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LISTEN: Celebrating the Battle of Brooklyn’s 243rd anniversary

August 22, 2019 Brooklyn Eagle Podcast
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

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As has been tradition for years, some of the battle’s fighting will be recreated in Green-Wood Cemetery. Brooklyn-born Mike Grillo has played Gen. George Washington there and elsewhere at various reenactments and events for almost two decades.

“There were at least 15-20,000 British and Hessian troops in Staten Island getting ready to cross over,” Grillo told Brooklyn This Week, recalling what Washington saw over two centuries ago. “They were going to attack the city itself, or cross over the narrows and attack Long Island and march up the King’s Highway, possibly take over the village of New Utrecht, and all the subsequent villages afterwards.”

A thick fog allowed the American troops, who were losing the battle to the British, to escape over the East River in the middle of the night to fight another day.

Brooklyn resident Joseph Alexiou, a historian and neighborhood tour guide, has paid close attention to the factors that kept the battle from being a total defeat. In researching his book, “Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal,” Alexiou realized that the Gowanus Creek played a pivotal role in leading the way for that escape.

“The Americans had to cross the creek,” Alexiou said. “But the amazing thing is that the British stopped at the banks of the Gowanus Creek, and they didn’t follow them over the other side, because they thought that the Americans were trapped in this neck.

“If there hadn’t been this little piece of water there that looked annoying to cross,” he added, “then we might have had a totally different outcome to the largest pitched battle of the Revolutionary War. It could have been 10 times worse than it was, and it was bad.”

The Old Stone House, a revolutionary-era building in Park Slope’s Washington Park, was also a site of the battle. The house, now dedicated to preserving national history, holds numerous events commemorating the battle each year.

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“The revolutionary army was the most integrated army until the Korean War,” said Kim Maier, executive director of The Old Stone House. “We’re trying to highlight the fact that there are many stories that are accessible to all of us living in Brooklyn today. And that we everybody played a part in the building of the nation.”

  • Interview with Michael Grillo at 1:57
  • Interview with Joseph Alexiou at 4:34
  • Interview with Joe McCarthy at 10:57
  • Interview with Kim Maier at 12:49

Our host Lawrence Madsen is a native New Yorker. He graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in History, and volunteers with the disaster relief group Team Rubicon.

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