On this day in 1776, British Forces invaded Brooklyn, New York by Sea. The Battle of Long Island waged until August 27th, when George Washington and his army retreated to Manhattan.
On August 22, 1776, New Yorkers heard the cannon blasts of the Battle of Long Island. Five days later, an expeditionary force of over 32,000 British regulars, 10 ships of line, 20 frigates, and 170 transports defeated Washington’s troops at Kip’s Bay and invaded Manhattan Island. Thus began seven years of British occupation in the City of New York.
New York City during the American Revolution was characterized by a complex web of loyalties, with familial, political, and mercantile ties interwoven in a tightly packed space. Much as today, the shores of the Hudson and East Rivers hardly limited connections between people and commerce throughout the war. However, an already dense area had to cope with the addition of two armies and imposition of wartime regulations, creating a unique environment in which political, class, and economic concerns constantly tugged at the population.
With every Continental Army victory in surrounding areas, particularly at Saratoga in October 1777, the city dealt with a massive influx of Loyalist refugees moving behind British lines out of concern for their own safety. William Franklin, the former British Royal Governor of New Jersey, wrote to John Allen also acknowledging that he “removed to New York in the year 1777 from New Jersey where he suffered greatly by the Rebells for his loyalty.”1 The additional population density only added volatility to the city’s short fuse.
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