Young's House, New York

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Young's House, New York

YOUNG'S HOUSE, NEW YORK. (Four Corners). 3 February 1780. The "Neutral Ground" was the term used to describe the zone around New York City lying outside the permanent control of either side. Both the Americans and the British patrolled aggressively all year long, seeking opportunities to overpower small parties, inflict casualties, and damage enemy morale. The regions within the Neutral Ground became hunting grounds for elite units, and both sides sought to employ their best officers as commanders there. The heart of the zone lay in Westchester County, in the region between the Hudson River and Bedford and between White Plains and the Croton River. For the Americans, this sector fell under the supervision of the Highlands Department, which had its headquarters at West Point. In the winter of 1779–1780 Major General William Heath, the departmental head, placed Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Thompson (Tenth Massachusetts Regiment) on duty with a detachment of five Massachusetts companies—about 250 men.

Thompson violated a cardinal rule by remaining in one location for several days. Alerted by an active intelligence network, the British launched an expedition from Fort Knyphausen (previously Fort Washington) against him. Thompson learned of the enemy's advance but, perhaps deceived by the extreme winter weather, thought he had only to deal with a mounted patrol. In reality he was the target of Lieutenant Colonel Chaple Norton with 450 infantry and 100 mounted men. The core of the task force consisted of the two grenadier and two light companies of the Guards Brigade, augmented by detachments from two Hesse-Cassel infantry regiments, some mounted and dismounted jägers, and forty Loyalists from Colonel James De Lancey's Westchester Refugees (The Cowboys).

Norton's mounted vanguard overwhelmed a nineman outpost and then opened a long-range fire on Thompson, who had three of his companies in position at the crossroad. Around 9 a.m. Norton's main body came up and the opposing forces spent fifteen minutes in a hot firefight. Some of the Americans broke and the rest withdrew, covered by a fourth company that came up. A few took refuge in the house of Joseph Young, which was captured and burned.

The Americans lost fourteen killed, fourteen wounded, and ninety-five captured, including Thompson. Norton admitted losing five killed and eighteen wounded.


Heath, William. Heath's Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint, Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1970.

Hufeland, Otto. Westchester County during the American Revolution, 1775–1783. New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1926.

                       revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.

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Young's House, New York

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