Washington's Immortals: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution

Washington's Immortals: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution

Patrick K. O'Donnell

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0802124593

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

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them closer to the walls of the fort. It took ten days to get back to the point where they had first begun digging. The fort’s defenders became masters of the counterattack, and the excavation parties were frequently interrupted by sorties from the strongpoint. Despite the Loyalists’ seemingly relentless assaults, the Patriots persisted, and their tunnels inched closer to the fort. Greene’s men continued digging until they were within thirty yards of the walls, where they constructed a Maham

house was that led by Lieutenant Edward Manning of Lee’s Legion. Manning charged halfway through the door before Sheridan’s men forced him out and barred the door just in time. To avoid the withering fire from inside the house, Manning and his men used British soldiers as human shields while they made their way back to the American lines. Around the same time, another British group, led by Major John Majoribanks, moved closer to the house to support Sheridan. They occupied a thicket and creek

British commanders were unable to rise to the occasion. Cornwallis was acting as he saw fit, regardless of orders from Clinton, and Clinton remained in New York, spending most of his time defending his actions to his generals instead of acting decisively. Rather than rushing the all-important fleet down to Virginia to relieve Cornwallis, Clinton sent several messages informing him that the ships would be delayed from sailing, first until October 5, then until October 12, and then until October

Stockings and Black Cloth half Boote.” Emboldened by their example, numerous independent companies formed across Maryland for the defense of the state. Shortly after the signing of the company’s articles of incorporation, training began. Drilling occupied the bulk of each day. Cadets learned how to march and create battle formations. They also practiced loading and firing their muskets as a group and possibly engaged in target practice. Gist’s men had their own drillmaster, a cadet named

only Portuguese. They tutored him, and he later apprenticed to become a blacksmith, a profession chosen for him because of his massive size. He joined a Virginia regiment in 1777 and fought at Germantown and Brandy­wine before finding himself with the Marylanders in Fort Mifflin. He fought alongside them in multiple battles throughout the war. According to eyewitnesses, Smith remained staunch throughout the cannonades. At one point he saw an aide ducking and asked, “What are you dodging for,

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