Battle of Pell’s Point Summary
The Battle of Pell’s Point — also called the Battle of Pelham — took place on October 18, 1776, between the United States of America and Great Britain. Although it was a small battle, it played an important role in the New York and New Jersey Campaign of 1776–1777. Over the summer, British forces pushed the Americans out of Brooklyn and Manhattan, to the northern end of Manhattan Island. Although the British Commander-in-Chief, William Howe, had several chances to crush the Continental Army, he was hesitant. At every turn, Howe’s caution provided Washington the opportunity he needed to escape.
By September, the Continental Army was trapped at Harlem Heights between Howe’s army and the British Royal Navy. Howe decided to launch an attack and landed around 4,000 British and Hessian troops at Throgs Neck on October 12. The goal was to flank Washington at Harlem Heights and trap the Americans on the island. However, American forces put up a strong fight and forced the British to pull back.
Howe launched another assault on October 18. This time, he landed his men at Pell’s Point, about three miles north of Throgs Neck. The British forces were under the command of Howe, Henry Clinton, and Charles Cornwallis. This time, they landed without a fight.
Colonel John Glover of Massachusetts and his men were stationed near St. Paul’s Church in Mt. Vernon, New York. Glover was up early that morning and climbed to the top of a hill. From there he saw the British landing at Pell’s Point. He quickly returned to camp, sent word to General Charles Lee, and rallied his men. He set up an ambush by hiding his men behind stone walls that dotted the landscape along the road.
When the British appeared, the Americans opened fire, catching the enemy by surprise. Despite the advantage, Glover and his men — around 750 — were outnumbered and eventually overwhelmed. Glover ordered his men to fall back. They crossed over Hutchinson Creek and took positions along the road to White Plains and the two sides bombarded each other with artillery until night fell.
Howe did not pursue Glover. Instead, the Hessian troops took control of St. Paul’s Church for use as a hospital. Although the British won the battle, Glover and his men held out long enough to allow the main body of the Continental Army to finish its march to White Plains.
Quick Facts About the Battle of Pell’s Point
- Date Started: The Battle of Pell’s Point was fought on Friday, October 18, 1776.
- Date Ended: The battle ended on October 18, 1776.
- Location: It was fought in The Bronx, New York, in Westchester County.
- Theater: The Battle of Pell’s Point took place in the Northern Theater of the American Revolutionary War.
- Campaign: The battle was part of the New York and New Jersey Campaign of 1776–1777.
- Who Won: Great Britain won the Battle of Pell’s Point.
- Fun Fact: The Battle of Pell’s Point is also known as the Battle of Pelham.
What Happened at the Battle of Pell’s Point?
In the summer of 1776, the American struggle for independence intensified. On July 2, the Second Continental Congress approved the Lee Resolution and declared independence from Britain. Two days later, the Declaration of Independence was approved and copies were sent throughout the colonies to be read to the people.
Six weeks later, the fight intensified when the American and British armies fought the Battle of Long Island on August 27. The British won the battle and forced the Continental Army, led by General George Washington, to fall back to defensive positions in Brooklyn Heights.
Two days later, on August 29, the Americans escaped in a daring nighttime maneuver. Under the cover of heavy fog, Washington moved his men on Long Island moved across the East River to Manhattan Island. The boats that moved the troops were piloted by Colonel John Glover and his regiment from Marblehead, Massachusetts. Once the Continental Army was safe across the river.
It was around that time that Washington sent a young officer — Nathan Hale — on a spy mission. Hale traveled across British lines. On September 15, the Great New York Fire started and burned nearly one-third of the city to the ground. The next day, the two armies fought at the Landing at Kip’s Bay, and Washington was forced to retreat to Harlem Heights. On the 16th, British forces attacked Washington, but the Americans held their ground. However, they suffered the loss of Colonel Thomas Knowlton, who had recently been put in charge of Washington’s intelligence operations and was Hale’s commanding officer. By then, Hale had gathered the information Washington needed and he tried to return to the American camp. Unfortunately, he was discovered — likely by the famous ranger Robert Rogers. Hale was tried and found guilty of spying. General William Howe ordered Hale’s execution, which was carried out on September 22.
At that point, the British occupied New York City. Howe and Lieutenant Henry Clinton devised a plan to land troops on Manhattan Island via an amphibious assault and surround the Continental Army.
Americans Hold Off the British Landing at Throgs Neck
Early on the morning of October 12, 1776, Howe attempted to land 80 barges with British and Hessian troops — around 4,000 total — at Throgs Neck. The landing was covered by a British frigate, which bombarded the American position. Howe’s goal was to trap Washington and the Continental Army on Manhattan Island. A small force of Americans — 25 in total — led by Colonel Edward Hand — was all that stood between the British force and the Americans. The Americans burned a bridge the British would have to use to cross a small creek and then took defensive positions behind piles of wood. As the British disembarked, the Americans fired on them and easily picked them off. Once again, instead of pressing the attack and using his advantage, Howe called off the attack and pulled back. The delay gave Washington time to plan an escape. On October 17, the Continental Army started its march to White Plains.
The British Assault at Pell’s Point
Six days later, the British attempted another amphibious assault on Manhattan Island. This time, they landed three miles north of Throgs Neck, at Pell’s Point — present-day Rodham’s Neck in Pelham Bay Park.
Glover was scouting in the morning and saw the British landing at Pell’s Point. He sent Major William Lee to the American camp with the news and to ask for orders. Lee told General Charle Lee about the landing, but he failed to send orders back to Glover, which forced Glover to take action on his own. Glover and his Massachusetts men — the “Marblehead Mariners” — were all that stood between the British force and the main force of the Continental Army.
At first, Glover took some of his men and went to meet the British. When they encountered a small advance force of skirmishers, Glover sent his own advance force ahead and went back to his camp. When he returned, he set up an ambush by placing his men behind lines of stone walls that were spread out along the sides of the road. He instructed his men to fire and fall back. The tactic was meant to delay and wear down the advancing British force.
Once his men were in position, he rode back to his advance force. There was a brief skirmish and Glover ordered his men to fall back when British reinforcements arrived. The British followed and closed in on the area where Glover had set up the ambush. When they were about 100 feet away, about 200 of Glover’s men, who were on the left side of the road, stood up and opened fire. The British force suffered heavy casualties and fell back.
Half an hour later, the entire force of 4,000 men advanced — under the covering fire from 7 cannons. The Americans were still hiding behind stone walls and were protected from the bombardment. The British advanced again and when they were about 150 feet away, the Americans stood up and fired. This time, the British held their ground and both sides fired on each other for about 20 minutes. At that point, Glover and his men fell back to the next line of stone walls. This continued 17 times — the British would advance, and the Americans would stand, fire, and fall back. Eventually, Cornwallis moved into position to flank Glover, which forced the Americans to withdraw. Glover’s reserves covered the retreat of the main force which crossed over Hutchinson Stream. Afterward, the two sides bombarded each other with artillery until darkness fell.
During the battle, the Americans suffered around 20 casualties, while the British casualties were at last around 220, but possibly as high as 2,000. Most of the men that were wounded were Hessian mercenaries fighting for the British.
Aftermath of the Battle of Pell’s Point
The British held the field and won the battle, but it was just as much of a tactical victory for the Americans. Washington successfully moved the Continental Army to White Plains. Two weeks later, the two armies would clash again at the Battle of White Plains.
Why Does the Battle of Pell’s Point Matter?
The Battle of Pell’s Point is significant because the action taken by John Glover and Marblehead Men successfully slowed down the British advance. It bought time for Washington and the main army to evacuate from Harlem Heights to White Plains.
Important Facts About the Battle of Pell’s Point
- The skirmish on October 12 is known as the Battle of Throgs Neck or the Battle of Throgs Point.
- The British force was around 4,000 men. Most of them were Hessian troops, not British Redcoats.
- Glover and his men were about a mile from where the British force landed at Pell’s Point.
- When Glover saw the British coming, he sent an advance force out to meet them and positioned the rest of his men along the road. The advance force fired on the British and fell back.
- When the British were on the road, and about 100 feet away, the men on the left side stood up and fired 7 volleys. After they fired, they fell back to the next position.
- The British fell back and took 30 minutes to regroup.
- When the British advanced, they were supported by artillery fire from 7 guns.
- The Americans held their own, firing a volley and then falling back — 17 times.
- Glover and his men retreated to the west side of Hutchinson Stream.
- Howe took a position on a hill on the east side.
- The Americans had 3 cannons and both sides bombarded each other until dark.
- The next day, Glover withdrew to Yonkers, which was 3 miles northwest of Pell’s Point.
- The British force took over St. Paul’s Church and used it as a hospital.
Military Commanders at the Battle of Pell’s Point
- John Glover
- William Howe
- Henry Clinton
- Charles Cornwallis
Battle of Pell’s Point Frequently Asked Questions
John Glover was a fisherman, merchant, and military leader from Marblehead, Massachusetts. He served as a Brigadier General in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and is known for leading the “Marblehead Men of Massachusetts.” Glover and his men ferried the Continental Army across the Delaware River on Christmas Night 1776 — one of the most famous events of the American Revolutionary War.
The men known as the “Marblehead Men of Massachusetts” were the 14th Continental Regiment, also known as “Glover’s Regiment” after their commanding officer, Colonel John Glover. The regiment was formed in January 1775. One month later, some of them defied Colonel Alexander Leslie during the Salem Gunpowder Raid. After the war started, the regiment participated in the Siege of Boston and then joined the Continental Army in June 1775. The Marblehead ferried Washington’s army across the East River after the Battle of Long Island. However, they are most well-known for carrying the army across the Delaware River on the night of December 25–26, 1776, which allowed Washington to launch a surprise attack on the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton.
British forces won the Battle of Pell’s Point.
The Battle of Pell’s Point was fought on October 18th, 1776.
Battle of Pell’s Point AP US History (APUSH) Study Guide
Use the following links and videos to study the Battle of Pell’s Point, the Marblehead Men, and the New York and New Jersey Campaign for the AP US History Exam.
Battle of Pell’s Point APUSH Definition
The definition of the Battle of Pell’s Point for the AP US History exam is a battle fought between the United States of America and Great Britain on October 18, 1776. It took place in The Bronx, New York, in Westchester County, during the New York and New Jersey Campaign of the American Revolutionary War. Great Britain won the battle.
American History Central Resources and Related Topics
- Battle of Lexington, 1775
- Battle of Concord, 1775
- Siege of Boston, 1776–1776
- Battle of Long Island, 1776
- Second Continental Congress
- Nathan Hale