239th Anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn, August 27th 1776

NGEF’s Archivist, Ryan Trainor had the pleasure of visiting Brooklyn, New York with members of the Maryland Society, Sons of the American Revolution last month in commemoration of the 239th anniversary of the Revolutionary War battle which occurred there. It is regarded by military historians as one of the most resounding battles of the Revolutionary War, and is considered significant to the history of the militia. The trip was led by MG Jim Adkins (Ret.), the former Adjutant General of Maryland.

The Battle of Brooklyn occurred on August 27th, 1776, along the swamps, woods, and farmland which existed where the city stands today. In the days leading up to the battle, British troops embarked from Staten Island and launched a massive offensive against Long Island, which ultimately involved some 32,000 British troops and Hessian forces. Some historians describe it as the largest amphibious assault in American military history until D-Day, in 1944. Washington was uncertain where the British would strike his lines, and was forced to split his forces between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Early on the morning of the 27th, the British advanced along an undefended pass and flanked the outer American defenses on Guan Heights.

A battalion of Maryland troops from the 1st Maryland Infantry, numbering approximately 270 men (raised originally from militia companies), was selected to serve as a rear-guard for Washington’s army escaping towards Manhattan. By 11:00 a.m., the English army, augmented by Hessian forces, virtually surrounded this contingent of Marylanders. In order to buy time for Washington’s escape, the Marylanders launched two assaults on a force of 2,000 Scottish Highlanders and British Grenadiers stationed in and near the “Old Stone House,” a Dutch Farmhouse known as the Vechte-Cortelyou House. 256 Marylanders were killed or wounded in the swamps surrounding Gowanus Creek. Watching from afar, Washington exclaimed, “Good God, what brave fellows I must this day lose!”

The rearguard action, which also included a contingent of Delaware militia, is credited with saving Washington’s army so that it could continue the war effort, ultimately securing independence.

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