Continental Army's Defeat at The Battle of Long Island

by Mark Donahue

Video Clip from Revolution Movie

Statistics and Numbers


Date: August 27, 1777
Location: King's County, Long Island, NY
Result: British Victory

Countries Fighting:

United States
Great Britain



United States
Great Britain / Hesse-Kassel
George Washington
William Howe
Israel Putnam
Charles Cornwallis
William Alexander
Henry Clinton


United States
Great Britain / Kesse-Kassel
10,000 troops
20,000 troops
300 Killed
64 Killed
670 Wounded
337 Wounded
1,079 Captured
31 Missing


Pre-War Setup

With double the amount of soldiers and a significant amount of more experience than the Continental Army, the British were faced with the Colonists in yet another battle. In early May of 1776, Washington began moving his armies to New York--the next suspected British target. At Staten Island, they set up a few camps named Fort Putnam (for Rufus Putnam), Fort Greene (for Nathanael Greene), and Fort Box (for Major Daniel Box). In total, the three forts had 36 cannons, mostly 18-pounders. At this point in time, Fort Defiance was being built, too. In addition to these artillery sites, Fort George was also given more cannons and hulks (not Hulk Hogan or the giant green superhero) were sunk in the East River to stall or prevent the British from entering that way. Henry Knox then lead the construction of Fort Washington and Fort Constitution (commonly known as Fort Lee) so that the British could not enter through the Hudson River. To make a long and complicated story short, on June, 28, 1776, 45 British ships anchored in what is now Lower New York Bay, and within less than a week, 130 British ships were waiting for command outside of Staten Island. Small bursts of shots were fired between the two groups, but no major battle occurred here.

Invasion on The Island

At just past five o'clock in the morning, on August 22, of 1776, 4,000 British troops began to move from Staten Island over to Long Island. The troops arrived on Gravesend Bay at 8:00 and continued their advance. By noon, there were 15,000 British troops on the Island and they began to set up camp at the village of Flatbush-- 6 miles into the island. Small skirmishes were reported, but no major fight had occurred, once again.

The Fight!

The British/Hessians (now in numbers of about 20,000 troops) began to move out to their opponent at around nine o'clock at night on August 27, 1776. At 3 AM, shots were being fired and signal fires were being lit to let
Washington (who was currently in Manhattan) know about it. From about 200 yards apart, the battle was fully on! Cannons were blasting, drummers were playing, and muskets and rifles were firing left and right. Americans were quickly being wiped out by the Hessian strength and British numbers. Attempts to flee were made, but many long-island.jpgkilled in the process of doing so. At 9 AM the next morning, the Americans were being surrounded. Their only means of escape was to cross a marsh over to Brooklyn Heights. 250 Maryland troops were to stay and fend off the opponents while the Americans attempted their escape. Washington, watching from a nearby hill reportedly said, "Good God, what brave fellows I must this day lose!" about such an event. men who could not swim were easily captured and many were just plain too slow for the Hessians and were captured by them.
Washington's crew was also being backed up against a wall (the East River). Fighting continued and the British continued to advance. Eventually, at a meeting with other officers, Washington agreed to retreat to Manhattan. In the middle of the night, units and officers began evacuating the battle site. By morning, only a scarce amount of troops were left, but they managed to escape because of the heavy fog. Since none were seen by the British, all 9,000 troops left arrived in Manhattan safely.


1. What are some historical inaccuracies portrayed in the video clip at the top of the page?

2.What forts were built by Knox to stop the British from entering through the Hudson River?

3.Where was the original destination for the retreat (through the marsh)?

*4. Do Some Math: According to the tables above, how many militia-men in the Continental Army survived? for the British/Hessian Army?