The next morning, Washington awoke at his usual hour, the early morning light still barely sneaking through the curtains. His heart still raced, and he felt anxious, but he told himself it was just his body, and that he would soon be able to calm down.
One of the most successful fighters in his day, Daniel Mendoza is one of the most important figures of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Born in Spain to indigenous parents, he came to Mexico as a young man and soon joined the struggle for national independence from Spain.
In 1776, American soldiers who fought in the Battle of Brooklyn, New York, and the Battle of Long Island were discharged and sent home. This was part of a larger policy of the British military authorities to weaken the Continental Army, especially after the Battle of Saratoga.. Read more about why was the battle of brooklyn important and let us know what you think.
In the face of catastrophe in Brooklyn, Washington gambled across the East River and won.
Admiral Lord Richard Howe may have believed his opportunity to be the mediator who rescued the colonies for the empire had finally come when he learned late on August 27, 1776, that British forces had defeated the Americans on Long Island. Howe was fast on his feet. He assumed the king’s soldiers had cornered George Washington’s army on Brooklyn Heights, where the Americans would surrender in a matter of days. The admiral’s brother, General William Howe, was so sure of victory that he did not seek any more naval assistance. “I have the pleasure to hear from General Howe that he has every cause to be satisfied with the possibilities before him,” Admiral Howe wrote to Commodore Hotham.
Admiral Lord Richard Howe and his brother fought alongside one other for Britain. (Niday Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo) Painting by John Singleton Copley
General Howe was, in fact, a great general. He and his brother, the admiral, thought they had accomplished their main goal of destroying Washington’s troops. Lord Howe anticipated the conflict to conclude, ushering in a new era in colonial-mother country ties. Rather of focusing on assembling Washington’s troops at Brooklyn Heights, Howe focused on initiating talks as soon as possible. He was oblivious to the apparent necessity for a patrol of the East River. He could have easily blocked the canal and ensured Washington’s capture. Howe had the resources to keep the river free of rebel vessels regardless of the weather.
Instead, Howe focused his attention on the Continental Congress and the impact of the Long Island loss on the delegates. He believed that the defeat would sway enough minds to start a fresh conversation. Howe was so focused on the peace effort that he never contemplated the possibility of the rebel force surviving. Even though there were clear indications that Washington would attempt a river crossing, Lord Howe disregarded them. He ignored the extraordinary amount of rebel activity on the sea, as soldiers gathered huge numbers of boats in order to transport the defeated army back to Manhattan.
On August 28, while combat in Brooklyn raged, Howe welcomed captured American generals William “Lord Stirling” Alexander and John Sullivan to supper aboard his flagship, the Eagle, for a lengthy discussion on the prospects for peace. Admiral Howe’s speech enthralled Sullivan, who promised to go to Philadelphia to persuade Congress of the necessity of at least listening to what he had to say.
On the same day, Washington increased the size of his army at Brooklyn Heights to 9,500 men. Colonel John Glover and his regiment of seamen from the United States were among his soldiers.
The Landing Force: On August 22, 1776, British soldiers rowed from Staten Island to Long Island. (New York: The Granger Collection)
Marblehead is a town in Massachusetts. Washington had made the decision to go to war. Even though the odds were stacked against him, he was not going to give up. His soldiers were exhausted and despondent, many of them ill or injured, and most of them were without shelter. The adversary was just a quarter of a mile distant. General Howe began a formal siege by constructing trenches 500 yards distant that would put soldiers and cannons within within striking distance without exposing them to excessive risk. However, when the British went into their tents, severe rain fell, stopping the siege operations.
The rain stopped on the evening of the 28th. While Lord Howe was having supper with Stirling and Sullivan, General Howe began his siege, believing Washington had nowhere to escape. Engineers dug trenches once again.
Even Washington was having second thoughts as younger patriot militiamen listened with horror to shovels moving earth and stone. He knew there was no chance if he remained put as he galloped over the ground early on August 29. He’d made a horrible error by dividing his amateur army and attempting to defend Brooklyn Heights against a force that was more than twice his size. Adjutant General Joseph Reed, a close friend of Washington’s, corroborated this pessimistic outlook. Despite the fact that Lord Howe commanded the East River, Washington made a hasty decision to withdraw. The American commander convened a council of top officers, who decided that the whole rebel force should depart that night, as ordered by Congress.
General William Heath had already received instructions from Washington to gather all available boats and assemble them on the Manhattan side of the East River, across from the encampment at Brooklyn Heights, prior to the dramatic council meeting. Washington wanted Admiral Howe to believe he was sending additional soldiers from Manhattan to Brooklyn if he was paying attention.
Colonel Hugh Hughes, assistant quartermaster general in New York, was instructed by Heath to collect up any boat he could get his hands on. He could have Glover and Colonel Israel Hutchinson man the boats from their regiments of mariners from Salem, Beverly, Gloucester, Cape Ann, Danvers, and Marblehead once they were in position. The New Englanders, who were tough warriors and great sailors, would have the apparently difficult task of transporting Washington’s soldiers, horses, and supplies over the East River at night, right under the noses of the Royal Navy and its famous battle admiral.
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Strong northeasterly winds blew as the sun fell, keeping Lord Howe’s large vessels out of the East River. Smaller British boats with swivel cannons on their prows might have easily disrupted Washington’s operation up the river. Admiral Howe, fortunately, was concerned with bringing peace to the world. His boats had vanished without a trace.
Washington planned to rescue all 9,500 men, together with their horses, equipment, and supplies, in a high-stakes bet. Washington kept an eye out for the Royal Navy while Glover and Hutchinson rushed to prepare and staff every boat. He was understandably concerned that Lord Howe’s tiny boats might raise an alert, prompting the other Howe to launch a frontal attack. Glover’s tiny boats, filled with troops, might have been caused havoc by the navy in the midst of the East River.
Admiral Howe, who had a well-deserved reputation for meticulous attention to detail, had no inkling what was going on. When that terrible storm rolled in on August 29, he became even more certain that Washington was not going away.
The pelting rain appeared to make the rebels’ effort to flee across the river even less probable.
In fact, the storm aided this process by hiding activities on both sides of the river. Washington was everywhere, guiding and encouraging the operation, which started at 8 p.m. The rescue boat was in danger of being swept downriver and into the arms of Lord Howe’s sailors by the northeast wind.
The Massachusetts seamen rowed men and equipment over the East River during the night, despite the adverse circumstances.
New Englander John Glover and his boatmen rescued the day as a sailor’s sailor. (Alamy Stock Photo/Classic Image)
Around 11 p.m., the wind died, making the journey more simpler but also making the rebel flotilla more conspicuous and vulnerable. Glover and his troops persisted in their efforts. The last phases of the retreat were obscured by a fortuitous fog around dawn. Surprisingly, General Howe’s troops did not realize what was going on until the Americans were almost done with their departure, following Washington’s plan to the letter. Only four patriots were wounded as British troops opened fire on the last of the fleeing revolutionaries. There were no fatalities. Three loaders who had remained behind were seized by the British. Admiral Howe’s inability to identify or prevent the withdrawal was a huge mistake that would cost him and his cause a lot of money.
General William Howe took charge of Brooklyn Heights after Washington’s departure, with only minor troop losses. Howe had New York City at his feet.
The rebel army was on the run and in disarray, which was a remarkable accomplishment. The only thing that marred the British victory was the Germans’ and some redcoats’ indiscriminate pillaging and rapping throughout Queens and Kings counties. The Howes’ case would be harmed by word of their depravity spreading quickly, as would the cruel conduct of their jailers, which was just just starting and was not well known.
On October 10, word of the Long Island triumph reached London. Britain was overjoyed. King George expected his army to quickly defeat Washington’s army, followed by the gathering of British troops at Albany and, shortly afterwards, the surrender of Congress. The king’s idea of how to keep the empire alive had been confirmed. France’s aspirations were disappointed. It was a huge victory. General Howe was appointed a Knight of the Bath by King George, who also sent him a personal letter promising him a rich sinecure when he returned.
While the king and his country rejoiced, the talks that Lord Richard Howe had begun on August 28 continued, but with Washington’s army remaining in the field, albeit beaten and humiliated.
Nonetheless, the admiral was so enthralled by the idea of becoming the great mediator that he thought a simple victory on Long Island would be enough to persuade Congress to rethink independence.
Howe convinced Sullivan, but not Stirling, to assist organize a congressional delegation meeting on Staten Island. Howe wanted Congress to be aware of the conditions that could be imposed if the patriots surrendered. As a major element of Howe’s orders, Secretary of State Lord George Germain and the monarch stipulated that no discussion of the conditions of reconciliation could take place until the rebels surrendered. Even then, everything Howe consented to had to have London’s approval.
Sullivan, who was on parole at the time, paid a visit to Washington on August 30. Sullivan sought authorization to go to Philadelphia to submit Howe’s conference request. Washington felt Sullivan was naive to believe Howe had anything substantial to contribute, but agreed that the issue should be decided by Congress. Sullivan headed off for Philadelphia the next day.
By September 2, Sullivan was hard at work attempting to persuade delegates that there was no harm in listening to Howe. After much debate and deliberation, Congress came to an agreement.
Unlucky Man: John Sullivan, the rebel commander, was kidnapped. (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images photo)
Three delegates were chosen: John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, one from the North, one from the Middle States, and one from the South. The three set off from Philadelphia on September 9 and arrived in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, two days later. The admiral’s barge was ready to transport the delegation to Captain Christopher Billopp’s Staten Island home, where Lord Howe greeted them. According to Adams, Billopp’s two-story stone palace, which was used to house military guards, was as “dirty as a barn.” Lord Howe had two rooms cleaned in order to make the event more special.
Franklin was familiar with Howe, but the others had never met him. They conversed over supper. It’s hardly surprising that the parties couldn’t find any common ground since there wasn’t any to begin with. Howe was forthright in informing his visitors that serious talks about the future could only begin once the colonies had surrendered. That was a no-no, as Howe’s superiors intended. The condition that Germain and the king maintain complete control over any negotiations had been enforced. Despite this, Howe maintained that after capitulation, suitable conditions might be worked out, but he wasn’t persuaded.
It was too late for the colonies to rejoin the empire, Franklin warned Howe. Too much had been done to the American people for them to change their minds. “Forces have been sent, and villages have been set on fire,” Franklin said. “Under the rule of Great Britain, we can no longer anticipate happiness. All previous attachments have been removed.”
The same was true for Adams and Rutledge. However, the debate went on. Franklin wanted to provide a genuine alternative. Although the American did not expect the British admiral to agree, he sought to open Howe’s mind to the idea of a strategy that avoided unnecessary death. For starters, Franklin maintained that independence was unavoidable. Even if Britain were to win the war now, success would only entail an extended period of unrest necessitating the deployment of a huge occupying force. Persistent opposition would eventually lead London to attempt to restructure colonial society, which would never succeed. As in Ireland, British soldiers would become a permanent presence, keeping a hostile populace in check and impoverishing both nations.
Rather of compounding Britain’s mistakes by waging a lengthy, costly war that it would never win, Franklin proposed that London embrace American independence, which would be free. As trans-Atlantic trade has done in the past, trade between the two nations may grow, benefiting both. The United Kingdom and the United States had previously been each other’s primary trade partners. They may be once again. Why not resurrect that rich industry as a viable alternative to unending bloodshed? Even an alliance was conceivable at some point. Why would a future like that not be preferable than the present’s continuous, expensive strife?
Despite the fact that Franklin and his colleagues had little prospect of convincing Howe’s superiors, he did not believe the experiment was pointless. Franklin wanted the admiral to be aware of a more appealing option than civil war. The Pennsylvanian didn’t hope to persuade Howe to alter his opinion about independence, but he did want to give him food for thought.
What Howe really believed was that the conflict would go on. “We do not yet perceive any symptom of that disposition to allegiance and submission to legal government, which would justify us in expecting to see public tranquility soon restored,” he and his brother wrote in a joint letter to Germain, telling the secretary of state, “We do not yet perceive any symptom of that disposition to allegiance and submission to legal government, which would justify us in expecting to see public tranquility soon restored.”
Franklin and his associates “were very explicit in their opinions, that the associated colonies would not accede to any peace or alliance, but as free and independent states; and they endeavored to prove that Great Britain would derive more extensive and more durable advantages from such an alliance, than from the connection it was the object of the commission to restore,” according to Howe in the same letter.
Franklin couldn’t even persuade Lord Howe, much alone King George III, that independence was a viable solution to their terrible predicament.
The monarch could never embrace America’s independence. Independence would avoid a war, save a wealth, and save thousands of lives—but it would also weaken England’s strength and prestige, as well as the empire’s standing in the globe, which was unacceptable. Aside from the benefits of rekindled cordial ties, commerce, and possibly an alliance, the monarch despised the idea of losing Britain’s sovereignty over North America.
Lord Howe, right, attempted and failed to wrest a surrender from Adams, Rutledge, and Franklin, from left. (Alonzo Chappel’s engraving)
The Earl of Sandwich, first Lord of the Admiralty, shared Germain’s sentiments. The king’s soldiers anticipated surrender, not a negotiated settlement, and definitely not independence, after that stunning victory on Long Island. They were too fixated on military strength to contemplate any other option, especially when they seemed to be winning.
“Yesterday morning I returned with Dr. Franklin and Mr. Rutledge from Staten Island, where we saw Lord Howe and had nearly three hours discussion with him,” Adams said in a letter to his wife Abigail. The outcome of this interview will be beneficial to us. It is clearly clear that his lordship has no authority beyond that which is granted to him by Parliament [the Prohibitive Act]. His commission allows him to grant pardons in exchange for submissions, and to converse, consult, and advise with whomever he thinks appropriate about American grievances, governors’ instructions, and Parliamentary acts, and if any errors were discovered, His Majesty and the ministry were willing to correct them… His lordship is about fifty years old. He is a well-bred guy, but…his mind is a little jumbled.”
The Staten Island negotiations did not go well for Lord Howe, who came off as a naive negotiator who was out of his position. However, these encounters were crucial for the patriots, since they allowed their armed forces to recuperate from the severe pounding they had received on Long Island.
Instead of waiting to give his brother time to negotiate, General Richard Howe should have quickly followed his triumph with an attack on Washington’s demoralized force in Manhattan, which would have been catastrophic to the Revolution.
This article first appeared in American History magazine’s December 2017 edition. Subscribe here.
One could argue that Washington’s great political achievements were all accomplished before the American Revolution. Yet, the war he then fought would forever change the United States, and continue to do so until the very last days of his life. Why was the war so important? For one, it was the first time the United States didn’t only include the thirteen colonies; it now included people from all over the world, and it was the first time the thirteen colonies had to come together and work as a team and closely cooperate with each other.. Read more about who won the battle of brooklyn and let us know what you think.
William Howe, a British general, made a mistake at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights. He led his troops into an area where they were ambushed by American forces and suffered significant casualties."}}]}
Frequently Asked Questions
What happened at the Battle of Brooklyn?
The Battle of Brooklyn was a battle between British and American forces in 1776.
How did Washington escape the Battle of Brooklyn?
Washington was able to escape the Battle of Brooklyn because he had a secret route that led him out of the city.
What was William Howes mistake at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights?
William Howe, a British general, made a mistake at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights. He led his troops into an area where they were ambushed by American forces and suffered significant casualties.
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