Landing at Kip’s Bay, New York in 1776

September 15, 1776

The Landing at Kip’s Bay took place on September 15, 1776, and led to a battle between the United States and Great Britain, during the American Revolutionary War. The outcome of the battle was a British victory, which gave the British control of New York City and Lower Manhattan Island.

Landing at Kip's Bay, 1776, British flotilla, upscale

This painting depicts the British flotilla landing troops at Kip’s Bay. Image Source: Wikimedia.

Landing at Kip’s Bay Facts

  • Also Known As — The Battle of Kip’s Bay.
  • Date — September 15, 1776.
  • Location — Kip’s Bay, Manhattan, New York.
  • Opponents — United States of America and Great Britain.
  • American CommanderGeorge Washington, Israel Putnam.
  • British Commander — Richard Howe, William Howe, Henry Clinton
  • Winner — Great Britain won the battle of the Landing at Kip’s Bay.
Washington Before the Battle of Trenton, Painting, Trumbull
General George Washington. Image Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Events in the Landing and Battle at Kip’s Bay

These events provide an overview of what happened in the Landing and Battle at Kip’s Bay and what led to the engagement.

  • Following the Siege of Boston, British forces sailed to Halifax, Nova Scotia. American forces moved to New York City, expecting a British attack.
  • British forces landed on Staten Island in July and successfully attacked American defenses at the Battle of Long Island on August 27.
  • Washington and the Continental Army escaped across the East River to Manhattan Island on the night of August 29–30.
  • On September 11, delegates from the Continental Congress met with Admiral Howe at the Staten Island Peace Conference, which failed to end hostilities.
  • Washington held a war council with his officers on September 12, and they decided to abandon New York City and Lower Manhattan Island. They planned to move north to Harlem and King’s Bridge.
  • General Henry Clinton suggested landing British forces at King’s Bridge, to cut off Washington’s escape route, but General William Howe disagreed.
  • On the morning of the 15th, British ships opened fire on the city, to distract American forces.
  • Around 11:00, British forces started to land at Kip’s Bay and met very little resistance.
  • General Washington and General Putnam tried to defend the area, but many of the American troops panicked and fled, forcing a retreat.
  • Putnam and his aide, Aaron Burr, successfully evacuated approximately 3,500 men from New York City to Harlem Heights.
Aaron Burr, Illustration, Sartain
Aaron Burr. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Landing at Kip’s Bay History

Following the Battle of Long Island (August 27, 1776), American forces under the command of General George Washington retreated to Manhattan Island. Not knowing where the British would attack next, Washington Washington spread his forces along the coast of the island and started moving supplies and artillery out of New York City.

Washington set his headquarters up at the Morris House on Harlem Heights, which gave him a view of Horn’s Hook, where the British were expected to land. Another potential landing site — Kip’s Bay — was defended by inexperienced recruits.

September 15

At dawn on September 15, four British ships anchored within a hundred yards of the shore at Kip’s Bay. 

Around 7:00 a.m., British ships sailing north on the Hudson River, under the command of Admiral Richard Howe, started bombarding American forces in New York City. 

Richard Howe, Admiral, British Royal Navy
Admiral Richard Howe. Image Source: Wikipedia.

The Battle at Kip’s Bay Begins

Three hours later, a flotilla of ships carrying 4,000 British troops, including Hessian mercenaries, emerged from Newtown Creek and lined up in the East River. At 11, the four British ships that had arrived at dawn started a bombardment of the American forces defending Kip’s Bay.  

After an hour, the American officers ordered a withdrawal, and the flotilla started landing the troops with little opposition. When the Americans saw the enemy troops, they panicked and fled inland. 

Washington and Putnam Respond

Four miles north of Kip’s Bay, General Washington heard the bombardment. He gathered his aides and rushed to the scene. Meanwhile, south of the city, Major General Israel Putnam responded by sending troops to reinforce the Americans at Kip’s Bay. However, there was confusion in the ranks. Putnam’s men marched in different directions, and some of them decided to flee.

From the high ground overlooking Kip’s Bay, Washington saw the British forces, under the command of General Henry Clinton, secure the landing area. Washington responded by trying to rally and organize militia forces. He ordered them to form a defensive line near present-day Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. 

Israel Putnam, General
Israel Putnam. Image Source: Library of Congress.

American Forces Flee

However, as the British infantry and Hessians advanced, the militia panicked, as did the reinforcements sent by Putnam. Although Washington shouted for his men to defend their positions, the men fled, abandoning their weapons and artillery. Some of them tried to surrender, and many were killed by the Hessians.

Washington was furious and drew his sword and pistols, threatening the men who were fleeing past him. Washington’s aides had to restrain him, grab the reins of his horse, and take him to safety. Soon after, General Howe ascended the high ground and watched as nearly 9,000 more men from his army landed at Kip’s Bay.

Aaron Burr Leads the Americans to Safety

Meanwhile, Putnam rode to Washington and they discussed the situation. Then Putnam rode into the city to start evacuating the troops who were moving supplies and artillery, so they would not be trapped by the British. Putnam and his aide, Major Aaron Burr, organized the 3,500 American troops into a column that stretched 2 miles long. Around 4:00 that afternoon, Burr, who was familiar with the city, guided Putnam and the American column out of the city.

The Murrays Distract General Howe with Tea

Howe failed to take advantage of his superior strength and the disorganization of the American forces. Instead of pursuing the fleeing Americans, Howe and his officers stopped at the home of Robert Murray in Inclenberg, near the high ground overlooking the landing, to have tea with his wife, Mary, and their daughters. According to legend, the Murrays intentionally distracted Howe, providing the Americans with valuable time to evacuate to Harlem Heights.

General William Howe, Illustration
General William Howe. Image Source: Wikipedia.

The British Landing at Kip’s Bay Ends

Around 5:00, the British landing at Kip’s Bay was finished. Howe started deploying his troops in the area and sent a group of marines into the city to raise the British flag. As British troops marched through McGowan’s Pass, near present-day Central Park, Americans opened fire before continuing to fall back to Harlem Heights. The next day, the Battle of Harlem Heights took place, which the Americans won, allowing them to retain control of Upper Manhattan Island.

Landing at Kip’s Bay Interesting Facts

Washington Divided His Defenses After Long Island

After the Battle of Long Island, General Washington defended New York City by splitting his army into three divisions. 

  1. General Israel Putnam and his division stayed in New York City.
  2. General William Heath guarded the area between Harlem and King’s Bridge area, which linked Manhattan Island to the mainland. 
  3. General Nathanael Greene defended the central eastern shore of Manhattan Island.
General Nathanael Greene, Portrait, Illustration
General Nathanael Greene. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

American Defenses at Kip’s Bay

The British were aware of the weak defenses at Kip’s Bay, which was 500 Connecticut militia under the command of Colonel William Douglas. They built entrenchments to defend their position but were quickly overwhelmed in the initial landing.

Aaron Burr’s Escape Route

Before leaving the city, Putnam wanted to take a route that would have taken the American column into the path of the advancing British forces. Burr, a native New Yorker who knew the area well, suggested a route along the Hudson River that allowed the Americans to successfully escape.

Landing at Kip’s Bay Significance

The Landing at Kip’s Bay is important to United States history for the role it played in the New York-New Jersey Campaign of the American Revolutionary War. British forces successfully carried out the landing of thousands of troops, allowing them to take control of New York City on the lower half of Manhattan Island. Britain controlled the city from then until the end of the war.

Landing at Kip’s Bay APUSH Review

Use the following links and videos to study the Landing at Kip’s Bay, the New York-New Jersey Campaign, and the American Revolutionary War for the AP US History Exam. Also, be sure to look at our Guide to the AP US History Exam.

Landing at Kip’s Bay APUSH Definition and Significance

The definition of the Landing at Kip’s Bay for APUSH is an amphibious landing that took place on September 15, 1776. It was an important event in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War. British forces, under General William Howe, successfully landed on Manhattan Island at Kip’s Bay, northeast of New York City. The landing marked the beginning of the British campaign to capture New York City and take control of the Hudson River. The American defenses fell apart and retreated, allowing the British to take control of the city.

The significance of the Landing at Kip’s Bay for APUSH is that the successful landing allowed the British to take control of the city for the remainder of the American Revolutionary War. Afterward, British forces were able to push Washington and the Continental Army off of Manhattan Island, across New Jersey, and eventually into Pennsylvania. By December of 1775, the situation for Washington and the Continental Army was desperate, leading him to organize a daring operation to cross the Delaware River and attack a Hessian outpost at Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas Night.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Landing at Kip’s Bay, New York in 1776
  • Date September 15, 1776
  • Author
  • Keywords Landing at Kip’s Bay, New York-New Jersey Campaign, George Washington, Israel Putnam, Richard Howe, William Howe, Henry Clinton
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 21, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update December 8, 2023