April 1963 | Volume 14, Issue 3
The Battle of Brooklyn Heights, in August of 1776, was a near disaster for the half-organized Continental Army, many of whose officers were sadly inexperienced in the art of war. The following verbatim excerpt from the diary of a participant, Colonel Josiah Smith, of East Moriches, Long Island, suggests that some militia officers were also spectacularly unskilled along other lines. ( AMERICAN HERITAGE thanks Rear Admiral Andrew I. McKee, U.S.N., Ret., for discovering the excerpt in an old issue of the long-defunct Magazine of American History .)
August ye 1-1776—I Spente in Veuing a proper place to Erect another gard on grate neck
2—I sot out from Coll Sands to Suffolk County & got as far as Capt Plats
3—I wente from Capt Plats to Capt Strongs and Staid with him all nighte
4—I wente Doune to South to meting and Wente hum.
5—I Staid at hum
6—I Staid at hum
7—I Sot oute Eastward to South hold and gave Capt Reves orders & Ingaged Magor Wickam to Secure the Stock on Robings Island from the Enemy.
8—I spente my time along to the Oyster pond fe Order Leutenant Youngs to take the Stock of Plume Island and I staid with Coll Terry all nighte.
9—I went from the Oyster pond to Shelter Island and from thence to Sag Harber and Loged with Mr. Foster
10—I spente at Sagharber With Coll Levingston and a number of the princeapel Inhabitance of Shelter Island fe South Hampton & went up to South hampton & thar I met the Expres from the Convention Directing me to march all the Nue Levés up to the West End of the Island
11—I and Elias Mathues Wente to my house & the two men that came exprès Richard Burgan & John Sackit
12—We Sot oute on Our Marche to the west End of the Eysland and got as far as Hunting Toune
13—We Sot oute from Hunting Toune & got to Leut Encreas Carpenters
14—We went Doun to the Fery to General Greenes Camp and I tuck up Quarters for the Rigments and my self at Reum Cowenhoven
15—I Spente with a gradele of trobel
16—I spente in Campe with Trobel
17—I spente in camp with trobel. …
22—The Regulars Landed BeIo neu Uetrick 5000 & I with my Rigment Wente Doune to Flat bush and wente within a small Distance of the Regulars and we ware Oute all nite and our advance gard killed several of them.
23—we continued all the day in the woods and thare worr an insesent fire the hull day we killed a number of them & they wounded fore of us we worr Releved at Night i of us killed.
24—I wors in camp and the gards wounded several of the Enemy & thay wounded Several of us & shot Coll Martin throu the Brest.
25—I wors on Sentre in the woods and Staid all nite & it wors a Dreadfull thunder Storm
26—we wors Releved of gard in the after nune
27—we wors alarmed aboute 2 in the Morning, and we had many Skirmishes and thay atemted to forse our Lines & they kild i of my men & we Suppose that we kild a number of them 8c we Drove them Back & Laie in the trenches all nite
28—we Lay in the Lines all Day & it wors an Exceding havi rain & thar wors a contined fire kep up betwene us and the Regulars and us all Day and we lay in the lines all nite
29—we lay in the lines until the midel of the afternune and then we had Orders to march over to York and we Staid in york all nite and we wors allarmd aboute 2 in the morning that our army wors Leveing our lines on long Island
30—we marched to Kings Brige on westchester
31—we marched to neurachel fe tried to get pasage by water to the Island but could not
September 1—we marched to mareneck & than we imbark on bord Vesels to go hum & aboute 11 a clock at nite I got ashore at Captain Plate at Smith Toune
2—I got hum to my house.