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Fort Washington

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

November 18. –By a person lately from the American camp, a gentleman of undoubted veracity, who was prisoner and enlarged by General Howe, we are informed that the enemy lost before the lines of Fort Washington, seventeen hundred killed on the field, and ninety-six wagon loads of wounded, the most mortally; that our people behaved with the greatest intrepidity and resolution; that our loss was about three hundred killed and wounded. –This account may be depended on, as it came from divers of the British officers, with whom the gentleman was intimately acquainted.

The attack did not commence at the lines at Harlem, as has been reported, that post being at least six miles distant from Fort Washington, but at the outlines north of the fort, distant about a quarter of a mile; that the Hessians made the attack, and marched within point blank pistol shot of the lines, where they were kept at least two hours, and were, by the intrepidity and well-placed fire of our people, cut down in whole ranks. The brave Americans kept their post until a heavy column of British troops appeared in their rear; the lines there being entirely open, obliged them to retreat and endeavor to gain the fort; but the British troops being nearer the fort, cut off and obliged a considerable part to surrender prisoners. The fort was immediately summoned, but the commanding officer first pleaded for a term of five days; that being refused, plead for the honors of war, which was also denied, and the garrison was informed that unless they surrendered at discretion, the fort would be immediately invested, and they must abide the consequence. A council of war was immediately held, and it was decided that, as they had not any water, nor could get any at the places from which the garrison had been supplied with the article, they being in possession of the enemy, and that the fort was not capable of defence, agreed to surrender it and themselves at discretion. The commanding officer of the fort is a gentleman of great courage, and would have defended it as long as a single soldier remained to support it, had it been capable of defence. The highest honors are due to him, his gallant officers, and the brave soldiers who were under his command.1


1 Freeman’s Journal, December 10.

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