Battle of Springfield (1780)

Battle of Springfield (1780)

The Battle of Springfield was a battle fought in the American Revolutionary War. Long thought to have been a raid in force, British records came to light in the 1800s that showed it was an attempt at gaining a strategic foothold in New Jersey by capturing the American headquarters in Morristown. Fact|date=May 2008


Under the command of the Hessian general Baron Wilhelm von Knyphausen, British forces attempted an invasion of New Jersey in the spring of 1780, speculating that local residents, fatigued by the war, would welcome them. Originating in Staten Island and marching through Elizabethtown, Knyphausen intended to capture the strategic Hobart Gap, enabling a march on American headquarters in Morristown. British forces consisted of elements from the Brigade of Guards, the 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment, Black Watch, 43rd Regiment of Foot, Royal Regiment of Artillery, 17th Lancers, 1st American Regiment (Queen's Rangers), Jäger Corps the Musketeer Regiment von Donop, and Musketeer Regiment von Bose.

Springfield had been the site of frequent raids and plundering missions by British forces earlier, resulting in a particularly vigilant population. One raid, on June 7, 1780, known as the Battle of Connecticut Farms, resulted in the burning of the community, in what is now Union Township, New Jersey, when Hannah Caldwell was killed.

When Knyphausen moved in force toward the Hobart Gap, American troops, consisting of regular troops from Rhode Island, troops under Light Horse Harry Lee, and New Jersey militia, decided to take a stand in the small village of Springfield. As it turned out, George Washington had held his general headquarters in Springfield until the day before but left the defense to General Nathanael Greene.


British and Hessian forces launched a two-pronged attack along Vauxhall Road and Galloping Hill Road (modern Morris Ave.). American forces were entrenched at the Morris Ave. Rahway River crossing in anticipation of both the attacks and held their ground long enough to slow the Crown advance until American reinforcements could arrive. Units of the attackers also crossed the river at Vauxhall Road and attempted flanking maneuvers through modern day Millburn toward the town center of Springfield and along the foot of the Short Hills towards the Hobart Gap. American forces in reserve repelled the attacks. American reserves held in the hills ahead, and Knyphausen's forces retreated.

Fighting was fierce; at one time the British launched five attacks in the span of 40 minutes. When retreating, Loyalist civilians set fire to the village in retribution for the confiscation of their homes and lands by the Rebellious Americans, burning down all but four buildings, including the 1st Presbyterian Church of Springfield [ The building we see today was rebuilt on the same lane in 1791] . American forces and militia continued to harass British forces during their retreat, possibly expediting the full withdrawal to Staten Island.

According to legend, Reverend James Caldwell (Hannah Caldwell's widower), chaplain of Jonathan Dayton's regiment, passed out pages from the Watts hymnal book to be used as wadding. The battle cry "Give 'em Watts, boys" was apparently coined from this incident.


This was one of the last major engagements of the Revolutionary War in the north and effectively put an end to British ambitions in New Jersey. Because the decisive battles of the war moved further south, the Battle of Springfield became known as the "forgotten victory."

The river crossings where American forces put up their defense were near today's intersection between Vauxhall Road and Millburn Avenue; and Morris Avenue near Washington Avenue.


External links

* [ Commemorative website set up for anniversary of the battle]
* [ Local DAR history of the battle]
* [ chapter on Hessians]

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