Battle of Long Island John Morin Scott Report

John Morin Scott, Brigadier General from New York, to John Jay, member of the Congress from New York. New York, September 6, 1776

I shall begin with our retreat from Long Island. For previous to that event the convention was so near the scene of action that they must have been acquainted with every occurrence. I was summoned to a council of war at Mr. Philip Livingston's house on Thursday, ~6th , never having had reason to expect a proposition for a retreat till it was mentioned. Upon mv arrival at the lines on the Tuesday morning before, and just after the enemy, by beating General Sullivan and Lord Stirling, had gained the Heights which in their nature appear to have been more defensible than the lines were, it was obvious to me we could not maintain them for any long time, should the enemy approach us regularly. They were unfinished in several places when I arrived there, and we were obliged hastily to finish them, and you may imagine within very little perfection, particularly across the main road, the most likely for that approach of the enemy’s heavy artillery.

In this place three of my battalions were placed, the centre of the line in ground so low that the rising ground immediately without it would have put it in the power of a man at 4o yards distance to fire under my horse's belly whenever he pleased. You may judge of our situation, subject to almost incessant rains, without baggage or tents and almost without victuals or drink; and in some part of the lines the men standing up to their middles in water. The enemy were evidently incircling us from water to water with intent to hem us in upon a small neck of land. In this situation they had as perfect a command of the island except the small neck on which we were posted as they now have.

Thus things stood when the retreat was suddenly proposed. I as suddenly objected to it from an aversion to giving the enemy a single inch of ground. But [I] was soon convinced by the unanswerable reasons for it. They were these: Invested by an enemy of about double our number from water to water, scant in almost every necessary of life and without covering and liable every moment to have the communication between us and the city cut off by the entrance of the frigates into the East River between (late) Governor's Island and Long Island; which General McDougall as,sured us from his OWD nautic experience was very feasible. In such a situation, we should have been reduced to the alternative of desperately attempting to cut our way [through! a vastly superior enemy with the certain loss of a valuable stock of artillery and artillery stores which the government had been collecting with great pains, or by famine and fatigue been made an easy prey to the enemy. In either case the campaign would have ended in ehe total ruin of our army. resolution therefore to retreat was unanimous and tho formed late in the day was executed the following night with unexpected success.