AUGUST 27, 1776: British troops rout a Patriot force under General George Washington at the Battle of Brooklyn, the first major engagement following the declaration of independence. British General William Howe had built up his forces on Staten Island before landing at Gravesend Bay in Brooklyn and marching towards his ultimate goal of capturing New York. Attacking at Guan Heights, Howe broke the colonial lines in a surprise flanking maneuver, and only a brave stand by Maryland troops prevented greater losses. Retreating to the defenses at Brooklyn Heights, the colonial troops braced for an assault, but after Howe hesitated to press his advantage, Washington was able to move his entire army to Manhattan by boat. After a series of further defeats, New York fell to the British on September 15.