Revolutionary Trenches On Crow Hill Described

Herbert B. Howe of Mount Kisco has an interesting account in the current Bulletin of the Westchester County Historical Society of the activities of the Maryland troops in Westchester County during the Revolutionary War, and of the remains of their entrenchments, which are still to be seen on top of Crow Hill, Yorktown.

'The remains of military trenches may easily be followed on the top of Crow Hill in Yorktown, east of the Croton River commanding Pines Bridge. The 172 year old fortification was made by Maryland regiments under General Reazin Beall immediately following the Battle of White Plains. The sudden withdrawal of the British from Washington's Center along what is now North Broadway and their retreat down the road to Dobbs Ferry where there were British ships naturally suggested attack from the north. Such a move would have been most serious and as a prevention the Marylanders fortified Crow Hill with General Stirling patrolling from that vital point to the Hudson River. That the Crow Hill trenches and General Stirling saw no action was a reflection on General Howe's ability to carry through his victory on Chatterton Hill. But the works on Crow Hill overlooking the Bridge bear mute witness to Washington's wisdom even to this day.

'On Oct. 31, 1776, Tench Tilghman wrote William Duer. The enemy, from their late movements, seem inclined to cross over to the North River by our rear and march up the Albany road to Croton's river. To hinder them from effecting this, if such should be their intention, General Beall with three good regiments of Maryland troops had marches to take possession of Croton (Pines) Bridge and Lord Stirling who is keeping pace with the enemy's left bank, has orders to push up also to Croton's River and the passes in the Highlands, our army will be safe from further pursuit, will have time to recruit themselves from our amazing fatigue, and will be fresh and able to harass the enemy if they should think fit to winter up the country. The campaign hitherto has been a fair trial of Generalship in which I flatter myself we have had the advantage. If we with our motley army can keep Mr. Howe and his grand array at bay, I think we shall make no contemptible military figure.'

Almost 4,000 troops were sent by Maryland at the request of the Continental Congress after Boston was evacuated, and Washington 'was sure that the British, despite their embarkation for Halifax, were intent on New York City. The Maryland Council of Safety and informed their delegates in Congress: 'We are sending all (troops) that we have armed and equipped and the people of New York for whom we have great affection, can have no more than our all.'

The Marylanders had fought in the Battle of Brooklyn and gained 'immortal honor' - an American officer recorded: 'The enemy have gained a little ground, but have bought it almost as dear as they did Bunker hill.'

Of their part in the Battle of White Plains a letter reported 'General McDougall's brigade of which the Maryland regulars is a part laid in the wood for 3 nights, two miles from this place and to the right of the main body as a covering party; was ordered to advance along the road about a mile, near a place called Milestone, and there take post which was accordingly done. The brigade was joined by Hazlett's Delaware battalion and a small regiment of militia from Connecticut. They were no sooner formed than the enemy began a heavy cannonade from a great number of field pieces advantageously disposed on several rising grounds, which was answered by the only two cannon which attended our brigade, little or no execution being done on either side, till Col. Smallwood with the Marylanders was ordered to march down (Chatterton) Hill and attack the enemy, which they did and a smart contest ensued, in which the enemy gave way but rallying again and attacking to the right of the brigade...they got the advantage...Those two brave regiments stood a very heavy fire of the enemy's artillery and musketry for about a half hour when the whole brigade, being vastly outnumbered and cramped in respect of ground was obliged to retreat, a reinforcement under General Putnam not being able to get up in time to give the necessary assistance. This reinforcement was Gen. Beall's Maryland brigade.'

Mr. Howe writes 'These Maryland men, having served with distinction at Brooklyn and Harlem, won additional honors at White Plains. It is therefore no surprise to find Washington sending a part of their contingent for the guard at the all important Pines Bridge. Renown in that task was denied them because of the British Commander's loss of nerve due to his fear of the great distances to be covered in Westchester County. Yet great as our debt is to them, there is no marker in White Plains or Pines Bridge to their valor.'

Mr. Howe is chairman of the editorial board of the society and a vice president of the society which was incorporated in 1874.

The trenches are located on the property of Mrs. Lillian Grenecker, on the east side of Crow Hill Road, overlooking the Croton Valley.

Source: The Yorktown Herald, Vol. XXV No. 36, February 3, 1949

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