August, 1776: Battle of Long Island Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

George Washington moved his troops to Manhattan in March, 1776, convinced that the British would attack. Fortifications were constructed around Manhattan. On June 29, British ships moved toward Staten Island. On August 12, British reinforcements arrived, consisting of more than four hundred transport ships protected by thirty warships.

George Washington moved his troops to Manhattan in March, 1776, convinced that the British would attack. Fortifications were constructed around Manhattan. On June 29, British ships moved toward Staten Island. On August 12, British reinforcements arrived, consisting of more than four hundred transport ships protected by thirty warships.

These ships, with a total of 10,000 sailors, brought 32,000 soldiers to Staten Island. After learning of this troop movement, General Washington, realizing that he must confront the British in Brooklyn at the western extreme of Long Island, sent 7,000 troops there, increasing the number of American troops there to 19,000. These troops fortified Brooklyn Heights, establishing an outer defensive position behind their fortifications, which had a weak spot at Jamaica Pass.

On August 27, one British contingent attacked the American troops while another body of troops swarmed in through the Jamaica Pass, completely overwhelming Washington’s forces. The Americans suffered 1,012 casualties, whereas the British incurred 392. Capitalizing on stormy weather that kept British warships at bay, Washington led a retreat to Manhattan.

General Washington leads the American retreat from Long Island. From a painting by M. A. Wageman. (National Archives)

Victorious in Brooklyn, the British held Long Island until 1783. The Battle of Long Island, however, prevented General William Howe’s forces from capturing Manhattan. The British victory was bittersweet.

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