Greenwood Heights

Green-Wood, Brooklyn Historical Society to unveil Battle of Brooklyn map

August 22, 2014 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A one-of-a-kind Revolutionary War map used in battle by Lieutenant-General Hugh Percy, a British division commander at the Battle of Brooklyn, will be unveiled at Green-Wood Cemetery on Sunday, Aug. 24, at the Green-Wood Historic Fund’s annual commemoration of the Battle of Brooklyn.  Following its unveiling at Green-Wood Cemetery, General Percy’s Map will travel to the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) on Aug. 27, where it will be exhibited through February of 2015. 

The Battle of Brooklyn, waged on Aug. 27, 1776, was fought across Brooklyn and on land that is now part of Green-Wood.  It was the first battle of the American Revolution fought after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Co-owned by BHS and the Green-Wood Historic Fund, General Percy’s illustrated map, dated 1776, was created by notable British engineer and cartographer Bernard Ratzer. Depicting parts of Brooklyn, it is marked in General Percy’s own hand with red numbers and dots denoting troop positions of the Continental Army under the command of General George Washington — making it unique among Revolutionary War maps.

Historian and author Barnet Schecter said, “It’s been said that the Declaration of Independence was signed in ink in Philadelphia, but signed in blood at the Battle of Brooklyn. Percy’s map is a unique artifact of that battle, bearing markings in blood-red ink showing the American positions that the British intended to overrun in their drive to capture Brooklyn Heights. After their initial victory in the battle, the British failed to storm the American lines, enabling George Washington to evacuate his troops across the East River. In Brooklyn, the British lost their best chance to win the war with a single decisive battle.”

Significantly, at the BHS installation, the Percy Map will be shown alongside another rare Ratzer map that is currently part of the BHS collection.  One of four known first edition maps commissioned by “the crown” in 1767, this version was discovered at BHS in 2010 as part of a massive cataloguing project. It subsequently underwent a painstaking restoration under the care of paper conservator Jon Derow. Research shows that the map was given to BHS (then known as the Long Island Historical Society) in the 19th century by founding member, Henry Evelyn Pierrepont, who was also the visionary behind the creation of Green-Wood Cemetery.  This is the first time that both maps will be displayed together.

“The Lord Percy map is a perfect complement to the original version already in the BHS collection,” said Deborah Schwartz, president of Brooklyn Historical Society.  “The joint purchase underscores the fact that these two venerable collecting institutions hold the key to some of Brooklyn’s most important historical artifacts.” 

Richard J. Moylan, president of Green-Wood, said, “With its blood-red markings of American troops written by General Percy, [the map] is a stark reminder of the sacrifice made by the brave and outnumbered soldiers of the Continental Army as they fought for the new nation’s freedom, right here on a ridge in Green-Wood.”

BHS and Green-Wood purchased Lord Percy’s version of the map in 2013 from rare book dealer William Reese Company.  The purchase was funded by a grant from the B.H. Breslauer Foundation, funds from the Green-Wood Historic Fund and additional support from a group of Brooklyn Historical Society Trustees.  This acquisition is the first time both institutions have collaborated to co-own a collection object. 

In 2013, The Green-Wood Historic Fund and Brooklyn Historical Society entered into a strategic partnership to collaborate on important public projects that celebrate the nation, Brooklyn and the history of the two institutions. The partnership has allowed Green-Wood and BHS to develop dynamic programming and initiatives that reach new and expanding audiences.

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