The Robinson Library
The Robinson Library >> American History >> United States: General History and Description >> The Revolution, 1775-1783 >> Campaigns and Battles
Battle of White Plains

October 28, 1776

Following the American "victory" at Harlem Heights on September 16, 1776, both sides decided to lay back and rethink their strategies. George Washington was encamped on the northern end of Manhattan, while British General William Howe occupied the rest of the island.

On October 12, 1776, Howe decided to execute a flanking maneuver designed to trap Washington's army between his main army and the East, Harlem and Hudson rivers. To that end, he sent about 13,000 British and German troops by boat up the East River, through Hell Gate, and into Long Island Sound. The initial landing at Throg's Neck was repulsed by Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts troops, so Howe's men returned to their boats and went upriver to Pell's Point, where they landed with minimal resistance on October 18. After a minor skirmish at Eastchester, Howe's army advanced to New Rochelle.

Having been warned about Howe's movements by scouts, Washington took the majority of his army (~13,000 men) northward into Westchester County, leaving about 2,000 soldiers under Nathanael Greene to guard Fort Washington. Washington's army arrived at the town of White Plains on October 22. Washington then divided his army into three main columns, with the right flank led by Major General Israel Putnam, the left by Brigadier General William Heath, and the center by Washington.

The Battle of White Plains took place on October 28. As Howe neared, Washington sent 1,600 men under Brigadier General Joseph Spencer to block his advance on the plain between Scarsdale and Chatterton's Hill. Seeing the high ground undefended, Howe sent 4,000 Hessians under Colonel Joham Rall to assault Chatterton's Hill. Realizing that he had made a mistake in not fortifying the hill, Washington sent 1,600 men under Major General Alexander McDougal to meet Rall's troops. The British ultimately succeeded in dislodging the Americans from their positions, but Howe chose to wait for reinforcements rather than launch a full scale assault on the retreating Continental Army. Howe was finally ready to resume the offensive on November 1, but was slowed by a heavy wind and rain storm. Washington took advantage of Howe's delay and led his men in an orderly retreat northward. On November 4, Washington's men were surprised to see the British army marching back toward Manhattan rather than launching an attack. Washington decided to leave about 11,000 troops in the area to halt any future British advance into New England, and led the rest of his army (about 2,500 men) into New Jersey.

movements of British and American armies before and after the Battle of White Plains

map of the Battle of White Plains

The Battle of White Plains was technically a British victory since it resulted in an American retreat, but it was draw strategically since neither side ended up with an advantage of any kind. Counting all the minor skirmishes prior to the main battle, the British suffered a total of 47 killed, 182 wounded, and 4 missing; the Americans had 50 killed, 150 wounded, and 17 captured or missing.

The American Revolution
British Battles

George Washington
William Howe
Nathanael Greene
Israel Putnam

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> American History >> United States: General History and Description >> The Revolution, 1775-1783 >> Campaigns and Battles

This page was last updated on October 28, 2017.