Battle of Springfield, New Jersey, USA Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Battle of Springfield, New Jersey, USA

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The American Revolutionary War in the Middle Atlantic States:
Battle of New York City | Washington's Retreat from New York City | Washington's Crossing of the Delaware River
Battles of Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey | British Capture of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Battle of Brandywine, Pennsylvania
The Paoli Massacre | Battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania | Battle of the Barrels | The Winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey | Battle of Stony Point, New York | Battle of Springfield, New Jersey | General 'Mad' Anthony Wayne
Molly Pitcher | General Lord Charles Cornwallis

Considered a footnote in the history of the Revolutionary War, this battle1 represented the last real clash between the Americans and British forces in the northern colonies.

An American brigade under the command of General William Maxwell was positioned as a screening force between New York and the Colonial encampments in Morristown, New Jersey. A group of about 300 New Jersey Militia was also in the same general area to defend the colony, should the British move from New York.

A British force of 5,000 men, cavalry and cannon moved into Elizabethtown, New Jersey on 6 June, 1780 and drove the greatly outnumbered militia before them. They continued their advance through the present-day town of Union, New Jersey, where they met Maxwell's force. During the march the British were constantly harassed on their flanks by the militia. After a brief skirmish with Maxwell, the British retreated. They feared a counterattack by the bulk of the Colonial forces that were reportedly marching from Morristown.

During the advance through Union, the British are alleged to have shot and killed Pastor James Caldwell's wife as she held her infant child and then set fire to her home. Caldwell was not at home as he was serving as a chaplain in the Colonial forces.

The British remained in a strong defensive position along the coast for two weeks. Then General Sir Henry Clinton arrived from Charleston, South Carolina with reinforcements. Clinton also directed a feint toward the Hudson Highlands and then personally joined the troops in New Jersey.

When Washington saw Clinton's feint, he left General Nathaniel Greene in command of the forces in New Jersey. He immediately marched with the bulk of his army to deal with this 'threat' to the Hudson Highlands.

On the morning of 23 June, 1780, the British advanced on Springfield again. Greene was in a strong position and waited for his enemy to come. After a bloody, 40-minute skirmish the British again retreated, burning the town to the ground as they went. Only four buildings survived the fires.

During the fighting, Pastor Caldwell is said to have uttered his famous battle cry 'Give them Watts boys'. He was referring to the Watts Hymnals that he stole from the nearby Presbyterian church and passed out to the men to use as wadding for their guns.

After their defeat, the British left New Jersey for good and returned to New York City where they remained for the rest of the war.

1Actually, the fighting itself was little more than a skirmish.

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