American Revolutionary War Battles

The Battle of Connecticut Farms

June 7, 1780 at Connecticut Farms (now Union Township), New Jersey

Battle Summary

The Battle of Connecticut Farms, was one of the last major battles between British and American forces in the northern colonies during the Revolutionary War. Hessian Lieutenant General Wilhelm von Knyphausen, in command of the British garrison at New York City, made an attempt to reach the principal Continental Army encampment at Morristown, New Jersey.

Knyphausen's advance was strongly met by companies of the New Jersey militia at Connecticut Farms (present-day Union Township). After stiff resistance, the militia were forced to withdraw, but the battle and skirmishing that preceded it sufficiently delayed Knyphausen's advance that he remained there for the night. After realizing that further advance on Morristown would probably be met by even more resistance, Knyphausen withdrew back toward New York.

Facts about the Battle of Connecticut Farms

  • Armies - American Forces was commanded by Brig. Gen. William Maxwell and consisted of unknown number of Soldiers. British Forces was commanded by Gen. Wilhelm von Knyphausen and consisted of 6,000 Soldiers.
  • Casualties - American casualties were unknown. British casualties were unknown.
  • Outcome - The result of the battle was a tactical British victory and a stategic American victory. The battle was part of the Northern Theater 1778-82.
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Prelude

Knyphausen received word from spies that General George Washington's main army at Morristown, New Jersey, had been reduced by desertion and disease to only 3,500 men and was plagued by mutinies and low morale. Seeing an opportunity to inflict a mortal blow on the Revolutionary cause, Knyphausen decided to move against Washington. Knyphausen had also been led to believe that the war-weary people of New Jersey would give little resistance to his invasion.

Knyphausen's plan called for his troops to advance from Elizabethtown, to advance seven miles to the northwest and seize the town of Springfield and Hobart Gap by sunrise on June 7. Washington’s army was protected from attack by the Watchung Mountains, and Hobart Gap was the pass that led through them; possession of which would allow an 11 mile advance across flat ground to hit Washington's main encampment.

Knyphausen's corps comprised some 6,000 men. The 1st Division, commanded by Brigadier General Thomas Stirling, consisted of the British 37th and 38th Regiments of Foot; the Hessian Prince's Own Leib-Regiment, the Hessian Regiment von Donop and the Hessian Corps of Jägers. The 2nd Division, under Major General Edward Mathew, comprised the British 22nd and 57th Regiments of Foot and the 1st and 4th New Jersey Volunteers.

Battle Begins

On June 6, Knyphausen's troops boarded boats on Staten Island and, at midnight, started to land at Elizabethtown Point, New Jersey. As the column moved westward, one of the first shots fired severely wounded Stirling, upon which command of the 1st Division passed to Hessian Colonel Ludwig von Wurmb. The resulting confusion cost the British column valuable time.

On June 7, as the sun rose, about 60 New Jersey militiamen under Ensign Moses Ogden fought a rearguard action to try to delay the British advance in an orchard near Governor Livingston’s mansion. They were quickly swept away. A quarter-mile further west, Colonel Elias Dayton, with a detachment of the New Jersey Continental Brigade and more militia, skirmished with the British before falling back to Connecticut Farms.

At about 8:00 AM., Brigadier General William Maxwell, with his New Jersey Brigade and a force of militia, received the attack of the British 1st Division. Using trees and bushes for cover, the Americans held their ground for three hours until von Wurmb was reinforced by General Mathew and part of his 2nd Division.

Now 3,000-strong, the British drove the Americans through Connecticut Farms (now Union Township, New Jersey) toward Springfield. Knyphausen noted, "The Rebels, as they often did, withdrew from house to house and from wood path to wood path, resisting with all means available".

The victors plundered the village and set on fire at least a dozen of its houses. Washington now arrived on the scene from his headquarters and sent forward his personal Guard of 153 men under Major Caleb Gibbs. Gibbs charged a Hessian unit, incurring 3 killed and 4 wounded, but to no avail. With the sun now setting, Knyphausen halted his advance.

Aftermath

That evening, Knyphausen and his commanders evaluated the situation. He had failed to reach Hobart Gap and was surprised by the numbers of New Jersey militia who had assembled to oppose him, some of them from as far away as Hopewell, New Jersey.

If he resumed his advance, "he was certain to bring on a general engagement with Washington's entrenched army. With the Americans in firm possession of the high ground and the militia swarming on the Royal army’s flanks", the prospects did not look good. Accordingly, Knyphausen decided to withdraw.

On June 8, there were some minor skirmishing as the British column retraced its steps back to Elizabethtown Point. One British soldier was captured at 6:00 AM, while an officer and 16 men of the 22nd Regiment were taken prisoner as they guarded the Elizabethtown road. Several Americans were killed by British artillery fire.

Two weeks later, Knyphausen made a second attempt to capture the Hobart Gap and threaten Washington's main army at the Battle of Springfield.