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Firearms were in short supply, with various muskets supplemented by hunting rifles, blunderbusses and anything that could fire a ball. War preparations and Fortifications The newly commissioned Brigadier General William Alexander, Lord Stirling, from New Jersey, was in charge of implementing the defense plan for New York.
It was a hot, rainy and violent affair, as the rag tag assortment of Americans, few with uniforms and many in hunting shirts, untrained, took on the British regulars. 26, 1776, was the first major action fought by an army of the United States, under the leadership of Gen. In 1776, the Americans had been at war with Britain for about a year, but the battling had been focused in and around Boston.
The Revolutionary War battles of Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and the Gowanus By Frederick Fooy As Veteran’s Day approaches it’s worth noting that, right here in our cozy pocket of Brownstone Brooklyn, we stand on blood soaked and hallowed national ground, as the biggest battle of the American Revolution was fought in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene and Brooklyn Heights, when today’s Court Street was surrounded by cornfields.
It may be hard to imagine British Red Coats barreling into Trader Joe’s on Court and Atlantic and thrashing young American men, but that very intersection saw intense military activity towards the end of August 1776, along with several other familiar South Brooklyn locations.
New York City itself had a population of approximately 25,000.
According to a British traveler by the name of Smyth who visited New York during the war, two-thirds of Brooklyn’s population were of Dutch origin, though the culture was British in style.
Haslet’s 1st Delaware Regiment and the “Dandy Fifth” Marylanders, the latter referred to as “macaronis” by the rest of the American soldiers. John Lasher’s New York City, the “Battalion of Independent Companies of Foot,” was said to be extravagantly outfitted, and composed of young men “of respectability and wealth.” Other units were dressed in civilian garb, or at best hunting shirts. Morale was an issue—it soared with success, and desertion and insubordination followed even minor setbacks. The American soldiers were paid more than their British counterparts, but they were paid in Continental bills, often not accepted by merchants. Israel Putnam, a colorful character and the subject of many a legend and anecdote. Greene fell ill to typhus, Putnam was appointed to his command as late as Aug. He did not know Long Island, neither demographically nor geographically.
Early in 1776, General John Sullivan complained that “not near half of the Massachusetts militia could be prevailed upon to tarry and many of them went off one day before their time was out.” Yet for many recruits, service provided clothing and food they otherwise couldn’t afford. It is said that Putnam was almost burnt at the stake by Indians in 1758, was previously shipwrecked off Cuba, and later opened a tavern and married a wealthy widow. Apparently he did very little to improve upon his lack of knowledge before the English attacked a few days later.
It was a critical victory for the new Americans and filled the rebellious Patriots with confidence.
Lord Howe, the British commander, withdrew his troops on St.
Patrick’s Day 1776 and set his sights on New York City, which was held by loyalists to the crown.
Howe set sail from Halifax on June 11 with an army of approximately 9,000, and between July 12 and August 12, a British fleet of approximately 400 vessels carrying 25,000 soldiers assembled off Staten Island, which was turned into a staging area.
However, further north into Kings County, rumors of the advancing British soldiers caused quite a commotion in the villages, and there were skirmishes between American and British troops. The Brooklyn of yesteryear was dominated by the Heights of Guan, or the Brookland Heights, a rocky and heavily wooded glacial ridge that ran down the center of Long Island, roughly along the lines of today’s Greenwood Cemetery to Prospect Park and then northeast to Jamaica, Queens.