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The Battle of Long Island - This Day in History - August 27th

Posted on Wednesday, August 26, 2020

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On This Day in History, August 27th, The Battle of Long Island took place in 1776

The Battle of Long Island - Engraving by J.C. Armytage - United States National Archives

George Washington and the Continental Army had been preparing for a British attack on New York City since April of 1776. Washington commanded 19,000 soldiers who had fortified New York City and were mostly stationed in Manhattan, though American forces were also stationed in Brooklyn. The British Army, commanded by General William Howe, arrived in July 1776 and landed on Staten Island with 32,000 soldiers. General Howe offered to pardon the Continental Army soldiers if they surrendered, but when he was rebuffed, he prepared for battle.

Washington believed Howe would attack Manhattan, but then early on the morning of August 27, 1776, Howe and his troops attacked Continental Army soldiers stationed in Brooklyn. Washington quickly moved his men over the East River to Brooklyn, but he was too late. Washington could only watch from a distance as hundreds of Continental Soldiers fell in battle and then British troops moved to surround the Continental Army. 

A brave desperation move by American General William Alexander and 400 Maryland soldiers was all that held off a possible decisive victory for the British. All 400 of Alexander's men were killed or captured by the British, and Alexander himself was captured and taken as a prisoner of war. But Alexander and his men succeeded in buying enough time for a successful retreat. Washington then retreated back to the island of Manhattan, ceding the strategically important Port of New York to the British. 

Washington lost over 2,000 men to death, injury and capture, and the Battle of Long Island (also known as the Battle of Brooklyn) was one of Washington's biggest setbacks in the Revolutionary War. 


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