The Battle of Punk Hill

March 8, 1777 at Bonhamtown, New Jersey

Battle Begins

The Battle of Punk Hill was a relatively minor skirmish in the greater Forage War of the Revolutionary War, but it narrowly missed being a major turning point.

Approximately 3000 British regulars left Amboy for the Punk Hill area, ostensibly on a foraging expedition. Brigadier General William Maxwell observed this movement from a nearby hill and sent a small detachment to harass the British on the left and sent a larger force to the right towards Bonhamtown, hoping to outflank them. The larger force consisted of two detachments, one from Colonel Potter's Pennsylvania militia and commanded by Colonel Cook. the other detachment was from Colonel Thacher's New England troops.

Cook's and Thacher's men joined forces approximately one half mile out and almost immediately encountered and engaged a substantial advanced party of British. Maxwell sent Colonel Martin and Lieutenant Colonel Lindley to reinforce them quickly and began to assembling his main force to follow.

The British also sent reinforcements but they were cut off by another regiment of Americans. That British reinforcements retreated in confusion, sparking a general panic among their comrades and turning the entire engagement into a rout. The Americans chased them as far as Bonhamtown and Metuchen, but did not have sufficient numbers or cover to continue the pursuit.

There were at least four British killed and three taken prisoner. One of the prisoners revealed that General William Howe had been at Bonhamtown during the engagement. Had Maxwell known this beforehand, the Battle of Punk Hill could have been a pivotal moment in the war.

Facts about the Battle of Punk Hill

  • Armies - American Forces was commanded by Gen. Gen. William Maxwell and consisted of unknown number of militia. British Forces was commanded by Gen. William Howe and consisted of about 3,000 Soldiers.
  • Casualties - American casualties were none. British casualties were about 4 killed, unknown wounded, and 3 captured.
  • Outcome - The result of the battle was an American victory. The battle was part of the New York and New Jersey 1776-77.
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