In Their Own Words, Postscript: The Marylanders Retreat From Brooklyn

Most of the first-hand accounts that we have from the Battle of Brooklyn end on the afternoon of August 27, when the Americans were able to retreat to their encampment in Brooklyn. The fighting had paused, but the danger had not receded, and the British still loomed close by. The only chance the Americans had was to retreat across the East River back to Manhattan.

The only Marylander who left a description of the retreat was Samuel Smith, captain of the 8th Company. When Smith and his men arrived at the American lines, they were stationed outside a small American outpost. As Smith recounted,

About midnight, one of the Corporals informed me that he had been up and down the [encampment], and not a man was to be seen. In consequence of which I sent my two Lieutenants…[who] reported that all the troops had gone, where they knew not…I presumed that we had been left as a forlorn hope [to cover the retreat].

I was…greatly relieved by the arrival of Lieutenant Colonel Ware, who told me that the [rest of the Maryland] Regiment was, by that time, in [Manhattan], and ordered us to march to the ferry.

I passed General Washington, who asked me how it happened I was so late; and I answered we had received no order [to leave] until a few minutes past. We arrived in time to embark in the last boat; and had scarcely got off from the wharf, when the British…appeared on the hill and fired their carbines, without doing any injury.

To read more about the American retreat on August 28, 1776, see The Rain and the Retreat.

“The Papers of General Samuel Smith. The General’s Autobiography. From the Original Manuscripts.” The Historical Magazine, 2nd ser., vol. 8, no. 2 (1870): 82-92. Note: Smith wrote his autobiography in the third person. It has been converted to first person here for clarity.

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