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American Revolutionary War Battles

The Battle of Fort Independence

January 18-29, 1777 at Fort Independence, New York

Battle Summary

Acting on orders from General George Washington, Brigadier General William Heath and his men had begun their assault on Fort Independence on January 18. Washington, who was under British attack in nearby New Jersey, believed that a successful assault on Fort Independence would force the British to divert troops from New Jersey to defend the outpost, located just outside British-controlled Manhattan between the Post Roads to Boston and Albany.

Facing a surprise British counterassault in the bitter cold and with a snowstorm approaching, Heath and his army of 6,000 troops abandon their siege on Fort Independence.

Facts about the Battle of Fort Independence

  • Armies - American Forces was commanded by Brig. Gen. William Heath and consisted of about 6,000 Soldiers. British Forces was commanded by ?? and consisted of about 2,000 Soldiers.
  • Casualties - American casualties were unknown. British casualties were unknown.
  • Outcome - The result of the battle was a British victory.
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Prelude

On January 17-18, Heath started 3 divisions toward Kings Bridge so as to converge simultaneously on the British outposts at dawn on January 18. All together, Heath had a total of almost 6,000 troops under his command. Initially, the plan went smoothly with all 3 columns arrived on schedule. They overran the British outposts at Valentine's Hill, Van Courtland's, Williams', and the Negro Fort.

Next, they closed in on Fort Independence. Fort Independence was located in the Valentine's Hill area just north of Spuyten Duyvil and Kings Bridge on the approach to Manhattan. The fort was manned by about 2,000 German Hessians. Heath summoned the German commander, who was taken by surprise, to surrender the fort within 20 minutes.

The British commander rejected Heath's demand to surrender and responded by unleashing a cannonade against the Americans. This surprised Heath because he thought that the fort did not have any artillery. Heath ordered his own cannonade on the fort and started to manuever his troops.

Battle Begins

On January 19, Heath ordered an envelopement across the frozen creek, slated to start the next day. The reason for this was to cut off the battalion at Kings Bridge.

On January 20, Heath cancelled his order because the warm weather made trying to cross over the ice on the creek too dangerous. For the next several days, there was minor skirmishing all around the area.

On January 25, a party of British and Tory soldiers marched in the direction of Delancey's Mills. Once there, they routed Heath's troops in that sector. Emboldened by their success, the party then headed towards the Valentine's Hill sector. Here, they cleared the Americans in this sector and the Negro Fort sector. They then pushed on to scatter the other Americans before them.

On January 29, an approaching blizzard convinced Heath and the other commanders that they should withdraw. . Heath withdrew his forces, returning to Spuyten Duyvil.