It was June19, 1776, and the British had come. McCurtin, a private in the Continental army,later wrote that the "whole Bay was full of shipping as it ever could be"and the masts of the ships moored by Staten Island "resembled a forestof pine trees with their branches trimmed." Gen. Sir William Howe, commandingHis Majesty's forces in North America, had passed the Narrows with 48 men-of-warand transports. Neither McCurtin nor the hundreds of New Yorkers who soon linedthe Battery and the waterfront piers had seen anything like it.
They hadseen nothing yet. During the next day, Sir William's seafaring brother, AdmiralRichard, Lord Howe (dark, like most of that family, and popular with his command,as his brother was with his, Lord Howe's sailors called him "Black Dick"),joined him with 82 more ships. By July 12, more than 150 ships stood off StatenIsland; by mid-August, more than 400. King George III and his ministers hadassembled the greatest seagoing invasion since the Spanish Armada nearly twocenturies before.