The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

The British Occupy New York City
British Occupy New York

In June 1775, even before the Battle of Bunker Hill only a month after his return to America and assuming the role of military governor of Massachusetts, Lt. General Thomas Gage was already considering occupying New York City. In August 1775, he was making preparations. When Maj. General William Howe replaced Gage in October 1775, he continued to make preparations for such an occupation of New York after quartering in Boston for the winter and the arrival of reinforcements from England.

However, when General George Washington occupied Dorchester Heights in March 1776, General Howe could no longer remain in Boston while making preparations for New York. The British evacuated Boston on March 17. After remaining off the coast for ten days, they set sail for Halifax, Nova Scotia where they would remain until June 1776. Meanwhile, almost immediately after the British evacuation, Washington left for New York.

In January, General Washington had sent Maj. General Charles Lee to New York to make fortifications to the city for defense against the British. Lee was also to raise volunteers from Connecticut to help man those defenses. Lee saw almost immediately how difficult it would be to defend the city from bombardment from the British Navy. On April 13, 1776, Washington arrived in New York, set up his headquarters and even went so far as to issue a circular warning the citizens of New York City of the probability of a British attack on the city.

By June 25, 1776, when General Howe arrived off Sandy Hook, General Washington had 19,000 troops, though 28,500 was his authorized strength. Many of the men were inexperienced Continentals and untried militia. They were ill-equipped and Washington had little artillery, no cavalry and no naval support in the numerous waters around the city.

By July 2, General Howe had 130 ships in the lower waters of New York with 9,300 men from Halifax. His brother, Admiral Richard Howe arrived on July 12 with 150 more ships and reinforcements. On August 12, Maj. General Henry Clinton returned from the failed Charleston Expedition. Howe now had 31,625 men. On August 27, Howe had 24,464 men fit for duty supported by 10,000 sailors under his brother.

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