By Gerry Regan
For The Wild Geese
WGT Photo/Gerry Regan
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- August 26 -- It's taken 225 years, but Derry-born John Haslet's Delaware Regiment finally got a monument recognizing its valor at the Battle of Brooklyn.
"This is a great day," said John Gallagher, author of "Battle of Brooklyn, 1776," to a crowd of about 200 people at Green-Wood Cemetery. "One of our regiments is returning to us today. I welcome them here."
Part of the regiment, did return, physically, as well as spiritually. A bus brought 20 dignitaries and guests from Delaware to the unveiling, including the regimental colors of the state National Guard's 198th Signal Battalion, which is a direct descendant of the Delaware regiment. Also aboard were Brig. Gen. Donn Devine (retired), a former commander in the state's National Guard and a delegation from the Delaware Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. The battalion's flag includes battle streamers for Fredericksburg, the Peninsula, Gettysburg, and other immortal battles in American military history.
On August 27, 1776, the regiment, 500 strong and well-equipped and trained, unlike most of Washington's army, held off the advance of British General James Grant for close to four hours. This bought crucial time for the escape of the remainder of the 1,700 soldiers in Gen. George Washington's right wing, led by William Alexander, Lord Stirling."In this spot, they stood against the cream of the British army, one of the greatest armies in the world at that time," said Timothy Slavin, Delaware's state archivist, standing before the granite monument, shielded from a cemetery maintenance building by a tall and long wooden fence. The building stands on the site of the Red Lion Inn, a landmark during the battle. Brooklyn's 4th Avenue, and its trove of 19th century housing stood about 100 yards away.
The Delawares, serving as the rearguard against 9,000 British infantrymen and Royal Marines, lost only two men killed and 25 missing by day's end, a testament to both the skill and tenacity of the regiment.
The marching band of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, led by Capt. Ken Force, the academy's director of music, provided musical accompaniment. The band since 1999 has been known known as "George M. Cohan's Own," an honor bestowed by the descendants of the famed Irish-American song writer's in gratitude for the academy's support of the preservation of Cohan's former home near the academy, in Kings Point, N.Y.
Force later pointed out that the band evoked the memory of the Royal Marines in the ceremony's run-up, when it played "Ocean Wave Quickstep" while marching to the ceremony. The British marines adopted and renamed the quickstep "A Life on the Ocean Waves" in 1811. "I did not plan it," he said later, referring to the playing of the purloined melody. "The British were stillhere."
Haslet, a Presbyterian minister, emigrated to Delaware, and resided in Dover, where he also practiced medicine. He brought his regiment, perhaps the best-equipped in Washington's army then, to New York that summer. Haslet led the Delawares until his death at the Battle of Princeton, on Jan. 3, 1777. After that, the regiment was reformed, with new officers and new recruits.
The day's unveiling does not mark the end of the tributes for Haslet and his men, who will be honored in a ceremony in late December marking the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Princeton, in southern New Jersey, said Russ McCabe, the administrator of the Delaware Historical Markers Program. McCabe pointed out that his own ancestor, a 50-year-old Irish immigrant named John McCabe, served with the Delawares after the Battle of Princeton through the war's end.
For additional information on the Battle of Brooklyn, and the Irish who commanded there, visit:
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