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Thursday, 18 October 2012

Assault on Fort Washington

Battle of Ft. Washington November 16, 1776
Composite Battalions of Guards, Grenadiers, Lights, 4th, 10th, 15th, 23rd, 27th, 28th, 38th, 42nd, 43rd, 52nd, 71st Hessians vs 3rd Penn, 5th Penn, Rawlings Maryland, Virginia Rifles, Bucks Co. Militia
 This was refought twice once in April, 2012 and 10/14/12. Due to the casualties the British suffered in the battle of Long Island, some of the troops used were almalgamated into composite battalions. As well, the 17th Light dragoons added support to this action.
The British light infantry had scouted out the fort prior to the assault. The Lights took up position on the left, the Dragoons deployed forward of them, while the other battalions deployed as though to conduct a frontal assault on the fort. The Royal Artillery provided gun support to the lights and dragoons, while the Hessian gunners provided fire support for the fient in the front. The actual main attack was being carried out by the Grenadier companies and Royal Irish Artillery on the rear of the fort, where the Americans had neglected to place any artillery. The British guns began an artillery duel whereby their superior training took out most of the American guns. The dragoons charged the American militia horse but were badly shot up in the flank by a well crewed American gun. The American horse did well, scattering the 17th Light dragoons but eventually the British were able to destroy the patriot horse with artillery fire. The Light infantry and battalion companies advanced to contact and were taking casualties from the remaining rebel artillery and musket fire. But once again, British courage with bayonet charges cleared out the Americans after brisk volleys of musketry. Eventually, the Americans surrendered but could console themselves with the fact that they delayed the British once again.
The second refight was to test the morale of the American militia. The Light Infantry battalion stayed out of the action leaving the highlanders, regulars and Hessians to assault the fort.
(photo courtsey 2nd Battalion DeLancey's Brigade, New Brunswick, Canada)
The British commander made a tactical error by screening his guns with infantry. This meant that he was unable to concentrate artillery fire onto the American fort. Consequently, the American artillery tore great holes into the attacking British columns until the RA could fire. The Hessian artillery fared little better, being taken out early in the action by the American artillery. As the British Grenadier battalion charged in, the militia fled, leaving the American riflemen to hold off the attack. The militia spent most of the battle attempting to climb back into the fort, which the fort commander refused. The Hessians were within a whisker of breaking through when the militia finally found their courage and blasted them away. This gave heart to the rest of the defenders who then counter attacked on the advancing Loyalist and 55th Regt brigade which was destroyed. The Black Watch broke into the fort once but due to the lack of supporting RA fire were driven back by the American guns. The supporting advance by the 17th Regiment was also blunted. Eventually, the entire British attack fell back and retreated, leaving the Americans victorious. Note to the British commander to always place the guns first.
(photo courtsey of Flintlock and Tomahawk)

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