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In August 1776, little over a month after the Continental Congress had formally declared independence from Britain, the revolution was on the verge of a sudden and disastrous end. General George Washington found his troops outmanned and outmaneuvered at the Battle of Brooklyn, and it looked like there was no escape. But thanks to a series of desperate rear guard attacks by a single heroic regiment, famously known as the "Immortal 400," Washington was able to evacuate his men and the nascent Continental Army lived to fight another day. Today, only a modest, rusted and scarred metal sign near a dilapidated auto garage marks the mass grave where the bodies of the "Maryland Heroes" lie--256 men "who fell in the Battle of Brooklyn." In Washington's Immortals, best-selling military historian Patrick K. O'Donnell brings to life the forgotten story of this remarkable band of brothers. Known as "gentlemen of honour, family, and fortune," they fought not just in Brooklyn, but in key battles including Trenton, Princeton, Camden, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, and Yorktown, where their heroism changed the course of the war. Drawing on extensive original sources, from letters to diaries to pension applications, O'Donnell pieces together the stories of these brave men--their friendships, loves, defeats, and triumphs. He explores their arms and tactics, their struggles with hostile loyalists and shortages of clothing and food, their development into an elite unit, and their dogged opponents, including British General Lord Cornwallis. And through the prism of this one group, O'Donnell tells the larger story of the Revolutionary War. Washington's Immortals is gripping and inspiring boots-on-the-ground history, sure to appeal to a wide readership.
- ISBN-13: 9780802124593
- ISBN-10: 0802124593
- Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
- Publish Date: March 2016
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Page Count: 336
The legendary soldiers of the American Revolution
In his new book, bestselling military historian Patrick K. O’Donnell turns his attention to a forgotten story of the American Revolution. Today, only a rusted metal sign memorializes 256 Maryland soldiers who fell during the Battle of Brooklyn in August 1776. The men were part of a legendary regiment whose heroic actions in that battle—and others in the years to come—helped determine the outcome of the war.
O’Donnell became curious about the men while on a walking tour of the Brooklyn neighborhood where the undiscovered remains of the soldiers still lie. Through his research, he uncovered the fascinating story of Major Mordecai Gist, who formed an independent company of men in Baltimore in 1774, when war clouds were gathering. The unit would become one of only a few that fought throughout the war, disbanding in November 1783. (Gist, who survived, named his sons Independent and States.)
O’Donnell gives a stirring account of the remarkable resilience and bravery shown by the Maryland soldiers. In the summer of 1776, British troops and warships sailed into New York’s harbors, set on invasion. Compared with the British, the American army was a ragtag affair.
General George Washington “faced a nearly impossible strategic situation,” O’Donnell notes. Although outmatched and outmaneuvered, the Marylanders proved to be stalwart and daring soldiers, helping to cover the Americans’ retreat and causing Washington to cry, “Good God! What brave fellows I must this day lose!”
While O’Donnell focuses on the Marylanders, his absorbing narrative takes readers into the larger story of the Revolutionary War itself. In the process, he makes a compelling case for honoring these forgotten heroes with more than a rusted sign.
This article was originally published in the March 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.