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Title: Conduct of Sir William Howe - Observations upon the Conduct of S-r W——-m H—e at the White Plains; As Related in The Gazette of December 30, 1776
Author: Mauduit, Israel, 1708-1787
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Conduct of Sir William Howe - Observations upon the Conduct of S-r W——-m H—e at the White Plains; As Related in The Gazette of December 30, 1776" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Note: This e-book was prepared from a Reprint Edition, 1971,
      by Arno Press Inc.
      LC# 71-140874
      ISBN 0-405-01219-5
      Eyewitness Accounts of the American Revolution, Series III
      ISBN for complete set: 0-405-01187-3
      Manufactured in the United States of America


S-r W-----M H--E

OF DECEMBER 30, 1776.

(By Israel Mauduit)

Printed for J. Bew, Pater-Noster Row.

Tarrytown, N.Y.
William Abbatt


Of the four British commanders here during the Revolution, Howe was
certainly the chief, so far as dullness amounting to apathy and slowness
almost equal to immobility, went. His first experience of American
determination was at Bunker's Hill; and he ever afterwards showed a
wholesome respect for his opponents. On the particular event we are
considering, his expedition northward from New York to White Plains in
1776, his ineptitude was so conspicuous that Israel Mauduit wrote this
stinging pamphlet (now very rare) about it, in which Howe's various
forms of inefficiency are so tersely and forcibly shown up. It was
indeed fortunate for the patriots that a really active, energetic
officer was not in command; for such a one as Simcoe or Maitland would
have easily defeated them. Howe afterwards explained to Parliament his
reasons for not following up his advantage at White Plains, by saying
his inaction was "due to political reasons, which he could not then
disclose." The fact, as it afterwards came out, was that he had
received--and accepted--the treasonable offers of William Demont, the
first American traitor, regarding the post of Fort Washington. By a--for
him--rapid return to New York, he was thus enabled to capture Fort
Washington and two thousand men. His statements as to his losses at
Pell's Point are clearly untrue, as shown by the detailed accounts given
in my "Battle of Pell's Point." Mauduit was probably unaware of the
facts, or he would not have failed to include them in his pamphlet.

Sir W-----m H--e having called for papers for the satisfaction of the
public, and thereby invited us to read and attend to them, I have been
accidentally led to the perusal of one of them, and here offer what has
occurred upon the occasion.

The observations are confined solely to the General's and Admiral's own
account. And, that the reader's mind may not be prejudiced, he is
desired first to peruse the letters themselves; with Faden's and many
other larger maps of New York and Long Island. The latter part of the
letters, upon the taking Fort Washington, is omitted as having no
relation to that subject.

 Published by Authority

 _Monday, December 30, 1776_

 _Whitehall, December 30, 1776_

This morning, Captain Gardner, one of General Sir William Howe's aids de
camps, arrived in his Majesty's ship _Tamar_ from New York, with the
following dispatches from General Sir William Howe to Lord George

MY LORD,         _New York, November 30, 1776._

The service in which I have been employed since the departure of Captain
Balfour with advice of the reduction of New York, would not allow of an
earlier time to send an account to your Lordship of the progress made
from that period.

The very strong positions the enemy had taken on this island and
fortified with incredible labour determined me to get upon their
principal communication with Connecticut, with a view of forcing them
to quit the strongholds in the neighborhood of King's Bridge, and if
possible bring them to action. All previous arrangements having been
made, the army embarked on the 12th of October, in flat boats and other
craft, and passing through the dangerous navigation of Hell Gate in a
very thick fog, landed on Frog's Neck, near the town of West Chester,
about nine in the morning, the _Carysfort_ being placed to cover the
descent. The presence of Lord Howe, the activity of Commodore Hotham,
most of the Captains of the fleet, and of the navy officers in general,
were infinitely conducive to the King's service in this difficult
movement; only one artillery boat was overset, having three six-pounders
on board, which were lost, and three men drowned.

Lieutenant-General Earl Percy remained with two brigades of British and
one of the Hessians in the lines near Haerlem, to cover New York.

The army remained in this situation until the stores and provisions
could be brought up, and three battalions of Hessians drawn from Staten
Island, which, together with some bad weather intervening, caused a
delay of five days. On the 18th several corps re-embarked in flatboats,
and passing round Frog's Neck, landed on Pell's Point at the mouth of
Hutchinson's River; after which the main body crossed the mouth of that
river to the same place, advanced immediately and laid that night upon
their arms, with the left upon a creek opposite to East Chester, and the
right near to New Rochelle.

On the march to this ground, a skirmish ensued with a small party of the
enemy posted to defend a narrow causeway, who were pursued for a mile, when
a considerable body appearing in front, behind stone walls and in woods,
some companies of light infantry and a part of the chasseurs were detached
to dislodge them, which they did effectually; Lieutenant-Colonel Musgrave
commanding the first battalion of light infantry, and Captain Evelyn of the
Fourth regiment, were both wounded; the latter is since dead, and much to
be regretted as a gallant officer; but Lieutenant-Colonel Musgrave is in a
fair way of recovery; three soldiers were killed and twenty wounded; the
enemy's loss upon this occasion was a Lieutenant-Colonel killed, a Major
wounded, and about ninety men killed and wounded.[1]

The part of the Sixteenth Light Dragoons that arrived with
Lieutenant-Colonel Harcourt on the third instant (one transport being
still missing) and the whole of the Seventeenth Light Dragoons, joined
the army on the 20th. On the 21st the right and centre of the army moved
to a position about two miles to the northward of Rochelle, on the road
to the White Plains, leaving Lieutenant-General Heister, with two
brigades of Hessians and one of British, to occupy the former ground.
Lieutenant-Colonel Rogers,[2] with his corps of Rangers was detached to
take possession of Mamaroneck, where the carelessness of his centries
exposed him to a surprize from a large body of the enemy, by which he
lost a few men killed or taken; nevertheless, by a spirited exertion he
obliged them to retreat, leaving behind them some prisoners and several
killed and wounded.

The sixth brigade, commanded by Brigadier Agnew, was moved the 22d to
sustain the post of Mamaroneck. On the same day Lieutenant-General
Knyphausen, with the second division of Hessians and regiment of
Waldeckers, having arrived the 18th at New York, landed at Rochelle, was
ordered to remain there to cover the disembarkation of the stores and
provisions. Upon the movement of the army to Frog's Neck the enemy
detached a corps to White Plains, and quitted their position about
King's Bridge with some precipitation, leaving two thousand men for the
defence of Fort Washington, extending their force behind the Bronx, from
Valentine's Hill to White Plains, in detached camps every where
entrenched. Their left by this means covering an upper communication
with Connecticut, as well as the road along the North River, it was
judged expedient to move to White Plains and endeavour to bring them to

Lieutenant-General Heister, with his corps, having orders to join on the
march, the army moved in two columns on the the 25th, and took a position
with the Bronx in front, the right of the line being at the distance of
four miles from the White Plains; upon which the rebels immediately quitted
their detached camps between King's Bridge and White Plains, assembling
their whole force at the latter place, behind entrenchments that had been
thrown up by the advanced corps. The army marched by the right in two
columns toward White Plains, early on the 28th, Lieutenant-General Clinton
leading the right and Lieutenant-General Heister the left column. Before
noon all the enemy's advanced parties were drove back to their works by
the light infantry and chasseurs, and the army formed with the right upon
the road from Mamaroneck to the White Plains about a mile from the centre
of their lines; and the left to the Bronx, near the same distance from the
right flank of their entrenchments. A corps of the enemy was formed on a
commanding ground, separated from the right flank of their entrenchments
by the Bronx, which also, by changing its course nearly at right angles,
separated this corps from the left of the King's army. Colonel Raille[3]
who commanded a brigade of Hessians on the left, observing this position
of the enemy and seeing a height on the other side of the Bronx unoccupied
by them, from which their flank might be galled, took possession of it
with great alacrity, to the approbation of Lieutenant-General Heister, who
was acquainted with this movement by Sir William Erskine. Upon viewing the
situation, orders were given for a battalion of Hessians to pass the Bronx
and attack this detached corps, supported by the second brigade of British,
under the command of Brigadier-General Leslie, and the Hessian grenadiers
sent from the right, commanded by Colonel Donop; giving directions at the
same time for Colonel Raille to charge the enemy's flank as the Hessian
battalion advanced to them in front; but there being some difficulty in
passing the Bronx the 28th and 35th regiments, who were the first to
support, passed it in a place most practicable and formed on the opposite
side, though under the enemy's fire, with the greatest steadiness; ascended
the steep hill in defiance to all opposition, and rushing on the enemy,
routed and drove them back from their works. These two battalions were
closely supported by the 5th and 49th regiments, who showed the same
zeal to distinguish themselves; the Hessian grenadiers also coming up
and passing the Bronx, ascended the height with the greatest alacrity
and in the best order.

This material post being gained the Hessian grenadiers were ordered
forward upon the heights, within cannon-shot of the entrenchments, the
Bronx, from its winding course, being still between them and the enemy's
right flank; the second brigade of British formed in the rear of the
Hessian grenadiers, and the two brigades of Hessians on the left of the
2d brigade, with their left upon the road leading from Tarrytown to
White Plains.

The right and centre of the army did not remove from their ground. In
this position the troops lay upon their arms that night, and with very
little alteration encamped the next day. The officers and men of the
British and Hessian artillery deserve much commendation for their active
services on this occasion. The killed, wounded and prisoners taken from
the enemy during the course of this day, is said to be not less than
250--the loss of his Majesty's troops and allies was small, as your
Lordship will observe by the general return, considering the strength of
the ground from whence the enemy was forced; though the loss of
Lieutenant-Colonel Carr, of the 35th regiment, who died the next day of
his wounds, is much to be lamented.

The enemy drew back their encampment on the night of the 28th, and
observing their lines next morning much strengthened by additional
works, the designed attack upon them was deferred, and the 4th brigade,
left with Lord Percy, with two battalions of the 6th brigade, were
ordered to join the army. These battalions having joined on the 30th in
the afternoon, a disposition was made for the attack next day, but the
night and morning proving very wet, it was postponed; in the meantime
the rebels, having intelligence by a deserter of their danger, most
prudently evacuated their camp in the night of the 1st of November,
after setting fire to all the houses in and near their lines, most of
which were consumed, and retired with their main force towards North
Castle, leaving a strong rear guard upon the heights and in the woods
for one mile back from their entrenchments, the possession of which was
immediately taken, and the Hessian grenadiers remained upon the ground.
All these motions plainly indicating the enemy's design to avoid coming
to action, I did not think the driving their rear guard further back an
object of the least consequence.

Lieutenant-General Knyphausen being ordered on the 28th of October to
leave the regiment of Waldeck at Rochelle, and to move with the six
battalions of his corps towards King's Bridge, took post at Mile Square
and Valentine's Hill, and on the 2d of November encamped on the island
of New York near to King's Bridge; the enemy quitting the heights of
Fordham upon his approach retired to Fort Washington. The army was
ordered out the 3d, to provide three days' forage; and the next day
Major-General Grant marched with the fourth brigade to Mile Square and
Valentine's Hill, the sixth brigade to a bridge over the Bronx in West
Chester, near DeLancey's mills,[4] and the Waldeck regiment took post at
another three miles above the former, on the same river. On the 6th the
army encamped at Dobbs' Ferry, upon the North river. When this movement
was made, the rebels came down from their strong holds, burning what
they had not before destroyed at White Plains, and distressing the
inhabitants by small parties, in a most wanton degree.

 _Admiralty office,
 December 30th, 1776._

CAPTAIN Mason, of his Majesty's sloop the _Tamar_, arrived yesterday at
Dartmouth, and came to Town this morning with dispatches from Lord
Viscount Howe, of which the following is a copy:

_Eagle, off New York, November 23, 1776._


The General thinking fit to move with a large part of the army to the
right of the rebel forces, who were preparing to establish themselves
for the winter on the heights above King's Bridge as well as on the
north part of York Island, the embarkation of the troops in the
flatboats and small vessels provided, was made from Kip's Bay in the
night of the 11th of last month, under the direction of Commodore
Hotham, with the Captains of the ships from which the boats were manned,
as in the former instances; and the troops were landed in the morning on
the peninsula of Frog's Neck, in the Sound, about ten miles eastward
from New York, without opposition. A thick fog prevailing when the boats
entered the dangerous passage through Hell Gate, every ill consequence
was to be apprehended; but it fortunately happened that no other injury
was sustained besides the oversetting of an artillery boat, by which
accident two field pieces and three men were lost. It had been some time
before resolved in order to prevent the enemy from receiving supplies
by the North River, to send a detachment of ships above their works at
Jefferys' Hook on York Island and the opposite shore of Jersey, between
which they had been lately making fresh attempts to block the channel.
Captain Parker in the _Phoenix_ was again chosen for this service, with
the _Roebuck_ and _Tartar_. The wind did not permit the ships to pass
the enemy's works, until the 9th. By the accounts I have a few days
since received from Captain Parker, I find the ships had suffered much
in their masts and rigging: the loss of men, as in the enclosed return,
was considerable. Of four of the enemy's gallies chased from their
stations behind the lines of sunken frames and vessels placed to
obstruct the passage of the river, two were taken, one mounting a
thirty-two pounder with swivels, the other two nine pounders and two
four pounders. The two remaining gallies, with some small vessels, being
favoured by the tide and weather escaped the ships in shoal water, where
they had sufficient protection from the shore, which was in the enemy's
possession. The General judging it necessary to make a second movement
with the troops he conducted, further to the eastward of Frog's Neck,
the light infantry, grenadiers and other corps of the first embarkation
were again taken into the flat bottomed boats, and landed the 18th on
Pell's Neck, separated from Frog's Neck by Hutchinson's River. The rest
of the army, which had only that narrow stream to pass, were conveyed
over with the artillery and baggage a few hours after, and the second
division of the Hessians, that came under convoy of the _Diamond_ the
19th were carried up in the flatboats, and landed the 23d on Myers'
Neck, the post of communication with the fleet last established, nearer
to New Rochelle.

This position of the army requiring further provision to be made for
keeping the intercourse open by water with York Island, the _Rose_ and
_Senegal_ were added to the frigates and small armed vessels before
stationed in the Sound for that purpose.

It is incumbent on me to represent to your Lordship on this occasion,
and I cannot too pointedly express, the unabating perseverance and
alacrity with which the several classes of officers and seamen of the
ships of war and transports have supported a long attendance and unusual
degree of fatigue consequent of these different movements of the army.
Captain Phipps and the detachment of seamen under his command, who were
further appointed to assist in the service of the artillery upon an
emergency, have acquired much credit by their spirited conduct on that

The enemy retreating on every occasion as the army advanced, were forced
from the White Plains (where they seemed prepared to make some stand)
into the North Castle district, and have finally retired, with the
greatest part of their forces, behind the Croton River, whereby the
communication was open from York Island with the continent, by King's

       *       *       *       *       *

_There_ is a story currently told, that when General Heister was
upbraided with the loss of the Hessian brigade at Trenton, and asked how
he came to trust it to such a drunken fellow as Raille, the reply made
was, "Sir, if you will tell me why you would not make an end of the war
at White Plains, I will then give you an answer."

Heister is dead, and I do not warrant the truth of this story: but the
hearing of it led me to read over the General's account of this affair.
It sets out with telling us "The very strong positions the enemy had
taken on this island (of New York) and fortified with incredible labour,
determined me to get upon their principal communication with
Connecticut, with a view of forcing them to quit the strongholds in the
neighborhood of King's Bridge and if possible, to bring them to action."

The map, or any inhabitant of New York, will inform the reader that the
principal road of communication between King's Bridge and Connecticut is
through New Rochelle. That the whole tract of land south and southwest
of Rochelle forms a peninsula, shut up on three sides by the North River
and an arm of the sea called the East River. That there were only two
roads by which the rebels at King's Bridge could escape out of this
peninsula; the one due north towards Canada, and the other northeast
through Rochelle towards Connecticut. That White Plains lies out of this
peninsula, a few miles to the northward; and that Frog's Neck is a point
of land at the bottom of this peninsula, forming the southeast corner of

And every one must understand by these expressions, that the General
meant to avail himself of the benefit of the fleet, and land at the back
of the rebels upon the Connecticut road, and attack them as soon as he
could. This was certainly a very wise and just measure, and so obvious
an one that many people wondered he did not pursue it above a month
before, when the army lay encamped at Newtown, in Long Island. He might
from thence have avoided the dangerous navigation of Hell Gate, and by
landing at Rochelle and taking post between that and the North River,
have shut up the whole rebel army.

[Footnote 1: Compare the statement of the American commander--see my
"Battle of Pell's Point." (_Editor_).]

[Footnote 2: Robert Rogers--See Heath's Memoirs for account of this
affair. Page 66.]

[Footnote 3: The same who was killed at Trenton in December.

[Footnote 4: The present Williams' Bridge.]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Conduct of Sir William Howe - Observations upon the Conduct of S-r W——-m H—e at the White Plains; As Related in The Gazette of December 30, 1776" ***

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