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with a large detachment of Germans, landed under cover of the ships, on the south western extremity of Long Island. A regiment of militia stationed on the coast, retreated before them to the heights. A large reinforcement was sent to the camp at Brooklyn, and the command of the post given to General Putnam, who was particularly charged to guard the woods, and to hold himself constantly prepared to meet the assault
of the enemy.
On the same day, the British, in three divisions, took post upon the south skirt of the wood; General Grant upon their left, near the coast ; the German General de Heister in the centre at Flatbush ; and General Clinton upon their right at Flatland. The range of hills only now separated the two armies, and the different posts of the British were distant from the American camp, from four to six miles. Upon their left, a road to Brooklyn lay along the coast by Gowan's cove, before General Grant's division. From Flatbush a direct road ran to the American camp, in which the Germans might proceed.
General Clinton might either unite with the Germans, or take a more eastern route, and fall into the Jamaica road by the way of Bediord. These three roads unite near Brooklyn. On the pass at Flatbush, the Americans had thrown up a small redoubt, mounted it with artillery, and manned it with a body of troops. Major General Sul. liran continued to command on the heights.
In the evening, General Clinton, without AUG 26. beat of drum, marched with the infantry of
his divisiɔn, a party of light horse, and fourteen field pieces, to gain the defile on the Jamaica road. A few hours before day, he surprised an Ainerican party stationed here to give the alarm of an approaching enemy, and undiscovered by Sullivan seizea the pass. At day light he passed the heights, and descended into the plain on the side of Brooklyn Early in the morning, General de Heister, at Flatbush,
and General Grant upon the west coast, opened a cannonade
upon the American troops, and began to ascend the hill; but they moved very slowly, as their object was to draw the attention of the American commander from his left, and give General Clinton opportunity to gain the rear of the American troops stationed on the heights. General Putnam, in the apprehension that the serious att ick would be made by de Heister and Grant, sent detachinents to reinforce General Sullivan and Lord Sterling at the defiles, through which thuse divisions of the enemy were approaching. When General Clinton had passed the left flank of the Ameri. cans, about eight o'clock in the morning of the 27th, de Heister and Grant vigorously ascendud the hill ; the troops which opposed then, bravely maintained their ground, until they learned their perilous situation from the British columns, which were gaming their
As soon as the American left discovered the progress of General Clinton, they attempted to return to the camp at Brooklyn; but their flight was stopped by the front of the British column. In the mean time, the Germans pushed forward from Flatbush, and the troops in the American centre, under the immediate command of General Sullivan, having also discovered that their fank was turned, and that the enemy was gain. ing their rear, in haste retreated towards Brooklyn. Clinton's columns continuing to advance, intercepted them, they were attacked in front and rear, and alter nately driven by the British on the Germans, and by the Germans on the British. Desperate as their situa.. tion was, some regirnents broke through the enenıy's columns and regained the furtified camp; but most of the detachments upon the American left and centre were either killed or taken prisoners.
The detachment on the American right, under Lord Sterling, behaved well, and maintained a severe con. Aict with General Grant for six hours, until the van of
General Clinton's division, having crossed the whole island, gained their rear. Lord Sterling perceived his danger, and found that his troops could be saved only by an immediate retreat over a creek near the cove He gave orders to this purpose ; and, to facilitate their execution, he in person attacked Lord Cornwallis, who, by this time having gained the coast, had posted a small corps in a house, just above the p'ace where the American troops must pass the creek. The attack was bravely made with four hundred men, who, in the opinion of their commander, were upon the point of dislodging Cornwallis; but his Lordship being reinforced from his own column, and General Grant attacking Loru Sterling in the rear, this brave band was overpowered by numbers, and those who survived were compelled to surrender themselves prisoners of war; but this spirited assault gave opportunity for a Jarge proportion of the detachment to escape.
The loss of the A:nericans on this occasion, for the number engaged, was great; General WASHINGTON stated it at a thousand men ; but his returns probably included only the regular regiments. General Howe, in an official letter, made the prisoners amount to one thousand and ninety-seven. Among these were Major General Sullivan, and Brigadier Generals Sterling and Woodhull. The amount of the killed was never with precision ascertained. Numbers were supposed to have been drowned in the creek, and some to have perished in the mud on the marsh. The British loss acknow. edged by General Howe, was twenty-one officers, and three aundred and forty-six privates killed, wounded, and taken.
General WASHINGTON passed over to Brooklyn in the heat of the action; but unable to rescue his men from their perilous situation, was constrained to be the inactive spectator of the slaughter of his best troops.
At the close of the day, the British approached in front of the Amoucan works, and it has been said, that
the troops, in their ardour, exhibited a strong inclinacion to storm the lines; but General Howe, remembering Bunker Hill, prudently restrained them from the assault.
Determining to carry the American works by regu lar approaches, the British commander broke ground, on the night of the 28th, within six hundred yards of a redoubt.
General Washington was fully sensible of the dan. ger that awaited him. The success of the enemy by regular approaches was certain. His troops were without tents, and had already suffered extremely by heavy rains. The movements of the British fleet indicated an intention to forco a passage into the East river, and cut off the retreat of the troops to the city. Should they accomplish this, the situation of the army on Long Island would be desperate. An immediate retreat to the city was therefore thought expedient. The measure was happily accomplished, on the night of the 29th, with all the stores, and military apparatus, except a few pieces of heavy artillery, which the softness of the ground rendered it impossible tn move.
This important retreat was made with so much si. lence and address, that the enemy did not perceive it, although so near that the noise of their intrenching tools was distinctly heard by the Americans. A heavy fog hung over Long Island until late in the morning of the 30th, which hid the movements of the Ameri. can army from General Howe. When it cleared, the rear guard was seen crossing East river, out of reach of the Britis) fire. The General in person in. spected the details of this critical retreat ; and for the forty-eight hours, which preceded its completion, in his own language, he was “hardly off his horse, and nerer closed his eyes.” He did not leave the island before the covering party marched from the lines.
The attempt to defeni" Long Island has by many been considered, as an errour in the military opera
tions of the American General. But before his judg ment, in this instance, is condemned, the reasons which led to it ought to be weighed. Its possession was highly important to cither army; its situation rendered its defence, in a good degree, probable ; the range of hills was favourable to the obstruction of an invading enemy; and a fortified camp in the rear opening a communication with the city, and supported by batteries on Governour's Island and the East river, rendered a retreat practicable, when circumstances should make it necessary. There was then a fair prospect of defending the island ; at least of detaining the enemy so long in the effort to gain possession of it, as to waste the campaign in the contention. The disastrous consequences of this measure, are not to be attributed to any defect in the original plan, but to the neglect of the commanding officer on the island in guarding the pass on the road from Jamaica to Bedford. Unfortu. nately this officor was changed at the time, when hostilities were about to commence ; and the General, who directed the disposition of the troops on the day of the action, was imperfect'y acquainted with the passes in the mountains. General Washington, by written instructions, directed this officer “ Particularly to guard the defiles in the woods, and to render the approach of the enemy through them as difficult as possible.” This order was not fully executed. It appears, that General Sullivan was not apprized of the march of the British detachment from Flatbush to Flatland, on the evening of the 26th, and a guard on The Jamaica road did not seasonably discover the approach of the enemy to give information. General Howe, in his official letter, mentioned, that an American patroling party was taken on this road; and General WASHINGTON in a letter to a friend wrote, “ This misfortune happened in a great measure, by two detachments of our people, wh were posted in two roads leading thrcugh a wood to intercept the enemy in their