Fort Washington Renamed To Fort Knyphausen – 11/18/1776

US History |


Traditionally, it is not uncommon for a structure to start off being called one name and then changed to another at a later date. Sometimes the reason can be related to someone’s act of heroism or it may have to do with an individual being disgraced. Looking back in history, there are plenty of examples that demonstrates this which includes one stemming back several centuries earlier. 

Going back to the days of the American Revolution, there was a structure known at one time as Fort Washington. However, British Commander in Chief General William Howe decides to rename it “Fort Knyphausen” on November 18th, 1776 in honor of Lieutenant General Wihelm von Knyphausen as he has rushed the post five days before.

Fort Washington was the scene of an assault launched by Knyphausen on November 16th, 1776 using a force comprised of 5,000 Redcoats and 3,000 mercenaries at the tallest point and the northern end of Manhattan Island. Wihelm met harsh resistance from inside by Patriot riflemen through the course of the morning; however, the Patriots could no longer hold the upper hand by the afternoon and the result was an order of surrender was issued by garrison commander Robert Magaw. The Hessians were now in control of important supplies and ammunition as well as taking 3,000 Patriots prisoners. Unfortunately, a dire fate was waiting for the captured Patriots as a large number of them were anchored in New York Harbor aboard British prison ships where they died.

Patriots Margaret and John Corbin of Virginia were among the 96 wounded and 53 dead. After John had perished in action, Margaret took over for her husband the canyon where she loaded, cleaned and fired the weapon until she became wounded severely. Margaret survived as well as being the first female to have battled for the Continental Army; tragically, she could no longer use her left arm.

An officer for Magaw, William Demont, had two weeks prior left the Fifth Pennsylvania Battalion and became a traitor by giving information regarding the defense and whereabouts of Fort Washington to British Intelligence. Demont had now for the Patriots become their first traitor and his treachery significantly contributed to the victory for Knyphausen.

Presently, Fort Washington stood where now exists Bennet Park that rests in the Washington Heights area of New York City. The park is not far away from the George Washington Bridge while being at the corner of 183rd Street and of Fort Washington Avenue. Another point of interest is that Fort Washington Point and Fort Washington Park reside under the site beside the Hudson River. While tourists may stop to admire the area, historians will remember the location as one of the tragic battles that occurred during the American Revolution.

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