The commander-in-chief of the British army in America was Sir William Howe. His New York campaign of 1776-77 was distinguished by an unerring capacity to miss the rebel jugular. Firstly, having outflanked and encircled Washington’s army at Brooklyn Heights on Long Island, he declined to attack (and probably finish the war), allowing the rebels to escape overnight across the East River. Howe then transferred to Manhattan, quickly occupying New York. Pursuing the American forces up the island, his prevarication would again waste the opportunity for decisive victory at Harlem Heights, and then White Plains. General Cornwallis was then sent to pursue Washington’s retreating army into New Jersey, but Howe diverted him to capture Newport in Rhode Island as a naval base, allowing the American forces to escape and regroup in New Jersey. Here, Howe ordered the British forces to divide into smaller contingent, enabling Washington to mount successful, and morale boosting, counterattacks at Princeton and Trenton.
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