Sunday, June 30, 2019

Episode 103: The Battle of Brooklyn

When we last left New York, General Howe commanded a combined force of about 32,000 British and Hessian soldiers on Staten Island, supported by his brother Admiral Howe, with over 10,000 sailors on over 400 ships.  The regulars had had time to recover from their sea voyages, and were in top condition after living on Staten Island for weeks, with plenty of fresh food and exercise.

Opposing them General Washington has less than 10,000 Continental soldiers and perhaps another 10,000 or so militia that might be available.  Even most of the Continental soldiers had no combat experience nor even much drilling for combat.  Most of the veterans of Concord and Bunker Hill had left the army at the end of 1775, replaced by new recruits.  As at Boston, disease continued to ravage the army, with smallpox, dysentery, and other diseases filling military hospital camps with nearly 6000 soldiers unfit for duty.  Among the sick was General Nathanael Greene who had been in command of the Long Island defenses until he fell ill.  In his place, Washington gave command to General John Sullivan, just back from losing Canada.

Washington’s army had spent the past nearly six months improving their defenses and anticipating possible enemy attacks.  Washington was not sure if the British would make a direct assault on New York City, or attack on Long Island or Northern New Jersey and then come at Washington from one of the sides.  The British fleet might also sail up the Hudson, land behind Washington's forces, and cut him off from retreat.  As a result, Washington spread his army all over the region to be ready for any of these possibilities.

Landing on Long Island

On the night of August 21, a brutal thunderstorm struck the region.  Witnesses reported a torrential downpour lasting over three hours, with nearly continuous lightning strikes.  Along the East River, a single strike killed ten soldiers encamped along the bank.  In town another strike killed three officers.  Dozens of homes caught fire and burned during the storm.  Many saw the violent storm as an omen of terrible things to come.

The next morning, the skies were clear and all had returned to normal.  British warships deployed along the coast of Long Island to cover the troop transports soon to follow.  The first group of 4000 soldiers under Generals Clinton and Cornwallis crossed from Staten Island to Long Island across Gravesend Bay, just south of where the Verrazano Narrows Bridge now stands.  The handful of Pennsylvania riflemen assigned to the area, fled without engaging the enemy, driving off cattle to deny them the enemy.

British Fleet in NY Harbor (from revolutionary-war)
The well planned landing went off flawlessly.  By noon the British had landed 15,000 men, with another 5000 still on the way.  Rather than attacking immediately, the British set up camp and began to establish defenses.  Again, they were in no hurry.

Back in New York, General Washington received reports that around 8000 British had landed at Long Island.  Concerned that this was still a feint, Washington kept the bulk of his forces in the city, prepared for a frontal assault. He deployed only around 1500 reinforcements across the East River to Brooklyn, bringing total the total number of defenders on Long Island to a little under 6000.  Washington also appeared to be unhappy with General Sullivan’s leadership, and the lack of order and discipline among the soldiers on Long Island.  On August 24, two days after the regulars had landed, Washington sent General Israel Putnam as field commander over Sullivan on Long Island.

For reasons, I have never completely understood, the British Navy did not bother to move up the East River.  If they had, they would have prevented Washington from deploying reinforcements and also cutting off the most obvious line of retreat for the forces on Long Island.  It could be that Admiral Howe feared damage from the shore batteries.  For several days, the winds blew unfavorably for moving up river.  Trying to run past the batteries against the wind might have been too great a danger for the fleet.

It could also be that the Howes did not want to cut off the lines of retreat.  That is why they also rejected General Henry Clinton’s plan to land forces up the Hudson River, north of the city, and cut off the Continental Army from any retreat.  Leaving open a line of retreat would reduce the will of the enemy to stand and fight.  If they took New York easily, perhaps the rebels would be more inclined to consider a negotiated peace.

Whatever the reason, the British took no action in the Hudson or East Rivers.  They landed their army on Long Island and set up camp.  Local Tories flocked to the army, greeting them as liberators.  Although the patriots had made some efforts to destroy crops and drive off livestock, there was still plenty for the regulars to enjoy.

The regulars also saw how well the colonists were living.  The standard of living in New York was far higher than that of most commoners in England or in the German States where the soldiers had grown up.  Many officers confirmed their views that the colonists were a bunch of whiners who did not realize how good they had it.  It made them all the more eager to crush this rebellion, and perhaps be rewarded with lands of their own in this prosperous countryside.

The Lines

For several days, the British Army camped on Long Island, in no particular hurry to do anything.  This gave Washington plenty of time to assess the numbers he faced and to send over additional reinforcements.  Even so, he only had a total of between 9000 and 10,000 soldiers to face over 20,000 attackers supported by navy cannons.  The Continentals concentrated the bulk of their forces around the forts they had built in Brooklyn.  They deployed only around 3000 inexperienced soldiers to defend the Gowanus Heights, the hilly defenses stretching along nearly six miles.

The Continentals had no cavalry to keep an eye on enemy deployments, and not much in the way of civilian spies willing to help them.  Washington still kept his best generals in New York, still fearing a direct assault on the city.  General Israel Putnam controlled Long Island from Brooklyn.  On the front lines, he relied on General Sullivan, who had never impressed him, and General William Alexander (Lord Stirling) who had only just joined the Continental Army.

The Continentals seemed to hope that the British and Hessians would make a frontal assault on their entrenched lines.  Even if they did overwhelm the American lines with superior numbers, Washington hoped they could be bloodied in the assault, just like they had done at Bunker Hill.

Jamaica Pass

In the British Camp, Washington’s hope seemed to be a realistic one.  General Howe seemed to favor a direct assault on the Continental lines, overwhelming the enemy and pushing them back against the East River.  Second in command General Clinton, though, had other ideas.  Clinton had grown up on Long Island when his father was governor of the colony.  He knew the land probably better than any other general on either side.

Map of British landing (from Wikimedia)
In evaluating the land and speaking with locals, Clinton discovered that the Continentals had placed defenses at the three mains passes through the Gowanus Heights.  But for some reason, they had left a fourth pass, known as the Jamaica Pass, unprotected, perhaps because they thought it was too far to the east and that no one would bother to go that far around.  Clinton decided it was the perfect place to move his army and then roll up the Gowanus Heights defenders from behind in a flanking maneuver.

Clinton was always proposing such flanking maneuvers and Howe always rejected them.  He had rejected such a plan at Bunker Hill and also a similar plan to attack New York City from behind.  Howe also rejected Clinton’s plan for Long Island. Clinton realized that arguing with Howe directly was pointless.  The two men had come to loathe one another, and Clinton’s reputation had taken a big hit after the his failure to accomplish anything during his brief independent command in the Carolinas.  Instead of arguing the point with Howe directly, Clinton sent several of his respected junior officers to plead with Howe to give more consideration to the plan.  Perhaps out of a fear of another Bunker Hill, Howe relented and gave Clinton permission to take his army out to the Jamaica Pass and run his flanking maneuver.

On the evening of August 26, Clinton led 10,000 soldiers, about half of the British force on Long Island, on the six mile march to the Jamaica pass.  To keep the march a secret, they took prisoner anyone they met along the way.  Unlike Massachusetts, Long Island did not have any patriot riders ready to alert anyone to the night march.  When they arrived at the Jamaica Pass, five Continental officers on horseback approached them, thinking they were Continental forces.  The British captured them without firing a shot.  Under interrogation, they learned that these five men were the only soldiers deployed to cover the pass.  By dawn, Clinton had led his army through the pass and had crossed the Gowanus Heights without encountering any enemy fire.

The Battle of Brooklyn

On the morning of August 27, General Howe deployed his remaining forces on a direct march against the rebel forces at Brooklyn.  The army moved forward slowly, with its lines in place by dawn.  British artillery opened fire.  British regulars and Hessians marched forward to test the Continental lines on the heights.  Lord Stirling commanded the Continentals defending the heights, among his soldiers were the famed Smallwood's Maryland Regiment and Haslet’s Delaware Regiment.  These were two of the Continental Army’s best equipped and trained regiments.  In both of their cases, their regimental commanders were missing, having been called to New York for court martial duty. But the regiments fought with distinction, along with others from Connecticut and Pennsylvania, 1600 Continental soldiers held back the advancing British and Hessians for hours.

Haslet's Delaware Blues on Long Island (from Wikimedia)
General Sullivan also arrived at the battlefield with additional reinforcements. For much of the morning, the enemy would approach within about 200 yards, but then pull back in the face of enemy fire.  The Continental officers were impressed with the ability of their army to stand toe to toe with the enemy in open field.

Then at around 9:00 AM, Howe fired a special signal gun, at which point Clinton’s forces, which had taken all of the Gowanus Heights defenders from behind, now descended on the main Continental forces at Brooklyn.  Sullivan and Stirling now faced not only 10,000 enemy in front of them, but another 10,000 attacking them from behind.  They eventually realized the British and Hessians in their front were not attempting to overwhelm them, but simply had been distracting them while Clinton’s army came around behind them.

The Americans defended themselves admirably in the face of the overwhelming assault.  Some soldiers covered the retreat of others, who had nowhere to go but into the Gowanus swamp.  Some drowned, but many eventually made their way back to the Continental forts at Brooklyn.

The Maryland regiment under the command of Stirling continued to hold off the enemy, giving other Continentals time to withdraw, but were soon overwhelmed.  The attacking Hessian soldiers attacked without mercy, bayoneting soldiers who tried to surrender.  The British did take hundreds of prisoners, including Generals Sullivan, Stirling, and Nathaniel Woodhull.  Stirling refused to surrender his sword.  Instead, he fought his way through the British lines to hand is sword to the Hessian General Von Heister.  I had not mentioned General Woodhull until now.  He was a militia general, not part of the Continental Army.  After his capture, an officer slashed him on his head and arm for refusing to say “God Save the King.”  The wounds led to an infection which killed him about two weeks later.

Washington crossed the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn that morning, and worked with Putnam to restore order.  By 10:00 AM Washington and Putnam watched hundreds of fleeing soldiers straggling into their lines.  At the same time, the British Navy attempted to move up the East River, thus cutting off more reinforcements from New York and also the only line of retreat against the advancing British Army.

The Battle Ends

Then, around noon, with the British entirely in control of the field of battle, General Howe called a halt to the advance.  Many of the officers and men, wanting to push forward and deliver the final death blow to the Continental army, grew frustrated with the orders to stop pursuing the fleeing rebels.  Again, it is hard to guess Howe’s true motives, but the best argument is that he did not want to run uncontrolled into a concentrated and embedded enemy that could end up driving back the British or inflicting terrible casualties on the British as they overran the forts.

Despite ending early, the British had won the day by any measure.  They held the field that they planned to take, with only about 400 casualties.  By comparison the patriots had taken about 1100 casualties and about an equal number taken prisoner.


The next morning August 28, Washington found the remainder of his army facing the British lines, and with his back against the East River.  He brought over another 1200 reinforcements from New York, but even with reinforcements, he had only around 9000 soldiers while facing about 15,000 of the enemy with another 5000 or so in reserve.

The British began digging a series of trenches, moving slowly toward the patriot lines.  This was the traditional slow and safe way to take an enemy fort with a minimum of casualties.  With the numbers on their side, the British would almost certainly move close enough to blast the fort walls with their cannon and then take the fort if the patriots still refused to surrender.

Later in the day though, the weather changed.  A downpour soaked both sides.  They attempted to continue their fire at one another with increasing frustration at their waterlogged weapons.  The British continued to advance their trenches, slowly pushing toward the patriot position for a final assault.

The following day, August 29, it seemed like the continuing bad weather was the only thing holding back the final British assault.  If Howe managed to capture Washington’s 9000 man army that likely would have been the end of the war.  The remaining troops in New York almost certainly would have fled and scattered.
Thomas Mifflin
(from Wikimedia)

Washington held a council of war with his senior officers.  They agreed that they needed to retreat across the river to New York before the winds changed and the British Navy moved up the East River.  General Thomas Mifflin proposed the retreat, but also volunteered his Pennsylvania regiment to serve as the rear guard, meaning they would cover the retreat and be the last to leave Long Island.

The problem was getting an army of 9000 across the river without the British noticing.  Washington’s best bet would have been to have his men rush over the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan.  The major flaw with that plan was that the bridge would not be built for another century, and they could not wait that long.  Rowing and army across the river in small boats in the face of the enemy would be nearly impossible.  Even if the navy could not move up the East River yet, Howe’s army could easily overrun the Continentals as they waited on the river bank.

They decided to move the men in secret that night, getting as many over as possible before the British discovered what they were doing.  Colonel John Glover’s Marblehead regiment, all experienced mariners, gathered all the boats they could find.  Washington issued orders that the men should be ready to move that evening for a night attack on the enemy.  Many soldiers thought it was crazy to mount a night attack, and were greatly relieved when they found out it was a ruse to keep secret the fact that they were being marched down to the river to retreat to New York.

Retreat from Brooklyn (from HistoryNet)
As soon as the sun went down, Glover’s regiment began ferrying the army across the river, starting with the wounded and least experience fighters.  Others kept campfires burning and made as much noise as possible so that the British would think the whole army remained in camp.  The wind and rain though, made crossing the mile wide river impossible.  The crews informed Washington that a they could not make the retreat.  Then, around 11:00 PM, the winds suddenly died down and they began transporting the troops back to New York.

Everyone worked in silence, the biggest fear being the British would discover the retreat and launch an attack on the remaining forces.  General Mifflin, still covering the front lines heard the British digging trenches all night, always moving closer toward the American lines.

Finally, around 4:00 AM a major came to inform Mifflin that they were ready to evacuate his troops.  Mifflin was shocked that Washington was able to get his army across the river that fast.  He even questioned the Major’s orders.  But the Major was adamant that the had just been over all the Continental lines and that Mifflin’s men were the last to go.  Mifflin took his troops down to the river, only to find that there were still thousands of soldiers waiting to cross.  Washington rode up and told Mifflin he had ruined everything.  By abandoning the lines, the British would realize the retreat was afoot and would march in and capture all the soldiers waiting to cross.

Mifflin, of course, angrily responded that he was following orders he was told were from Washington.  They soon realized the major had been mistaken in telling Mifflin to leave his post.  Mifflin marched his regiment back to the front lines, fortunately, without the enemy noticing its absence.

When dawn came, much of the army remained in Brooklyn waiting to cross.  At any moment, the British would discover the retreat and capture the remaining army, including Washington, who would not cross before the rest of his men did.  As the sun rose, the army experienced yet another miracle of weather.  A heavy fog set in, making it impossible for anyone to see more than a few feet in front of them.  The retreat continued that morning under fog, just as effectively as it did under the cover of darkness.

By early morning, Mifflin’s final regiment pulled off the line and crossed into New York.  Washington took one of the last boats across the river.  Within an hour of the final crossing the fog lifted and the British discovered the enemy had vanished.  All 9000 soldiers had escaped.  Although Washington had lost the battle, his army lived to fight another day.

Next Week: The Americans build a submarine and attack the British Navy.

- - -

Next  Episode 104: Submarine Warfare

Previous  Episode 102: Cherokee War in the South

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Further Reading


Kennedy, Roger The Battle For Brooklyn, 1776, Hudson Park Library, 2009:

Roger, J. David and Watkins, Conor Washington’s Escape from Brooklyn Heights Aug 1776:'s%20Escape%20from%20Brooklyn-Oct24-2006.pdf

Cohn, Benjamin The Legend Of General Nathaniel Woodhull, 2016:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

The Detail and Conduct of the American War, under Generals Gage, Howe, Burgoyne, and Vice Admiral Lord Howe, (original reports and letters) The Royal Exchange, 1780

Long Island in the American Revolution, NY State Am. Rev. Bicentennial Comm. (1976).

Adams, Charles Francis "The Battle of Long Island Vol 1", American Historical Review, 1896.

Carrington, Henry Battles of the American Revolution, 1775-1781, A.S. Barnes & Co. 1876.

Field, Thomas Warren The Battle of Long Island: With Connected Preceding Events, and the Subsequent American Retreat, Long Island Historical Society, 1869.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 5, Vol 1, M. St. Claire Clarks, 1837.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 5, Vol 2, M. St. Claire Clarks, 1837.

Fraser, Georgia The Stone House at Gowanus, Scene of the Battle of Long Island, Witter & Kintner, 1909.

Johnston, Henry The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn, Long Island Historical Society, 1878.

Martin, Joseph Plumb The Adventures of a Revolutionary Soldier, 1830 (This is a copy of the original print, but in poor quality.  You can borrow a better quality copy or listen to a free audio copy of the book).

Onderdonk, Henry Revolutionary Incidents of Suffolk and Kings Counties: with an account of the Battle of Long Island and the British prisons and prison-ships at New York, Leavitt & Co. 1849.

Smith Eugénie Marie Rayé The Battle of Brooklyn (Poem), National Society DAR, 1913.

Tomlinson, Abraham; Dawson, Henry B. New York city during the American revolution : Being a collection of original papers (now first published) from the manuscripts in the possession of the Mercantile library association, of New York city by New York (N.Y.). Mercantile Library Association;
Privately printed for the Association, 1861.

Ward, Samuel The Battle of Long-Island: a lecture, William Osborne 1839.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Daughan, George C. Revolution on the Hudson: New York City and the Hudson River Valley in the American War of Independence, New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2016.

Ellis, Joseph Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

Gallagher, John J. Battle Of Brooklyn, 1776,  Da Capo Press, 1995 (book recommendation of the week).

Grasso, Joanne S. The American Revolution on Long Island,  History Press, 2016

McCullough, David 1776, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Schecter, Barnet The Battle for New York, New York: Walker Publishing, 2002.

Wheeler, Richard Voices of 1776: The Story of the American Revolution in the Words of Those Who Were There, 1997.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Episode 102 Cherokee War in the South

While the British were focusing their forces on New York and to a lesser extent Canada, the southern colonies / states could not take it easy.  Southerners had defeated an organization of Tory militia at Moore’s Creek Bridge North Carolina in February 1776.  They had then defeated the regulars at Fort Sullivan outside of Charleston South Carolina in June.

British Indian Agents

But even with the Tories captured and dissipated, and the British Army and Navy chased back north in abject failure, there was still one hostile group with which to contend.  On July 1, 1776, the Cherokee began a series of coordinated raids on western settlements all through Georgia, the Carolinas, and even Virginia.

Cherokee Warriors (from Wikimedia)
Patriots accused the area’s British agent, John Stuart, for encouraging the Cherokee to go to war.  Stuart had tried to encourage the Cherokee to fight in 1775 and early 1776, even supplying them with ammunition.  But Stuart had been forced to flee from his home in Charleston to St. Augustine Florida in early 1776.  Stuart had made clear that the British would be happy if the Cherokee attacked rebel forces, but he now had to operate from afar.  To make things even more difficult, patriots kept his family under house arrest in Charleston.

Another loyalist named Alexander Cameron, who had a Cherokee wife, was apparently more active in motivating the Cherokee to go to war.  When he left his farm to join the Cherokee in the spring, many were concerned that his intentions were to start a Cherokee uprising.  Those concerns proved correct, though Cameron was far from the only instigator.

Treaty of Sycamore Shoals

The Cherokee did not need much provocation.  They believed, correctly, that the colonists would continue to push them further west, out of their lands.  The main reason they were not fighting, was a fear that the colonists would win a military confrontation as had happened during the Cherokee Uprising in 1760 that I discussed way back in Episode 15.  Now the British Indian agents only had to say, go for it.  Britain would not back up the colonies because they were in rebellion, the Cherokee saw the opportunity to fight back.

The most recent incident that had convinced the Cherokee of the need to fight was the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, signed in March 1775.  There a group of colonists from North Carolina, with Daniel Boone acting as their agent, agreed to purchase about 20 million acres of land covering most of what is today Kentucky and part of northern Tennessee.  In exchange the various tribes received roughly £10,000 in cash, debt forgiveness, and trade goods.

Land purchased under Treaty of Sycamore Shoals
(from Wikimedia)
At the time, the treaty violated the King’s Proclamation of 1763, which forbade colonists from moving into lands west of the Appalachian Mountains.  Many Cherokee Chiefs also objected to the Treaty and refused to sign.  Those who did agree took all the cash and prizes offered. Many later argued they thought they were simply granting hunting and travel rights over the territory, or temporary leases, not exclusive ownership.  By 1776, most Cherokee recognized that enforcement of this treaty would spell their doom.

Cherokee Chiefs from all over the region met and debated the merits of an all out attack.  They were convinced that military victory was the only way to prevent further colonial encroachments onto their land.  Also attending the meeting were representatives of the Iroquois, who still maintained official neutrality.  However, those attending the conference encouraged the Cherokee to go to war, and told the assembled about patriot attacks on Iroquois settlements farther north.  Delaware and Shawnee representatives from the Ohio Valley had similar stories to tell.

British agents let be known that they would supply arms and ammunition.  They also hoped the Cherokee would coordinate their attacks with General Henry Clinton’s attacks along the coast, which I already discussed in the Battle of Fort Sullivan, fought at the end of June.

Seizing the opportunity while the colonists and British were divided, the summer of 1776 seemed like the ideal time for the Cherokee to reassert control and take back the frontier.  With British logistical support and promises that the King had no objections to them retaking this territory, this was their best opportunity to push back the colonists and reclaim their land.

McCall Expedition

Patriots were well aware of Cherokee support for the Tories in the western parts of the colonies and also heard stories about the plans for an all out war. In June the patriot militia sent a small contingent of 33 men led by James McCall, to visit the Cherokee villages in the Carolina backcountry.  Their purported mission was to negotiate for the return of stolen property on earlier raids.  Their true, secret mission was to capture the British Indian Agent Alexander Cameron and bring him back as a prisoner.  They met with several villages without incident.

On the evening of June 26, McCall met with a group of elders at the Cherokee village of Seneca.  There, a group of warriors burst into the room and took him prisoner.  At the same time, another group attacked his soldiers, who were camped just outside of town.  The Cherokee killed four men, but the rest escaped, spending the next few weeks quietly making their way back east to friendlier territory.  Captain McCall remained a prisoner for several months, regularly threatened with torture and death.  Months later, he was able to make his escape with the help of a friendly female Cherokee and made his way to Virginia.

Cherokee Attack

The July 1 attacks struck all along the western borders of the southern colonies, hitting isolated farms and villages, ruthlessly killing men, women, and children.  They took some prisoners to return to camp as slaves.  The Cherokee tortured some of their prisoners to death, including children.  There was a reason settlers genuinely feared the natives.

The Cherokee were clearly siding with the British in their attacks, not striking at colonists randomly.  Loyalist farms and towns marked their homes with “passover poles,” basically a pole with a white cloth wrapped around it, so that the Cherokee would know to pass over them without harm.  As for the patriots, anyone not killed in the first strike fled to area forts, for protection, while the militia mobilized to do battle.

Gen. Charles Lee

These attacks came on the heels of the American victory at Fort Sullivan at the end of June.  General Charles Lee was still in the Carolinas when the attacks began. As commander of the Southern Department, Lee provided some strategic advice, but did not seem ready to deploy his Continentals anywhere, or march himself into the field of battle.  Instead, he remained near the coast, moving down to Savannah at one point.  He planned to attack British outposts in Florida, but nothing seemed to come of it.  Militia did most of the fighting along the frontier and Lee did not seem to bother himself that.

Instead, Lee spent much of his time writing letters to Washington in New York and Congress in Philadelphia.  During this time, he seemed deeply concerned of rumors that a British general might join the Continental cause and be placed ahead of him in the command structure.  He also wrote to the French Governor of Haiti asking for arms and ammunition, though it does not appear that got very far with that either.  Most of the fighting consisted of short hit and run raids rather than major campaigns that would need a strategic commander.  As a result, Lee accomplished rather little.

Inland though, fighting broke out all over.  It is going to be impossible to discuss every little raid or massacre that took place over the summer without making this a 20 part episode, so I’ll try to cover a few of the larger events only.

Western Raids

While there were few colonists living as far west as present day Tennessee and Kentucky, those few who were there, deep inside Cherokee territory, found themselves surrounded by hostile warriors, although I guess I need to start calling the colonists Americans, since after July 4, the people living in the south considered themselves living in states independent of Britain. One of the Chiefs who had opposed the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals and who had walked out of the signing was a man named Dragging Canoe.  He became a leading warrior in the Cherokee raids.  On July 20, at an area known as Indian Flats in present day Tennessee, Dragging Canoe sent an advance party forward looking for militia.  The militia ambushed the advance party and wounded several.  About 150 militia chased the retreating party back to the main body of Cherokee.  The two sides fought a pitched battle in which the Cherokee suffered 13 killed and more wounded, including Dragging Canoe.  The militia suffered only four wounded before the Cherokee broke off the attack and retreated.

Fort Caswell (from Wikimedia)
Around the same time, the Cherokee began to lay siege to another inland fort where a small group of Americans had gathered for protection.  A militia force of about 75 defended Fort Watauga, aka Fort Caswell.  The Americans, discovered the Cherokee before the attack and successfully secured the fort.  The Cherokee attacked for about three hours, attempting to set fire to the fort wall.  One woman fended off such an attack by dumping boiling water over the wall. After the initial attack failed, the Cherokee began to besiege the fort.  Following his retreat from Indian Flats, Dragging Canoe joined the siege with his warriors.  The Cherokee managed to capture at least two defenders who left the fort.  They burned one of them at the stake, a teen aged boy.  They also planned to burn a captured woman but relented when another long time female prisoner who lived with the Cherokee for years begged them not to kill her. After about two weeks, a large militia relief force arrived to break the siege.

McDowell’s Station (NC)

In North Carolina, Cherokee raids killed dozens along the Catawba River, leading about 120 women and children to take refuge at an area fort commanded by Militia Lt. Col. Charles McDowell.  The fort only had about ten soldiers.  The Cherokee had ambushed another contingent of eight soldiers in nearby Quaker Meadows, killing and scalping seven while an eighth survived by hiding under a log and returned to tell the tale.  The remaining soldiers at what became known as Fort McDowell were able to hold the Cherokee at bay for several weeks until a larger militia relief force arrived.

Lindley’s Fort (SC)

A number of settlers in South Carolina took refuge at Lindley’s Fort (aka Lyndley’s Fort).  A group of about 150 militia also took shelter there while awaiting a larger contingent to do battle with the Cherokee.

A around 1:00 AM on the morning of July 15, a group of nearly 200 attackers, about half Cherokee and half loyalist militia, attacked the fort, thinking it was only civilians, and not realizing the militia had entered the fort only a few hours earlier.  Both sides traded shots all night until the attackers learned a much larger relief force was on the way.  They broke off their attack and left the fort, but the much larger force of around 430 patriot militia pursued them and captured 13 of the attackers.  The prisoners were shipped to the jail at Ninety-Six.


North Georgia saw some raiding, but much of its frontier was spared by the fact that mostly Creek Indians lived there, not Cherokee.  The Creek had debated going to war alongside the Cherokee.  However, the southern colonies and the Continental Congress had requested the services of George Galphin, a popular trader who had a good relationship with the Creek Chiefs.  Galphin managed to keep the Creek out of the war and reduced Georgia’s exposure to Indian Attack.

Patriots Fight Back

The Patriots, of course, organized themselves quickly to meet the serious Cherokee threat.  As I have already alluded to in the relief of several besieged forts, by early August, the Patriots had militia brigades in the thousands from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, marching through the backcountry to relieve outposts and protect civilians.

The patriots also had more than protection on their minds.  They aimed to push the Cherokee out of the frontier area once and for all.  This meant a brutal campaign of burning Cherokee villages, killing men, women, and children, and stealing or destroying all Cherokee crops and food stores, which would inevitably lead to starvation later in the year.

Rutherford Expedition (from Sutori)
One campaign known as the Rutherford Campaign, was led by militia General Griffith Rutherford, through what is today western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. Rutherford teamed up with another large brigade from South Carolina.  They also had the support of the Catawba Indians who occupied limited areas on the northern frontier.  The combined force burned dozens of Cherokee villages during the late summer and early fall.  The army fought several pitched battles with Cherokee warriors, including Dragging Canoe.  The militia’s superior numbers and better access to arms and ammunition eventually forced the Cherokee to retreat to the west.

Another group from Virginia led by Militia Colonel William Christian, sometimes called “Christie” led nearly 2000 Virginia militia on a rampage over the fall and early winter of 1776, driving the Cherokee out of southern Virginia and northern North Carolina.

The fighting, which went on for months, brought out savagery on both sides.  Provincial governments paid for Cherokee scalps.  Soldiers on both sides made little distinction between combatants and civilians.  Fighting was often hand to hand, and neither side had much interest in accepting a surrender.  You won or you died.  Death was usually preferable to either side than to be captured.  Americas were happy to torture any captured Cherokee as payback for what the Cherokee were doing with American prisoners.

By some estimates, the patriots had killed over 2000 Cherokee, out of a population of an estimated 13,000.  The Cherokee had only about 3000 armed warriors, but many of those killed were civilians, including women and children.  Patriots burned at least 52 Cherokee towns, and innumerable smaller encampments.

The Catawba had allied themselves with the patriots and assisted in attacks on the Cherokee.  Only a small number of Creek joined the fight, with most of the Creek opting for neutrality.  Even worse patriots’ scorched earth policy of burning all villages and food stored met that many Cherokee would go without much food or shelter over the winter.

Attempts on St. Augustine

The fighting continued throughout the summer and fall, and into the winter.  General Lee worked out a plan with General Moultrie to mount an expedition against St. Augustine.  This was where British Indian agents continued to operate and attempt to encourage the Indians to fight the patriots.  Others agents operated out of Pensacola and Mobile, but those were farther away.  St. Augustine also held some prisoners of war, making it an attractive target for the Continental Army.  General Lee had actually set off on an expedition against St. Augustine in September, when he received orders to return to New York.

Around the same time, General Moultrie received notice that the Continental Congress had granted him a commission as a brigadier general in the Continental Army.  General Moultrie mounted several expeditions to St. Augustine, but resistance from Creek Indians, the offensive measures by British Regulars in St. Augustine, and most importantly, malaria outbreaks among the soldiers caused all expeditions to turn back before reaching St. Augustine.


By spring 1777, most of the older chiefs were ready to make peace with the Americans, ceding land and returning captured property.  In May the South Cherokee signed the Treaty of DeWitt’s Corner, where the Cherokee ceded almost all of their land in what is today South Carolina, as well as parts of Georgia.  In July, the Middle and Northern Cherokee, in the Treaty of Long Island of Holston confirmed the cession of the lands from the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, as well as additional lands to Virginia and North Carolina.  In total, the treaties to end hostilities cost the Cherokee over five million acres of land.  The treaties also required the Cherokee to return any prisoners, as well as stolen horses, runaway slaves, or other property.  They also agreed to turn over any loyalists or British agents to Fort Rutledge for trial.  Beyond land, one Chief even offered 500 warriors to fight alongside the patriots against the British, though the Americans declined this offer.

Treaty of DeWitt's Corner
The final Article of the Treaty of DeWitt’s Corner ended with “The hatchet shall be forever buried, and there shall be a universal peace and friendship established between the Cherokee and South Carolina and Georgia”  So, yeah, after this treaty, a close and tender relationship could grow into peace and harmony between the two groups.  Except, no there was no way that would happen, and no one seriously believed it even at that time.

Many of the younger warriors refused to surrender.  Although they could not continue to fight in the face of overwhelming forces.  They moved their warriors further west, into what is today mid-Tennessee and northern Alabama.  Dragging Canoe was one of these chiefs.  He formed a confederacy of displaced Tories, his own Cherokee, as well as members of  Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Shawnee tribes who all wanted to continue the fight against the settlers.  They would continue to raid and attack settlements for the remainder of the war, and would continue for more than a decade after the British recognized American independence.

So, once again, the Cherokee battling the settlers only led to another large loss of land, just as it had in 1760.  Beyond that, the raids accomplished almost nothing for the British, except perhaps tying up a few munitions, men, and supplies that might have been deployed further north.  But the Continental Army did not deploy any troops south beyond those who probably would have been there as a guard against a British coastal landing anyway.  Most of the fighters came from local militia.  If anything, the attacks mostly provided the militia with combat experience that benefitted them when the British tried to attack the south a few years later.  The experience also meant that the Cherokee would be unwilling to engage and cooperate with British regulars during that later invasion.  The Cherokee had been weakened, and also had no assurance that future cooperation would not result in the loss of even more land and property to the southern states.

- - -

Next  Episode 103: The Battle of Brooklyn

Previous  Episode 101: The British Land at Staten Island

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account.
Mike Troy

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!

Further Reading
Resources to learn more about today’s topic.


John Stuart:

Cherokee in the Revolutionary War:

Cherokee War (1776):

Treaty of Sycamore Shoals:

The Treaty of Sycamore Shoals:

A Revised History of Fort Watauga, by Brian Compton (E.Tenn. State U. Master's thesis, 2005):

Battle of McDowell’s Station:

Battle of Quaker Meadows:

Battle of Lindley’s Fort:

Capt. McCall & Alexander Cameron in the Cherokee War, by Wayne Lynch JAR (2013):

George Galphin and the War in the South, 1775-1780 by Bryan Rindfleisch (JAR 2015).

Treaty of Dewitt’s Corner (May 1777):

The Treaty of Long Island of Holston (July 1777):

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Drayton, John Memoirs of the American Revolution: From its Commencement to the Year 1776, inclusive, as relating to the state of South-Carolina, Vol II, A.E. Miller, 1821.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 5, Vol 2, M. St. Clair & Peter Force, 1837.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 5, Vol 3, M. St. Clair & Peter Force, 1837.

Gibbes, Robert Documentary History of the American Revolution, consisting of letters and papers relating to the contest for liberty chiefly in South Carolina, 1764-1782, Vol 2, D. Appleton & Co. 1855.

McCall, Hugh The History of Georgia, Vol. 2, William T. Williams, 1816.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Dean, Nadia A Demand of Blood: The Cherokee War of 1776, Valley River Press, 2012 (book recommendation of the week).

Hatley, Tom The Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the Era of Revolution, Oxford Univ. Press, 1995.

Lumpkin, Henry From Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South, Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1981.

Mazzagetti, Dominick Charles Lee: Self Before Country, Rutgers Univ. Press, 2013.

Raphael, Ray, A People's History of the American Revolution, New Press, 2001.

Vine, Deloria Jr. & DeMallie, Raymond J. (eds) Documents of American Indian Diplomacy: Treaties, Agreements, and Conventions, 1775-1979, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1999.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Episode 101: British Land at Staten Island

The Americans were feeling pretty good about themselves in the spring and summer of 1776.  They had chased the British Army out of Boston in March, and then declared independence in July.  For the patriots, there was no more bickering over taxing authority in London.  The United States were now separate from the British Empire.

Britain, though, had no intent of letting this relationship go that easily.  After all, you don’t build a world empire by giving away an entire continent just because some rebels kill a few hundred of your soldiers.  King George and Lord North had spent the winter assembling the largest military force the Empire had ever sent overseas.

Adm Richard Howe (fromWikimedia)
You would think that they would be ready to kick off their military reconquest of North America by April or May when the spring military season normally began.  But for a few reasons, they ended up delaying the whole program.  Part of the problem was leadership.  Admiral Richard Howe had been positioning himself in Parliament to lead the expedition, but he wanted diplomatic power, not just military command.  The debate inside the ministry took months before they decided that although Howe would head a Peace Commission, he would have no authority to make any political concessions. He could only grant pardons.  Howe did not like the restrictions on his authority, and considered walking away.  But in the end, this was the mission of a lifetime.  Howe was going to save North America for the Empire.  He could not walk away from that.

Another reason for delay was the assembly of the army and a fleet to carry them.  Carrying tens of thousands of troops across the Atlantic was no easy task in 1776.  It would require hundreds of transport ships which the government needed to build, buy, or lease.  Producing or acquiring all the arms and equipment took time as well.  Britain wanted all of this to arrive at once.  They wanted shock and awe, not some slow military build up over time.

Finally, even after London had its army and navy ready to go, along with all the equipment, it faced a series of storms in the Atlantic that spring, that delayed passage of most of the fleet for several months.  As a result, the British would not be ready to do much of anything before mid summer.

By June, General William Howe in Halifax was itching to go.  It had been three months since he evacuated Boston and he was ready to redeem  himself.  On June 29, 1776 most of General Howe’s fleet reached the waters just off Sandy Hook, NJ, just south of New York City.  He had more than 100 ships carrying around 10,000 soldiers.  This looked pretty intimidating to the continentals and militia preparing to defend the city.  But it was only the first phase.  General Howe would await the arrival of his brother Admiral Howe, with a larger fleet, as well as General Henry Clinton and his army returning from the Carolinas.  Over the next month, the patriots in New York would simply watch the enemy fleet grow and grow and grow.

Staten Island

Howe was not yet ready to engage the enemy, but he also did not plan to leave his men stuck in ships for weeks while the awaited the remainder of the invasion force.  He landed his force on Staten Island, where his men could camp and forage for fresh food.

At the time, Staten Island was lightly populated, with less than 3000 people, and ruled by a handful of prominent families.  It tended to be loyalist.  While the patriots had been trying to round up loyalists in much of the region, as well as build defenses to oppose a British landing, they had pretty much left Staten Island alone.  Most of the islands had been under the guns of the small British fleet that had been in New York’s harbor for the previous couple of years.

On July 2, General Howe began to disembark his troops on Staten Island, facing no military resistance, only a miserable rain storm.  The army set up camp and waited.  Almost all of the 500 adult males on the island signed oaths of loyalty to the King. The locals happily sold food to the hungry army.

After a few weeks, one officer commented that the good food and comforts of the island had a noticeably good effect on the soldiers.  They seemed more energetic and in high morale.  According to the officer, one measure of this improvement was the increased number of rapes reported by locals against soldiers.  He noted that because the locals failed to bear these attacks with resignation, he got to hear quite a few interesting court martials.  Yes, comments like this would probably get any officer kicked out of the army today, but the army of the 1770’s still had a long way to go in sensitivity towards women’s issues.

In any event, the army was regaining its strength and vigor, and the rapes did not seem to create too much ill will among the locals, at least not any that would induce them to change sides.  Staten Island became a comfortable base of operations for the British.

Admiral Howe Arrives

About the same time General Howe was approaching New York, his brother Admiral Howe arrived in Halifax.  Having found that the General had already departed, Admiral Howe immediately set sail down the coast toward New York.

While en route, Admiral Howe attempted to work out a proclamation to encourage the patriots to surrender, accept a pardon and return to British authority.  Although he had no political concessions to offer, Howe relied on the threat of his military force to convince the rebels to give up their cause.  If one is faced with the destruction and confiscation of all property, the rape of one’s family, and possibly being hanged, accepting that Parliament can levy a three cent tax on a pound of tea does not seem that outrageous an alternative.

1776 Map of NY Harbor 
As I’ve mentioned before, some officers thought they should terrorize the populace until they submitted.  Howe thought otherwise. He believed that the mere sight of the military force would be intimidating enough.  The leaders had to show mercy and magnanimity so that the rebels would accept that surrender would not be so bad after all.

Howe had prepared not only a public proclamation, but wrote letters to the colonial governors (the Royal Governors, not these provincial leaders pretending to be governors), as well as to his friend Benjamin Franklin.  You may recall that Howe and Franklin had spent months trying to work out a peace deal in 1774 and 1775 before Franklin finally left England to returned to Pennsylvania.  Howe hoped his old friend would assist in bringing the conflict to a peaceful conclusion.

Admiral Howe’s fleet encountered several patriot ships along the way.  His fleet captured a Nantucket whaler.  Howe released the ship and gave the captain a bottle of brandy to show his good intentions.  A day later, he encountered a ship smuggling goods in violation of the Prohibitory Act.  Again, Howe released the ship and allowed it to keep its cargo.  Howe attempted to give these captains copies of his proclamations to spread among the colonies.  However, no one wanted to take them.  They feared they might be prosecuted for collaborating with the enemy.

Unfavorable winds and poor weather slowed Admiral Howe’s approach to New York.  It also didn’t help that his navigator mistook Nantucket Island for Long Island, taking the fleet off course.  Finally on July 12, the first of Admiral Howe’s fleet would arrive at Staten Island.  Ships would continue to dribble in over the next few weeks.  But even with over 21,000 soldiers now, the Howe brothers continued to wait.  They were still expecting nearly 3000 more soldiers from General Clinton’s mission in the Carolinas as well as about 8000 Hessian mercenaries still on their way from Europe.  So the Howe Brothers sat and waited.

This also began a pretty familiar theme for the Howe offensives.  Neither Admiral Howe nor General Howe seemed in any hurry to defeat the rebels.  They moved slowly and methodically, to win their battles.  They never moved quickly or rashly to take advantage of surprise or confusion.  Remember, General Howe commanded the British attack at Bunker Hill.  He was not inclined to charge his men into an entrenched enemy and face another slaughter.  He preferred to move on the enemy using care to protect his advancing forces. Moving slowly against the enemy on their own terms meant that the British could be assured of victory.  It also usually meant that while they could win a battle, they could not capture the enemy.

Many have argued that the Howes did not want to win.  They generally favored the American cause and did not want to crush the colonists.  I don’t think they deliberately set out to lose the war, but they also did not seem intent on crushing the enemy either.  They seemed to think that, at some point, the rebellion would fall apart on its own after a series of battlefield losses.  They did not want a massacre that would create decades of resentment in the colonies.  Rather, if they could simply show the colonists that defeat was inevitable, and the terms of surrender were not so bad, that most of them would voluntarily return to the fold.  In hindsight, it was a poor strategy.  But at the time, it seemed reasonable to many.

Elizabeth Loring

Some have attributed another reason to General Howe’s slow pace to another reason.  While in Boston, Howe had met Elizabeth Loring.  Elizabeth or “Betsey” had married Joshua Loring, Jr., the son of a British naval officer.  By most accounts, Joshua Jr. was a dirt bag.  He had held a number of minor positions in the Massachusetts Government and had left Boston with the other Tories in the evacuation to Halifax.  Before the war, he had served as Sheriff in Massachusetts, during which time he got a reputation for ripping off suspected criminals and enriching himself.  During the British occupation of Boston and in Halifax, he made money supplying liquor to the British Army.  As a military contractor he had great incentive to ingratiate himself with General Howe.

Elizabeth Loring (from Geni)
Now, there are no verifiable records of the gossip of the day, but apparently Mrs. Loring had a bit of a reputation as a slut even before she met Howe in Boston. Some contend she had been a mistress of Dr. Joseph Warren, who died leading the patriots on Bunker Hill.  Mercy Otis Warren also wrote a play in 1772 that subtly made fun of her reputation for sleeping around.

Whatever her background, it seems that she began an affair with General Howe that became pretty open and notorious.  Her husband Joshua seemed to tolerate the affair, eventually being compensated with an appointment as Commissary of Prisoners.  The job had decent pay, but Loring enriched himself even more by embezzling money allocated for the feeding and care of American prisoners of war.  Loring grew rich while hundreds of prisoners literally starved to death.  General Howe, in turn, seemed willing to overlook these crimes against humanity as long as Loring let him enjoy sexual favors with his wife.

Partly, as the result of all this was that General Howe was in no hurry to see the war come to an end, when he would have to return home to his older wife.  Instead, he enjoyed long nights of attending shows, drinking, gambling, and sex.

Up the Hudson River

While the Howe brothers seemed in no real hurry to do much of anything, some of their junior officers were chomping at the bit.  On July 12, only a few hours before Admiral Howe arrived,  the 44 gun Phoenix, the 20 gun Rose and three smaller British ships, caught a favorable wind and sailed up the Hudson River, past Fort Washington and Fort Independence.  The Continentals had built these two forts with the specific intent of preventing the British from sailing up the river.

The patriot batteries fired on the ships, but inflicted only minimal damage to the rigging.  One sailor had to have a leg amputated.  The patriots did more damage to themselves.  The inexperienced artillery crews managed to blow up at least one gun.  They tried to load a powder charge without first swabbing the barrel.  As a result, the powder ignited from a spark still in the barrel from the previous shot, killing six members of the crew and seriously wounding several others.

Phoenix and Rose up the Hudson, 1776
(from Wikimedia)
According to some accounts, the crew had been getting drunk and hanging out at the whore houses at Holy Ground before they spotted the British ships, so in addition to their inexperience, their drunkenness may have contributed to the fatal accident.  The artillery crew was also commanded by an inexperienced 19 year old who had been a college student only a few months earlier.  Fortunately for Captain Alexander Hamilton, the Continental Army offered lots of second chances after poor performances like this.  His leadership would improve over time. The British returned fire, mostly hitting buildings in New York, killing and wounding several civilians.

For Washington, this was not only a huge embarrassment.  It proved that his defenses were worthless against the British Navy.  They could sail up behind his forces and cut off his line of retreat whenever they wanted.  He also had no idea what those ships planned to do.  Some rumors suggested they might be arming Tory regiments to launch an attack on Washington’s rear.  Others suggested they might be on a mission to destroy some American ships under construction further up river.  They might also be trying to open up lines of communication with General John Burgoyne’s forces who could be moving south over Lake Champlain to complete the British plan of sealing off New England from the rest of the colonies.

If fact, they had no real plans at all other than to test the American defenses.  The ship remained upriver for a few weeks,  The patriots maintained men along shore to oppose any attempts at landing.  After facing a failed patriot raid against the ships and a failed attempt at sending fire ships at them, the ships sailed back down the Hudson, leading to another minor firefight with the Continental artillery, before rejoining the main fleet off Sandy Hook.  They did succeed though, in proving to everyone that the American defenses were useless against the British naval domination of the rivers around New York.

Peace Negotiations

The day after Admiral Howe arrived in Staten Island, he began distributing his proclamations as a Peace Commissioner, promising pardons for all who would swear allegiance to the King and making vague and exaggerated claims that he could negotiate a peace and bring the violence to an end.  Howe was disappointed to hear the Americans had just declared independence, but still pushed forward with his plans to settle the dispute without further bloodshed.

General Washington used the opportunity to send General Howe a letter, objecting to the treatment of American prisoners, primarily those held in Canada.  These men were now prisoners of war of the independent United States, not criminals.

Admiral Howe then decided to send a letter under a flag of truce to “George Washington, Esq.”  Washington’s personal aid, Colonel Joseph Reed refused to accept the letter because it was not addressed to General Washington.  The British refused to recognize Washington’s commission and could not put his title on the message without tacitly accepting that he was a legitimate commander of a legitimate army.

Joseph Reed (from Geni)
A week later, on July 20, Howe sent his Adjutant General, Lieutenant Colonel James Patterson, under a flag of truce to meet with Washington to discuss prisoners.  The Americans blindfolded him and took him to meet with Washington.

There, Patterson attempted, once again, to hand deliver Howe’s letter, now addressed to George Washington, Esq, & etc. & etc.  This time, Washington himself refused to accept the letter without the proper title.  Patterson insisted the Admiral met no disrespect, and that the et ceteras were there to imply all appropriate titles.  Washington said that yes, they could mean anything and everything, but he would not even consider a negotiation until they recognized his proper title, which would implicitly mean recognizing American independence as well.

Washington went on to tell Patterson that he understood the Admiral’s only real power was to grant pardons.  No one wanted his pardons because they had not done anything wrong.  Also, if the British wanted to negotiate any sort of political solution, they needed to do that with the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, not a military general.  The meeting lasted several hours, and was apparently reasonably cordial.  But neither side seemed to be willing to do anything that would even begin any sort of peace talks.  By late afternoon, Patterson put on his blindfolded and was led back to the British ship waiting to carry him back to the fleet.

Howe did get his messages to Congress as well.  But they also seemed to fall on deaf ears.  Having committed to independence and with Howe having no real authority to offer any political reforms, Congress seemed in no mood to talk.  Benjamin Franklin received a private letter from Howe, which he had published in the newspapers along with his reply.  In his reply, Franklin noted that the relations had grown so poisoned between the British and Americans that neither could ever trust the other again as fellow subjects.  The only way the British could hope to govern America was to break the spirit of the people with the “severest tyranny”.   Clearly Franklin’s message was aimed more at Americans who were considering the negotiation option more than it was to Admiral Howe.  But it did make clear that the time for talk was over.  Only force of arms would decide anything going forward.

More Forces Arrive

With talks going nowhere, the Howes awaited the arrival of their remaining troops.  On July 31 and August 1, the fleet arrived from South Carolina with Admiral Peter Parker, General Clinton, and General Lord Cornwallis and 3000 regulars, following their defeat at Fort Sullivan in South Carolina.  On August 14 the fleet carrying 8000 Hessians arrived.  The soldiers disembarked at Staten Island following a long and difficult crossing.

By this time, the Howes had about 32,000 soldiers, 10,000 sailors and more than 400 ships already to attack New York and begin the reconquest of America.  With peaceful negotiations at an impasse, the Howes decided it was time to use their army.

Next Week: before we get to the invasion of Long Island, I want to move south again.  The British had failed to establish a base along the Carolina coast, but they had stirred up the Cherokee in the west to fight the patriots.  We will take a look at patriot attempts to crush the Cherokee uprising.

- - -

Next  Episode 102: Cherokee War in the South

Previous  Episode 100 The Declaration of Independence

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account.
Mike Troy

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!

Further Reading


British Forces Land at Staten Island, the New York Campaign Begins:

Joshua Loring, Jr - American Revolution’s Public Enemy Number One:

Washington Plays Hardball With the Howes, by John L. Smith, Jr. (JAR) (2015)

The Enigma Of General Howe, by Thomas Fleming, American Heritage, Vol. 15, Issue 2 (Feb. 1964):

Journal of HMS Phoenix, July-Aug 1776:

Journal of HMS Rose, July-Aug 1776:

Washington, George Memorandum of an Interview with Lieutenant Colonel James Paterson, July 20, 1776,

Letter from Lord Howe to Benjamin Franklin, June 20, 1776:

Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Lord Howe, July 20, 1776:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Bouton, Nathaniel (ed) State Papers: Documents and Records Related to the State of New Hampshire, Vol. 8, NH Legislature, 1874.

Carrington, Henry Battles of the American Revolution, 1775-1781, A.S. Barnes & Co. 1876.

Flick, Alexander C. Loyalism in New York During the American Revolution, New York, The Columbia University Press, 1901.

Force, Peter American Archives, Fifth Series, Vol 1, M. St. Claire Clarks, 1837.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 5, Vol 2, M. St. Claire Clarks, 1837.

Johnston, Henry The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn, Long Island Historical Society, 1878.

Mather, Frederic The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut, 1913.

Tomlinson, Abraham; Dawson, Henry B. New York city during the American revolution : Being a collection of original papers (now first published) from the manuscripts in the possession of the Mercantile library association, of New York city by New York (N.Y.). Mercantile Library Association;
Privately printed for the Association, 1861.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Bliven, Bruce Under the Guns: New York, 1775-1776, New York: Harper & Rowe, 1972.

Daughan, George C. Revolution on the Hudson: New York City and the Hudson River Valley in the American War of Independence, New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2016.

Ellis, Joseph Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

Gallagher, John J. Battle Of Brooklyn, 1776,  Da Capo Press, 1995.

Golway, Terry Washington's General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution, Henry Hold & Co. 2004.

McCullough, David 1776, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Schecter, Barnet The Battle for New York, New York: Walker Publishing, 2002.

Wheeler, Richard Voices of 1776: The Story of the American Revolution in the Words of Those Who Were There, 1997.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.