Saturday, August 27, 2011

August 27, 1776: Battle of Long Island

On August 27, 1776, British forces, including Hessian mercenaries, defeated American forces at the Battle of Long Island.

Historian Edwin G. Burrows remarked that Britons and Tories referred to the rout, and the American retreat, derisively as "the Battle of Brooklyn." In the nineteenth century, Americans began calling the engagement the Battle of Long Island, perhaps, Burrows writes, in "an attempt to give the debacle a dignified name."

The Battle of Island Island became a scene for the sort of outrages that remained American grievances for the duration of the war.

By their own account, the British took 1,006 privates prisoner at Long Island on 27 August 1776. Sadly, many of these prisoners suffered in the custody of British and Tory personnel. Historian John H. Rhodehamel included in The American Revolution: Writings from War of Independence an excerpt from the diary of Lieutenant Jabez Fitch, a captured American officer paroled in New York City. Fitch visited the American prisoners and was horrified to find them dying of starvation: “Their appearance in genll: Rather Resembled dead Corpses than living men….”

Edwin G. Burrows, Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War (New York: Basic Books, 2008), page 267, note 13; Jared Sparks, The Writings of George Washington... 12 vols. (Boston: Russell, Odiorne, and Metcalf, and Hilliard, Gray, and Co., 1834-1837), 4:547; John H. Rhodehamel, ed., The American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence (New York: Library of America, 2001), 282.
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