Battle of Long Island Mile's Report

Colonel Miles Account of the Battle of LI

On the landing of the British army on Long Island, I was ordered over with my rifle regiment to watch their motions. I marched near to the village of Flat Bush, where the Highlanders then lay, but they moved the next day to Gen'l Howe's camp, and their place was supplied by the Hessians. I lay here within cannon shot of the Hessian camp for four days without receiving a single order from Gen'l Sullivan, who commanded on Long Island, out of the lines. The day before the action he came to the camp, and I then told him the situation of the British army; that Gen'l Howe, with the main body, lay on my left, about a mile and a half or two miles, and I was convinced when the army moved that Gen'l Howe would fall into the Jamaica road, and I hoped there were troops there to watch them.

Notwithstanding this information, which indeed he might have obtained from his own observation, if he had attended to his duty as a general ought to have done, no steps were taken, but there was a small redoubt in front of the village which seemed to take up the whole of his attention, and where hc stayed until the principal part of the British army had gotten between him and the lines, by which means he was made prisoner as well as myself. If Gen'l Sullivan had taken the requisite precaution, and given his orders agreeably to the attention of the Commander-in-Chief, there would have been few if any prisoners taken on the 27th of August, 1776.

. . . I will here state my position and conduct. I lay directly in front of the village of Flat Bush, but on the left of the road leading to New York, where the Hessians were encamped. We were so near each other that their shells they sometimes fired went many rods beyond my camp.

The main body of the enemy, under the immediate command of Gentl Howe, lay about ~ miles to my left, and General Grant, with another body of British troops, lay about four miles on my right. There were several small bodies of Americans dispersed to my right, but not a man to my left, although the main body of the enemy lay to my left, of which I had given General Sullivan notice. This was our situation on the z6th of August.

About one o'clock at night Gen. Grant, on the right, and Gen. Howe, on my left, began their march, and by daylight Grant had got within a mile of our entrenchments, and Gen. Howe had got into the Jamaica road about two miles from our lines. The Hessians kept their position until 7 in the morning. As soon as they moved the firing began at our redoubt. I immediately marched towards where firing was, but had not proceeded more than or zoo yards until I was stopped by Colonel Wyllys, who told me that I could not pass on; that we were to defend a road that lead from Flatbush road to the Jamaica road. Col. Wyllys being a Continental, and I a State commission, he was considered a senior officer and I was obliged to submit; but I told him I was convinced the main body of the enemy would take the Jamaica road, that there was no probability of their coming along the road he was then guarding, and if he would not let me proceed to where the firing was, I would return and endeavor to get into the Jamaica road before Gen. Howe. To this he consented, and I immediately made a retrograde march, and after marching nearly two miles, the whole distance through woods, I arrived within sight of the Jamaica road, and to my great mortification I saw the main body of the enemy in full march between me and our lines, and the baggage guard just coming into the road.

A thought struck me of attacking the baggage guard, and, if possible, to cut my way through them and proceed to Hell Gate to cross the Sound. 1, however, ordered the men to remain quite still (I had then but the first battalion with me, for, the second being some distance in the rear, I directed Major Williams, who was On horseback, to return and order Lt. Col. Brodhead to push on by the left of the enemy and endeavor get into our lines that way, and happily they succeeded, but had to wade a mill dam by which a few were drowned) and I took the adjutant with me and crept as near the road as I thought prudent, to try and ascertain the number of the baggage guard, and I saw a grenadier stepping into the woods. I got a tree between him and me until he came near, and I took him prisoner and examined him. I found that there was a whole brigade with the baggage, commanded by a general officer.

I immediately returned to the battalion and called a council of the officers and laid three propositions before them: st, to attack the baggage guard and endeavor to cut our way through them and proceed to Hell Gate and so cross the Sound; ,and, to lay where we were until the whole had passed us and then proceed to Hell Gate; or, 3d, to endeavor to force our way through the enemy's flank guards into our line at Brooklyn. The first was thought a dangerous and useless attempt as the enemy was so superior in force. The 2nd I thought the most eligible, for it was evident that adopting either of the other propositions we must lose a number of men without affecting the enemy materially, as we had so small a force, not more than 23o men. This was, however, objected to, under the idea that we should be blamed for not fighting at all, and perhaps charged with cowardice, which would be worse than death itself.

The 3d proposition was therefore adopted, and we immediately began our march, but had not proceeded more than half a mile until we fell in with a body of 7 or 800 light infantry, which we attacked without any hesitation, but their superiority of numbers encouraged them to march up with their bayonets, which we could not withstand, having none ourselves. I therefore ordered the troops to push on towards our lines. I remained on the ground myself until they had all passed me (the enemy were then within less than 20 yards of us), and by this means I came into the rear instead of the front of my command.

We had proceeded but a short distance before we were again engaged with a superior body of the enemy, and here we lost a number of men, but took Major Moncrieffe, their commanding officer, prisoner, but he was a Scotch prize, for Ensign Brodhead, who took him and had him in possession for some hours, was obliged to surrender himself. Finding that the enemy had possession of the ground between us and our lines, and that it was impossible to cut our way through as a body, I directed the men to make the best of their way as well as they could; some few got in safe, but there were 159 taken prisoners. I was myself entirely cut off from our lines and therefore endeavored to conceal myself, with a few men who would not leave me. I hoped to remain until night, when I intended to try to get to Hell Gate and cross the Sound; but about 3 o'clock in the afternoon was discovered by a party of Hessians and obliged to surrender. Thus ended the career of that day.