Some have referred to 1777 the "Year of the Hangman" because the three sevens resembled gallows. The year began with the afterglow of the First Battle of Trenton, the near fiasco of the Second Battle, and the climactic success of Princeton. The war remained focused in the northeast, with the success at Saratoga and the entry of the French balanced by the loss of Philadelphia and the defeats at Brandywine and Germantown. The year ended with the recognition by France of the United States on December 17 and the winter at Valley Forge. On Christmas Eve, 1777, James Cook discovered Kiritimati (Christmas Island).
Second Battle of Trenton - New Jersey (January 1)
After the successful first battle on December 26, 1776, Washington recrossed the Delaware River to Pennsylvania. Believing he had another opportunity to engage and defeat the British, Washington again crossed the river into New Jersey. Delaying actions along Shabbaconk Creek delayed Cornwallis' advance on Trenton significantly. Meanwhile, Washington established his position on the higher ground on the south side of the Assunpink. On January 1, 1777, three assaults by Cornwallis and attempts to cross the bridge on Queen (Broad) Street failed. Cornwallis confidently expected to "bag the fox" in the morning. Facing a bad situation, with the Delaware River to one side and the British before him, Washington created an illusion of maintaining camp, but slipped away towards Princeton.
Princeton - New Jersey (January 3)
Following the abandonment of his position south of the Assunpink Creek in Trenton, Washington's forces were intercepted on January 3, 1777 just outside of Princeton. Colonel Charles Mawhood commanded the British 4th Brigade and was on his way to reinforce Cornwallis in Trenton. Advance British Dragoons spotted the Americans at the Stony Brook Bridge heading towards Princeton. The engagement involved fighting at close quarters. American General Hugh Mercer was mortally wounded at the site of the "Mercer Oak," a tree which stood until the year 2000. Victorious at Princeton, Washington paused at Kingston and during the famous "Horseback Conference" decided against pursuit of the British to New Brunswick. Instead, he took them to Jockey Hollow, outside Morristown, for the winter encampment.
Millstone - New Jersey (January 20)
The Battle of Millstone in central New Jersey was another of these local interest battles that on one level are of interest only to those in the area, but on closer examination, permit insight into other facets of the war. On January 20, 1777 General Philemon Dickinson led about 400 New Jersey and 50 Pennsylvania militia in battle, defeating about 500 British Regulars and Hessians under Lieutenant Colonel Robert Abercromby. Washington's forces were moving northward towards Morristown and British forces were centered around New Brunswick. Millstone lay in between and was vulnerable to foraging. The battle is also referred to as the Battle of Van Nest's Mill. The Americans prevailed, losing four men and killing or wounding 25 of the enemy, and capturing others as well as 40 wagons and 100 horses. The battle also focused attention on the thousands of small scale actions, no less bitter or fatal than some of the more well-known ones, that marked the war. The Franklin Inn was reportedly used by Cornwallis as a headquarters in 1777, and the image from Griggstown gives an idea of the location of the roads and crossings. Washington crossed here in January 1777 on the way to Morristown and again in 1781 on the march south to Yorktown.
Punk Hill - New Jersey (March 8)
On March 8, 1777, a battle occurred at "Punk Hill" in New Jersey, in the vicinity of Perth Amboy, Metuchen and Edison. According to a letter published on March 17, 1777 from a correspondent claiming to have seen a letter from American General William Maxwell, "They [the enemy] brought artillery and a number of waggons, as if to forage, 'tho there was none left in that neighborhood worth notice." Maxwell sent a diversionary force to the British left and another force towards Bonhamtown to the British right to evaluate theirstrength. Somewhere in the middle the forces engaged. and the British withdrew in confusion. The letter reports almost 20 killed and almost 40 wounded by the enemy. In General William Maxwell and the New Jersey Continentals, Harry M. Ward sizes the British force at 2,000. He observes that "despite not much being accomplished, the action of March 8 further gave evidence of Maxwell's combativeness."
Bound Brook and Middlebrook Encampment - New Jersey (April 12)
American General George Washington wintered his forces in 1776-1777 in Jockey Hollow, near Morristown, and maintained a garrison post in Bound Brook, New Jersey, under General Benjamin Lincoln. The British had sizable forces in New Brunswick, around nine miles away. From points in the Wachung Mountains, like "Washington Rock," Washington could watch British movements from New York to New Brunswick. On April 12, 1777. British General Charles Cornwallis launched an attack against the 500 man garrison with 4,000 British and Hessian troops, in a three-pronged assault from New Brunswick. Hessian Captain Johann Ewald led the assault and drove back the Americans. The Americans retreated, losing cannons and other supplies, although the British themselves did not seek to hold the area and returned to New Brunswick. As a result, Washington moved his forces south to the Middlebrook encampment, and General William Howe spent the next two months trying to draw out Washington from his position. Failing that, Howe moved his forces to sea and commenced his Philadelphia campaign.
Ridgefield / Danbury - Connecticut (April 27)
On April 27, 1777, less than 1,000 American militiamen in Connecticut fought approximately twice their number of British troops led by New York's royal governor, General William Tryon. The British landed at Compo Beach, encountered resistance about a mile to the north, successfully destroyed the depot in Danbury, and prevailed after three engagements in Ridgefield. General David Wooster succeeded in the first surprise attack and took 40 prisoners. An hour later, in his second attack, he was repelled and mortally wounded. General Benedict Arnold and General Gold Silliman made a stand in Ridgefield but were finally forced to withdraw in the third encounter. Although Arnold tried to assemble a defensive position to attack the British as they made their way back to their landing point, but that failed following a successful British move. The battle, not particularly well-known outside its area, was a defeat for the Americans, achieved nothing of lasting value for the British, and further aroused Patriot feelings in the area.
Short Hills / Ash Swamp - New Jersey (June 26)
This is one of the least known and commented on battles, and yet involved a remarkable movement of men during the New Jersey campaign of 1777, and the efforts of General William Howe to force General George Washington into engagement. The fighting occurred on June 26, 1777. As much a series of skirmishes as a battle, the action encompassed a broad area of central New Jersey, primarily in what is now Edison and Scotch Plains. The "short hills" are in the shadow of the Watchung Mountains, where Washington's forces were encamped at Middlebrook. American Generals Lord Stirling (William Alexander), William Maxwell and Thomas Conway established a line extending from Ash Swamp, to the Metuchen Meetinghouse. Washington's main army was at Quibbletown, (now part of Piscataway). Howe moved his forces from Staten Island where they had replenished supplies, across to Perth Amboy. Under General Charles Cornwallis and General James Grant, they moved through Woodbridge, encountering pickets and proceeded onwards. Action occurred at the Metuchen Meetinghouse and along Oak Tree Road. The Americans retreated to Ash Swamp, fought a delaying action and retreated to the main army. They had bought time for Washington to withdraw, and the British did not pursue. Howard Peckham, in The Toll of Independence, estimates American killed at 30 and 50 captured and British at 6 killed and 30 wounded. Estimates vary, but American forces numbered 2,500 and British and Hessians, 11,000. This was no small engagement and took place over a wide area. Ultimately, as with so many other such incidents during the Revolution, it had no lasting significance, but did allow Washington to avoid the encounter that Howe sought, and led to British return to Staten Island.
Fort Ticonderoga - New York (July 7)
Fort Ticonderoga fell to American forces led by the Colonel Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen. The fort was minimally defended, yet its seizure permitted the American forces to garner a significant artillery force. Both sides recognized the critical position of the fort as controlling not only Lake Champlain, but also the route from Canada to New York. Two years later, on July 7, 1777, it was retaken by the British under General John Burgoyne on his way south to Albany. He mounted cannon on Mount Defiance which at higher elevation allowed bombardment of the fort. With a probability of defeat, the Americans abandoned the fort. Burgoyne was stopped at Saratoga.
Hubbardton - Vermont (July 7)
The Battle of Hubbardton was a significant rear-guard action fought on July 7, 1777. The Americans were forced to abandon Fort Ticonderoga as General John Burgoyne moved southward towards Albany. American General Arthur St. Clair moved with about 2,500 men. Colonel Seth Warner commanded 1,000 men on Monument Hill. General Friedrich Von Riedesel commanded 3,000 Hessians, together with 400 Indians, 150 Canadians and 100 Loyalists. British General Simon Fraser had 750 men and assaulted across the stream and up the hill. Fighting was intense, but Von Riedesel with superior forces turned the American right flank. Though a British victory, the delay allowed St. Clair's forces to reach the Saratoga area.
Fort Ann - New York (July 8)
The Battle of Fort Ann, New York was fought July 8, 1777. Colonel Henry van Rensselar commanded 220 men in an attack on a detachment of British soldiers who were sent to capture his forces. The battle lasted two hours and the Americans withdrew after fearing Indians were reinforcing the British. As it was, a British officer imitated Indian war calls. Many believe this was the first time the stars and stripes were flown in battle.
Stanwix and Oriskany - New York (August 6-23)
As part of General John Burgoyne's northern campaign from Canada into New York, with Albany as its goal, Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Leger led approximately 2,000 men (consisting of British Regulars, Hessians, Canadians, Loyalists and Iroquois) as well as several pieces of artillery to Fort Stanwix (now known as Rome, New York). The fort controlled the Mohawk Valley and was the gateway to the west. The fort was garrisoned by about 600 to 750 Continental soldiers from New York under General Peter Gansevoort. The siege lasted from August 2 or 3 to August 22, 1777. On August 6, 800 men under Tryon County (NY) militia General Nicholas Herkimer with Oneida Indian allies attempted relief. They were ambushed by a detachment from St. Leger's main army, along with Seneca and Mohawk Indians from the Iroquois Confederacy and other tribes at Oriskany. The fighting, in proportion to the total men involved, was among the bloodiest of the war. Oriskany was essentially a Loyalist versus American militia action, but was also remarkable for breaking the peace of the Iroquois Confederacy. Notwithstanding the American defeat at Oriskany, the British failed to take Fort Stanwix.
Bennington - New York (August 16)
The Battle of Bennington, on August 16, 1777, occurred in Hoosick, New York, although the storehouse that was the subject of the raid was just across the border in the recently "independent" Vermont. Burgoyne was advancing on Albany, and by early August, 1777 Burgoyne knew Howe was not moving northward to meet up with him. Burgoyne needed supplies. He sent a predominantly Hessian force, with Indian components, led by Colonel Friedrich Baum to procure the supplies. Burgoyne's intelligence was flawed, and he was unaware that Colonel John Stark had become Major General John Stark, and had nearly 1,500 militia at Bennington. He was also unaware that Colonel Seth Warner led 200 fresh Ranger troops. Bennington's significance was the further weakening of Burgoyne's already finite force, and he lost 15% of his men at Bennington. Beyond this, of course, was the failure to obtain the necessary supplies. He continued to move deeper into hostile territory.
Staten Island - New York (August 22)
Although this action occurred in New York, it is generally considered part of the Philadelphia campaign. In July 1777, British General William Howe moved his army from New York and headed for the Chesapeake Bay in anticipation of an attack on Philadelphia. American General John Sullivan ordered an attack by the two New Jersey regiments under his command that had been monitoring Staten Island. On August 22, 1777, Colonel Matthias Ogden led one wing of the attack, crossing from Carteret, New Jersey to the Rossville area of Staten Island. The Loyalist New Jersey Volunteers held positions from the northern part of the island in the Bayonne Bridge area to an area on the edge of Conference House Park. Sullivan and General William Smallwood crossed from Elizabethtown to the northwestern point of Staten Island. Surprise worked for the Americans, and Ogden had initial success, took prisoners and moved eastward towards Richmondtown where he pushed back the Loyalist Colonel Edward Vaughan Dongan towards Amboy Road. Dongan, though, reinforced by a Loyalist regiment at Richmondtown, successfully regained the advantage. Ogden was now pushed eastward towards the Old Blazing Star ferry site and re-crossed to New Jersey. Sullivan's forces drove back the Loyalists in their attack but failed to capture the British general they were after. They moved southward but failed to hook up with Ogden, and due to a mix-up regarding the boats they expected to find, were delayed in re-crossing, and suffered a significant loss of men as prisoners.
Cooch's Bridge - Delaware (September 3)
The only major action of the Revolutionary War in Delaware, the Battle of Cooch's Bridge (sometimes Cooche's Bridge) was fought on September 3, 1777. The British had landed at Head of Elk in Maryland on August 25, 1777 and moved northward. George Washington himself reconnoitered the area on August 26, noted the British presence, and put General William Maxwell in command of 700 Continentals and 1,000 Pennsylvania and Delaware militia to keep track of enemy movement. They took position on Iron Hill and nearby Cooch's Bridge. Following an ambush of Captain Johann Ewald's Hessian troops by Americans, a Hessian force of 300-400 Jaegers led by Lieutenant Colonel Ludwig von Wurmb, joined by British Light Infantry and Grenadiers, drove the Americans off Iron Hill towards Cooch's Bridge Overwhelmed, and after futile skirmishing, Maxwell was forced to retreat to join the main army at Wilmington.
Brandywine - Pennsylvania (September 11)
While tactically a defeat for the Continental Army on September 11, 1777, the Battle of Brandywine nonetheless was taken as a moral victory for the Americans by Washington, who wrote the "troops were in good spirits." Prepared for an assault by the British across Chadds Ford, Washington was also prepared to have troops defend against a potential flanking movement. Receiving wrong intelligence that there was no such maneuver, Washington diverted his main force to face General Wilhelm von Knyphausen across the Brandywine, but in fact British General Charles Cornwallis marched his men to the north around Washington's right flank. The Americans, under General John Sullivan and reinforced by General Nathanael Greene, engaged in severe fighting. The battle lasted the day and ultimately Washington left the field. Ironically, Brandywine and later Germantown were fought to prevent occupation of Philadelphia. The British occupied Philadelphia, the war did not collapse, and in 1778 General Henry Clinton, now in command after General William Howe's departure, vacated the city and headed across New Jersey for New York.
Second River - New Jersey (September 12-14)
At the time, the current town of Belleville, New Jersey, was known as the Village of Second River. The battle was part of a foraging expedition of British General Henry Clinton, and various sources, including at least one pension record, corroborate a stand made in this area by local militia that ultimately fell back when British reinforcements arrived. Sources indicate two Americans killed and eight British killed. The battle occurred between September 12-14, 1777.
Battle of the Clouds - Pennsylvania (September 16)
Howe did not pursue Washington following the latter's loss at Brandywine, and chose instead to tend to the British casualties. Upon learning that Washington was not far and had recrossed the Schuylkill, Howe set his forces in motion. From September 15 through 16, 1777, 10,000 Americans faced nearly 18,000 Hessians and British regulars. Washington's troops formed a three mile line in the Great Valley, not far from Valley Forge, with its center around what is now Immaculata University, facing King Road. The British moved northward from Goshen, with Knyphausen to the left and Howe's forces to the center and right. On the 16th, Casimir Pulaski's cavalry supported by light infantry, advanced, and were pushed back by Cornwallis' own light infantry units towards the center/left of the American line. On the American right, American generals Wayne and Maxwell skirmished with Knyphausen's Hessians, and were forced to withdraw. Before the British could pursue their advantage, severe rainfall ended the engagement. Reports vary as to casualty counts. Peckham reports twelve Americans killed and 30 captured.
Saratoga - New York (September 19)
In 1777, British General Burgoyne was forced to surrender to American General Horatio Gates, having failed in his plan to march to Albany and split New York and New England from the rest of the colonies. Saratoga, in New York, was actually two battles--Freeman's Farm on September 19 and Bemis Heights on October 7--and following the British defeat, propelled France into the war on the side of the Americans. Freeman's Farm saw the Americans leave the field but like Bunker Hill, the "victory" for the British was costly, and they American force under Gates remained. After two weeks, Burgoyne could not sustain the status quo and attacked. The British were forced to withdraw and surrendered on October 17.
Paoli - Pennsylvania (September 21)
The Battle of Paoli on September 21, 1777 was a surprise attack on American General "Mad Anthony" Wayne by British General Charles "No Flint" Grey at Wayne's encampment at Paoli, Pennsylvania. After the defeat at Brandywine on September 11, 1777 Washington withdrew to Chester, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia was exposed. On September 19, Washingon's main army crossed the Schuylkill, and Wayne remained behind to provide protection for Washington's movements, and attack the British flank. Wayne camped near Paoli Tavern. At 10 p.m. Grey, on Howe's orders, led 1,500 men in a silent assault. Wayne was warned, though, by a picket that heard them. Despite their attempt to get into position, by midnight the British attacked with bayonets. In the words of Justin Clement in Philadelphia 1777: Taking the Capital, "the attack of the [British] Light Infantry was so rapid that no party could form front to face them." Over 160 American soldiers were killed. Wayne would have his revenge two years later on July 16, 1779. at Stony Point, when his own surprise attack defeated the British. Grey would repeat the technique at Tappan in New Jersey.
Germantown - Pennsylvania (October 4)
On September 26, 1777 the British entered the American capital of Philadelphia. Washington, anxious to engage Howe, ordered a four-pronged attack. The plan might well have succeeded for for a series of mishaps and misjudgments--the literal fog of war causing American units to fire on each other, an obsession with dislodging a small number of British units ensconced in the Chew House, and the drunken command of one of Washington's generals. The attack on October 4, 1777 centered around Market Square and the Chew House. This was a British victory.
Forts Montgomery and Fort Clinton - New York (October 6)
In an effort to provide relief to British General John Burgoyne in his efforts to reach Albany, General Henry Clinton in New York sailed up the Hudson with 3000 men on October 3. On October 6, Clinton took both Fort Clinton and Fort Montgomery, but obviously it was to no avail as on October 7, Burgyone lost at Bemis Heights, and the American victory at Saratoga paved the way for overt French assistance in the war.
Saratoga - New York (October 7)
In 1777, British General "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne was forced to surrender to American General Horatio Gates, having failed in his plan to march to Albany and split New York and New England from the rest of the colonies. Saratoga, in New York, was actually two battles - Freeman's Farm on September 19 and Bemis Heights on October 7 - and following the British defeat, propelled France into the war on the side of the Americans. Freeman's Farm saw the Americans leave the field but like Bunker Hill, the "victory" for the British was costly, and they American force under Gates remained. After two weeks, Burgoyne could not sustain the status quo and attacked. The British were forced to withdraw and then surrender on October 17.
Forts Mercer and Mifflin - New Jersey / Pennsylvania (October 22)
These two forts were part of a three fort matrix of defenses to protect Philadelphia and control the Delaware River. The third, Fort Billingsport, was a few miles to the south. The British held Philadelphia following the American loss at Brandywine. Seeking to free the river so that supplies could be transported to Philadelphia, General Howe ordered assaults on the American positions. Fort Billingsport fells first. In mid-October the British bombardment of Fort Mifflin, already under siege, began. An initial assault on Fort Mercer, led by Hessian Colonel Carl von Donop, failed. Coupled with the victory at Saratoga, it provided a brief propaganda tool used by John Adams to help influence the French. However, Fort Mifflin could not stand and after its abandonment on November 15, the Americans then left Fort Mercer. Washington had failed at Germantown to drive the British from Philadelphia, and the British failed to crush the Americans at Whitemarsh. The British returned to Philadelphia and the Americans to Valley Forge.
Whitemarsh and Valley Forge - Pennsyvania (December 5-8)
Following the losses at Brandywine and Germantown and the inconclusive fighting in early December 177 that was the Battle of Whitemarsh, Washington encamped the Continental Army at Valley Forge for the 1777-1778 winter. Here, Von Steuben drilled the desolate Continental Army back to life. General James Varnum, instrumental in the unsuccessful defense of Forts Mifflin and Mercer, also wintered here with Washington and the army.