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Fort Lee | Nov 20, 1776

Fort Lee, NJ

Fort Lee (named for Charles Lee) was the next target of William Howe’s army following the capture of Fort Washington a few days prior. Rather than order the fort abandoned and its stores of supplies, weapons, and ammunition removed as Fort Washington fell, General Washington dragged his feet. While Howe was normally slow to respond to a situation, he quickly followed up on his Fort Washington victory. On the rainy evening of November 19, British General Charles Lord Cornwallis landed 5,000 troops at the base of the New Jersey Palisades. After scaling the rain-soaked cliffs, the British-Hessian force found the fort abandoned, yet filled with most of its stores as Washington waited too long to order the retreat and most of the supplies and equipment had to be abandoned. The loss of Forts Washington and Lee coupled with the loss of New York City marked a new low point in the war for the Americans. With the Continental Army marching ahead of the enemy through New Jersey, they crossed the Delaware River and into the safety of Pennsylvania. As Christmas of 1776 approached, essayist Thomas Paine declared in The American Crisis, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”