Relive the epic Battle of Brooklyn
August 2018 Events Commemorate 1776 Revolutionary Turning Point
Monday, Aug. 27 marks the anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn, the first major engagement of the Revolutionary War to take place after the United States declared its independence in 1776.
Numerous events will be taking place in Brooklyn this month to commemorate the epic battle, including re-enactments, tours, a parade and more.
On that night 242 years ago, the British began an advance toward the main American entrenchments on the Brooklyn Heights. Realizing the situation was desperate, American Gen. William Alexander, Lord Stirling, led a regiment of just 400 Maryland soldiers against 2,000 British forces commanded by Gen. Charles Cornwallis at the Old Stone House.
Historian John Gallagher, in “The Battle of Brooklyn, 1776,” wrote, “Into the rain of British fire the Marylanders charged … Though the ground became littered with dead and dying Maryland militia, Stirling formed them up again.”
Six times Stirling charged. Although the Marylanders fought heroically, they suffered enormous losses — more than 250 of the regiment were killed. Stirling finally surrendered — not to the British, but to the German Hessian commander. Cornwallis later said that Gen. Lord Stirling “fought like a wolf.”
Although the battle was a tactical loss, it was a strategic victory for the Americans because, while the British eventually captured New York, they failed to capture the American Army under Gen. George Washington. Under cover of bad weather and a British command hesitant to pounce, Washington led a successful retreat from the Heights across the East River into Manhattan, there to fight another day.
“Had the British mounted a determined attack on Brooklyn Heights they could have bagged the entire American Revolution,” Rodger Kennedy writes in a post for the New York Public Library.
Or as one Brooklyn Heights wag put it, “If not for Lord Stirling, we might all be British subjects and forced to watch royal weddings on TV.”
The fighting took place in Brooklyn neighborhoods including today’s Green-Wood Cemetery, Prospect Park, Fort Greene Park and Fulton Ferry Landing. The historic Old Stone House was the site of the largest battle. Many of the commemorative events will take place in these neighborhoods. Here are just a few:
Battle of Brooklyn Events 2018
Battle of Brooklyn Demonstration on Aug. 18, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.: The Harbor Defense Museum hosts a Battle of Brooklyn Exercise followed by presentations with a guest speaker/historian. The museum is located at 230 Sheridan Loop. Call to reserve your spot. 718-630-4349
The Evergreens Military History Tour on Sunday Aug. 19, 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.: A military history walking tour will explore the Rockaway Footpath, retracing the British flank march that helped decide the outcome. The event includes a visit the graves of an eyewitness to those events and of a rabble-rousing Son of Liberty who participated in the evacuation. Other historic gravesites will be visited as well. $5 suggested donation, payable in cash at the event. 1629 Bushwick Ave.
Battle of Brooklyn Day at Green-wood on Sunday, Aug. 26: Green-Wood Cemetery hosts a day of commemoration to honor those who served to defend the young republic. See parades, cannon fire, horses and re-enactments. (This is a great event for kids and families.) Events take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They include a narrated trolley tour (10 a.m.); a live re-enactment at 11 a.m. with soldiers, their horses and famous colonial Americans demonstrating revolutionary weapons and tactics; the Battle of Brooklyn parade at 12:30 p.m. with The Regimental Band of the United States Merchant Marine Academy (grab a flag and march with them); and the commemoration ceremony on Battle Hill overlooking New York Harbor at 1 p.m. Tickets available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/battle-of-brooklyn-commemoration-tickets-42569083274
Battle of Brooklyn Monuments Tour at Lefferts Historic House on Sunday, Aug. 26, 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.: Relive the historic battle on a guided tour with Prospect Park Alliance. Travel from the Lefferts Historic House down East Drive to view some of Prospect Park’s Revolutionary War Monuments. Hear accounts of the battle as remembered by Femmetie Lefferts, the matriarch of the Lefferts family, which occupied this 18th century farmhouse, now in Prospect Park. Tickets $10. (www.eventbrite.com/e/battle-of-brooklyn-monuments-tour-tickets-46805958883)
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