, New Jersey’s Hard Fighting General" Journal of the American Revolution, Aug. 15, 2016:

Richman Steven M. "The Battle of Millstone" Journal of the American Revolution, Oct. 22, 2014:

Robert Abercromby, Biography:

Battles and Skirmishes in New Jersey of the American Revolution, by David Munn (PDF):

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

The Parliamentary Register: Or, History of the Proceedings and Debates of the House of Commons, Vol. 10 (1802).

The Detail and Conduct of the American War, under Generals Gage, Howe, Burgoyne, and Vice Admiral Lord Howe, (original reports and letters) The Royal Exchange, 1780.

Carrington, Henry Battles of the American Revolution, 1775-1781, A.S. Barnes & Co. 1876.

Drake, Samuel A. The Campaign of Trenton 1776-77, Lee and Shepard, 1899.

Johnston, Henry The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn, Long Island Historical Society, 1878.

Martin, Joseph Plumb The Adventures of a Revolutionary Soldier, 1830 (This is a copy of the original print, but in poor quality.  You can borrow a better quality copy or listen to a free audio copy of the book) or see below in the "books worth buying" section.

Reed, William B. (ed) Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed, Vol. 1, Lindsay and Blakiston, 1847.

Ross, Charles Derek (ed) Correspondence of Charles, first Marquis Cornwallis, Vol. 1 J. Murray, 1859.

Stryker, William S. et. al. Documents Relating to the Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey: Extracts from American Newspapers, Vol 1, John L. Murphy Publishing, 1901.

Wilkinson, James Memoirs of my own times, Abraham Small, 1816.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Atkinson, Richard The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, Henry Holt & Co. 2019.

Dwyer, William The Day Is Ours: How a Ragged Rebel Army Stood the Storm and Saved the Revolution,  Viking, 1983.

Fischer, David Hackett Washington’s Crossing, Oxford Univ. Press, 2004.

Ketchum, Richard The Winter Soldiers, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1973.

Kidder, William L. Ten Crucial Days: Washington's Vision for Victory Unfolds, Knox Press, 2019.

McCullough, David 1776, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Price, David The Road to Assunpink Creek: Liberty's Desperate Hour and the Ten Crucial Days of the American Revolution, Knox Press, 2019.

Schecter, Barnet The Battle for New York, New York: Walker Publishing, 2002.

Thompson, Ray Washington Along the Delaware: The Battles of Trenton and Princeton as told by the men who were there and through Washington's own official dispatches, Fort Washington, Pa: Bicentennial Press, 1970.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.