Battle of Long Island

What was going on in 1776?

In 1775, American colonies had declared war against British rule. This started the American Revolutionary War. The war was still going on in 1776. By August, 1776, British forces had been forced out of their stronghold in Boston by the American forces.

The Americans expected that the British would soon return with more soldiers and reinforcements. These expectations proved right when a British fleet arrived off the coast of New York in the month of July. The British soldiers on board this fleet engaged the American army which was camped on Long Island. This led to the Battle of Long Island.

Before the Battle

George Washington was the general of the American army. When the British army initially suffered some defeats at the hands of Washington’s army, they retreated. But Washington knew that the British would soon return. He guessed that they would attack on New York first so that they could get control of the city and use its coast to maintain a sea link with Britain as well as other colonies.

So in anticipation of this attack, George Washington ordered the American army to move from Boston to New York and start preparing to defend the city against a British attack. Washington’s guess proved very accurate when British soldiers started landing on Staten Island in July 1776. This island is right next to New York and the arrival of British troops there meant that they planned to attack New York. The American army comprised of 10,000 soldiers while the British army comprised of 20,000 soldiers.

The Fighting

On August 27, 1776, the Battle of Long Island began. The British army initiated the fighting by sending a group of soldiers towards the centre of the American army. When the Americans saw this, they thought that this was a full-scale attack and focused entirely on this group.

Meanwhile, British used the rest of their army to attack from the other side and surround the American army completely. At this point, American army had two options. Either to surrender to the British army which would have almost finished the war; or to retreat and try to outrun the British who had them surrounded on all sides. The American army under Washington chose to retreat.

The Retreat

The British had won and the Americans had lost the battle. At this point, retreating from the battlefield was very dangerous and hard for the Americans. But they managed it thanks to the famous group of soldiers which was called Maryland 400. These were actually 200 to 300 soldiers who kept fighting the entire British army while the rest of the American army safely retreated to Brooklyn Heights.

Most of the men in Maryland 400 died valiantly fighting on the battlefield. Even at Brooklyn Heights, American army wasn’t safe and British army knew that it could soon capture all American soldiers. George Washington decided to make a very risky decision at this point. He asked his soldiers to stay quiet and silently move across the East River to Manhattan at night. This risky plan proved successful and when the British forces arrived to capture the American army in the morning, it was all gone.

The Result

The Battle of Long Island was a clear victory for the British army. George Washington and the American army suffered a defeat and continued to suffer many further defeats before they could stand up and push back the British. The battle also gave British the control of New York which was a very important city.

Learn More about the Battle of Long Island at Wikipedia