The First Major Battle of the American Revolution After The Declaration of Independence
Rare French battle plan depicting the various battles fought in and around New York City, beginning on August 27, 1776.
The present example is the rare second state, significantly improved and updated and offered here in exceptional original color, with manuscript additions, including an extension of the road on the New Jersey Coastline to Amboy at the lower left corner and price (in French).
This battle was not only the first major fight of Revolution after the publication of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, but also the greatest of all the war. The Continental Army, led by General George Washington, faced off against the British forces commanded by General William Howe.
The map highlights American defensive positions on the Brooklyn and Guan (Gowanus) Heights, as well as the positions and movements of British troops from Staten Island and Gravesend in Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Heights.
Howe gradually reinforced his troops near The Narrows on Staten Island and then moved them to a British first line near Gravesend (point A on the map). The British army under Generals Clinton, von Heister (at the head of the Hessian troops) and Grant then moved on Guan Heights (points B, C, D, E and F). The Americans were defeated during the main action of the battle, which included a flank attack by Howe against American positions. Washington withdrew his troops northward to their first defensive position on the heights of Brooklyn, followed by a heroic evacuation to Manhattan, one of the highlights of Washington's military career.
After an American victory in the next battle, the Battle of Harlem High, the British won the battles at White Plains and Fort Washington, both of which took place before the end of the year. These failures eventually led to the withdrawal of the Americans from New York City, abandoning this important strategic site to the British Army until the end of the war in 1783.
The map provides remarkable detail in Manhattan, highlighting the topography, buildings, forts and defensive positions of American troops. In addition to positions on the battlefield, other parts of New York, including Harlem, in northern Manhattan, and small villages such as Flushing and New Town, in what would become the Queens District, are featured on the map.
The map also shows parts of the New Jersey coast, running along the New York Harbor, from Bergen Point to Wehoak (Weehawken), as well as Elizabeth City and Newark, Browns Island and Kennedys, future Ellis Island and Liberty Island, respectively.
The Rare Second State
The first state of the map focuses on the initial battle fought on August 27, 1776 and its immediate aftermath. This is the second state of the map, significantly improving upon the details included in the first state, covering Washington's retreat to Washington Heights and the subsequent actions between the two forces. The most notable changes are:
- The encampments in the north part of Manhattan island, identified as Camp volant des Provinciaux 10,000 Hoes (showing the retrenched position to the north by the Americans after retreating from Lower Manhattan)
- Significant new topographical and fortification details in Harlem and to the north
- The British positions in Lower Manhattan (commanded by General Howe, as noted on the map).
- Paulus Hook and the road to Philadelphia, from Bergen to Newark
- British Fortifications at the Ferry House on Staten island and the crossng route from Penneses Fery.
- British Fortifications at New Town.
- Montresor Island (later Randall Island, home of British Military Engineer and famed mapmaker John Montresor, who acquired the island in 1772).
- Baye de Keep (Kepps Bay).
The map also adds three more details to the table, including
- 5. Ravins couppes de bois, de Rochers, de Redoutes, et de Retranchements (Wood, Rocks, Redoubts, and Entrenchments)
- 6. Hauteur Morris (Washington Heights Mansion owned by British Officer Roger Morris)
- 7. Bluebel Cabaret (Bluebell Tavern in Washington Heights)
The plan was completed by the fall of 1776 and advertised for sale in Paris in the December 1776 edition of the Mercure Francais (p.176). The first edition of Le Rouge's plan is based upon an extremely rare battle plan published by Bowles & Kearsley on October 24, 1776 (Nebenzahl #109), a very crude production, which has not appeared on the market in many decades. This second edition is entirely based upon Le Rouge's updates and improvements.
The map is very rare on the market. The last example to appear in a dealer catalog was in 1996 (High Ridge Books). We note only this example in auction records published in RBH, along with an unpublished result at Caudron in Paris in 2013 (heavily damaged example), which we acquired and sold in 2014.
Among the few surviving examples of this second state of the map is a copy from the Rochambeau collection, preserved in the Library of Congress, which previously belonged to Jean-Baptiste-Donatien of Vimeur, Count of Rochambeau (1725-1807), commander in leader of the French Expeditionary Force (1780-1782) during the American Revolution.
Rochambeau would have acquired the map in anticipation of the French alliance with the Americans, which would be negotiated by Benjamin Franklin and would not be formalized until 1778.