The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776


"The U.S. Army's First Victory and the Legacy of Thomas Knowlton"

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"A remarkably well-researched, readable, and informative book."

—The Journal of America's Military Past


(Westholme Publishing, 2022. ISBN 978-1-59416-394-4) The Battle of Harlem Heights is a largely unappreciated milestone in American military history. This engagement on upper Manhattan Island on September 16, 1776 marked the first successful battlefield outcome achieved by George Washington’s troops in the quest for independence from Great Britain and presaged the gradual emergence of an effective fighting force among the citizen-soldiers who made up the Continental Army and bore the brunt of young America’s struggle for political and economic self-determination. The cooperative effort of regiments from New England, Maryland, and Virginia—whose men lacked any sense of national identity before the Revolution—indicated the potential for this fledgling army to cohere around a common national purpose and affiliation and become the primary instrument for gaining American independence. This work seeks to convey an enhanced appreciation of the battle and to raise the historical profile of a key participant who is largely unknown except among Revolutionary War aficionados. Colonel Thomas Knowlton of Connecticut was mortally wounded at Harlem Heights while leading an elite contingent known as Knowlton’s Rangers, the U.S. Army’s first intelligence and reconnaissance unit. Knowlton and his Rangers precipitated and were especially conspicuous in the battle, and the extensive focus on him and the men he led lends this volume a distinctive quality. No other modern-day work has incorporated this level of detail about the colonel’s life and especially his remarkable record in the War of Independence and his role as the father of American military intelligence.

David's book is part of the Small Battles Series launched by Westholme Publishing in 2020. Publisher Bruce Franklin is collaborating with historians Mark Edward Lender and James Kirby Martin, series editors, to offer a fresh and important new perspective on the story of America’s early military conflicts that focuses on these engagements at their most intimate and revealing level. 

A nineteenth-century print engraved by James Charles Armytage based on the Battle of Harlem by Alonzo Chappel (1859), which depicts the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot—known as "The Black Watch"—in retreat during that engagement (New York Public Library, Emmet Collection).



Reviewer Comments

"The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776 is the fourth title in the Small Battles Series, and we are very pleased to recommend it.... David Price has given us an outstanding account of this genuinely interesting and important small battle." 
—MARK EDWARD KENDER and JAMES KIRBY MARTIN, distinguished historians and Series Editors, Westholme Small Battles Series (from the Series Editors' Introduction to the book)

"David Price's The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776 is a refreshing and detailed account of this little-known battle and the life of an interesting and significant man, Thomas Knowlton, whose rising contributions to the American cause were cut short by his death. This account should bring about more interest in, and understanding of, the early development of the Continental army." 
—WILLIAM L. KIDDER, author of Ten Crucial Days: Washington’s Vision for Victory Unfolds and Crossroads of the Revolution: Trenton, 1774-1783

"The battle of Harlem Heights was a surprising victory for the American forces amid a series of disastrous defeats and a humiliating retreat. Author David Price relates the story of how a dispirited but unconquered force turned back an army that had only days before seemed invincible. Although the battlefield has long since been obliterated by more than two centuries of urbanization, Price relates the scenes of action to current locations in New York City." 
—GLENN F. WILLIAMS, Ph.D., Retired historian, U.S. Army Center of Military History, and author of Dunmore's War: The Last Conflict of America's Colonial Era and Year of the Hangman: George Washington’s Campaign against the Iroquois

"This carefully researched and well-documented book will appeal to both scholars and readers interested in the American Revolution.”
—KIM BURDICK, M.A., M.P.A., founder of the American Revolution Round Table of Northern Delaware and author of Revolutionary Delaware: Independence in the First State

"In this book, David Price offers up a story within a story within a story. First, it is about the New York campaign of 1776 and its overall significance to the American Revolution. Second, it details the Battle of Harlem Heights, an all-too-overlooked engagement in which Patriot soldiers at last demonstrated their battlefield prowess against Europe’s finest, the British army. Finally, there is Price’s portrait of Colonel Thomas Knowlton, who fell of a mortal wound at that battle yet doubtless would have attained higher rank and garnered greater fame in service to the American cause had he survived. This enjoyable and well-researched read informs us well about this neglected battle and man. Looming over all this is George Washington, whose depiction runs like a golden thread throughout the narrative at each level. It is also gratifying to us that Price references Lloyd Garrison, contemporary New Jersey painter of the Revolution, with whom our Foundation has a longstanding and close association."
—RICHARD J. KANE, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired, Chairman, Swan Historical Foundation, Inc., whose mission is to encourage knowledge and appreciation of the American Revolution for the benefit of present and future generations

"David Price's fluid narrative is not only exciting but informative and thought-provoking. I highly recommend the Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776 as a must-read to understand this early American battlefield success in the Revolution.”
—ROGER S. WILLIAMS, Vice-Chair, History Committee, National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution

"Once again, David Price has given us a stirring account of a long-overlooked, small but important Revolutionary action, coupled with the tale of a heroic but mostly forgotten Revolutionary leader. Price takes us through the lead-up to, and the action at, Harlem Heights in September 1776, along with the story of Thomas Knowlton. An important new history." 
—BILL WELSCH, President, American Revolution Round Table of Richmond and cofounder of the Congress of American Revolution Round Tables

"In his inimitable fashion, David Price has done it again. As in Rescuing the Revolution and John Haslet's World, Price vividly tells the story of a little-known American, Thomas Knowlton of Connecticut, who deserves to be better known. He played a key role in the Battle of Harlem Heights, the first victory of the American army and one of the few bright spots in the dismal New York campaign of 1776. This may be one of the less-celebrated stories of the Revolution, but Price excels at bringing these to life, reminding us again that the unsung heroes deserve to have their stories told too.”
—KIM P. GALLAGHER, Ph.D., Trustee and Historical Interpreter, Princeton Battlefield Society 

"For those who enjoy learning about the second-tier stories of the Revolutionary War, David Price’s fourth book, The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776, is very worthwhile reading. David has a unique style that makes for informative and very interesting reading. I heartily recommend his latest book in order to get a clearer understanding of the importance of this engagement and especially the tragic loss of two of the army’s very capable young leaders.”
—THOMAS MADDOCK II, Historical Interpreter, Washington Crossing Historic Park

"In this well-written and well-researched book, simultaneously illuminating and entertaining, David Price takes the obscure Battle of Harlem Heights and brings it to life for modern-day readers. One can only hope that it will give this important historical event the attention it has long deserved.”
—JEFFREY EVAN BROOKS, author of Shattered Nation: An Alternate History Novel of the American Civil War 

Book Review Snippets

“David Price presents in less than 200 pages a remarkably well-researched, readable, and informative book on what is arguably a little-known, but very important episode of the American Revolution, the Battle of Harlem Heights.... The Battle of Harlem Heights is another enjoyable and informative book in Westholme Publishing’s “Small Battles” series. This series spotlights small, often overlooked yet important episodes of the American Revolution.”
—JAMES STACY in The Journal of America's Military Past (Winter 2023)

“David Price’s fourth book, The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776, gives us a thorough and informative account of this small but vital engagement.... David’s writing style makes the book very enjoyable and comprehensible. It is both informative and easy to follow. I have no doubt you will agree.” (Read entire review here.)
—THOMAS MADDOCK II, Historical Interpreter, Washington Crossing Historic Park, in Crossing Currents, the newsletter of The Friends of Washington Crossing Park (March 2023)

From a Battle of Harlem Heights tour guide:

Mr. Price -

I'm writing to say I love The Battle of Harlem Heights.... Even though I've read just about everything on the battle and have led walking tours over its landscape, I learned a great deal from your book (and confirmed a few things that I wasn't quite sure about). Anyways, kudos and thank you for writing such a well-written and researched book.


Mark Satlof, New York City - April 26, 2023

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