In September 1778, British commanders sent huge foraging parties up both sides of the Hudson River, stripping the local farms of their autumn harvest and livestock. Washington's forces in the area were seriously outnumbered, but he sent small bodies of soldiers to harass and gain intelligence on British troops. Among them were the Third Continental Light Dragoons under the command of Lt. Col. George Baylor.
The British division commanded by General Cornwallis included troops lead by General Charles "No-Flint" Grey. Grey, a veteran of Britain's war with France, was almost fifty years old when he came to America to fight against the rebels. He had fought at Germantown, and in the fall of 1778, he was fresh from successful raiding parties at Bedford, Massachusetts, and Martha's Vineyard.
Grey had earned his nickname one year earlier on September 21, 1777 at Paoli, Pennsylvania. General Anthony Wayne had positioned American troops for a strike against the British. British intelligence discovered Wayne's plan, and Major General Grey was sent to launch a night attack against him.
Grey ordered his troops to remove the flints from their guns so they would not accidentally fire and alarm the Americans. Shortly after midnight, they struck. Without flints, they were forced to use their bayonets to attack. The bloody assault against American troops surprised them from their sleep and left 150 American soldiers dead. Now, one year later, "No-Flint" Grey's troops were again ordered out into the night.
"No soldier of [Grey's] column was suffered to load, those who would not draw [unload] their pieces took out the flints?It was represented so the men that firing discovered us to the enemy, hid them from us, killed our friends and produced a confusion favorable to the escape of the Rebels."
Major John Andre Journal September 20, 1777
"They [the British] are present busily employed in foraging in Bergen County and between Kings Bridge and the Plains. These parties obstruct our communication with the City, and have rendered it very difficult to obtain intelligence for some days past."
George Washington to General Sullivan, September 27, 1778