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During the American Revolution, British forces under General William Howe defeat Patriot forces under General George Washington at the Battle of Brooklyn (also known as the Battle of Long Island) in New York.
On August 22, Howe’s large army landed on Long Island, hoping to capture New York City and gain control of the Hudson River, a victory that would divide the rebellious colonies in half. On August 27, the Red Coats marched against the Patriot position at Brooklyn Heights, overcoming the Americans at Gowanus Pass and then outflanking the entire Continental Army. Howe failed to follow the advice of his subordinates and storm the redoubts at Brooklyn Heights, and on August 29 General Washington ordered a brilliant retreat to Manhattan by boat, thus saving the Continental Army from capture.
At the Battle of Brooklyn, the Americans suffered 1,000 casualties to the British loss of only 400 men. On September 15, the British captured New York City.
READ MORE: Revolutionary War
New Jersey in the American Revolution
As the location of many major battles, New Jersey was pivotal in the American Revolution and the ultimate victory of the American colonists. This important role earned it the title of Crossroads of the American Revolution. 
Not all of the population of New Jersey advocated independence Governor William Franklin, the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin, was a loyalist who supported the Stamp Act. Many of the colonists had emigrated from England and felt a sense of loyalty to the King of England and the English government. On January 8, 1776, Governor Franklin was arrested for opposing the Revolution. Others such as slaves joined sides with the British in return for promises of freedom. For example, Colonel Tye was a slave who escaped and joined the British army, leading constant raids against the people of New Jersey. 
Throughout the Revolutionary War, there were many clashes between the Americans and British within the colony of New Jersey. In total, there were 296 engagements that occurred within New Jersey, more clashes than occurred in any other colony during the war.
History 20 Research Paper
George Washington – Battle of Brooklyn
The path to revolution was developed slowly over time in America, creating left and right essential key events in history that were being supported by the growing desire of Independence from British rule. One of those proceedings that stained history incessantly was the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, otherwise known as the battle of Long Island. Less than two months after the Declaration of Independence was written this long-awaited dispute began on August 27 th , 1776. The Boston Tea Party was just a minor bump in the road for the British because even though they were forced out of Boston they perused new land in Manhattan. In this time in history where independence was still being questioned the British forces sadly defeat the patriots under General George Washington’s rule making it the first lost Americans had to face in this war for freedom.
According to Sons of the Revolution’s website, when the Boston Tea Acts caused the British to evacuate the city on March 17, 1776 the general of the American colony who was in fact George Washington guessed where the British were trying to target next. General Washington guessed appropriately by announcing the next aim to be New York. George Washington began his strategic moves by moving a number of 19,000 soldiers to what is known as today as Manhattan. Even though George Washington was considered hardly qualified he knew that if he lost his army during the battle it would mean the America Revolution would come to end.
Forts were built the month of June in northern Manhattan and on Brooklyn Heights across the East River on Long Island. A number of 400 ships carrying 32,000 British men arrived on the Island wanting to invade just as Washington suspected. On the early morning of August 27, the British began to attack on American pickets that were stationed near the Red Lion Tavern found at an intersection in Brooklyn.
David Smith talks about in his book “New York 1776: The Continentals’ First Battle” how the Continental Army was greatly outnumbered and was known to have never fought a battle against established and experienced troops, so they had no choice but retreat in the middle of the day over what is known as today the Long Meadow and down First Street. The Old Stone house was where they fled to but it was a trap. The British were one step ahead and had sent a number of 10,000 troops to the Old Stone house with the hopes of trapping them.
The Continental Army regrouped and retreated over to what is known as today the Union Street Bridge. They managed to escape from the British army who tried to trap them by crossing the harbor from the Fulton Ferry landing in Lower Manhattan. The British as you can see won the Battle of Brooklyn, but don’t forget that because the Continental Army was able to departure safely, the Americans later viewed American Revolution as a success when they won (Sam W. Galowitz)
What has changed since the Battle of Brooklyn or Battle of Long Island? Certainly the neighborhoods are much more different now, because when you look around of course you can’t see the British troops and the American troops but you can imagine the war that took place centuries ago.
One day when your curious about the important landmarks this war took place in, go to Battle Pass and observe the plaques mounted there in East Drive, and just walk around Brooklyn. Visit the Old Stone House which was central to the Battle of Brooklyn and participate in some of the event held there, or visit their theoldstonehouse.org. You’d be surprised to also find out that the Trader Joe’s in Brooklyn is a place where some of the battle took place.
Galowitz, Sam W. Revolutionary War, Battle of Brooklyn: Battle of Long Island: the Crucial Battle of the Revolution Where the Americans Were Decisively Beaten but
Created the Basis for Winning the War. Philadelphia: Xlibris Corp, 2007. Print.
This book provides me with basic information about the Battle of Brooklyn, and the facts and dates of what actually happened at the start of the Revolutionary War.
Smith, David. New York 1776: The Continentals’ First Battle. Oxford: Osprey Pub, 2008. Internet resource.
This book provides me with information main focused on the British and the Battle of Brooklyn and the events of what the British try to do to conquer New York.
Schecter, Barnet. The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the American Revolution. New York: Walker & Co, 2002. Print.
This book will provide me with further information on the events that followed after the Battle of Brooklyn, and what did George Washington do with his army once they fled from the British towards Manhattan.
“The Old Stone House.” The Old Stone House Home Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.
This website will provide me with information on the old stone house landmark, which was used as a gathering place for the patriots during the Battle of Brooklyn Heights.
“Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York Inc.” Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.
This website will provide me with further information about the Battle of Brooklyn and also about the Sons of Revolution plaque that can be found at the Long Island University in Brooklyn which honors those who fought in the battle.
The Battle of Sag Harbor In The War For Independence
Monument at the site of the Battle of Sag Harbor on Long Island. Dedicated May 23, 1902.
Long Island was a war zone during the American Revolution. At times, with tightening British military control of New York City and its environs, the glorious cause for independence appeared to turn into a lost cause for local Patriots and the American army.
A major battle had ended in defeat for the Patriots on the Heights of Guan. General George Washington and his army barely escaped capture through the fog of night. Thousands of Americans suffered from disease and infections from the deplorable conditions on British prison ships anchored in Wallabout Bay. Many died and their remains were committed to watery graves. Farther east, the farms and woods of Long Island witnessed clandestine activities by a rebel spy network that extended to Setauket while frequent confrontations between Loyalist and Patriot citizenry, many from the same families, resulted in death. Skirmishes and raids involving rival militias, the Continental Army, British regulars and Hessian mercenaries blanketed the plains and probed the shores from Hempstead to Montauk.
Patriot raids on the crown’s outposts on the island initiated in Connecticut. Americans crossed Long Island Sound at night. They navigated the bays and coves on its north shore, marched quietly to prevent discovery and penetrated fortifications across the width and along the length of the island. Throughout the war, the daring excursions generated several rewarding results for the American cause.
The Battle of Sag Harbor possessed these same tactics. However, in this fight, the Patriots faced the duel challenge of negotiating the twin forks at the end of Long Island.
Sag Harbor Raid
The Battle of Sag Harbor, also known as Meigs Raid, was a response to a successful British raid on a Patriot supply depot in Danbury, Connecticut, during late April 1777. The Battle of Ridgefield was part of that campaign. Associated with this battle are the celebrated ride of 16-year-old Sybil Ludington to turn out the Patriot militias and the heroism of General Benedict Arnold for the American side.
The Long Island retribution was organized in New Haven by Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons. According to his report to General Washington, a force of 234 men from several regiments assembled at New Haven under the command of Connecticut Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs. The troops rowed 13 whaleboats to Guilford on May 21. Rough seas and high winds prevented the force from crossing Long Island Sound until the afternoon of May 23. Two armed sloops and one unarmed sloop accompanied the raiders. Only 170 arrived near Southold on the North Fork of Long Island at approximately 6 p.m.
British troops had occupied Sag Harbor on the South Fork of Long Island since the August 1776 Battle of Long Island (also known as the Battle of Brooklyn). A strong defensive position had been established on Meeting House Hill. Earthworks protected about 70 soldiers attached to the Loyalist unit of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen De Lancey (the family spelling also is listed as de Lancy and Delancey). These troops were under the command of Captain James Raymond. The ships of the Royal Navy that patrolled the eastern end of Long Island Sound obtained provisions from Sag Harbor when anchored in nearby Gardiner’s Bay.
Following his arrival in Southold, Colonel Meigs scouted the area. He learned that most of the British soldiers had been dispatched to New York City and only the small force of De Lancey’s Loyalists remained at Sag Harbor. Miegs’ men carried 11 of the whaleboats across the island’s North Fork to reach one of the bays between the two forks. The boats were relaunched with 130 men rowing toward Sag Harbor. By midnight, the Patriots landed about four miles from the harbor. Meigs formed his men for the short march, arriving at the harbor at about two o’clock in the morning.
The commander then divided his force. One detachment stormed the earthworks on nearby Meeting House Hill. The second detachment of about 40 men was assigned to destroy British boats and eliminate or capture provisions.
The attack on the hill was conducted in silence with fixed bayonets. Only one shot was reported to have been fired by a soldier. At the waterfront, a British schooner of 12 guns opened fire on the Americans as they burned the boats. Twelve boats were destroyed. Six Loyalists were killed. The Americans did not suffer any casualties. The raiders grabbed 53 prisoners at the garrison and 37 at the wharf. The prisoners were evacuated to Connecticut.
Aftermath And Today
The victory at Sag Harbor marked the first significant American success in New York State since New York City and Long Island had fallen to the British. Additional Patriot operations, including raids and Washington’s spy network, continued on Long Island for the remainder of the war.
In recognition for his success, Colonel Meigs was awarded “an elegant sword” by the Second Continental Congress. A stone commemorating the battle was placed on the site on May 23, 1902.
Today, the hill that was occupied by the Loyalist garrison and attacked by the Patriots is a local cemetery. Many headstones date to the late 1700s and a considerable number of the interred are local Patriots. At the battle site, by blocking out modern intrusions, a visitor can gaze upon the slope of the property and visualize the fight for independence that took place here almost 250 years ago.
Mike Virgintino is the author of Freedomland U.S.A.: The Definitive History, the story about America’s theme park published by Theme Park Press. It can be found on Amazon, eBay, Goodreads and Barnes & Noble. Just click on pic for a direct link to Amazon.
A listing of the Revolutionary War soldiers interred in the cemetery.
A headstone for a Revolutionary War soldier on the site of the Battle of Sag Harbor.
The Battle of Sag Harbor at the end of Long Island occurred on this hill that is the final resting place for local Patriots who fought for independence.
Battle of Brooklyn Remembered at Green-Wood Cemetery
PARK SLOPE — The Battle of Brooklyn — perhaps the most historic event ever in the borough — may not be widely known, but it is always remembered by some.
History buffs and other New Yorkers commemorate the battle each year at Green-Wood Cemetery with a reenactment of the 1776 Revolutionary War fight. This year the reenactment took place on Aug. 25.
Bob Furman, president of the Brooklyn Preservation Council, which is based in Bay Ridge, says that the Battle of Brooklyn was “perhaps the most important event to take place in Brooklyn, and it’s often underappreciated.”
“The war could have been lost there. There is not a lot of research in terms of where Revolutionary War soldiers were buried in Brooklyn borough, and there are a lot of gaps in the historical record,” Furman said. “If you correct the record, it gives people a chance to commemorate what has been lost and what will always be remembered.”
With a chance to learn about, remember and honor the Patriots’ sacrifice, hundreds of New York families and history buffs came out on a sunny Sunday afternoon for the reenactment and parade at Green-Wood Cemetery.
Along with the British vs. Patriots battle reenactment, the day included talks, an explosive rifle and cannon demonstration, a parade through the cemetery led by the Regimental Band of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and a solemn ceremony on Battle Hill, the highest natural point in Brooklyn and the site of a hallowed battleground.
Kylie Backowski, 9, came from Manhattan’s Upper West Side with her parents. She had told them that she wanted to see the Battle of Brooklyn reenactment after learning about the Revolutionary War in school.
“I wanted to see the reenactment for my birthday. I learned that the British won the battle, but the Patriots won the Revolution,” Kylie said, summing up the history. “I also liked seeing the big cannons shooting.”
At the ceremony, Michael Crowder, a historian at Iona College’s Institute for Thomas Paine Studies, asked the audience to ask themselves what it means to commemorate.
“The meaning goes even further than just recognizing and remembering the past and our history,” Crowder said.
“While commemoration is the act of remembering and celebrating, it is more than that. The practice reveals how we collectively understands the present. History as collaboration is the lens with which we make sense of a contested modern American … It reminds us that how we shape our past is how we simultaneously shape our future.”
Catholics played a role in the Battle of Brooklyn on both sides. The British Army had recruited Roman Catholic soldiers into its ranks because it was having a hard time getting soldiers, according to the South Brooklyn Post .
On the American side, Catholics fought as “Marylanders,” also known as the Maryland 400, They were a small part of the 1st Maryland Regiment of the Catholic colony, which at the time was led by Gov. Charles Carroll, a prominent Catholic and the namesake of Carroll Garden who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
While holding off the British, the Marylanders sacrificed their lives near the site of the Old Stone House, a 17th-century Dutch farmhouse in Park Slope, according to the New York Times . They provided a distraction, while General George Washington and the rest of the colonial army retreated to Brooklyn Heights, and eventually to Manhattan and the Hudson Valley.
While the exact location of the remains of the 400 is unknown, the regiment is honored at the Old Stone House, and with monuments in Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery on top of Battle Hill.
The Battle of Brooklyn — sometimes referred to as the Battle of Long Island — was fought on Aug. 27, 1776, and is considered one of the biggest events of the Revolutionary War.
“It was the largest battle of the Revolutionary War and the most costly in terms of those missing. It was the first time Americans went toe-to-toe with the British, and the first battle after the Declaration of Independence was signed,” Jeff Richman, a historian with the Green-Wood Historic Fund, told The Tablet.
In late August 1776, thousands of British troops led by General William Howe arrived in Long Island with the goal of capturing New York City and gaining full control of the Hudson River.
Red Coat soldiers marched against the Patriots in Brooklyn Heights and in areas of the Gowanus Pass, including what is now Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens.
The British outflanked the Continental Army, but Howe’s troops failed to storm the [redoubts] forts, allowing Washington to retreat into Manhattan, preventing a total loss of the colonial army.
“This regiment held off the British army long enough for Washington and colleagues to escape,” said Maggie Weber, education director of the Old Stone House. “Without that and the subsequent rainy weather, General Howe and the British forces were slow and reluctant to advance and capture Washington’s army.
“Washington was able to escape and retreat during the storm,” she said. “It would have been a one-day war if that didn’t happen. This is a story about a long occupying army that comes in and tries to take from the local people.”
The Maryland 400 Lost a Battle But Helped Win a War. On the 4th of July, We Should Remember Their Sacrifice
S omewhere deep beneath the bustling streets of Brooklyn, N.Y., lie the remains of perhaps the most important, yet most forgotten, citizen soldiers in American history: the heroic young men from Maryland whose suicide mission against an overwhelming British Army on Aug. 27, 1776, bought the precious time needed for General George Washington and the Continental Army to escape certain annihilation and a probable end to the revolution.
A mere six weeks after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the bravery of this Maryland Regiment &mdash who have been compared, by contemporary commentators as well as more recent ones, to the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae in 480 BC &mdash galvanized the young country at a time it desperately needed it. And yet their story has been largely lost to history since.
In July of 1776, the British, infuriated by their humiliation in New England, deployed the largest armada in military history. Their mission: to destroy the Continental Army, capture General Washington and his officers, subdue the colonial uprising, and restore order.
Led by their most storied military leaders, General William Howe and his brother Admiral Richard Howe, the British landed in New York with more than 30,000 troops and a sizeable number of Hessian mercenaries. They attacked an out-matched, out-maneuvered and inexperienced Washington in late August in Brooklyn and quickly surrounded the Continental Army on the east, west and south flanks. With 475 British ships anchored in the East River to the Americans&rsquo backs, the question for Washington was not: Do they escape? But could they escape?
Commandeering whatever would float, Washington&rsquos only hope was to use the strong East River current and an unexpected blanket of fog to his advantage and evacuate as many men as possible from Brooklyn Heights to the safety of Manhattan before the British could mobilize and reposition their Navy. Washington was quickly running out of time to retreat and the American Revolution was on the verge of being extinguished.
The First Maryland Regiment was deployed to bring up the rear and, sensing imminent disaster, it did the unthinkable. Rallying his remaining 400 men, Major Mordecai Gist turned them toward the massive British war force. Believing the British commanding general was stationed in a stone house at the army&rsquos center, the regiment shocked the overwhelming British war force with an unexpected, targeted assault. The Marylanders attacked the British six times, losing scores of men with each surge, then regrouping and hurling themselves again and again at the dazed Brits, in what can be best described as a bloody street brawl.
In the end, only a handful of Marylanders managed to escape the majority were killed. The rest were captured or mortally wounded. Washington was brought to tears as he watched the selfless bravery of his young soldiers. He was heard crying, &ldquoGood God! What brave fellows I must lose this day!&rdquo
But the young patriots had succeeded in diverting British attention long enough for Washington and the army to escape. The British found Brooklyn Heights abandoned.
So, who were these young soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the liberty of future generations? What motivated them? Why isn&rsquot this pivotal moment more celebrated?
When I began the research for my book Saving Washington, I assumed that the regiment was a highly trained unit of battle-tested soldiers. The reality was almost as astonishing as the battle.
The young volunteers were a cross section of the colony of Maryland: wealthy merchants&rsquo sons, dockworkers, school kids and free and enslaved black youth. Of the original 1,200-man regiment, only four had formal military training. Early in the war, Washington had a difficult time keeping enlistees from running off when they heard the first shots of battle, let alone maintaining discipline as a fighting unit. To think that the devotion of these untrained and untested Maryland kids could drive them beyond their personal fears is hard to imagine.
I remembered being taught in school that the American Revolution was sparked by the tax burden imposed on the colonists, which particularly infuriated the merchant class. Merchants underwrote each colony&rsquos militias and state regiments, essentially financing the revolt.
But teenagers wouldn&rsquot sacrifice themselves for taxes. Research conducted by the Maryland State Archivist suggests that peer pressure, a sense of adventure, and growing anti-British sentiment played a role in why the young men enlisted. Mordecai Gist, who led the Maryland 400, even named his two sons Independent and States. But there&rsquos evidence that they were also driven by an even more profound motivation. In many religious circles, the New World was code for the New Jerusalem. The concept that America was special, and that they were chosen by God to create and defend a new type of country, was incessantly preached. They were God&rsquos children, not the King&rsquos, and they were lectured to reject corrupt and immoral leaders. This drumbeat was heard and deeply absorbed by these young men. The boys of the Maryland 400 believed they were fighting with a divine purpose.
So, why has this dramatic act of heroism not been celebrated as one of America&rsquos finest hours?
We celebrate our winners. The battles won. Our championship teams. The gold medals earned.
In spite of the Battle of Brooklyn being the largest and bloodiest battle of the American Revolution, the Americans were completely routed. A humiliated Washington almost lost the war that day. It was not a moment of celebration, but one of desperation. A moment the country wanted to forget.
But in a larger sense, the Maryland 400&rsquos sacrifice at this most pivotal moment in American history now shines through the dense fog of history. Like the legendary Spartans of Thermopylae, America&rsquos most important, yet most forgotten heroes, should serve as a beacon &mdash an illuminating reminder of the selfless devotion of true patriotism.
Outsmarted and Outflanked – Washington’s Defeat at Long Island
The Battle of Long Island took place in Kings County, New York on August 27, 1776 as part of the New York and New Jersey Campaign of the American Revolutionary War. It went on to become the largest battle of the campaign with the British Army under the command of General William Howe securing a victory over the American Continental Army led by General George Washington.
Aware of the strategic importance of New York City and that the Harbour of Manhattan Island would provide the British Navy with an enormous advantage if they should take it, Washington moved his army to Manhattan to prepare his defences, expecting the British to strike there first.
Left: Gen. Sir William Howe Right: George Washington, driven from New York beginning at the Battle of Brooklyn portrait by Charles Wilson Peale 1776
Howe’s arrival at Staten Island was unexpected but did not go undetected and while he awaited reinforcements, Washington set about erecting fortifications along the East River Shoreline in Long Island.A period map depicting the British Army movements in Westchester County, New York
The Patriots’ civil engineer in charge, newly promoted Major General Nathaniel Greene was tasked with the construction of fortifications and digging of trenches for the Army.
He chose to build the line of redoubts around Brooklyn Heights which were reinforced by some felled trees. These barricades ensured a vantage position of defense prepared to withstand any assault from the British Army.
American strategy called for the first line of defense to be based on the Heights of Guan, a series of hills which stretched northeast across King’s County. The main defensive works were a series of forts and entrenchments located in the northwest of the county, in and around Brooklyn. The “Road to Narrows” is the Gowanus Road. No. 5 is the “Old Stone House”. Map by Bernard Ratzer based on his 1766-1767 survey.
The Continental Army was thereafter reinforced by another 9,000 troops, making a total of 20,000 Patriots under Washington’s command. The commander in chief expected no less than a heavy battle for New York and was hell bent on defending the city even though the odds were not in his favor.
Having built the fortifications, Washington sent 4,000 of his troops to defend it under the express command of Greene. Greene however was not able to partake in the battle as he became severely ill and he was subsequently replaced by General John Sullivan of New Hampshire. Sullivan was later relieved of general command and senior General Israel Putnam was placed in charge.
Painting of the American retreat from Long Island after the battle of Brooklyn
Sullivan and Major General William Alexander, otherwise known as Lord Stirling were given command Guan Heights which were in front of the Brooklyn Heights and controlled its major route.
Sullivan was to defend the roads leading from Flatbush and Bedford into Brooklyn with a force of two thousand men, while six thousand soldiers remained at Brooklyn Heights under Putnam’s command.
A small force of 4,000 men left Staten Island under the command of British Generals Henry Clinton and Charles Cornwallis. They were later joined by another 12,000 troops around noon who landed on Long Island soil. Awaiting further instructions, Cornwallis advanced his troops and lay in wait just outside Flatbush, Brooklyn.
Infantry of the Continental Army.
Washington was immediately alerted of the recent developments in the area, but was told that only a small portion of the British force had advanced there. Fearing it to be a diversion, he sent another 1,500 soldiers as reinforcements to Brooklyn Heights.
The British troops were reinforced yet again by another 5,000 Hessian troops, placing the army at 20,000. Clinton outsmarted the patriots by taking the Jamaican Pass a less guarded route through the heights. The five patriots stationed there mistook the British who arrived there at 9:30 PM to be American soldiers and were captured without firing a single shot.
The British were playing the Continental Army quite well, they left their campfires at Flatbush burning leading the unsuspecting patriots to believe that they were still camped.
This painting depicts the forces of British Major General Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis (1738–1805) (who was not himself present at the surrender), surrendering to French and American forces after the Siege of Yorktown (September 28 – October 19, 1781) during the American Revolutionary War. The central figures depicted are Generals Charles O’Hara and Benjamin Lincoln.
Meanwhile 4,000 British and Hessian troops under the command of General James Grant awaited signal from Clinton’s division to attack the Americans at the front. In the morning of the next day, two cannons were fired and an assault began against Sullivan’s troops at the Flatbush and Bedford roads.
The Hessians attacked fiercely against the patriots killing everyone in their path as they charged through the front lines.
The British fleet in the lower bay (Harpers Magazine, 1876) depicts the British fleet amassing off the shores of Staten Island in the summer of 1776
Realizing his erroneous decision to send only a few troops to Long Island, Washington rushed out of Manhattan to Brooklyn, there was hardly anything he could do now. The British had prepared a well calculated assault against his defences and were pushing the patriots far back into the city. Clinton’s forces flanking the Continental Army with Grant enforcing a frontal assault.
British troops in the type of flat-bottomed boat used for the invasion of Long Island. Hessians in their blue uniforms are in the two boats that are only partly visible.
Stirling soon pulled his armies backwards toward the Gowanus Creek after withstanding a direct assault from Grant for four hours. The creek was the only plausible escape route for Stirling’s men as Hessians and British troops charged at them from the left and rear positions.
Gunpowder smoke from cannons and muskets mark where Stirling and the Maryland troops attack the British, while the rest of the American troops in the foreground escape across Brouwer’s mill pond. The building pictured is the mill. (Battle of Long Island, 1858 Alonzo Chappel)
Leaving behind the brave Maryland 400 under the command of Major Mordecai Gist, Stirling’s troops scampered across the 80 yard creek to safety. The small army under Gist’s command led two attacks against the British, buying time for others to retreat safely.
Then the retreated themselves after launching the last attack on the Vechte-Cortelyou House. The Maryland troops suffered two hundred and fifty six casualties with only a handful of them making it over the creek.
The British fleet in New York Harbor just after the battle
After conceding the crushing defeat at Long Island, Washington gathered the troops and ordered a retreat toward Manhattan. With the deaths of over two thousand troops, Washington and all America were devastated by the battle.
Battle Pass – also known as “Flatbush Pass” – is located in modern-day Prospect Park. Here General Sullivan and his troops were outflanked by the British who attacked from the rear while the Hessians attacked up Battle Pass.
A view from Battle Hill – the highest point in King’s County – looking west toward Upper New York Harbor and New Jersey beyond.. Here on Lord Stirling’s left flank about 300 Americans under Colonel Atlee and General Parsons repulsed successive attacks by the British after taking the hill, and inflicted the highest casualties against the British during the Battle of Long Island.
The Battle of Brooklyn – The Revolutions most under recognized and misreported battle!
My vote for the most under recognized and misreported battle in the American Revolution goes to the Battle of Brooklyn. Even its name is misreported as many historians refer to the battle as the Battle of Long Island. Others conflate the battle in Brooklyn with the string of patriot defeats and refer to the loss of New York City or the New York campaign. On August 27, 1776, British and Patriot forces clashed entirely in the area we know as Brooklyn today and no other areas of Long Island saw conflict. Typically battles are named after nearby towns or cities (Trenton, Saratoga, etc.) not larger geographical areas such as states or regions.
Here is why the Battle of Brooklyn should be better known.
- The largest battle of the American Revolution with approximately 30,000 soldiers participating in the fight.[i]
- The first battle in United States history. Clearly, Lexington and Bunker Hill were fought a year earlier. However, Brooklyn is the first clash after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
- The first British invasion of the war and the largest British amphibious assault until D-Day.
- The first battle in which the British deployed Hessian forces.
- Overall British forces outnumbered the Patriots by at least two to one and in individual unit combat sometimes as much as seven to one.
- More British forces were killed or wounded than the Americans but the result was an overwhelmingly British victory.[ii]
Outmaneuvering the Americans, the British won a huge victory by executing a daring night march around the Patriot left flank. British forces killed or captured over 1000 Patriots and swept the Continental army from the battlefield. However, the Patriots were able to retreat to Brooklyn Heights and eventually evacuate to Manhattan. Heroically, a small unit of Marylanders (The Maryland 400) averted a larger catastrophe and prevented the British from crushing the rebellion that day. The Maryland 400 charged five or six times into a vastly superior British force under the command of Lord Cornwallis to bide time for the rest of the Patriot army to retreat. This courageous charge preserved the Patriot army to fight another day.
Memorial to the Maryland 400 in Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Citizens and historians have a natural tendency not to commemorate lost battles, especially those where cities have transformed the geographies. However, Brooklyn residents are rightly proud to be living on such a historic battlefield and have opened a museum on the site where the Maryland 400 clashed with the British. The museum is located in Washington Park and is housed in a restored colonial Dutch farmhouse, now called the Old Stone House. A community organization operates the Old Stone House museum and offers an impressive array of historical and cultural events. To learn more about the Battle of Brooklyn, visit the Old Stone House in Brooklyn (www.theoldstonehouse.org).
Visitors interested in walking the battlefield should download the museum’s annotated walking tour guide of battle sites in today’s Brooklyn (http://theoldstonehouse.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Battle-Brooklyn-walking-tour.pdf). In addition, there is a series of videos at http://theoldstonehouse.org/history/battle-of-brooklyn/. The Old Stone House community organization provides an impressive and valuable service to commemorate those soldiers who fought and lost their lives on this important site in American history.
For those who would like to read more about the Battle of Brooklyn, I recommend the following four books.
Daughan, George C. Revolution on the Hudson: New York City and the Hudson River Valley in the American War of Independence. First edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.
Daughan provides a strategic analysis of the importance of the Hudson River Valley to the outcome of the Revolution. He provides a context for why the Battle of Brooklyn was important.
Gallagher, John J. The Battle of Brooklyn, 1776. New York: Sarpedon, 1995.
This is one of the few books focusing solely on the Battle of Brooklyn and one of the first to transition it name from the Battle of Long Island. While some of Gallagher’s conclusions are debatable, it is a valuable source for those interested in the battle details.
Reno, Linda Davis. Maryland 400 in the Battle of Long Island, 1776. Jefferson: Mcfarland, 2014.
Reno chronicles the role of the Maryland 400 in the battle and others an eminently readable account of the battle within the battle. This book is a good starting point for those who want to learn more about the Maryland 400.
Schecter, Barnet. The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the American Revolution. New York: Walker & Co, 2002.
Schecter provides a comprehensive view of the strategic options facing British and Patriot commanders in the New York City area in 1776.
[i] Excludes sailors on ships. Interestingly Brooklyn resulted in only 16th most American casualties among Revolutionary battles.
Google-Mapping the American Revolution
An oil depicts American rebels fire upon British forces in an intense battle at Brooklyn Heights on August 27, 1776.
VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images
The Battle of Brooklyn, also known as the Battle of Long Island, took place six weeks after the rebel colonies declared independence. The British won that August 26-28, 1776, fight, but a retreat across the East River (see “George’s Dunkirk,” December 2017) saved the American army from destruction, setting the stage for a years-long war ending in freedom. The ignominy of the defeat on Long Island has overshadowed the outcome’s significance—namely, that the ragtag Americans, outnumbered 27,000 to 10,000, could outwit the world’s mightiest army.
During the first half of 1776, the American cause had been making headway. Patriots controlled most of the breakaway colonies. Violence already had erupted with British troops at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, at Fort Ticonderoga in New York, and elsewhere.
The Americans expected the British to assault New York City. Hedging his bets, General George Washington stationed troops on Manhattan and on Governors Island in New York Harbor. Around Brooklyn, on Long Island, Washington had his men build a network of forts stretching five miles between Fort Greene and today’s Red Hook waterfront.
Kings County covered the same geographic area as today’s borough of Brooklyn, but in the 1700s the county was divided into six towns, of which the village of Brooklyn—from Breukelen, a town in the Netherlands—was one. Mostly rural Kings County was home mainly to descendants of the area’s original European settlers—Dutch was Brooklyn’s lingua franca, and landmarks often had Dutch names, like Ponkiesberg, a rise that Americans called Cobble Hill.
In late June 1776, Royal Navy vessels started to anchor off lightly defended Staten Island, which lies south of Manhattan and west across the Narrows from Brooklyn. Day by day, enemy warships converged until British troops on Staten Island, augmented by shiploads of Hessian mercenaries, exceeded 30,000. In July, the colonies officially broke with the empire, and both sides’ forces began to make ready for combat.
On Thursday, August 22, the British started ferrying soldiers from Staten Island across New York bay to Gravesend, today’s southwest Brooklyn. Alarmed, Washington transferred more troops to Brooklyn. On Monday, August 26, British units started marching north. Troops took three routes—one contingent heading up Shore Road, one taking the King’s Highway to Flatbush Road, and the third pushing further up the King’s Highway to Jamaica Road.
In a celebrated incident, a British column bound for Jamaica Road paused at Howard’s Tavern, an inn located in what is now East New York. Soldiers woke innkeeper William Howard, asking directions. As his son recounted later, Howard replied, “We belong to the other side, and cannot serve you against our duty,” whereupon British General William Howe declared, “You have no alternative. If you refuse, I will shoot you through the head.” The Howards reluctantly agreed to guide the enemy force.
Greenwood Cemetery Fence Line (Red Lion)
RED LION INN
The Battle of Brooklyn began very late on August 26. As a British column under Major General James Grant was marching north on the Shore/Gowanus Road, men started foraging in a watermelon patch at the Red Lion Inn, which stood at the junction of three roads—today, 35th Street and Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park, perhaps at a spot just inside the fence at Green-Wood Cemetery. American pickets stationed there started firing, waking two rebel colonels. The officers rushed to the scene. Finding the Americans in retreat, the colonels organized them into a fighting line and called for reinforcements. The British also reinforced. By dawn on Tuesday, August 27, the skirmish had exploded into a major battle.
Battle Hill-Minerva Statue
On Tuesday, August 27, American and British troops struggled to control the highest ground in Brooklyn—a 220-foot rise now part of Green-Wood Cemetery. “Battle Hill is important because it’s the place where the Americans were able to inflict the most casualties on the British during the Battle of Brooklyn,” says Jeff Richman, the cemetery’s staff historian. Concealed in trees overlooking the battle, American sharpshooters picked off enemy officers, so infuriating the British that they kept townspeople from burying a fallen sniper for days. Eventually, the British surrounded and overwhelmed the Americans, many of whom were buried where they died.
Battle Hill is now the site of the “Altar to Liberty” and a statue of Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom, positioned to salute the Statue of Liberty across New York Harbor. Brooklyn magnate Charles Higgins, a champion of his neighborhood’s Revolutionary War significance, privately underwrote both monuments in 1920. Commemorators mark the battle’s anniversary on the hill with a parade, flags, re-enactors, cannons and more.
Battle Pass (historical marker right of stoplight)
East of Battle Hill and the Red Lion Inn, Americans were guarding a pass on the Flatbush Road, felling a century-old oak to block the way. Hearing of the Shore Road fighting, their commander, General John Sullivan, sent several hundred men west to help, reducing the patriot complement at the pass to fewer than 800 soldiers.
At about 9 a.m., the pass came under pincer attack by Hessians on one flank and Highlanders on the other. Surrounding the defenders, enemy troops bayoneted to death nearly any American who had not fled, including soldiers attempting to surrender. A scant 60 rebels survived, to spend their captivity at hard labor. Authorities preserved Battle Pass, and in the 1850s Frederick Law Olmstead incorporated the pass into his design for Prospect Park. A marker at the site invokes that terrible day.
OLD STONE HOUSE
As Tuesday, August 27, bled on, Americans across Brooklyn were losing on every front. Rebel commander General William Alexander, who despite his patriot affiliation proudly called himself by the Scottish title of Lord Stirling, maneuvered to catch the British off guard. Stirling sent most of his troops to safety across Gowanus Creek, a waterway about a mile west of what is now Park Slope and Greenwood Heights. There, Americans had held the line until a tide of British reinforcements rolled over them. In response, Stirling led the 1st Maryland Regiment, known as the “Maryland 400,” to attack the Vechte-Cortelyou House, a sturdy 1699 Dutch farmhouse that the British had occupied earlier that day. Again and again Marylanders charged the British, who poured rifle and cannon fire onto them, killing 256 rebels.
The Vechte-Cortelyou House, aka the Old Stone House, survived, at one time serving as clubhouse for the Brooklyn Superbas baseball team, which became the Dodgers. In 1897, the house burned down, to be recreated, using many original components, in the 1930s. Today, it’s a museum with a permanent interactive exhibit on the battle. The Old Stone House: Witness to War—an Exhibit Exploring the Battle of Brooklyn and the Occupation, 1776-1783 enables visitors to follow their interests in aspects of the war (theoldstonehouse.org/exhibitions).
Maryland Burial Place- American Legion Building
MARYLAND MEN BURIAL PLACE
The 256 Maryland men slain at the Cortelyou house were buried in uniform in a mass grave on what was then a farm belonging to Adrian Van Brunt. In 1897, as that vicinity was becoming urban, the city of Brooklyn installed a stone reading, “Burial place of ye 256 Maryland soldiers who fell in combat at ye Cortelyou House on ye 27th day of August 1776.” In the early 1900s, during a widening of Third Avenue, the marker vanished, reappearing in 2008 when a factory building was demolished.
For years, historians theorized that the Maryland burial site was in Gowanus, somewhere near Third Avenue between Seventh and Ninth Streets. An American Legion post at 193 Ninth St. displays a sign honoring the “Maryland heroes.” In 2012, The New York Times reported that local historian Roger Furman and planner Eymund Diegel, using aerial photos, had pinpointed the gravesite in a vacant lot on Eighth Street, slightly east of where that artery intersects Third Avenue.
Trader’s Joe at Cobble Hill
TRADER JOE’S—COBBLE HILL
As the Maryland men were fighting and dying at the stone house, rebel leader George Washington was atop Fort Cobble Hill, aka Ponkiesberg, watching the British ravage his forces.
“Good God,” he exclaimed. “What brave fellows I must this day lose!”
Later, having occupied Brooklyn, the British leveled Ponkiesberg lest the foe again use that prominence as a command post. Today at the Cobble Hill site—the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street—a plaque of Washington on horseback adorns a former bank building repurposed as a grocery store.
Fulton Ferry Landing at Brooklyn Bridge Park
FULTON FERRY LANDING
By Wednesday, August 28, except for minor skirmishes, the battle was over. British General William Howe, perhaps to avoid excessive casualties, decided against a direct assault on American redoubts near the Brooklyn shore of New York Harbor. Most of the surviving Americans made it to these friendly fortifications. At first, Washington resisted the impulse to retreat. But a fierce, unseasonably cold rain further demoralized his exhausted, hungry troops, now short of ammunition and facing a British siege.
On Thursday, August 29, Washington and his generals decided to evacuate. That night, under cover of heavy fog, American troops crept to Brookland Ferry Landing, named for the use to which the spot had been put since the 1600s, when Manhattan was New Amsterdam. Lest the enemy hear them, officers forbade the ranks even to whisper. Men wrapped wagon wheels in cloth to keep them from clattering on the cobblestones. At the landing, a regiment of sailors and fishermen from Massachusetts, led by Colonel John Glover, set about rowing the 1.8 mile round trip across the East River to Manhattan. One impromptu ferryman completed 11 round trips. Washington boarded the last boat, one of 9,000 American soldiers to make a getaway.
Today the Brooklyn landing is named for inventor Robert Fulton, who in 1814 debuted his steam ferry there, with subsequent variations operating until the 1920s. Plans are afoot to revive that service there and elsewhere along the East River. Fulton Ferry Landing has been incorporated into Brooklyn Bridge Park, its Revolutionary role noted on a plaque commemorating the retreat that saved the Continental Army.
—Raanan Geberer, a writer in Brooklyn, New York, edited the Brooklyn Eagle for 20 years.
The Battle for New York City, 1776: Battle of Long Island and Brooklyn
Combat actions commenced on August 22 nd , 1776, when General Howe ordered the invasion of Long Island. Some 15,000 British and Hessian troops successfully landed on the beaches of Long Island and came ashore before quickly moving to seize the village of Flatbush (Schecter, 128). General Washington assumed the landing was a diversion and only dispatched a small force to shore up his forces in Long Island.
Minor skirmishes and artillery strikes broke out, but the battle had not yet begun in earnest. Meanwhile, General Howe was searching out a means to move his forces into Brooklyn and secured a local guide against his will to lead them through the Jamaica Pass with 6,000 men (Schecter, 139). Losing ground in Long Island, General Washington wisely had his forces retreat back to New York in any and all boats which could be rounded up (Johnson, 218).
The Battle for Brooklyn
The Battle for Brooklyn was soon underway and would be the first time that large British and Patriot battle formations met on the field of battle. A few not-so-patriotic Patriots quick deserted, but by early morning, the two belligerent forces faced each other on Gowanus Road (Schecter, 143). The British preferred to encircle their enemy by chipping away at their flanks, firing several volleys, and then blitzing forward in a bayonet charge. The Patriots maneuvered accordingly as they realized they were being encircled and eventually occupied the high ground (today known as Battle Hill) and repelled three enemy offensives from this position (Schecter, 146).
Unknown to General Washington’s men, General Howe had made it through the Jamaica Pass during the night and was now in the Patriots’ rear areas and marching towards them. The Patriots’ battle lines were smashed. Large numbers of militiamen were captured and many were killed by advancing British and Hessian troops. The survivors fled in full sprint toward their fortifications deeper in Brooklyn (Schecter, 148).
Read Next: The Battle for New York City, 1776: Manhattan
By mid-morning, General Howe also attempted to send his ships-of-the-line up the East River to wage a simultaneous assault against Manhattan. This however, was where fate intervened. “A wind from the south west would have carried the British ships directly up the East River and placed them in front of Brooklyn. Chance ordered otherwise” (Adams, 658). Instead, the British were fighting both the tide and a strong northeastern wind. Only one of the smaller ships managed to fight against the wind and come within cannon range of the redoubt at Red Hook. A barrage of fire managed to damage the redoubt, but it was far from the coup-de-grace that General Howe would have hoped for.
While failing to strike a killing blow, British forces still gained impressive victories during the Battle of Brooklyn. The best estimates conclude that about 900 Patriots were captured and around 200 were killed during the battle (Schecter, 153). Had it not been for adverse conditions, the British may have been able to bifurcate Patriot forces by occupying the East River with ships-of-the-line. Also, had General Howe not still been suffering from the stigma of Bunker Hill, he may have favored bolder tactics which would have completely routed the Patriots in Brooklyn that morning.
With the Patriots huddled inside their fortifications and the British digging a trench line parallel to them, General Washington ordered preparations for a frontal assault which was really just a cover for action. The real plan was to enact a strategic retreat from Brooklyn and leave General Howe’s forces empty-handed. General Washington ordered that every boat that could possibly be used to aid in the retreat be brought to the shore alongside the fortifications. In the dead of night, the Patriots began crossing the East River. The river crossings went on throughout the night with a rear guard force left behind to keep the campfires burning in order to deceive the British troops (Schecter, 163). By dawn, the Colonial Americans had successfully crossed the East River in their entirety, aside from three who were captured and four who were wounded by the British firing from the shore (Schecter, 166).
In addition to Washington’s brilliant deception tactics, the retreat was really successful because of the northeasterly wind which kept British ships out of the East River and because they were “able to do so under the cover of fog without exciting any suspicion of their movements in the enemy’s camp” (Johnson, 223).
To be continued in Part 3
Adams, Charles Francis. “The Battle for Long Island.” Oxford University Press, 1986.
Johnson, Henry. “The Campaign of 1776 and New York and Brooklyn.” Long Island Historical Society, 1878. Print.
Schecter, Barnet. “The Battle for New York.” Walking Publishing Company, 2002. Print.