Commitment at the Battle of Long Island

Commitment at the Battle of Long Island

Committed: The Continental Army was determined to fight for their freedom.

At the same time as Continental Army forces were unsuccessfully trying to take Quebec from the British, other Continental Army forces had surrounded the British in Boston. After nearly a year of being surrounded and at risk of having supplies from the sea cut off, the British retreated to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada, on March 17, 1776. Here, they rebuilt their forces. George Washington knew that the British were not finished and that they would return. He knew that New York’s harbor would be their target as it would be a perfect base for their navy. His army built up defenses of New York’s harbor and waited for the British attack with 19,000 soldiers.

June 28, 1776

George Washington received news that the British fleet had set sail from Halifax on June 9 and were heading toward New York. A day later, Patriot troops based on Staten Island spotted the British fleet. Soon, there were 45 British ships anchored in the Lower New York Bay causing panic across New York. This fleet soon grew to 130 ships.

July 2, 1776

British soldiers landed on Staten Island. The Patriot soldiers stationed there retreated.

July 6, 1776

News reached New York that the Continental Congress had voted for independence..

July 9, 1776

George Washington sent some of his soldiers to the center of Manhattan to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence.

On July 4, 1776, the 13 Colonies declared they were free and independent states. The document that announced this was called the Declaration of Independence.


With a huge force building, the British tried to negotiate with George Washington. The British Commander, General William Howe, sent a letter to George Washington. The letter did not recognize his rank of General, therefore, Washington did not accept it. Washington’s officer responded to the British that there was no person of that name in the Continental Army. However, a face-to-face meeting between Washington and a British Colonel was arranged. The British Colonel, believing that the Patriots were not up for the fight, offered pardons, which meant forgiveness for what the British perceived as treason. Washington responded: “Those who have committed no fault want no pardon.”

British ships and soldiers continued to arrive in New York until the British fleet was made up of over 400 ships and 32,000 soldiers. Unsure of whether the British would attack Long Island or Manhattan, but knowing the attack was coming soon, Washington split his army across the two. On August 22, 1776, 20,000 British troops landed on Long Island. Washington was informed of the landing but wrongly told that the troops numbered no more than 9,000. Thinking that the British were trying to trick him into believing that the main invasion was to be Manhattan, Washington only sent 1,500 more soldiers to Long Island. The Patriots had a total force on the island of 6,000 soldiers, but the British had landed 20,000. A further 10,000 British soldiers were used to surprise the Patriots.

Bravery of the Maryland 400

August 27, 1776

At nine o’clock in the morning of August 27, the British soldiers in front of the Patriots attacked.
At the same time, and to the surprise of the Patriots, the British soldiers who had gone through Jamaica Pass attacked them from behind. The Patriot soldiers were surrounded and many were either killed or captured.

The remaining Patriot soldiers had no choice but to retreat to Brooklyn Heights, except for an extremely brave group of Maryland soldiers. They numbered no more than 270 and were up against more than 2,000 British soldiers with cannons.

Despite this disadvantage, the Maryland soldiers attacked the British. This attack allowed the other Patriot troops to escape to Brooklyn Heights. Less than a dozen of the Maryland soldiers survived. But their deaths saved many more – a remarkable act of bravery and selflessness.

George Washington looking on is reported to have said, “Good God, what brave fellows I must this day lose.” Washington and his Continental Army on Brooklyn Heights were surrounded by the British. The British believed that they were trapped. However, the Patriots were able to call on all of their boats and under nightfall were able to evacuate their remaining army of 9,000 soldiers without any more loss of life to York Island – which we now know to be Manhattan.

Now let’s take a look at an extremely brave patriot who helped change the course of the war.