Little Bits of History

Battle of Brooklyn

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 27, 2015
Howard's Tavern in East New York (1776)

Howard’s Tavern in East New York (1776)

August 27, 1776: The Battle of Long Island is fought. Also called the Battle of Brooklyn or the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, it was a campaign of the American Revolutionary War. In March of 1776, General Washington had defeated the British in Boston. He brought his troops to the port of New York which at the time was limited to the southern end of Manhattan Island. The harbor would provide an excellent base for whomever controlled it and Washington needed to keep the British fleet out. In July, British General William Howe landed at what was then sparsely populated Staten Island. Over the next six weeks, troops were reinforced by ships in Lower New York Bay and their numbers swelled to 32,000.

On August 22, the British began moving troops to Gravesend Bay. Washington was poised at Guan Heights and after five days of waiting, the battle was begun when the British attacked. Washington was unaware of how many troops had been brought ashore. At 9 PM on August 26, Howe began to move his men toward the enemy positions. No one, not even the officers under his command, were aware of the plan. There was a column of 10,000 men stretching for two miles as they were led by Loyalists to Jamaica Pass. They left fires burning at their encampment so as not to alert the Rebels of their approach. The British marched, until they reached Howard’s Tavern and met no American troops en route. The owner of the tavern and his son were forced to act as guides to show the British an old Indian trail they could use for their final approach.

At about 11 PM on August 26, the first shots were fired near the Red Lion Inn when American guards fired on two British soldiers looking for food in a watermelon patch. Around 1 AM on this day, with about 200-300 of the first troops in the Red Lion area, the American troops fired on the British troops. Major Edward Burd, the commander, was captured along with 15 privates and the fight moved forward. The British advanced and took ground as they moved. The major portion of the battle saw the Americans with 10,000 troops fighting against a combined British and Hessian force of 20,000. The Americans had 300 killed and about 700 wounded and another 1,000 captured. The British lost 64 and 293 were wounded with 31 missing. This was the largest battle of the entire war and ended in a British victory.

Washington was forced to retreat. But because of the weather, it began raining as the battle raged, and because of cunning and the cover of night, he was able to get most of his troops away. The British were feted in London for their victory, but in the colonies, they had been more hopeful of actually capturing Washington and more of his troops. The defeat showed up Washington’s lack as a strategist and the inexperience of his generals. Their raw troops were also tested. There are those who look to Washington’s nighttime retreat as one of his greatest military feats. The city of New York was lost to the Americans and they had to retreat to New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.

Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.

Nothing can be more hurtful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army the superiority over another.

The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments. – all from George Washington

Also on this day: Powerful Industry – In 1859, the modern day oil industry started.
War is Hell – In 1896, the shortest war in history was fought.
Kǒng Qiū – In 551 BC, Confucius was born.
Sculptor – In 1498, Michelangelo was commissioned to create the Pieta.
Nuclear Power – In 1956, Calder Hall nuclear station went online in Britain.

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