The “FOG” of the American Revolution

Third in a series of how the weather has impacted United States History.

This is actually a positive weather history-changing event in United States History.  It’s the story of how George Washington and his entire Continental Army fled from Long Island to Manhatten in a fog that changed the course of the war and our history.

It was mid-August 1776 in New York. The American Revolution had been raging for at least a year. The Americans were badly outnumbered,  poorly supplied, and in ragged shape. They battled the superior armies of General Howe and the British regulars on Long Island.  As the British marched on New York Washington and his 19,000 troops guarded the batteries around lower Manhatten.  Waiting for an attack, Washington had to stretch his troops out to defend Brooklyn Heights on Long Island. By late August the British forces were 32,000 strong and building trenches around the American positions around Brooklyn Heights.

Washington felt like he was being surrounded. So, he conceded defeat but knew if he was caught the short-lived fight for independence would be over.  The weather was about to change all of this.

Washington decided to leave Brooklyn Heights and sail back to Manhatten where they could safely leave New York.  Yet, he had to use rowboats filled with 9,000 American soldiers. How could they not be seen by the British?

Washington decided to leave Brooklyn Heights at night but knew by morning’s light he could be seen. As dawn approached a fog miraculously fell upon the waters of the East River. Washington’s troops were shrouded in a deep fog. The temperature difference between the cooler air of the morning and warm water caused this common occurrence.


Battle of Long Island
A map that shows Brooklyn Heights where Washington escaped the British Armies in the Battle of Long Island.  


As the last boat came ashore on the banks of lower Manhatten the fog lifted.  The troops had escaped. The British didn’t notice.  Washington’s troops slipped across the Hudson and back into New Jersey.

New York was lost. However, the war wasn’t. The Americans cause for independence continued.  Five years later we won our independence from England.  The “FOG” of war this time helped us and changed history forever.

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