Battle of Long Island - Important Battles Throughout History

The area where the Battle of Long Island occurred is modern-day Prospect Park.
The area where the Battle of Long Island occurred is modern-day Prospect Park.

The Battle of Long Island was one of the major battles of the American Revolutionary War that was fought after the Declaration of America’s Independence on July 4, 1776. It was fought on August 27, 1776, between the British and the Continental Army. The battle was a major victory for the British troops and marked the beginning of a strategic takeover of the city of New York. It was also the largest battle of the entire American Revolutionary War in terms of the number of troops that was deployed.

5. Background

The American Revolutionary War started as a conflict between Britain and her colonies which had declared independence as the US. The Battle of Long Island was the first of the many battles to be fought after the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The battle which broke out on August 27, 1776, was fought at the Brooklyn Heights, Long Island in the New York. Following the siege of Boston on March 17, 1776, the British troops retreated to Nova Scotia. Washington who was commanding the American troops expected the British to attack New York City. He led his army to Long Island and the nearby New York City.

4. Makeup of the Forces

The Battle of Long Island was fought between the British and the American Armies. It was the first battle that involved the American Army after the independence. The British army was under the command of Major General William Howe while the American troops were under the command of General George Washington. The British troops numbering 34,000 were under the operational command of Sir Henry Clinton and Major General Charles Cornwallis. The British also got reinforcement from the Hessian troops.

3. Description of the Engagement

On the night of August 26, 1776, Sir Henry Clinton led about 10,000 British troops through the Jamaica Pass followed by eight battalions led by Cornwallis. General Howe followed with six battalions and a number of artillery. By dawn, the British troops were through the pass and stopped so that the soldiers could rest. Once on the Long Island, the British troops used cannonball fire to smash the American troops’ camps dividing the Continental Army into two. The diversionary tactics enabled the British troops to reach the base of Brooklyn Heights. At the top of the Height was a fort that the British delayed attacking allowing Washington and his troops to retreat. The American Army managed to escape across to New York. About 2,000 American troops led by Major Prescott resisted the attack but they were overpowered by the British. In the Morning of August 29, the Americans were forced to withdraw with heavy losses and casualty.

2. Outcome

The Battle of Long Island was the largest battle ever fought in North America. Over 40,000 troops took part in the battle with the British reporting losses as 59 were killed, over 260 wounded, and 31 missing. Five of the Hessian troops that were assisting the British were killed while 26 were wounded. The Americans who were defeated in the battle suffered the heaviest casualty. About 300 American soldiers were killed and 1,000 captured. After the resounding victory, the British marched through the city of New York and set it ablaze.

1. Historical Significance and Legacy

The battle marked the beginning of the war. It is also the first war that the American Army fought as an independent country. Although the Americans were defeated in the battle, General Washington was applauded by both the Americans and the British for retreating and safely leading part of the troops out of a trap between the British troops and the East River. The Battle of Long Island showed that there would not be an easy victory in the American Revolutionary War and that the war would be long and bloody.


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