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Humpday History Highlight

By Wyatt Earp | August 27, 2008

The retreat across the East River, August 29, 1776

The retreat across the East River, August 29, 1776

August 27, 1776 – The Battle of Brooklyn

British forces under General William Howe and his brother, Admiral Richard viscount Howe, defeat Patriot forces under General George Washington at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights in New York on this day in 1776.

On August 22, Howe’s large army landed on Long Island, hoping to capture New York City and gain control of the Hudson River, a victory that would divide the rebellious colonies in half. On August 27, the Redcoats marched against the Patriot position at Brooklyn Heights, overcoming the Americans at Gowanus Pass and then outflanking the entire Continental Army. The Americans suffered 1,000 casualties to the British loss of only 400 men during the fighting. After the victory, Howe chose not to follow the advice of his subordinates and did not storm the Patriot redoubts at Brooklyn Heights, where he could have taken the Patriots’ military leadership prisoner and ended the rebellion.

General Washington ordered a retreat to Manhattan by boat. The British could easily have prevented this retreat and captured most of the Patriot officer corps, including Washington. Howe, however, still hoped to convince the Americans to rejoin the British empire in the wake of the humiliating defeat, instead of forcing the former colonies into submission after executing Washington and his officers as traitors. On September 11, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and other congressional representatives reopened negotiations with the Howes on Staten Island. The negotiations fell through when the British refused to accept American independence.

The British captured New York City on September 15; it would remain in British hands until the end of the war. (H/

This is yet another example of how the colonists could have (and maybe should have) lost the American Revolution. This story is brilliantly told in David McCullough’s masterpiece, 1776.

Topics: HHH | 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “Humpday History Highlight”

  1. Old NFO Says:
    August 27th, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Should have let them keep Brooklyn, Manhattan, hell.. ALL of the peoples republic of NY… :-)

  2. Randal Graves Says:
    August 27th, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    “The Battle of Brooklyn”….was that The Jets vs. The Sharks?

  3. fuzzysdad01 Says:
    August 28th, 2008 at 12:56 am

    Is it to late to give New York back to England?

  4. marvin Says:
    August 28th, 2008 at 1:22 am

    Howe could have won the war if he decided on a military solution instead of opting for a political one. Sounds like we have some Howes around today.

    Trying to win a war politically, is just as wrong as trying to win an election militarily. Everything has its time and place, but few can seem to master when to use one and not the other.

  5. USA_Admiral Says:
    August 28th, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Almost is a very important factor in history.

    Nice Post.

  6. Wyatt Earp Says:
    August 28th, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Old NFO – No argument here. I still think Manhattan should be surrounded a la Escape from New York.

    Randal – I don’t think there were many greasers in the Revolution. Well, maybe John Hancock . . .

    FD – I don’t think they’d want it. Maybe we can throw in New Jersey as well. Heh.

    Marvin – In just 1776 alone, the Howes could have won the war numerous times, but exercises in “restraint” doomed them. Maybe they were Dems?

    Admiral – Thanks. The story of the colonial army retreating across the East River at night is a brilliant one.