The Assault on Fort Washington, NY, - November 16, 1776

Digitized by Paul Pace

Extract of a letter from Lt. Col. Thomas Stirling,
42nd Regt., to his brother

"...after crossing this Country to Hudson's river & lying there a few days the army marched down to about Kingsbridge which the rebels had abandoned on the approach of a body of Hessians under the Command of Genl Knyphausen retiring to a very strong post they had made further in the island of York called Fort Washington, there they expected to have withstood all our efforts as the Ground was remarkably strong & they had 3000 men to occupy it & winter there having a communication with the Jerseys from where they could at all times have supplies of every kind, this post was of importance for us to force as we could not be masters of York Island or indeed secure at New York while they had it, on the 16th therefore it was determined to attack it, Lord Percy with 2 Brigades of British & two of Hessians marched from N York side, where they had very strong lines, Gen'l Knyphausen with two columns of Hessians, about 2500 men, attacked them toward Kingsbridge;   the L. Infantry & Guards were to attack them across Harleam river, & the 42d was intended to make a sham attack lower down on the same river to facilitate Ld Percy's approach, Knyphausens troops behaved Gallantly and earned their point over the most rugged Ground troops could march,   the Lt Infantry & Guards met with no opposition except a few Grape at the Lt Infantry while in their Boats, Ld Percy was stopped by their lines which were strongly manned, the 42d instead of a sham was ordered to make a real attack, and as that was not designed little was prepared to assist us, neither troops to second us nor a sufficiency of Artillery to cover our landing which for shortness of the space was as steep a precipice as you can conceive, in the face of an Enemy who lined the top of it and killed our men in the Boats as they approached, and so smart was the fire that the Sailors abandoned their oars & hid themselves in the bottom of the Boats, notwithstanding all this, we accomplished our point drove them from the Hill & chased them into the Fort and over to the North River, which immediately opened a door for Ld Percys troops the Rebels having abandoned their lines upon our getting behind them & giving a cheer on gaining the top of the bank, never did men behave more Gallantly than ours did, which all the army acknowledged or were in a more desperate situation,   we had 3 officers wounded & 79 men killed and wounded, next day the Regt & I got the particular thanks of the Genl for our behavior along with others that were engaged,   that evening the Fort surrendered into which we had drove all the Rebels to the amount of 2500, besides 150 our Regt took in the engagement,   this secures all York Island to us   we took a number of cannons   stores of all kinds with two Months provisions & likewise took the heart of the rebels."

[Source: GD 24/1/458/5 Scottish Record Office]