David McCullough


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1776 Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 5 Summary: Field of Battle

That evening a fierce, terrible thunderstorm commenced, lightning setting houses ablaze, maiming and killing soldiers. Even after the storm subsided, a gray cloud circled overhead and was seen as a bad omen. During the next bright clear day, 4,000 British soldiers attacked. By noon, they numbered 15,000. The British soldiers and the Hessians were surprised at the burned out houses, but they also marveled at the beauty and bounty that these colonists had possessed.

The American soldiers continued in their hooliganism, reprimanded by Washington, while Howe’s total forces inched up to 5,000. The soldiers considered their best fighting ground to be the ridge and woods, but the Americans suffered from lack of military intelligence. They had needed a cavalry but had not asked for one.

General Henry Clinton was to devise the plan for the British attaché. His idea, rejected at first by General Howe, was accepted later by General Erskine–then accepted by Howe. Given secrets about the continental army’s weaknesses, the British planned their attack. On August 26, they executed it.

The British began the campaign at night and they were led in the dark by three loyalist farmers who might or might not be trustworthy. After an interminable march, the redcoats came across several rebel sentries from whom they learned that the pass was unguarded. When the troops finally arrived at Bedford road, the sun appeared over the horizon. After a nine-mile march, they had finally arrived.

The Americans held their ground valiantly, but little did they know that more was left in store. At nine o’clock, the Continental army realized Hessians surrounded them. Men on both sides deserted the fray, but the American army had no choice but to retreat. Many were particularly terrorized by the blue and green uniforms of the Hessians. Sullivan himself was captured.

When Washington arrived, he was rowed to Brooklyn to find dead and dying troops. Washington could only watch the slaughter. The battle covered six miles and was the largest yet held on American soil. It lasted six hours and the Continental army was routed. After all the false reports,…

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