New York, Trenton, and Princeton, 177677
The period immediately following adoption of the Declaration of Independence was a dark one for the Americans. In that same month of July, 1776, a large British fleet carrying 32,000 well-trained soldiers, including a force of Hessians hired from German rulers, arrived at New York City under General Howe's command. Washington, with only 20,000 men, and most of them poorly trained, had little hope of successfully defending New York City. However, he made the attempt because giving up the city without a fight would have seriously damaged American morale.Battles during 1776 and 1777 were costly for both sides.
Washington divided his troops between Manhattan Island and Long Island. The British landed in force on Long Island in August and attacked Washington's troops on Brooklyn Heights from both front and rear. The result was a disastrous American defeat. However, Washington prevented the capture of his entire Long Island army by getting it across the East River to Manhattan in small boats just before British warships arrived.
In September, 1776, the British struck at Manhattan Island. Washington took up a defensive position on Harlem Heights. To escape another trap Washington retreated to White Plains, where he lost ground in heavy fighting. Some 6,000 of his men were stationed at Forts Washington and Lee on the Hudson River with the hope of halting a British advance. In November, 3,000 troops at Fort Washington surrendered when attacked by British warships. Fort Lee was hastily evacuated.
Washington began to retreat across New Jersey into Pennsylvania. In December, 1776, with an army that had dwindled to 3,000 men, Washington crossed the Delaware River near Trenton, New Jersey, just as pursuing British troops under General Charles Cornwallis drew near. General Howe called off further pursuit because of approaching winter.
Washington's retreat created gloom among the Americans. Enlistments fell off. There were many desertions. To change this mood, Washington and his army recrossed the Delaware on Christmas night, 1776, and attacked a British garrison, composed mainly of Hessians, at Trenton. The garrison of nearly 1,400 men was wholly broken up40 men were killed, 918 were captured, the rest fled. Cornwallis counterattacked but Washington outmaneuvered him.
Another smashing blow against Cornwallis was struck by Washing-ton's troops near Princeton in January, 1777. American morale soared, especially as the British pulled out from most of New Jersey rather than engage in further winter fighting.