The Battle of Long Island
Written by Peter Fitzgerald
American Wars - War of independence
During the American Revolutionary War between 1775 and 1783 the Americans united to oust the British and gain independence. During the early years of the war there were decisive victories on both sides, but who was to win the Battle of Long Island (also known as the battle of Brooklyn).
The Battle of Long Island occurred on the 27th August in the year of 1776 in Kings County, Long Island, New York. This battle caused an interesting impact on the early parts of the war as you are about to find out.
Prior to the Battle of Long Island
After the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War the year before, the United States and Britain were at war with the Americans trying to gain independence from the UK. Two huge battles raged in the early months of the war called the Battles of Lexington and Concord, after these battles finished a large portion of the British Army became stuck in the Boston area.
About a year later the US decided to place artillery pieces in position to shell the British, the British knew they would not have the capabilities to stay where they were or to stop the shelling from happening. The British decided to abandon Boston and leave via ships in the Boston Harbor and headed over to Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada.
The US Army surmised that the British would make New York the next potential target so George Washington sent a number of regiments into the New York area to protect the city. These armed forces went to town creating defences ready for the potential conflict.
On June 29th the first of the British ships arrived and dropped anchor, this was only a small contingent of what was to arrive as within 7 days 130 British ships were at anchor. This sight sent the whole of New York into a state of panic.
By the start of August the mass of British ships awaiting orders and sitting at anchor outside Staten Island numbered over 400 with nearly one quarter of these being made up of war ships. This huge force numbered 32,000 troops of which 8,000 were Hessians.
The Americans did not know where the British were going to attack so they split their force into two with one half at Long Island and the other in Manhattan.
The Battle of Long Island
On the 22nd August 1776 the British started their manoeuvre; this move involved 4,000 troops who landed on Long Island early in the morning with no US intervention. In fact the United State army simply retreated back, this allowed for another 11,000 British troops to land by noon.
Later that day the British had advanced some 6 miles into Long Island and made camp.
The Americans stationed troops in two high vantage positions; these were the Brooklyn Heights and Guana Heights. The belief was that the British would simply march up and suffer heavy losses. Unfortunately for the Americans the British had been tipped off by loyalists about a small pass called Jamaica pass. This pass was only guarded by five men on horseback.
The British made a march through the day of night through the Jamaica pass with a small contingent left behind to harass the Americans and give them the belief that the British had not moved.
At 3am the battle started as the British attacked and scattered militia through another small pass called the Gowanus Pass. While this occurred the Hessian troops started a bombardment on American positions.
The battle group who marched through the Gowanus Pass then engaged a group of American troops that were found in a higher defensible position. On two occasions the British tried to attack but on both times they were forced into retreat.
The Americans then tried to engage the British and both sides started seeing heavy losses, this scared the American troops and many tried to flee, the Hessians saw their chance and joined the affray. One of the American leaders called Sullivan tried to organize his troops for a calm withdrawal but was unable to and his men fled leaving the British in control of Long Island.
The American troops in Manhattan learnt of the attack and troops were sent over to Long Island in support. These troops were not able to make a difference, although they did hold the British off for a few hours before the British added more reinforcements and surrounded the Americans.
The Americans then broke through the British lines and surrendered to the Hessian officers or retreated back to the Brooklyn lines. The British did not advance under orders from the officers in charge and effectively won the battle.
The Americans lost 300 men with 700 wounded and 1,000 captured, the British only lost 64 men with just under 300 wounded and 31 missing in action.