In November 1776 the last position the Americans held on Manhattan Island was the area around Fort Washington on the northern tip, known as Harlem Heights. General Nathan Greene commanded the American positions with a discretion to withdraw if he considered it necessary.
General Howe planned three attacks. Brigadier Lord Percy was to attack from the South up the island. Brigadier Matthews with the light infantry and Guards to cross the Harlem River and attack Baxter on the east side, supported by Lord Cornwallis with the grenadiers and the 33rd Foot. The main attack was to be on Rawlings’ position by Hessian troops commanded by General Von Knyphausen. An additional assault was to be carried out on the same side by the 42nd under Colonel Sterling. (the grenadiers, light infantry, Guards, 33rd and 42nd were the corps regularly used for particularly demanding assignments. It is interesting that the 33rd had a consistently high reputation throughout the1740s and 1750s).
Early on the 15th November Howe called on the fort to surrender. This was refused. A bombardment broke out from British batteries across the Harlem River and the frigate Pearl on the American positions.
At 10am Percy advanced to the attack. At noon Matthews landed on Manhattan and began his assault. Baxter was killed and is militia fled into the fort.
Knyphausen crossed onto Manhattan at Kingsbridge and at 10am began his move south. The two Hessian columns assaulted American positions and after a hard fight with Rawlings’ riflemen the Americans fell back into the fort.
Percy attacked Cadwallader in the South and the 42nd landed on the east side and pushed inland behind Cadwallader’s position, forcing the Americans to fall back to the fort.
With all his troops pinned in Fort Washington under heavy fire, Magaw was forced to surrender to the Hessian general Knyphausen.
Casualties: The British side suffered 450 casualties of which 320 were Hessians. The Americans suffered 2,900 casualties of which the preponderance were prisoners.
Follow-up: Following the battle Fort Lee on the west bank of the Hudson was abandoned and Washington and the Continental Arm retreated to the Delaware.