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HistoryCentral.com > America's Wars > Revolutionary War > Major Documents > White Plains

Battle of Harlem Heights

Battle of White Plains
Colonel John Haslet to Caesar Rodney.

November 12, 1776

I received his Excellency's orders to take possession of the hill [Chatterton's Hill] beyond our lines, and the command of the Militia regiments there posted; which was done. We had not been many minutes on the ground when the cannonade began, and the second shot wounded a militia-man in the thigh, upon which the whole regiment broke and fled immediately, and were not rallied without much difficulty. Soon after, General McDougall's brigade took post behind us. Some of our officers expressed much apprehension from the fire of our friends so posted. On my application to the general, he ordered us to the right, formed his own brigade on the left, and ordered Brocks's Massachusetts Militia still farther to the right, behind a stone fence.

The troops being thus disposed, I went up to the top of the hill, in front of our troops, accompanied by Major McDonough, to reconnoitre the enemy, I plainly perceived them marching to the White-Plain, in eight columns, and stop in the wheat-fields a considerable time. I saw their General Officers on horse back assemble in council, and soon their whole body face about and in one continued column march to the hill opposite to our right. I then applied to General McDougall again to vary his disposition, and advised him to order my regiment farther onward, and replace it with Colonel Smallwood's, or order the colonel forward, for there was no dependence to be placed on the Militia. The latter measure was adopted.

On my seeing the enemy's march to the creek begin in a column of their main body, and urging the necessity of bringing our field-pieces immediately Forward to bear upon them, the general ordered one, and that so poorly appointed, that myself was forced to assist in dragging it along the rear of the regiment. While so employed, a cannon-ball struck the carriage, and scattered the shot about, a wad of tow blazing in the middle. The artillerymen
fled. One alone was prevailed upon to tread out the blaze and collect the shot. The few that returned made not more than two discharges, when they retreated with the field piece.

At this time the Maryland battalion was warmly engaged, and the enemy ascending the hill. The cannonade ftom twelve or fifteen pieces, well served, kept up a continual peal of reiterated thunder. The Militia regiment behind the fence fled in confusion, without more than a random, scattering fire. Colonel Smallwood in a quarter of an hour afterwards gave way also. The rest of General McDougall's brigade never came up to the scene of action. Part of the first three Delaware companies also retreated in disorder, but not till after several were wounded and killed. The left of the regiment took post behind a fence on the top of the hill with most of the oflficers, and twice repulsed the Light Troops and Horse of the enemy; but seeing ourselves deserted on all hands, and the continued column of the enemy advancing, we also retired. Covering the retreat of our party, and forming at the foot of the hill, we marched into camp in the rear of the body sent to reinforce us.

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