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Beginning on August 22, the British plan began to become clear. Within a few days, 20, British soldiers congregated in the vicinity of the village of Flatbush. The American army of 10, was deployed in a series of fortified positions on Brooklyn Heights and spread across the surrounding Heights of Guan. Several skirmishes occurred between small bands of the opposing forces over the following days. On the night of August 26, British forces under General Howe were able to take advantage of intelligence provided by local Loyalists, who identified an undefended pass leading up to the Heights of Guan.
Under the cover of darkness British soldiers managed to gain a position between American forces on Guan and the main force on Brooklyn Heights. In the daylight of the 27th the British opened fire on astonished Americans, who quickly recognized their dire situation.
Soldiers under John Sullivan of New Hampshire broke and ran. Fellow American commander William Alexander of Pennsylvania, known as Lord Stirling because of his claim to a Scottish title, fought effectively for a while, but was slowly encircled by numerically superior British forces. It was evident that disaster could be averted only by retreating down the hill and across the swamplands by Gowanus Creek.
Such a move, however, would expose the Americans to deadly fire from the British in the hills above. To provide cover for the retreat, Alexander and Major Mordecai Gist led a band of Marylanders on a direct assault against the British lines. The Americans broke under withering fire, but regrouped and bought sufficient time to allow the bulk of the army to flee, often throwing arms aside, to Brooklyn Heights. Only a handful of the Marylanders were able to escape.
Alexander was eventually surrounded and he surrendered, and Sullivan was captured. The Americans listed about 1, casualties from the Battle of Long Island.
The British toll numbered fewer than This embarrassing display was observed by a helpless Washington from atop Brooklyn Heights. For the next two days, he and his army expected a British assault, an event that would most likely had led to a decisive British victory. During this period of quiet, the weather was unseasonably cold and a steady rain fell; American morale was at a low point and many soldiers talked of surrender.
On the advice of his subordinates, Washington took advantage of British inaction and planned a retreat to Manhattan.