Dan Becker's American Revolution Battle of Springfield 1780

This article describes a battle from the American Revolutionary War illustrated with paper soldiers from artist Peter Dennis.

The Battle of Springfield New Jersey 1780 was a pivotal battle in the Revolutionary War. At the time, George Washington had suffered a number of defeats and retreats. The British and German allies invaded New Jersey from Staten Island and sought to engage Washington and give him a debilitating defeat. The American general was in Morristown, but the British has to pass between two mountain ranges at a place called the Hobart Gap which was their first goal. As they marched westward, the British army burned the New Jersery towns of Elizabeth and Connecticut Farms (now known as Union). As they approached the town of Springfield, the New Jersey militia and Continental army regiments gave stiff resistance at the Rahway River and caused heavy casualties. The British did make it to Springfield but gave up the invasion, returned to Staten Island, and did not have victory in New Jersey for the rest of the war. Read more about this battle in Thomas J. Fleming's book The Forgotten Victory: The Battle for New Jersey 1780.

Paper soldiers are a new miniatures medium for me. Osprey books artist Peter Dennis has illustrated many soldiers of different eras with the idea that you copy and print as many as you like. Use the soldiers to explore history, play war games, make dioramas, etc.

Many of Peter's works are illustrated in books from Helion & Company publishing. There are many titles from British, American, and Napoleonic historical wars. My article here is made from the title Battle in America Wargame - The American Revolutionary War. There are also downloads availble from Peter's Paperboys Dennis website or The Paperboys Page Facebook group. Lately Peter has been illustrating Romans and Carthginians and the Texas War for Independence.

Click on the photos below to see a gallery of larger images.

The Battle of Springfield 1780

Before illustrating the battle, here is a quick peak at how the soldiers are made. First you copy or scan pages from a Peter Dennis book, or you download files from his web site. Then print off a page such as the American Militia page shown at right. Fold over and glue the soldiers to have matching fronts and backs. Cut out as much of the back ground as possible. Glue the soldiers to a cardboard stand. You now have a small, inexpensive stand of paper miniatures. Peter provides several pages and YouTube videos to show you the process.

Repeat the process until you have as many regiments and brigades as you need for your battle.

Also in the Peter Dennis book are pages for houses and scenery that you can use for battles. The rest of this article has nice paper houses from Peter Dennis. Other scenery elements (fields, felt roads and rivers, and hills) come from items I had from my other miniatures games.

Make Soldiers
Make some paper soldiers

In this photo we see a map of the Battle of Springfield (1780) in New Jersey from Thomas J. Fleming's book The Forgotten Victory: The Battle for New Jersey 1780. The British invaded New Jersey from Staten Island and occupied Elizabethtown. The British headed west on Galloping Hill Road, now known as Morris Avenur or State Route 82. As they marched, they burned parts of Elizabethtown and Connecticut Farms (which is now called Union) including the original wooden Connecticut Farms Church They also killed Parson Caldwell's wife Hannah Caldwell. Parson Caldwell headed west and led some of the militia in the following battle.

As the British approached, the Americans lit beacon fires and fired warning cannons from the Watchung and Newark Mountains to call the militia to arms. George Washington was farther west in Morristown, but the road was guarded by the American cannons on the hills.

To take Springfield, the British divided their superior forces into two. The northern flank led by General Mathew passed through the village of Vauxhall. The southern flank led by General Knyphausen came over a rise known now as Battle Hill. Both flanks had to cross the Rahway River, and this is where the Americans made their stand. American commander Greene defended Springfield via several regiments led by Colonel Dayton, General Heard, Colonels Angell, Shreeve, and Dickinson and the 2nd New Jersey Regiment. Vauxhaul was defended by Major Lee and Colonel Ogden and the 1st New Jersey Regiment.

The American militia and skirmishing riflemen fought fiercely for the bridges while the American regular regiments were held in reserve. The British with their Loyalist American allies and hired German mercenaries (Hessians) pounded the Americans with their superior fire power. Read on to see what happens next.

A map of the Battle of Springfield 1780
A map of the Battle of Springfield 1780

In this photo we see an overview of the Battle of Springfield 1780. The bluish-brown north-south felt lines represent the various tributaries of the Rahway River. On the top right we see the farms of the village of Vauxhall and the Vauxhall Road river crossing. American cannons and a beacon fire are shown on Newark Mountain at top center.

On the bottom right, we see the burning farms and houses of Connecticut Farms. The British forces are gathering on Battle Hill to assault the forces at the Galloping Hill Road crossing of the Rahway River. The town of Springfield with amassing American militia and regular infantry are shown by the church and houses at middle left.

Overview of the Battle of Springfield 1780
Overview of the Battle of Springfield 1780

In this photo we see a British southern flank view looking west at the Battle of Springfield. Connecticut Farms is burning in the foreground. British and Hessian hunters and Native American allies are on the eastern banks of the river and the swampy grounds. On the hill the British infantry, Hessians, canons, and dragoon horsemen gather. The American riflemen and militia are on the western side of the river. In the background, we see the town of Springfield and the American gathering point of Bryant's Tavern at the distant crossroads.

British southern flank view
British southern flank view looking west

In this photo we see closer view from the British soutern flank looking west. General Knyphausen leads the British redcoats (musket infantry) and Hessian grenadiers (Germany mercenary infantry) from Battle Hill. The British cannons fire down on the American defenders of the bridge.

British southern flank close up
British southern flank close up

In this photo we see the American southern flank view looking east toward the Rahway River and Connecticut Farms. American regular infantry, militia, and skirmishing riflemen are trying to hold the bridge and prevent the British from taking Springfield. American general Greene, and subordinates Maxwell, Starke, and Dickinson, along with Parson Caldwell are giving the British all they've got. Casualties are heavy on both sides.

American southern flank view
American southern flank view looking east

In this photo we see a close up of the American southern flank view looking east. In the background Connecticut Farms is burning. The Springfield house at left is hit by a cannon ball. To this day it is a museum of the war known as "the Cannonball House".

As Americans run out of fiber wadding for their muskets, Parson Caldwell enters the Springfield church, gathers up all the copies of Watts' hymn books, and distributes them to the American soldiers to use the pages as musket wadding. Parson Caldwell yells, "Give 'em Watts boys!"

"Give 'em Watts boys!"

In this photo we see the British view of the northern flank of the Battle of Springfield 1780. This is the village of Vauxhall with the main road Vauxhall Road crossing of the Rahway River. British red coats, Loyalist Americans, dragoon horsemen, and Native Americans advance to take the river crossing. From the hills of Newark Mountain, American cannons fire on the British.

British northern flank view looking west
British northern flank view looking west

Here is a close up of the British northern flank in Vauxhall led by General Mathews. Eventually these British make it to the Short Hills to face more Americans lead by American General Ogden.

British northern flank view up close
British northern flank view up close

In this photo we see the American northern flank view looking east at the Battle of Springfield. The Americans are outgunned and eventually have to retreat from the bridge. Britsh scramble up the side up the elevated position atop Newark Mountain and force the Americans to retreat as well.

American northern flank view looking east
American northern flank view looking east

And now for the aftermath. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. British General Knyphausen did take the Rahway River bridge and occupy the town of Springfield. British General Mathew occupied Vauxhall and cleared the militia from overlooking Newark Mountain. He reached the Short Hills and encamped. The British never did reach Bryant's Tavern or the Hobart Gap which lead to Morristown.

General George Washington gave direction to the American leaders Greene, Maxwell, Stark, and Dickinson. With a very good defense, the outgunned Americans gave the British second thoughts about the invasion of New Jersey. Within days, the British marched back to Elizabethtown and returned to the safer grounds on Staten Island. Following this battle, there were few major engagements in New Jersey. George Washington maintained his stronghold and was able to launch successful campaigns in other states. He said about the New Jersey militia, "They flew to arms universally and acted with a spirit equal to anything I have seen in the course of the war".

Vauxhall close up
Vauxhall close up

Thanks for reading about my American Revolutionary War Battle of Springfield 1780 illustrated with Peter Dennis paper soldiers. As you can see, the soldiers and houses make a colorful variety of miniatures that you can use to explore history, play war games, and make dioramas.

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Last modified: Sunday, 12-May-2019 12:52:44 MST.