A large British fighting force, commanded by brothers General Howe and Admiral Howe gathered together in Brooklyn to meet George Washington and the Continental Army in the first major battle of organized forces in the Revolutionary War on August 27th, 1776.
The Battle of Long Island demonstrated the need for the 13 colonies to unify as a nation and band together for their freedom. Congress made a pivotal decision to replace the independent colonial militias with a standing national army based on this battle.
When France gave the United States the Statue of Liberty as a gift, they did so to commemorate "the first blow for human liberty and democracy in modern times." This blow was the Battle of Long Island and, in honor, the statue faces Brooklyn Hill (located in present day Green-Wood Cemetery) close to where the first shots were fired.
Despite their battle win, the British held back and this allowed Washington to take advantage of a rain-filled night to cover the sounds of moving almost his entire army across the river to safety. When the morning sun began to rise and some of the American troops were still on the island, luck was on their side as a dense fog moved in hiding their movement and enabling all of Washington's army to escape. The British plan of crushing the rebellion and quickly ending an "expensive war" was lost. It would be a harder fight than they realized.
The Americans lost over 1,000 soldiers in the battle and were badly discouraged by the loss. However, they stood together as an army defending the nation, gained valuable experience, and eventually won the war.
By the numbers, this battle was supposed to be a decisive British victory. Instead, the Battle of Long Island was the first major blow of a war that would drag on for seven more years and end in a recognized American democracy.
“The Battle for New York: the City at the Heart of the American Revolution.” The Battle for New York: the City at the Heart of the American Revolution, by
Barnet Schecter, Jonathan Cape, 2003, p. 3.
“The Battle of Brooklyn 1776.” The Battle of Brooklyn 1776, by John J. Gallagher, Heritage Books, 2004, pp. xv-50.
“Battle of Long Island.” Essential New York City Guide, www.essential-new-york-city-guide.com/battle-of-long-island.html.