FOR MEMORIAL DAY: COMBAT JOURNAL 1776

Brooklyn, New York -- August 27, 1776 Colonel Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, a hero of the Revolutionary War and father of Robert E. Lee, once commented that during the war "the state of Delaware furnished one regiment only; and certainly no regiment in the army surpassed it in soldiership." At the Battle of Long Island, the actions of the Delaware Regiment kept the American defeat from becoming a disaster. Fighting alongside the 1st Maryland Regiment, the soldiers from Delaware may well have prevented the capture of the majority of Washington's army - an event that might have ended the colonial rebellion. Organized in January 1776 by Colonel John Haslet, the Delaware Regiment was noted as the best uniformed and equipped regiment of the Continental Army. Delaware's blue jackets with red facings and white waistcoats and breeches would later become the uniform for all the Continental troops. During the Battle of Long Island, the Delaware and Maryland troops were positioned on the right of Washington's line. They defended the most direct route from the British landing site in south Brooklyn to the American fortifications in Brooklyn Heights. Though the troops faced the fiercest fighting of the day, they held their ground long enough to allow the remainder of Washington's army to safely retreat to the fortifications. However, the Delaware regiment was outflanked and forced to retreat, taking 23 prisoners with them, through marshland and across the Gowanus creek. Two nights later, Washington entrusted his Delaware and Maryland soldiers to be the rear guard as he secretly withdrew his army from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Today, the 175th Infantry Regiment, Maryland Army National Guard, preserves the legacy of the 1st Maryland Regiment. The 198th Signal Battalion, Delaware Army National Guard, perpetuates the proud lineage of the Delaware Regiment.

ROMNEY WORDSWORTH – The following is an excerpt from a combat journal kept by a soldier in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.  It is presented today for you to reflect on both the courage and the sacrifice made by those who fought and died so that we might be free.  May their efforts naught have been in vain.

08aLongIslandBattle

15th.-I have now ascertained, by accounts published, that the battle on Long Island took place on the 27th of August. The British and Hessian army, supposed to amount to twenty-four thousand, landed on the island under cover of their shipping. The continental army consisted of ten thousand five hundred and fourteen effectives only; and these were so situated, that but a small part could be brought into action; the conflict therefore was extremely unequal. In point of numbers, of discipline, experience in war, and of artillery, the enemy possessed the most decided advantage; besides the important assistance afforded by a powerful fleet. The very judicious plan of attack by the British generals was carried into execution with irresistible ardor and impetuosity. The Americans defended themselves with great bravery, till a considerable number of them were completely surrounded and the remainder dispersed. The palm of victory was on the side of the enemy; and our loss is very considerable. Major-General Sullivan and Lord Stirling were obliged to surrender as prisoners; and our total loss is supposed to be not less than one thousand or twelve hundred in killed, wounded, and missing. The enemy suffered very severely.

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After this unfortunate skirmishing, our army retreated within their lines at Brooklyn, and were exposed to the greatest hazard; our troops, fatigued and discouraged by defeat, a superior enemy in their front, and a powerful fleet about to enter the East River with a view of effectually cutting off their retreat; but an interposition of Providence, and the wisdom and vigilance of the commander-in-chief preserved our army from destruction. Having resolved to withdraw his army from its hazardous position, General Washington crossed over to the island in the night of the 29th of August, and personally conducted the retreat in so successful a manner, under the most embarrassing circumstances, that it is considered as a remarkable example of good generalship. A circumstance which is remarked as manifestly providential, is, that a thick fog enveloped the whole of Long Island in obscurity about two o’clock in the morning, while on the side of the enemy at New York, the atmosphere was perfectly clear. Thus by a providential interposition of an unusual fog, our army, consisting of nine thousand men, in one night embarked under great disadvantages, and with their baggage, provisions, stores, horses, and the munitions of war, crossed a river, a mile or more wide, and landed at New York undiscovered and without material loss. The enemy were so near, that they were heard at work with their pick-axes, and in about half an hour after, the fog cleared off. and the enemy were seen taking possession of the American lines,

“…it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor…”  –George Washington, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, October 3, 1789