BATTLE OF FORT WASHINGTON
by James Renner

    On a hill in Washington Heights overlooking the Hudson River is Bennett
Park which was named for James Gordon Bennett, publisher and founder of the
New York Herald.  It is also the site of one of the worst military defeats of
the Continental Army during the American Revolution. This site known as Fort
Washington was lost in battle on November 16, 1776.

    It is considered the Alamo of the American Revolution where 2,800 ill
equipped Americans surrendered  to 9,000 British and Hessian soldiers.  The
battle lines had been drawn at 7:00 AM and was underway by noon due to
inclement weather.  According to 18th Century military customs The British
offered terms of surrender on November 15th and Colonel  Robert Magaw refused
by stating that the Americans would fight to the last extremity.

    By the end of th day the Royalist forces had surrounded the fort and the
American colors were struck.  The American prisoners were forced to march to
lower Manhattan to be place on prison ships in Wallabout Bay for the duration
of war.  During this period over 11,000 Americans died on these ships due to
sickness, brutality and malnutrition.  In time officers like Colonel Magaw
were released pardoned  or exchanged for high ranking British officers.

    This year offers a triple celebration for the area.  First is the 225th
anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.  Secondly in
November is the 225th Anniversary of the Battle of Fort Washington.  Finally
there is the centennial of the plaque on the Fort Washington Avenue side of
Bennett Park that was place as a memorial to the men and women of the Patriot
Army who took an active part in that battle.  The plaque was place there and
unveiled on November 16, 1901 on the 125th anniversary of the ill fated
battle.

    Presently plans are in the works to have a celebration on November 18,
2001 sponsored by the Washington Heights Neighborhood Association and Friends
of Bennett Park.


 


 



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