Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Divine Intervention- Washingtons Retreat from the Battle of Long Island

On the night of August 29/30, 1776, General Washington evacuated his entire army from Long Island right under the nose of the English army. Moving it one mile across the treacherous East River, at night, in thick fog, by small boats, to New York city. The whole endeavor was aided by an unusual confluence of weather events. I believe that Brooklyn must have experienced a nor'easter or perhaps a weakened hurricane during this time. Winds from the north kept the English fleet from sailing into the upper New York harbor and severe rain storms ended the fighting on Long Island on the 27/28th. Perhaps a good example of the kind of storm that was experienced in 1776 was the type Brooklyn residences experienced last summer with hurricane Irene. 
These paintings are titled "Exodus" after Moses flight from Egypt. I was inspired by an account from Henry Whittmore's 1897 book "Heroes of the American Revolution and their Descendants" 

" Surely that fog was the shield of God's providence over those men engaged in a holy cause. If the stars in their courses fought against Sisera, in the time of Deborah, the prophetess, these mists were the wings of the cherubim of mercy and hope over the Americans on that occasion." page 34

'Exodus' June/July 2012 Mixed media on paper shopping bags, 67"W X 32"H
Detail of paper boats right side

Detail of Left side
"Exodus 2"June/July 2012 Mixed media on paper shopping bags, 67"W X 32"H
Exodus 2 detail

Exodus 2 center detail
"Exodus 3"June/July 2012 Mixed media on paper shopping bags, 67"W X 32"H
Exodus 3 side view detail

Exodus center detail

Below is further historical account of the evacuation.

"dispositions were made for an immediate retreat. This commenced soon after it was dark from two points, the upper and lower ferries, on East river. General M‘Dougal, regulated the embarkation at one, and colonel Knox at the other.  The intention of evacuating the island, had been so prudently concealed from the Americans, that they knew not whither they were going, but supposed to attack the enemy. The field artillery, tents, baggage, and about 9000 men were conveyed to the city of New-York over East River, more than a mile wide, in less than 13 hours, and without the knowledge of the British, though not six hundred yards distant. Providence, in a remarkable manner favored the retreating army. For some time after the Americans began to cross the state of the tide, and a strong north-east wind made it impossible for them to make use of their sail boats, and their whole number of row boats was insufficient for completing the business, in the course of the night. But about eleven o’clock, the wind died away, and soon after sprung up at south-east, and blew fresh, which rendered the sail boats of use, and at the same time made the passage from the island to the city, direct, easy and expeditious. Towards morning an extreme thick fog came up, which hovered over Long-Island, and by concealing the Americans, enabled them to complete their retreat without interruption, though the day had begun to dawn some time before it was finished. By a mistake in the transmission of orders, the American lines were evacuated for about three quarters of an hour, before the last embarkation took place, but the British though so near, that their working parties could be distinctly heard, being enveloped in the fog knew nothing of the matter. The lines were repossessed and held till six o’clock in the morning, when every thing except some heavy cannon was removed. General Mifflin, who commanded the rear guard left the lines, and under the cover of the fog got off safe. In about half an hour the fog cleared away, and the British entered the works which had been just relinquished. Had the wind not shifted, the half of the American army could not have crossed, and even as it was, if the fog had not concealed their rear, it must have been discovered, and could hardly have escaped."
Attributed to  David Ramsay’s The History of the American Revolution Vol 1 1811
From the wed site http://virtualology.com/revolutionarywarhall/BATTLEOFLONGISLAND.COM/

and from Google books https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=fiQTAAAAYAAJ&rdid=book-fiQTAAAAYAAJ&rdot=1