The British Come Ashore

On August 22nd, 1776, the British began setting the stage for battle by landing troops on Long Island. The Continental Army had been present in varying numbers on Long Island for nearly four months, since General Nathanael Greene was ordered to encamp there on May 1st, and with the arrival of additional Hessian troops to aid the British on August 25th, only five days remained until the forces would finally clash at the Battle of Long Island on August 27th.[1]

Just before dawn on August 22nd, British warships hove across the Narrows toward western Long Island. The soldiers on board descended to landing barges and an advance guard of 4,000 men was transported to the beaches of Gravesend Bay. Under the command of Generals Cornwallis and Clinton, the British forces quickly dispersed Colonel Hand’s American pickets onshore. With the landing site secure from American interference and observation, 15,000 troops came ashore that day. The advance guard set up a camp at the village of Flatbush, which was located near the Heights of Guana.


British flat-bottomed boats (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

London newspaper, The Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, ran an article from the London Gazette Extraordinary on October 11th, describing the landing. The alleged source was a letter from General Howe to Lord George Germain. The article claims that the landing of troops, along with forty pieces of cannon, took two and a half hours.  “Lord Cornwallis was immediately detached to Flat-bush with the reserve, two battalions of light infantry, and Colonel Donop’s [Hessian] corps, with six field pieces… his Lordship took post in the village, and the army extended from the Ferry at the Narrows, through Utrecht and Gravesend, to the village of Flat-Land.”[2]

The American estimation of the number of British forces that had landed on Long Island would fall significantly short of the actual total, a miscalculation that would become perilously clear at the battle. General Washington wrote to Congress on August 23rd that eight to nine thousand British troops had landed at Gravesend Bay the day before and were within three miles of the American lines. “I have detached from hence six battalions,” he continued, “as a reinforcement to our troops there, which are all that I can spare at this time… I shall send a further reinforcement, should it be necessary, and have ordered five battalions more to be in readiness for that purpose. I have no doubt but a little time will produce some important events.”[3] The First Maryland Regiment was among the five battalions that Washington counted as the further reinforcements, and the Marylanders would remain in New York until August 26th.

[1]  “General Greene’s Orders: Camp on Long Island” April 30, 1776, in The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn by Henry P. Johnston, (New York: Da Capo Press, 1971).

[2] “From the LONDON GAZETTE EXTRAORDINARY,” The Morning Post, and Daily Advertiser, October 11, 1776.

[3] Letter from General Washington to the President of Congress, August 23, 1776, American Archives Series 5 Vol. 1 Pg. 1120.

Samuel Holland 1776For a closer look at the British landing site and encampments, I’ve included a map that we’ve featured before on this site. This map was printed in London in 1776, and was based on the notes of British Major Samuel Holland.

– Emily

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