Brooklyn Boro

Battle of Brooklyn 2019: What to do, where to go

August 15, 2019 Mary Frost
In one of the highlights of the Battle of Brooklyn events, The Green-Wood Cemetery holds tours, ceremonies, reenactments with Redcoats and Patriots, horses, cannon fire and parades. Eagle photo by Andy Katz

The 243rd anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn — the first major engagement of the Revolutionary War to take place after the U.S. declared its independence in 1776 — is coming up on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

More than a dozen events to commemorate the epic battle will be taking place in Brooklyn from Aug. 15 through Aug. 27. One of the high points: a full day of activities on Sunday, Aug. 25 at Green-Wood Cemetery, featuring reenactments, parades, horses and live cannon fire.

See the full lineup here.

A Red Coat re-enactor astride a fine horse paraded to Battle Hill at Green-Wood Cemetery during a past Battle of Brooklyn re-enactment. Photo by Eugena Ossi
A Red Coat reenactor astride a fine horse paraded to Battle Hill at Green-Wood Cemetery during a past Battle of Brooklyn celebration. Photo by Eugena Ossi

A little history

On Aug. 27 in 1776, the British began an advance toward the main American entrenchments on the Brooklyn Heights. Realizing the situation was desperate, American Gen. William Alexander, also known as 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.”

In one of the highlights of the Battle of Brooklyn events, The Green-Wood Cemetery holds tours, ceremonies, reenactments with Redcoats and Patriots, horses, cannon fire and parades. Eagle photo by Andy Katz
Eagle photo by Andy Katz

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.

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This plaque at Fulton Ferry Landing, now part of Brooklyn Bridge Park, marks the spot where the American army embarked during the night of August 29, 1776 under the direction of Gen. George Washington to escape from the British, leaving the troops intact to fight again another day. Eagle photo by Mary Frost
This plaque at Fulton Ferry Landing, now part of Brooklyn Bridge Park, marks the spot where the American army embarked during the night of August 29, 1776 under the direction of Gen. George Washington to escape from the British, leaving the troops intact to fight again another day. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

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.

2019 Battle of Brooklyn events

Saturday, Aug. 15

Exhibit Opening – No More Water. Contemporary Work by Tahir Carl Karmali and Justin Sterling, curated by Katherine Gressel. Old Stone House of Brooklyn, 336 3rd St. 7-9 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 17 – Sunday, Aug. 25

Flag display: 85 Revolutionary War flags and their history. Green-Wood Cemetery, Fifth Avenue at 25th St.

Sunday, Aug. 18

Battle of Brooklyn Monuments Tour: Join Prospect Park Alliance for a guided tour to view some of Prospect Park’s Revolutionary War monuments. Hear accounts of the Battle of Brooklyn as remembered by Femmetie Lefferts, the matriarch of the Lefferts family, whose family’s 18th-century farmhouse, Lefferts Historic House, now resides in Prospect Park. Lefferts Historic House, 452 Flatbush Ave. 10-11 a.m.

Sunday, Aug. 18

Maryland 400 Remembrance Ceremony, in partnership with the Michael A. Rawley American Legion Post. Old Stone House & Washington Park. For details call (718) 768-3195. 12-2 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 20

Battle of Brooklyn Neighborhood Walking Tour: Join Old Stone House board member and Hunter College Archaeology Professor William J. Parry for a neighborhood tour of the Battle of Brooklyn. Meet at Grand Army Plaza entrance to Prospect Park, NW corner. The walk ends at the Old Stone House and Washington Park with light refreshments. 6-9 p.m. $12.

Wednesday, Aug. 21

Gowanus Dredgers Battle Paddle: Join the Dredgers for a canoe tour of the famous Battle of Brooklyn escape route. Wear a red PFD (personal flotation device) to support the King. Arrive early to get a blue PFD to join the revolution. At the Dredgers 2nd St. dock. 6-8 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 24

Prison Ships Martyrs Memorial Ceremony: Coordinated by the Society of Old Brooklynites, American Merchant Marine Association, and Navy Armed Guard. Prison Ships Martyrs Monument, Fort Greene Park. 10 a.m. Call 718-768-3195 for information.

Saturday, Aug. 24th

Battle of Brooklyn Bike Tour: Meet at the Old Stone House. The tour ends at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Led by Rich Garr. $30, limited to 12 bikers (bike rental not included). 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 24th

Battle of Brooklyn Neighborhood Walk: Led by Old Stone House board member and Hunter College Archaeology Professor William J. Parry. Meet at Grand Army Plaza entrance to Prospect Park, NW corner. 2-5 p.m. $12 per person/$10 OSH members; includes light refreshments. Wear comfortable shoes. Information: (718) 768-3195. Advance tickets recommended; available at Brown Paper Tickets.

Sunday, Aug. 25

Battle of Brooklyn at Green-Wood Cemetery: The Battle of Brooklyn was fought in 1776 across Brooklyn, including on land that is now a part of Green-Wood Cemetery. Every year Green-Wood commemorates the battle with a big day of events: tours, ceremonies, reenactments with Redcoats and Patriots, horses, cannon fire and parades. These events are free, excluding the trolley tour, but you should register online. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

  • 10 a.m. – Trolley tour of Green-Wood’s Revolutionary War-related sites
  • 11 a.m. – Life on the battlefield: Meet soldiers, their horses, and famous colonial Americans. Historic reenactors will demonstrate revolutionary weapons and tactics
  • 12:30 PM – Battle of Brooklyn parade: Grab a Revolutionary regiment flag, wave it high, and march to Battle Hill with The Regimental Band of the United States Merchant Marine Academy
  • 1:15 PM – Commemoration ceremony: Honor the spirit and heroes of the Battle of Brooklyn at this commemoration on Battle Hill, overlooking New York Harbor.

Sunday, Aug. 25

Battle of Brooklyn Ruck March for Veterans & Families: A challenging 17.76-mile urban ruck march through Battle of Brooklyn sites, guided by veterans as team leaders. March in the footsteps of Continental troops. Includes a catered lunch at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, stop-ins at VFW and American Legion posts, event T-shirt & swag, participation in Remembrance Ceremony at Brooklyn War Memorial in Downtown Brooklyn and food and drink at a post-march reception. Sponsored by NYC Veterans Alliance. 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 27

Dr. Joseph Warren and the Early American Revolution: Revisit the early days of the American Revolution with the story of Joseph Warren, a physician and Son of Liberty who fomented the early rebellion alongside Samuel Adams. Historian Christian Di Spagna shares Warren’s largely overlooked story. Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont St. 6:30-8 p.m. $10

A bonus

Witness to War: An exhibit exploring the Battle of Brooklyn and the Occupation, 1776-1783. A self-directed exhibit that takes visitors on a journey through the Revolutionary Era in Brooklyn from 1776 until 1783. Ten themed areas. Old Stone House of Brooklyn, 336 Third St. Saturdays and Sundays. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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