Green-Wood recalls Revolutionary War’s Battle of Brooklyn

August 28, 2012 Photo by Aaron Brashear
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Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered at Green-Wood Cemetery on Sunday as the Green-Wood Historic Fund commemorated the 236th anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn with a day-long series of events.

Fought in August 1776 on land that is now a part of Green-Wood and nearby Prospect Park, the battle was the first battle of the American Revolution to be waged after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

On August 27, 1776, 2,000 brave American soldiers held back a British force though they were outnumbered three to one. The Battle of Brooklyn (sometimes called the Battle of Long Island) is significant because there were more soldiers present than at any other battle during the American Revolution.

Although the Americans were forced to retreat, under cover of night, by rowboat into Manhattan, they soon regrouped and fought the British in Washington Heights, White Plains and elsewhere.

“It is our responsibility and privilege to commemorate the Battle of Brooklyn each year at Green-Wood,” said Green-Wood Cemetery President Richard J. Moylan.  “We are proud to work with The Battle of Brooklyn Memorial Society and offer an entire day’s worth of events that bring together generations of families to learn about Green-Wood’s rich history. It is important that we stop and reflect on the sacrifices these brave soldiers made in America’s campaign for independence.”

The day began with a special trolley tour of the Revolutionary War battlefield led by Green-Wood historian Jeff Richman and Barnet Schecter, author of the widely-praised book “The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the American Revolution.”  The tour included several patriot defensive positions, Battle Hill, the Delaware Monument, the route of march of the British army under Gen. James Grant and the gravesites of Revolutionary War soldiers (including one who took part in the Boston Tea Party).

After the tour, re-enactors, attired in period 18th-century uniforms and civilian clothing, provided historical interpretation and demonstrated the use of Revolutionary War weapons in Green-Wood’s meadow. Also taking place in the meadow were a demonstration of Colonial-era cooking by Carolina M Capehart and Revolutionary War period music by Sampawams Creek, as well as a visit by “Benjamin Franklin” and his wife.

Visitors then gathered at the cemetery’s front gate as the Regimental Band of the United States Merchant Marine Academy led a memorial parade to Battle Hill. Today, Battle Hill is marked by a statue of the Roman goddess Minerva. The statue, cast in bronze, was sculpted by Frederic Wellington Ruckstall (1853-1942).  Her left hand salutes the Statue of Liberty, while with her other hand, she lays a wreath on the “Altar to Liberty.”  Minerva and the accompanying altar were unveiled at a dedication ceremony in August 1920 attended by New York State Gov. Alfred E. Smith; Franklin D. Roosevelt, then a vice presidential candidate; David A. Boody, former Mayor of Brooklyn, and U.S. Senator William M. Calder.

Among the speakers at Sunday’s ceremony was Major General James A. Adkins, the Adjutant General, Maryland. Prominent among the Americans who fought in the Battle of Brooklyn were five regiments from Maryland that were collectively known as the Maryland 400.

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