The Marylanders Arrive

On August 26, 1776, the Marylanders arrived at Long Island on the eve of battle. Once it became clear that a major engagement was imminent, Washington sent the regiment to reinforce the American defensive line. The men who would become known as the Maryland 400 were posted on the Heights of Guana, a wooded, ten-mile ridge near the British encampment at the town of Flatbush. They joined with the force already there, which had fought a number of skirmishes with the British, and the small engagements served to boost the confidence of the inexperienced Continental soldiers. An intelligence report from New York mentioned the recent encounters with the British, “We have had only four men wounded since the enemy landed; but we are certain many of them [the British] fell.” [1]

The men of the First Maryland Regiment were sent to Long Island without their commander, Colonel William Smallwood. Smallwood had been ordered by George Washington to sit at the court martial of Colonel Herman Zedwitz, who was accused of attempting to sell American intelligence to the British. Smallwood later wrote that he had “waited on General Washington and urged the necessity of attending our troops, yet he refused to discharge us.”[2] The court martial would continue until late on the 26th, and Smallwood’s men would already be engaged in combat by the time he returned to his regiment on the 27th.

George Washington was also on Long Island on August 26. Although the contemporary documents reveal little about his actions that day, he probably rode with Generals Sullivan and Putnam to the Heights of Guana in order to observe the British encampments below at Flatlands. Despite the lack of reliable intelligence on British numbers and movements, the American leaders realized that the British were planning to fight on Long Island. “We are led to think that they mean to land the main body of their army on Long Island,” Washington wrote to Congress on the 26th, “and to make their grand push there.”[3]  However, the Americans did not know that the British had already landed the majority of their army on Long Island. Additionally, the day before, on August 25, two Hessian brigades under Lieutenant General De Heister had landed on the island, adding 5,000 men to the British forces. The roughly 7,000 Americans were dramatically outnumbered by the approximately 20,000 British troops encamped on Long Island.[4]

After sunset on August 26, below the Heights of Guana, the white tents of the British stood empty and their burning campfires were left unattended. 10,000 British soldiers crept into the night to execute a delicate flanking maneuver and surround the Americans posted on the ridge. Three Loyalist farmers led the the way for the column of troops, which stretched more than two miles. Under the command of Generals Cornwallis and Clinton, they followed the sparsely guarded Jamaica Road, taking all five American cavalrymen picketing the road captive during the night march. By the next morning, the British had walked nine miles to the Bedford road, north of the Heights of Guana. The British trap at the Battle of Long Island was set.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Maryland 400 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Marylanders Arrive

  1. This is very exciting and I’m thrilled to have found your site. It seems I have more reading to do; I haven’t seen many long island-focused sites like mine.

    Like

  2. Robert Lee says:

    As a family researcher, it is most frustrating to see-even after 250+ years have passed-that the names of these individuals still remain a mystery to/and for the general public. If they are actually known (& 250 of them were mentioned as having been buried locally), then why aren’t they posted forth? We do not need to know the governor’s name who stood up and took bows for these brave individuals, we need to know the actual names of those who fought and died. As always, there is a politician ever-ready to stand side by side with every dead hero that ever walked in this country. Let’s try honoring those brave heroes by name-and not through someone else-via their campaign speeches. Robert e Lee

    Like

    • Hi Robert,

      Sadly, there are many gaps in what we know about the Maryland troops who fought at the Battle of Long Island. There are enlistment records of who joined the regiment in early 1776, but it cannot be assumed that all of those men were still in service at the end of August–we know at least some were discharged, sick, died, or deserted en route to New York. We further don’t know who joined after those initial muster rolls were compiled, and there are a number of companies we have only a handful of names from.

      While Col. Smallwood was directed by the Council of Safety to give them a current roster in July, 1776, that list does not seem to exist anymore. Likewise, in Smallwood’s report of the Battle of Long Island, he noted “[I] have enclosed a List of the Kill’d & Missing amounting to 256, officers inclusive.” That list also seems to have disappeared, which is particularly unfortunate, as it means we don’t even know how many Marylanders died, just that 256 were killed, captured or otherwise “missing.”

      The goal of our project is to reconstruct these lists as best we can, taking into consideration that there is a lot of myth and misinformation, and that we may never know the identities of all of the soldiers. The bios listed linked from the Biographies tab are an early installment of what we have done. We have much more, which we will roll out when it is ready.

      Like

Comments are closed.