Everyone knows about George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River and subsequent victory in Trenton, but less well known is the Battle of Harlem Heights, which took place in September 1776 on upper Manhattan Island.
Now, new light is now being shone on this important battle thanks to David Price, a historical interpreter at Washington Crossing Historic Park. Price’s new book, The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776, will be released in December and will be available in the park’s gift shop or for pre-order online.
“The Battle of Harlem Heights is an underappreciated milestone in American military history,” Price says. “The engagement on September 16, 1776, was the first successful battle for George Washington’s troops in the quest for independence from Great Britain and presaged the emergence of an effective fighting force among the citizen-soldiers who made up the Continental Army.”
The cooperative effort of regiments from New England, Maryland, and Virginia—whose men lacked any sense of national identity before the Revolution—indicated the potential for this fledgling army to cohere around a common national purpose and affiliation and become the primary instrument for securing America’s right to self-rule.The action began when a contingent of rangers led by Col. Thomas Knowlton of Connecticut encountered British light infantry while conducting a reconnaissance mission on Washington’s orders. What began as a skirmish transformed into a full-fledged battle as both sides reinforced, and a heavy engagement continued for several hours until, with ammunition running low, the British withdrew. Washington decided not to pursue and risk confrontation with a larger force, thereby keeping his army intact.
In The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776, Price conveys the significance of the Continental Army’s first victory and highlights the role of one of its key participants, the largely forgotten Knowlton—the “father of American military intelligence”—who gave his life during the action while urging his rangers forward.
Says fellow author William Kidder, “The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776 is a refreshing and detailed account of this little-known battle and the life of an interesting and significant man, Thomas Knowlton, whose rising contributions to the American cause were cut short by his death. This account should bring about more interest in, and understanding of, the early development of the Continental army.”
David Price is the author of a trilogy about the “Ten Crucial Days” of the American Revolution—John Haslet’s World: An Ardent Patriot, the Delaware Blues, and the Spirit of 1776; The Road to Assunpink Creek: Liberty’s Desperate Hour and the Ten Crucial Days of the American Revolution; and Rescuing the Revolution: Unsung Patriot Heroes and the Ten Crucial Days of America’s War for Independence. He is a historical interpreter at both Washington Crossing Historic Park (PA) and Princeton Battlefield State Park (NJ) and holds degrees in political science from Drew University and Rutgers University.