Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence

By John Ferling | Go to book overview

Introduction
“MY COUNTRY, MY HONOR, MY LIFE”:
BRAVERY AND DEATH IN WAR

OCTOBER 18, 1776. Captain William Glanville Evelyn, resplendent in his British uniform, stood tall in a coal-black landing barge, the first orange rays of daylight streaming over him and glistening on the calm waters of Pelham Bay above Manhattan. Men were all about him, in his craft and in countless others. They were soldiers, part of an operation that had begun hours earlier during the cold, dark night. Evelyn and his comrades could not have been happier to see the sun. Their feet and hands were numbed by a cruel autumn chill that penetrated even into their bones. As it grew lighter with each minute, the men, swaying gently in their landing boats, squinted toward the coast, searching for signs of the enemy. They saw nothing. The beach was deserted, and night still clung to the motionless trees in the interior.

The men were British regulars and their German allies, some four thousand strong. In each amphibious craft several soldiers struggled with long oars, grunting occasionally as they strained to row toward the coastline. In the center of most vessels, between the oarsmen, sat two lines of men facing one another, shivering and thinking anxiously about what might lie ahead. Now and then someone coughed nervously, and every so often muskets jostled together with a clatter, but otherwise all was silent. Officers stood fore and aft. Often one was an ensign, a young man likely still in his teens. Sometimes the other, like Evelyn, was a captain, a company commander. Evelyn, forward in a barge that carried men from the Fourth Foot, the King's Own Regiment, was a thirty-four-year-old veteran soldier. He had fought in Europe in a previous war, and in Massachusetts and on Long Island in this conflict.

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