Thursday, March 22, 2007
Our Holmes Grandfather at the Battle of Long Island
I don't know a lot about Alexander Holmes. He was the grandfather of William Holmes - my g-g-g-grandfather. William as you Holmes descendants probably know, was the father of 26 children. William's grandfather Alexander Holmes, born July 12, 1757, the son of William Holmes and Honor (Wells) Holmes. I am not even sure of his wife's name, although some researchers give it as Sarah. Anyhow, Alexander's wife gave birth to Alexander's son, John Holmes six months after Alexander was killed inthe Battle of Long Island. Alexander's son, John Holmes was born Feb 26, 1777. He married Sarah Norris (1773 - 1852) on Dec 31, 1795. His son William Holmes was born Aug 1, (or some sources including his tombstone in Mt. Erie say Aug 26, 1801) in Washington County, PA. John Holmes died in Seneca, Ohio on Jun 26, 1858 at the age of 81. This post is the story of how Alexander Holmes, John's father and William's grandfather, died in the Battle of Long Island.
The Battle of Long Island may well be the singular most important battle in American history. The events that took place on and around Long Island in late August, 1776, represented a number of firsts to our newly declared country: This was the first real battle of the American Revolution (Lexington/Concord and Breed's Hill were fought before independence was declared on July 4, 1776). This was also the first battle of the American Revolution in which George Washington was in command, having been appointed commander-in-chief by Congress on June 17, 1775. Long Island was also the first battle in which the newly formed Continental Army played a significant role, and was the first time since the outbreak of hostilities in 1774 where the British and Continental armies met on relatively open ground in formal lines of battle.
The Battle of Long Island--August 27,1776
The Battle of Long Island took place on August 27, 1776. The American outpost of Colonel Edward Hand's sent word that the British were preparing to cross Long Island from Staten Island on August 22, at dawn. There were three frigates, the Phoenix, Rose, and Greyhound, and two bomb ketches named Carcass and Thunder, in Gravesend Bay. The frigates were anchored in the Namews. British generals Cornwallis and Clinton had a force of 4,000 men that included Von Donop's corps of jaegers and grenadiers. The force started crossing to Denyse Point and they were covered by the guns of the H.M.S. Rainbow. Two hundred men of Edward Hand's withdrew to Prospect Hill, destroying the property and supplies that the British might use. The British boats returned to Staten Island and landed in Gravesend Bay with more then 5000 men. By noon, they had landed almost 5,000 men and about 40 cannons safely on shore. The Americans couldn't defend themselves and were pushed back. The American forces were distributed on the evening before the battle. Their forces had a total strength of 550 in the area of Gowanus Road. To the left in the Flatbush Pass there were 1,000 troops, and to the right at Bedford Pass there was a force of 800 men with only 3 guns. In the early morning hours on August 27, the Americans fired on a few British soldiers who were near the Red Lion Inn. A few hours later, the Americans were attacked by 200-300 British troops. These attacks started the battle. General Howe was trying to distract the Americans so that General James Grant of Great Brittain could attack; the plan worked.
General James Grant
This lead to a battle between General James Grant and American General William Alexander. Though Alexander only had 1,600 men, in cluding our Alexander Holmes, he was smart to organize his men into the open, European style, rather than just hiding them behind cover. Grant, on the other hand, had 7,000 men, which meant that they were superior to the Americans. At the end of this battle, there were only 12 dead, and 5 wounded. The Americans were waiting to be attacked again. The British had marched to Bedford, and were now behind the Americans. They had marched over 9 miles, with 10,000 men, and the Americans never detected them. Somehow the Germans (Hessians) on the British side began attacking the Americans. The Americans traveled along Port Road to Brooklyn because it was one of the few roads still open. The heaviest fighting happened near Baker's Tavern. The Americans did really well against the odds presented to them. During the battles Washington was able to get 9,500 soldiers out into the field. No one can give an exact number of Americans involved in the Battle of Long Island, but it is estimated that there were at least 10,000. It is also estimated that 1,407 Americans were wounded, captured, or missing, and 312 were killed. A British report says that there were 89 Americans officers imprisoned, and 1,097 other Americans were kept as prisoners. There were 22,000 British and Germans on Long Island, and they had a total loss of 377. Five British officers, and 56 men were killed, while 13 officers, and 275 men were wounded or missing. Two Germans were killed, and three officers and 23 men were wounded. According to both posession of the disputed territory and casualties, the British won this battle