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Old 09 Jan 17, 00:37
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Battle of Long Island

Who do you blame for the American defeat on Long Island, and why?
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Old 09 Jan 17, 06:46
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Who do you blame for the American defeat on Long Island, and why?
Sir Henry Clinton, it was his idea and move for the flank attack, also James Grant for fixing the Americans in place for the attack.
Finally Sir William Howe for agreeing to the attack and giving it the go ahead.

After the battle Grant pretended to be someone else and had great delight being with a US prisoner who was badmouthing the evil James Grant
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Old 09 Jan 17, 13:09
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Congress. Congress ordered Washington to defend NY even though he lacked a fleet.
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Old 09 Jan 17, 18:37
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Sir Henry Clinton, it was his idea and move for the flank attack, also James Grant for fixing the Americans in place for the attack.
Finally Sir William Howe for agreeing to the attack and giving it the go ahead.

After the battle Grant pretended to be someone else and had great delight being with a US prisoner who was badmouthing the evil James Grant
Do you think any of the Americans deserve blame for leaving the Jamaica Rd unguarded?
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Old 09 Jan 17, 18:41
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Congress. Congress ordered Washington to defend NY even though he lacked a fleet.
That's a good point. We're lucky Howe was wary enough for Washington to get away.
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Old 09 Jan 17, 19:19
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Do you think any of the Americans deserve blame for leaving the Jamaica Rd unguarded?
Jamaica Pass was not unguarded: it was guarded by a small detachment, roughly a modern rifle quad in size. Clinton's scouts got the dope from some locals, then got the drop on the Continentals guarding the pass. Should Washington have posted a larger unit to that detail? Perhaps, but it must be acknowledged that night actions were rare, and even more rarely successful, in that era. Washington dismissing the likelihood of such a maneuver from his foe was not at all unreasonable in that era.
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Old 09 Jan 17, 20:54
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What is interesting is that Washington ordered a force of 10,000 men or so, to man the Gowanus ridge in front of his works on Brooklyn Heights. I am not sure what it was intended to achieve. Were they a hostage to fortune, to few to succeed and too many to lose?

The right flanker devised by Clinton was ambitious but feasible for a disciplined force like Cornwall's 'Corps de Reserve.' What threw the American patrol of four mounted officers was that the British lef the road and cut across farmland to save time and arrived at the foot of Jamaica Pass behind the patrol

It is odd that Washington fell foul of a similar flanking manouevre, in daylight, only a year later at Brandywine Creek
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Old 09 Jan 17, 21:23
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Originally Posted by slick_miester View Post
Jamaica Pass was not unguarded: it was guarded by a small detachment, roughly a modern rifle quad in size. Clinton's scouts got the dope from some locals, then got the drop on the Continentals guarding the pass. Should Washington have posted a larger unit to that detail? Perhaps, but it must be acknowledged that night actions were rare, and even more rarely successful, in that era. Washington dismissing the likelihood of such a maneuver from his foe was not at all unreasonable in that era.
Washington most likely arrived on Long Island right before Stirling became heavily engaged, which was at 0800 hours. I don't think he can be blamed for the small force at Jamaica Pass since Putnam and Sullivan were in command of the ground. Sullivan had been deputized to defend the heights, and he left a small detachment to guard the Jamaica Pass.
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Old 09 Jan 17, 21:32
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What is interesting is that Washington ordered a force of 10,000 men or so, to man the Gowanus ridge in front of his works on Brooklyn Heights. I am not sure what it was intended to achieve. Were they a hostage to fortune, to few to succeed and too many to lose?
He believed a defense on the heights would delay and hamper the British attack. Ideally his troops, after a stiff resistance, would withdraw to the works at Brookyln in good order.

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The right flanker devised by Clinton was ambitious but feasible for a disciplined force like Cornwall's 'Corps de Reserve.' What threw the American patrol of four mounted officers was that the British lef the road and cut across farmland to save time and arrived at the foot of Jamaica Pass behind the patrol
That's interesting. Perhaps if Sullivan got early word of the British march he would have ordered his troops to fall back, thus preventing the casualties of the battle. Or maybe he would have sent reinforcements to the pass.

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It is odd that Washington fell foul of a similar flanking manouevre, in daylight, only a year later at Brandywine Creek
That was under different circumstances. At Long Island the defenses were under Sullivan's command, and he emphasized the importance of the Flatbush pass at the expense of Jamaica pass.

At Brandywine Washington wasn't analytical enough of his intelligence reports, and he concluded no flank march was being made.
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Old 09 Jan 17, 22:20
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What is interesting is that Washington ordered a force of 10,000 men or so, to man the Gowanus ridge in front of his works on Brooklyn Heights. I am not sure what it was intended to achieve.
The direct route from the British beachead at Gravesensd to Fulton Landing in Brooklyn Heights was up today's Fourth Avenue -- and the Gowanus Heights command the northern terminus of Fourth Avenue.

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Were they a hostage to fortune, to few to succeed and too many to lose?
In response to Congress' orders that New York be held, Washington expressed great pessimism, noting that without a fleet, or at least the means to deny New York harbor to the RN, he really didn't have a chance. Update the technology and his situation was analogous to the situation faced by the HMS Repulse and Prince of Wales as they approached Singapore in 1941. If the land is the first military dimension, then the water is the second, and the air is the third. The British had complete control of the second dimension in 1776; the Japanese had complete control of the third dimension in 1941.

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The right flanker devised by Clinton was ambitious but feasible for a disciplined force like Cornwall's 'Corps de Reserve.'
Had one of the Americans gotten away and was able to alert his command, how might the Battle of Long Island differed?

But yes, Cornwallis was a strong officer, and his command featured good officers and NCOs, and well trained troops. A lesser unit probably could not have pulled that move off.

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What threw the American patrol of four mounted officers was that the British lef the road and cut across farmland to save time and arrived at the foot of Jamaica Pass behind the patrol
They assaulted the US position directly. The lay of the land would not have allowed a movement such as you've described. While much different today, 200-plus years ago the moraine ridge was much steeper, and very heavily wooded, almost jungle like in its density. That's what made those passes so valuable militarily: crossing from the sandy flats of southern Brooklyn to the highlands in the north would have been impossible for an 18th century army without the passes.

My understanding is that the Americans guarding the pass were asleep, and as the dense vegetation muffled sound, they remained asleep until the British were on top of them.

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It is odd that Washington fell foul of a similar flanking manouevre, in daylight, only a year later at Brandywine Creek
I'm guessing that Washington lacked the local knowledge/intelligence of all the fords that crossed that body of water.
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Old 09 Jan 17, 23:12
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With regards to Jamaica Pass, it was supposed to be guarded by a battalion of the Pennsylvania State Rifle Regiment under Col. Miles ordered out by John Sullivan. Miles, though, counter-marched his battalion when he heard the diversion at Bedford (?) Pass allowing Clinton's Column to slip by. Earlier, Clinton's move to the right was spotted by militia pickets for that very purpose, but the lieutenant who was dispatched to warn Putnam (who commanded on Long Island) found himself cut off by what he took to be British or loyalist troops (but whom I suspect was Hand's 1st Continentals falling back after skirmishing with British troops near where they landed), and so took a round-about route and so delivered the message too late to be of use.

When Sullivan found Miles marching back, he ordered him back to Jamaica Pass, only for Miles to get himself cut off and surrounded. Despite getting behind Sullivan at Jamaica, the troops there largely got off without much loss (though Sullivan was captured). Stirling, by sacraficing a battalion of the Maryland Regiment was able to get off without much loss as well. For all his good positioning, Clinton did little to hurt the American army. Howe, because he stood off and barely pressed the diversion in front was out of position so was unable to take advantage of the American route.

FWIW, American losses on the 27th was fewer than most sources state, about six hundred, and most of them from the Maryland and Pennsylvania State Rifles. Howe reported 1000, but that only includes the two regiments of the Queen's County militia who surrendered a day or two later since they were completely cut off.

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Old 10 Jan 17, 11:06
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Had one of the Americans gotten away and was able to alert his command, how might the Battle of Long Island differed?
Probably too late. By the time the Americans had reacted, Cornwallis' men might well have been all but on them, or at least the British would have been in control of the pass.

It's worth bearing in mind that the British flanking column alone outnumbered the American troops forward of Brooklyn Heights.

The irony is that there were two battalions of riflemen covering the farthest three passes over the Gowanus ridge. Their commander, Colonel Miles, had noted movement of British troops on the left and warned of the vulnerability of the Jamaica pass route, advising Sullivan to post troops to watch that avenue of approach. Putnam and Sullivan, (and possibly Washington himself, according to Barnet Schechter) rode forward to survey the position and took reports of British movement on the left simply to be sign of an impending general action.

All Sullivan felt he could afford were five (not four) mounted officers, who were to cover the Jamaica Pass and report to Miles if the British appeared. Miles, however, was patrolling the front face of the ridge with orders to stall the British on the Jamaica road if they appeared (The British had taken a longer route round, screened by light infantry, to avoid contact with Miles' patrols). By the time any warning came from Jamaica Pass, it would have been too late, with 4000 British were already at the pass.


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They assaulted the US position directly. The lay of the land would not have allowed a movement such as you've described... My understanding is that the Americans guarding the pass were asleep, and as the dense vegetation muffled sound, they remained asleep until the British were on top of them.
Well, no. The British didn't assault any position- on the right, at least. While Grant and Von Heister's brigades demonstrated on the left, Cornwallis and Cornwallis had filtered their men up through Jamaica Pass and caught the Americans in their left rear.

What I described was an earlier manoeuvre below the ridge whereby the flanking column, led by loyalist guides, turned off an enclosed lane to cut through an area of open farmland known as New Lots to reach the foot of the pass. The piquet of five mounted officers, expecting the British to approach along the Jamaica road, were intercepted by a British patrol sent to recce Howard's tavern at the foot of the pass, who "falling in" with the five Americans "had the address to take them all without noise."

Barnet Schechter's The Battle for New York seems a fairly thorough account.

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Old 10 Jan 17, 11:06
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He believed a defense on the heights would delay and hamper the British attack. Ideally his troops, after a stiff resistance, would withdraw to the works at Brookyln in good order. .
Yes, but what was to be gained? In the end, the numerically superior British would still have taken the ridge and invested Washington's entrenchments on Brooklyn Heights. They might have suffered heavier casualties initially, if the ridge had been more ably defended, but at that stage of the war, Howe's apparent reluctance to sacrifice his soldier's lives was not known.

The irony is that by being so roundly defeated in the open field, with Howe choosing not to follow up with an assault on the Brooklyn lines but rather to invest the position in conventional fashion, Washington ended up being able to save his army through the remarkably successful evacuation across the East River. He seemed to be lucky with water crossings....
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Old 10 Jan 17, 11:44
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Probably too late. By the time the Americans had reacted, Cornwallis' men might well have been all but on them, or at least the British would have been in control of the pass.
And lacking any sort of signal corps . . . .

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It's worth bearing in mind that the British flanking column alone outnumbered the American troops forward of Brooklyn Heights.
As the English were outnumbered at Agincourt but used to topography to their advantage, the Continentals could have done the same in Jamaica Pass.

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The irony is that there were two battalions of riflemen
Riflemen, or foot soldiers armed with smooth-bore muskets?

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covering the farthest three passes over the Gowanus ridge. Their commander, Colonel Miles, had noted movement of British troops on the left and warned of the vulnerability of the Jamaica pass route, advising Sullivan to post troops to watch that avenue of approach Putnam and Sullivan, (and possibly Washington himself, according to Barnet Schechter) rode forward to survey the position and took reports of British movement on the left simply to be sign of an impending general action.
That, IMHO, was poor genaralship: they discounted the probability that their position could be outflanked.

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All Sullivan felt he could afford were five (not four) mounted officers, who were to cover the Jamaica Pass and report to Miles if the British appeared. Miles, however, was patrolling the front face of the ridge with orders to stall the British on the Jamaica road if they appeared (The British had taken a longer route round, screened by light infantry, to avoid contact with Miles' patrols). By the time any warning came from Jamaica Pass, it would have been too late, with 4000 British were already at the pass.

Well, no. The British didn't assault any position- on the right, at least. While Grant and Von Heister's brigades demonstrated on the left, Cornwallis and Cornwallis had filtered their men up through Jamaica Pass and caught the Americans in their left rear.

What I described was an earlier manoeuvre below the ridge whereby the flanking column, led by loyalist guides, turned off an enclosed lane to cut through an area of open farmland known as New Lots to reach the foot of the pass. The piquet of five mounted officers, expecting the British to approach along the Jamaica road, were intercepted by a British patrol sent to recce Howard's tavern at the foot of the pass, who "falling in" with the five Americans "had the address to take them all without noise."

Barnet Schechter's , The Battle for New York seems a fairly thorough account.


New Lots is roughly where "Cornwallis" appears above. That the British would have approached Jamaica Pass (today known as Broadway Junction) via "the Jamaica road" (I'm assuming that you mean the old King's Highway, today known as Fulton Street and Jamaica Avenue) strikes me as odd, as it runs parallel to the northern edge of the ridge -- which was in Continental hands. No, Clinton approached from the southwest, up today's Kings Highway.



Had the Americans maintained their position within the pass, rather than come forward, they could have made taking the pass very difficult for the British. Worst case scenario they could have done to the British at Jamaica Pass what the English did to the French at Agincourt, or the Greeks did to the Persians at Thermopylae: use the topography to narrow the front, and concentrate the enemy's maneuver elements into a confined space.

Confession time: I grew up just north of the glacial moraine, in Bushwick, and today live in Brooklyn Heights, mere yards from Fulton Landing, from where the Continentals evacuated Brooklyn.
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Old 10 Jan 17, 15:41
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Yes, but what was to be gained? In the end, the numerically superior British would still have taken the ridge and invested Washington's entrenchments on Brooklyn Heights. They might have suffered heavier casualties initially, if the ridge had been more ably defended, but at that stage of the war, Howe's apparent reluctance to sacrifice his soldier's lives was not known.
Washington's goal was to inflict maximum casualties before withdrawing to the defenses at Brooklyn. Beyond this, I don't know. Maybe he wanted to demoralize the British troops, maybe he wanted the commanders to reasses their strength. Apparently he reasoned the defense of the heights would undermine the British attack.

Quote:
The irony is that by being so roundly defeated in the open field, with Howe choosing not to follow up with an assault on the Brooklyn lines but rather to invest the position in conventional fashion, Washington ended up being able to save his army through the remarkably successful evacuation across the East River. He seemed to be lucky with water crossings....
He also made his own luck. Howe gave him the time to escape, and he made the most of it.

I have to go back to slick_miester's comment about the Navy. Without a navy, Washington couldn't prevent a British fleet from interposing between New York Island and Long Island. And what made it worse, was that Washington needed to occupy Long Island in order to defend the city of New York.
Washington got lucky at Long Island because a northeast wind kept the British fleet from interposing between him and New York. Had the fleet gotten into position...
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