Battle of Pell's Point was a pivotal point in the Revolutionary War

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2006-10-17

There was not a surrender, nor were prisoners taken or even a handover of weapons; but the Battle of Pell's Point was a pivotal point in the Revolutionary War that changed the outcome of our fledgling nation.

This weekend, that oft-overlooked battle will be commemorated with a re-creation of an encampment at Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site.

On Oct. 18, 1776, a small brigade of 750 American soldiers held off a 4,000-man British regiment, thus helping the main army led by Gen. George Washington withdraw into Westchester County.

The battle took place about a mile from St. Paul's Church, where a host of activities and events are planned for this weekend.

"There are so many ways to learn about the past. This is a way to commemorate the battle and the world around it," said David Osborn, site manager at St. Paul's. "This battle serves as a real history lesson."

Tonight there will be a concert of 18th century folk music and a candlelight tour of the cemetery.

Tomorrow's event will have volunteers dressed as soldiers and civilians in 18th century clothing and will feature musket firings, craft demonstrations and lectures on the American Revolution. Musicians will be performing period music and volunteers will be cooking the common food of the time, beef stew, over an open hearth.

A blacksmith, a cooper (a wooden-barrel maker), and a spinner will be making crafts. Historical games for children will include hoops and sticks, stilts and graces, a form of catch played in that time period. A short historical play on the impact of the war on African-Americans will be performed.

Throughout the day there will be talks and lectures on the battle and other Revolutionary War topics.

The battle, which is briefly mentioned in history books, could have made a difference in the British Army overpowering American troops, said Maria Byrne, a historian at St. Paul's.

It was the beginning of the Revolutionary War and Washington's troops were chased into northern Manhattan and in danger of being trapped there. They were trying to make their way into Westchester but knew they would be headed off by British troops. Col. John Glover led his outnumbered brigade to Pell's Point and lay in wait behind the many stone walls that lined the road. There they engaged the British and Hessian soldiers, successfully delaying them and allowing safe passage for Washington and his troops, Byrne said.

"This was a very necessary battle," said Byrne, who will give a lecture on the life of Glover. "If this battle didn't happen we might have been speaking with a British accent today. Most people are not aware of the importance of this battle."

Visitors will get an opportunity to not just learn about the battle but see how the soldiers and civilians lived at that time.

"The encampment is a wonderful piece of living history," Byrne said. "It takes us back to that period and allows us to touch, smell and see it."

National Park Ranger Michael Callahan will give a lecture on the British perspective of the battle. Callahan, a retired Army captain, will talk about the other battles that led up to Pell's Point and what happened afterward.

"I hope this sparks an interest," Callahan said. "This is a way to learn a different side to the Revolutionary War and learn about history that took place in our area."


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