The Role of New York (the City and the
State) in the American War of Independence.
to enlarge these three maps to
study the location of the city of New York, it's
environs and the
borders of the later State of New York.
a) What large
battle took place in what was later to be the State
of New York, that is described as the "turning point
in the war"?
b) Near what
river did the battle take place?
British troops land in Manhattan, New York.
New York played a pivotal roleduring
the turning point of the war.New
adopted in 1777, and strongly influenced theUnited
New York City was the national
capital at various times between 1785 and 1790, andthe
city of Albanybecame
of the State of New York in 1797. New York was the eleventh state admitted
to the Union, in 1787.
The New York
and the New Jersey campaign (just to the south) was a series
of battles for control of
New York and the state of
New Jersey in the
American Revolutionary War between
British forces under
General Sir William Howe and the
Continental Army under General
George Washington in 1776 and the winter months of 1777.
The British held New York for the rest of the war,
using it as a base for expeditions against other targets. The
British under General Howe focused on keeping
York City, which then was then limited to the
southern tip of Manhattan Island.
Left: The British General Howe
this map. As you read the
following account, circle on the map any locations mentioned in
Where possible also label on the map the date and
name given to different battles.
In late August, the
British first transported about 22,000 men (including 9,000
Hessians - soldiers hired by their ruler from different
German Principalities) to Long Island. In the
Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776, the British
outflanked the American positions, driving the Americans
back to the
Brooklyn Heights fortifications.
General Howe then began to
lay siege to the works, but Washington skillfully managed a
retreat through his unguarded rear across the
East River to
Manhattan Island. Howe then paused to consolidate his
position and consider his next move.
During this time, Washington, who had previously been ordered by
Congress to hold New York City, was concerned that he might have
escaped one trap for another, since the army was still
vulnerable to being surrounded on Manhattan.
To keep his escape routes open to the north, he placed 5,000
troops in the city (which then only occupied the lower portion
of Manhattan), and took the rest of the army to
Harlem Heights. In the first recorded use of a
submarine in warfare, he also attempted a novel attack on
the Royal Navy, launching the
Turtle in a failed attempt to sink the
HMS Eagle, Admiral Howe's flagship.
On September 15, General Howe
landed about 12,000 men on lower Manhattan, quickly taking
control of New York City. The Americans withdrew to
skirmished the next day, but held their ground.
Rather than attempting to dislodge Washington from his strong
position a second time, Howe again opted for a flanking maneuver.
with some opposition in October in
Westchester County, he sought once again to
encircle Washington. To defend against this move, Washington
withdrew most of his army to
White Plains, where
after a short battle on October 28 he retreated further
This isolated the remaining Continental Army
troops in upper Manhattan, so Howe returned to
captured Fort Washington in mid November, taking almost 3,000
prisoners. Thus began
the infamous "prison ships" system the British
maintained in New York for the rest of the war, in which more
American soldiers and sailors
died of neglect than died in every battle of the entire
General Howe, after consolidating British
positions around New York harbor, detached 6,000 men under the
command of , Henry Clinton, and
Hugh, Earl Percy to take
Newport, Rhode Island (which they did without opposition on
while he sent
General Lord Cornwallis to chase Washington's army through
New Jersey. The Americans withdrew across the
Delaware River into
Pennsylvania in early December. http: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_and_New_Jersey_campaign
Watch this video on the winter exploits
During the period in the war when
the fighting took place in and around New York, what strategies did
Washington use to avoid defeat and capture by the British forces?
What other characteristics did Washington display, that helped put him
in the category of a great leader? Watch this video for some ideas.
(Write about two paragraphs, and include examples of Washington's
actions to support your views.)
Find a copy of an early print or drawing of Fort Washington and
past it in your work book.
From your research, make about eight points about the British
forces assault on the Fort and how it was eventually taken.
What role did Margaret Cochran play in the battle?
In your work books, under the heading: The Role of
New York in the American War of Independence, write
out five or six main points you can find in the
Despite, and in fact, because of New York's prominence
in pre-Revolutionary activism, New York was therefore
incapacitated throughout the American Revolution; the
British had made New York their primary target at the
beginning of the war.
At every stage the British strategy had assumed a
large base of Loyalist supporters (American colonists
still loyal to Britain) would rally to the King given
some military support. But the Loyalists proved too few,
and were too poorly organized to be effective.
Yet, even if New York's port had little to do with
the Revolution, a good number of its seamen did
participate by joining the American Navy. This same
group of seamen was unwilling to be recruited by the
British Navy stationed in New York. When impressed, they
were hardly loyal fighting against their fellow
After more than six years of shooting war—if you
count from the encounter at Lexington and
Concord—the final battle of the American
Revolutionary War was waged in Yorktown,
Virginia between Oct. 6 and Oct. 17 of 1781.
While Yorktown will not go down in the annals of
military history as a great strategic
confrontation, it is a significant historical
turning point, and should be remembered as such.
Crucial to the victory, of course, was the
military, as well as political alliance between
Louis XVI's France, and the young American
Republic. That alliance had been forged by
Benjamin Franklin in 1778, and had finally
resulted in the deployment of French forces,
especially the crucial Navy, to the American
continent. The French fleet played a decisive
role in Gen.
George Washington's outflanking of the British
New York remained in British hands until
November 25, 1783 (the year the Revolutionary War ended), when
George Washington retook the city. After the Revolution, New
York was named as one of the five capitals under the Articles of
Confederation and served as the American Capital under the
Constitution between March 4, 1789 and August 12, 1790.
Print off a copy of
this map. Paste
the map in the center of an A3 page, and then draw on the map the main
routs taken by the British and colonial forces. Include the dates and a coloured key on your map.
Then around the map, on the A3 sheet, make a few
brief points on each of the main events or actions of both sides during
From the place on the map of
each event, draw a line to your notes, that outline the main actions
that took place at that location.
The map shown in the first unit Web Lesson on the American War of
Independence will help you with this activity.
Watch the following documentary, until
you think the narrator has explained what is different or unique
about the history of New York City. What is unique about New York,
compared to the history and development of other key settlement areas in
the north eastern States of America? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqo6pBo2Nfo
Why and in what way were the reasons for people settling on the Island
of Manhattan, different to the reasons that motivated other settlers to
come to the new colonies? What was unique about why people settled in
In what way was the composition of people who settled in New York, different to
the people who settled in the other American colonies?
Why has New York grown to be such an important and influential city in
What does this tell us about the value and importance, of
accepting equally the wide range in the types of people, who can make up
a city today? What does it tell us about the importance of being open,
tolerant and accepting of different types of people, regardless of
their different cultures, religions and backgrounds?
To what extent has the political, cultural and economic success
of New York, been the product of this historical openness, tolerance and
acceptance? Has this acceptance of all people, and giving them the same
freedoms and rights, enabled them to fully use and focus their wide
range of talents and skills?
Were there though any exceptions? Were
any people not welcomed or included?
What lessons could be learned, from this
unique historical 'experiment' seen in the story of New York. How could
the history of New York
be a valuable help for other cities in the world today, aspiring to also
create a peaceful, thriving and prosperous society?