Monday, October 24, 2011

October 24, 1776

From October 8th to November 1st, I am blogging about the White Plains “campaign” of 1776. Click here for an overview of this project, a listing of the sources used, and other general information.

Synopsis for October 24th: The British prepared for another move.

Previous entry: October 23rd; next: October 25th.

At White Plains, the Americans continued to improve their defenses. William Heath’s division was encamped on the left of their position, Joseph Spencer’s division was on the right, and the divisions of John Sullivan and Israel Putnam were in the center. Chaplain Benjamin Trumbull (Spencer’s division) jotted down in his journal: “A very pleasant day and nothing very special seems to be going on.”

For some days after moving his army to Pell’s Point, British Lieutenant-General William Howe was unsure of where the Americans were and what intentions they had; he also had little knowledge about the layout of the Westchester countryside. He gathered information, deliberated with his officers, and took on stores of provisions and reinforcements.

By the end of this date he had the information he needed and his preparations were complete. He was now ready to make his next move. As he later explained it:

“[the Americans had] quitted their position about King’s Bridge with some precipitation, leaving two thousand men for the defense of Fort Washington, extending their force behind the Bronx from Valentine’s Hill [near Mile Square] to White Plains in detached camps, everywhere entrenched. Their left by this means covering an upper communication with Connecticut as well as the road along the North River [i.e., the Hudson], it was judged expedient to move to White Plains and endeavour to bring them to an action.”

At 9 P.M. he ordered “Tents to be struck tomorrow morning at 6 o’clock; the baggage to be loaded, and the army to be ready to march at seven, in two columns by the right.”

The British army would divide into two parts: the right column was given to Lieutenant-General Henry Clinton, and the left column was given to Lieutenant-General Leopold Philip von Heister. Clinton would advance towards White Plains from the direction of Mamaroneck, while von Heister would advance towards White Plains from the direction of East Chester. Screening the columns on their march would be the jaegers, the light dragoons, and a company of the New York Volunteers.

Part of the army remained near the coast to safeguard the provisions.

Wilhelm von Knyphausen’s division (minus Ewald’s jaegers) remained near New Rochelle for the time being, but Howe planned to use this force before long.

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