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.

Battle of Sullivan’s Island

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 28, 2014
Battle of Sullivan’s Island

Battle of Sullivan’s Island

June 28, 1776: The first decisive American victory takes place during the American Revolutionary War. The Battle of Sullivan’s Island found the army of South Carolina under William Moultrie facing attack by Great Britain under Peter Parker and Henry Clinton. Fort Sullivan housed 435 militia and had 31 artillery pieces. Also fighting for the Americans were 3 shore batteries and over 6,000 regulars and militia. The British had 2,200 infantry, 2 fourth-rates (a British ship holding between 46 to 60 guns), 6 frigates, and one bomb vessel. Sullivan’s Island is located at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, one of the most important harbors of early American life. This Battle is sometimes also referred to as the First Siege of Charleston since there was a more successful siege in 1780.

The British had planned an earlier expedition to quell the rebellious southern colonies but it was delayed by logistical concerns and bad weather. The expedition finally reached American waters off the coast of North Carolina in May 1776. The conditions there were not in favor of the British, so General Clinton and Admiral Parker decided to act against Charleston, instead. They arrived in early June and landed on Long Island which was near Sullivan’s Island where Colonel Moultrie was in command of a partially constructed fort. Land assault from one island to the next was impossible since the water between the two was too deep to wade and the American defenses made an amphibious landing untenable. The sandy soil and palmetto log construction of the fort made bombardment ineffective.

In 1775 when the Revolutionary War began, Charleston was a center of commerce in the colonies. The citizens banded together in solidarity against their British tax assessors. When word of the Battles of Lexington and Concord reached Charleston, militia recruitment increased. Throughout 1775 and 1776, fresh recruits from the backcountry, also known as the low country because of the marshy conditions, came to the city to enlist. The city’s manufacturers and tradesmen also prepared for war by turning raw material into war goods, useful for the upcoming confrontations. While most of the fighting was taking place around the Siege of Boston, the British thought to capture lands in the South to give them a better base to work from.

Around 9 AM on this day, a British ship fired a gun, signaling their readiness to engage. In less than an hour, nine ships had arrayed themselves in positions facing the fort and as they reached position and dropped anchor, they began to fire. Moultrie’s men had a limited supply of gunpowder and so had to judiciously pace their shots. They took time and made sure that each shot counted and their guns, according to a British observer, were “exceedingly well directed”. During maneuvers, three British ships were grounded on a sandbar and taken out of action. Moultrie concentrated attacks on the two large man-of-war ships and managed to destroy most of the rigging. As their gunpowder ran low, supplies were shipped in from the mainland so they could continue. The British were driven off and Charleston was safe – for a time.

Always. Ye don’t win with defense–ye only hold the other feller off, or wear him down. Attack and have done with it! – Tamora Pierce

If you suffer an attack your best ally is to keep calm. – Michelangelo Saez

Is there any instinct more deeply implanted in the heart of man than the pride of protection, a protection which is constantly exerted for a fragile and defenceless creature? – Honoré de Balzac

Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength; attacking, a superabundance of strength. – Sun Tzu

Also on this day: The Kelly Gang – In 1880, Ned Kelly was captured.
Going Home – In 2000, Elián González was sent back to Cuba.
Conformation Dog Show – In 1859, the first show was held.
Boxed In – In 1948, Dick Turpin won his boxing match.

Ablaze

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 21, 2012

Depiction of the Great Fire of New York

September 21, 1776: The Great Fire of New York takes place. Prior to the American Revolutionary War’s beginning in April 1775, New York City was an important commercial center. It was not, however, anything like today. New York City occupied only the lower portion of the island of Manhattan and had a population of about 25,000. Before the war the city was politically divided. After hostilities began, Patriots seized control and arrested or expelled Loyalists. In the summer of 1776 British General William Howe began a campaign to take the city. The side in power would not only controlle the commerce, but also command an important military harbor. Howe took Staten Island in July and went on to attack Long Island with naval help from his brother, Admiral Lord Richard Howe.

As the brothers approached, General George Washington made a strategic withdrawal and moved the bulk of his army back about ten miles north to Harlem Heights. Several people, including General Nathanael Greene and John Jay, advocated burning to city down to avoid the British from enjoying its benefits. Washington put the question before the Second Continental Congress which rejected the idea. Prior to and during the Patriot occupation, much of the civilian population had fled and the Patriots had control, for military use of much of the real estate. On September 15, 1776, General Howe landed on Manhattan. He marched toward Harlem and the two armies clashed. As the British took the city, they also took control of the real estate.

In the early hours of this day, a fire broke out in the city. John Joseph Henry, an American prisoner aboard the HMS Pearl, said it began in the Fighting Cocks Tavern, near Whitehall Slip. The weather had been dry and there were strong winds. The fire spread both north and west. Residents still in the city took to the streets, fleeing the flames as they encroached amid the tightly packed homes and businesses. They carried what possessions they could as they ran from the fire and found refuge in the town commons, today called City Hall Park. The fire crossed Broadway and burned most of the city between Broadway and the Hudson River. The prevailing winds changed, the fire neared a relatively undeveloped area, and late in the day, it was extinguished.

It is unknown exactly how many buildings were destroyed. Numbers range from 400 to 1,000. That number is 10 to 25 percent of the 4,000 building then comprising New York City. Trinity Church was destroyed; St Paul’s Chapel survived. General Howe blamed the colonists for deliberately setting the fire in his report to London. George Washington wrote to John Hancock on September 22, vehemently denying this charge. Historians cannot find any evidence of arson. The British took over what buildings were left standing. Crime and poor sanitation plagued the area during the British occupation which ended in November 1783.

About one o’clock on the morning of Saturday, the 21st, a fire broke out near Whitehall Slip. A fresh gale was blowing from the south, and the weather was dry, thus spread with inconceivable rapidity. – Martha Joanna Lamb

Trinity Church was a blackened heap of ruins, together with the parsonage, charity school, and Lutheran Church. – Martha Joanna Lamb

Howe attributed the calamity to a conspiracy. – Martha Joanna Lamb.

Providence – or some good honest Fellow, has done more for us than we were disposed to do for ourselves. – George Washington, in a letter to his cousin

Also on this day:

Yes, Virginia – In 1897, Virginia finds out there is a Santa Clause.
Got Milk? – In 1995, the Miracle of the Milk began in India.
Monday Night Changes – In 1970, Monday Night Football premiered.