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In 1776 on this day, Brits in America fought Brits from Britain in New York City.

Brits in America were fighting for "their trueborn rights as Englishmen". They were very well informed about the unique freedoms that Brits had obtained over the preceding 900 years. It may be this love of freedom that made the Brits from Britain less than wildly enthusiastic about fighting their cousins in Manhattan.

Nevertheless, two weeks earlier, in August, King George's Army had routed the Americans in the Battle of Long Island, and was poised to capture the entire American army. British commanders went to bed with the supreme confidence of men who plan to finish a job with a minimum of strain the next morning.

That night, on August 27, every small boat in Manhattan and for miles around headed across the East River and secretly, silently ferried the American army away. Without the cover of fog and a propitious breeze that sprang up after midnight, this early Dunkirk operation could not have succeeded, a fact that always spoke to Washington of the helpful hand of Providence. On waking next morning to find their cousins had vanished, King George's Army was not well pleased.

But the Americans almost lost the war again (near escape seems to be something of a theme ) when Howe landed 4,000 soldiers on Manhattan at the foot of present-day 34th Street on September 15, and the American troops guarding the shore grabbed their rifles, and fled.

Washington galloped south from Harlem Heights, to meet his fleeing troops around present-day 42nd Street. When they refused to stand and fight, perhaps deeming caution the better part of valour, he lost his gigantic temper, usually tightly reined.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

The cousins who made such an extraordinary contribution to freedom and consequently to human happiness are described in more detail in LIBERTY! THE TIMELINE >. . .