They had rebelled to assert their rights and freedoms as "trueborn Englishmen". On 28 August they had been outnumbered and outflanked, and forced to retreat to Brooklyn where they stood with their backs against the East River. They faced complete destruction the next day when the army ordered to crush their revolt resumed its assault.
General George Washington called for every available boat. Working feverishly, Massachusetts men scoured the coast for yachts, scows and rowboats. On the night of August 29 they rowed across the mile-wide East River to Brooklyn. The weather turned stormy, ominous for sailing, but helpful for secrecy. Over the next eight hours, while two regiments held the outer perimeter, and when every creak of an oarlock meant possible discovery and death, the Americans were spirited away.
By dawn’s early light about nine thousand men, along with their field artillery, tents, and baggage, had escaped to Manhattan. Only Washington and the two regiments remained, and it seemed impossible they would be saved. It was then that a heavy fog crept in. Washington, who had been on horseback the whole night directing the silent retreat, embarked with the last of his troops under cover of a dense mist.
He challenged every officer and man to “endeavour to live and act as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country”, and afterwards he liked to see the hand of Providence in their success. Looking back over the history of liberty in Britain, it seems to me that this is a great and inspiring pattern – Christian men and women successfully defending dear Rights and Liberties.