6. The Role of New York (the City and the State) in the 
American War of Independence.
1.Click 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 role
 during the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Saratoga was the turning point of the war. New York's constitution was adopted in 1777, and strongly influenced the United States Constitution.

New York City was the national capital at various times between 1785 and 1790, and the city of Albany became the permanent capital 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.

Howe was successful in driving Washington out of New York, but overextended his reach into New Jersey, and ended the active campaign season in January 1777 with only a few outposts near the city.

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 New York City, which then was then limited to the southern tip of Manhattan Island.

Left: The British General Howe

2. Print off this map. As you read the following account, circle on the map any locations mentioned in the account.
   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 night time 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 Harlem, where they 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.

Landing troops 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 north.


This isolated the remaining Continental Army troops in upper Manhattan, so Howe returned to Manhattan and 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 war, combined.

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 December 8), 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 of Washington:


3.a) 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?
b) 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.)

                          George Washington 1 2 3


The Battle for Fort Washington, New York.


4. 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?


5. 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 following paragraphs.

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 patriots.

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 forces.

   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.


Click to enlarge


5.a) 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 the conflict.
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.


An American Privateer

5.b) Explore and study this interactive representation of a Revolutionary war battlefield.
Then write one paragraph on
'The Key Features and Battle Tactics Commonly Seen on the Revolutionary War battle fields':


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?

a) 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 New York?

b) In what way  was the composition of people who settled in New York, different to the people who settled in the other American colonies?


c) Why has New York grown to be such an important and influential city in America today?

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?

d) 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?

f) 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?