Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Historical Society to exhibit two rare Revolutionary War-era maps in honor of upcoming 240th anniversary of Battle of Brooklyn

June 21, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Historical Society will display two versions of the “Ratzer” map. [With notations by Lord Percy] Bernard Ratzer, Brooklyn Historical Society.

Amid a whirl of interest in the Revolutionary War, thanks to “Hamilton,” Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) is set to display two versions of the rare Revolutionary War-era “Ratzer” map from June 29 to Aug. 28, which together tell a unique story about the Battle of Brooklyn, the first major battle of the Revolutionary War after the U.S. declared its independence on July 4, 1776.

BHS’s 1770 first edition of Lt. Bernard Ratzer’s “Plan of the City of New York” is one of only four first editions in existence. This map was rediscovered at BHS in 2010 during a massive cataloguing project, and was painstakingly restored by conservator Jon Derow. It captures New York City as a bustling commercial center surrounded by farmland on the eve of the American Revolution. The British engineer John Montresor began the survey a decade earlier, but it was Ratzer who finished the work on the detailed military map. As the British turned their attention to New York and its harbor, with access to the Hudson River and the interior of the continent, Ratzer’s map would become an invaluable tool in the battle for New York. 

Alongside this first edition, BHS will display a unique later edition of the map that Lt.-Gen. Hugh Percy, the 34-year-old British general, carried with him during the battle. It shows markings in red ink, where Percy outlined the positions of the American trenches, batteries and forts. This second Ratzer map, dated 1776, is co-owned by BHS and Green-Wood Historic Fund, who worked together in a strategic partnership to purchase the one-of-a-kind battle artifact in 2013. 

To commemorate the 240th battle anniversary, the Old Stone House and partner institutions are offering a series of events taking place around the borough, culminating with the commemoration of the battle on Sunday, Aug. 28, on “Battle Hill” at Green-Wood Cemetery. On Aug. 17, BHS will present a program with New York University history Professor Nicole Eustace about her seminal book “Passion is the Gale: Emotion, Power, and the Coming of the American Revolution.” The lecture will start at 6:30 p.m. and is free to the public. 

BHS is located at 128 Pierrepont St. at the corner of Clinton Street. Public hours are Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.