A Brief History of the Battle of the Short Hills
The Battle of the Short Hills is a little know battle of the Revolutionary War that occurred on June 26, 1777. The battle was the result of a plan by British Major General William Howe. Howe’s goal was to draw George Washington and the Continental Forces down from the Watchung Mountains. To do this the British plan was to fake a retreat from New Brunswick to Staten Island to trick Washington into moving his troops down to the plains. During the days leading up to June 26, 1777 the British began to move towards Staten Island. Under the cover of night on June 25, Howe and General Charles Lord Cornwallis moved their troops to Perth Amboy, a loyalist stronghold. Their plan was to use the pincer attack they used on Long Island. This attack would allow them to surround and destroy the Continental forces. After defeating the Continentals, the British could then move to capture the American capital of Philadelphia. British success at this battle would mean the end of the colonial revolt and British victory in the war.
Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, George Washington
Major General William Alexander/ Lord Stirling
Major General John Sullivan
Major General Nathanael Greene
Major General Benjamin Lincoln
Major General Adam Stephen
Brigadier General William Maxwell
Brigadier General Thomas Conway
French Colonel Armand-Tuffin
British and Hessian Forces
Major General William Howe
General Charles Lord Cornwallis
Lieutenant-General Sir John Vaughan
So who won?
At the end of the day, the battle was indeed a tactical loss for the Americans. They had far more casualties and lost several pieces of artillery to the British. However, the British plan had been to destroy the Continental Forces on the plains, which would have ended the war. So, although it came at a great cost, the Americans did emerge victorious and the British plan failed. Following the Battle of the Short Hills on June 30, 1777 the British withdrew from New Jersey with Howe having hopes of capturing Philadelphia via the water.
Why does it matter?
Had the day ended differently the Battle of the Short Hills could have ended the Revolutionary War. That aside, the battle marked several mile stone for the American Revolution and warfare in general. First, this battle may have been the first where the American flag was flown as it adopted by Congress less than two weeks earlier on June 14, 1777. This was also the first occasions in which French arms and commands were used even though France did not officially join the war for seven months. In terms of overall military firsts, this was the first battle where the British used the repeating rifle. It is also the first time that both sides used chemical warfare in the form of poisoned bullets and musket balls that had been dipped in fungus.