This is one of only a few Revolutionary War battle plans that relate to the City of New York, published in the United States.
After the British occupied New York City, General Washington evacuated Manhattan, except for Fort Washington at the northern tip of the island. The British under General Howe moved north and attacked the main American army at White Plains in October 1776. But the Americans remained in control of Fort Washington. On November 16, 1776, the British mounted a six-column attack on the fort that forced the patriots to surrender. Washington's decision to not to evacuate Fort Washington was one of his most serious tactical errors of the war. Almost three thousand men were taken prisoner and the British seized large quantities of supplies and weapons. Four days later General Cornwallis was sent to take Fort Lee on the opposite New Jersey shore, but the Americans stationed there had retreated.
The map was originally drawn by Claude Sauthier in 1777. Sauthier illustrates the four phases of the attack with the letters A through D. The key at right identifies the first attack as that by Gen. Knyphausen, the second by Matthews and Cornwallis, the third as a feint, and the fourth by Lord Percy. Sauthier's delineation of upper Manhattan was the most accurate and detailed to date. The map extends from Haerlem and McGowan's Pass in the south to Tetards Hill and in the north and shows the Redoubt and Fort Lee or Fort Constitution on the West Bank of the Hudson River, along with Fort Washington and the many battle details shown on the east side of the Hudson, and is widely regarded as the best contemporary plan of this battle. The British had a keen interest in the details of the war with the colonies, and manuscript maps and notes were regularly sent back to London and immediately made available in printed form by the leading printers of the day, including Faden, Dury, Lodge, Sayer and others.
This example of the map is a second printing and was designed for Charles Stedman's The History of the Origin, Progress, and Termination of the American War which Sabin considers"the best contemporary account of the Revolution written from the British side. Stedman was a loyalist from Philadelphia who left America but continued his interest after that time.
William Faden (1749-1836) was the most prominent London mapmaker and publisher of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. His father, William Mackfaden, was a printer who dropped the first part of his last name due to the Jacobite rising of 1745.
Apprenticed to an engraver in the Clothworkers' Company, he was made free of the Company in August of 1771. He entered into a partnership with the family of Thomas Jeffreys, a prolific and well-respected mapmaker who had recently died in 1771. This partnership lasted until 1776.
Also in 1776, Faden joined the Society of Civil Engineers, which later changed its name to the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers. The Smeatonians operated as an elite, yet practical, dining club and his membership led Faden to several engineering publications, including canal plans and plans of other new engineering projects.
Faden's star rose during the American Revolution, when he produced popular maps and atlases focused on the American colonies and the battles that raged within them. In 1783, just as the war ended, Faden inherited his father's estate, allowing him to fully control his business and expand it; in the same year he gained the title "Geographer in Ordinary to his Majesty."
Faden also commanded a large stock of British county maps, which made him attractive as a partner to the Ordnance Survey; he published the first Ordnance map in 1801, a map of Kent. The Admiralty also admired his work and acquired some of his plates which were re-issued as official naval charts.
Faden was renowned for his ingenuity as well as his business acumen. In 1796 he was awarded a gold medal by the Society of Arts. With his brother-in-law, the astronomer and painter John Russell, he created the first extant lunar globe.
After retiring in 1823 the lucrative business passed to James Wyld, a former apprentice. He died in Shepperton in 1826, leaving a large estate.