Generally Speaking: Memorial tribute to America’s first POWs

August 24, 2021 Theodore W. General
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Buried 40 feet below a 149-foot tall monument in Fort Greene Park are the remains of approximately 11,500 brave patriots from the American Revolution. This towering monument on the top of the hill is formally known as the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument. It memorializes the victims who were incarcerated in dungeon-like spaces aboard British prison ships anchored in Wallabout Bay.Having suffered under inhuman and horrific conditions,when they died many were cast overboard or placed in shallow sand-covered shallow graves.

Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger and Borough President Eric Adams at the monument.

Through fundraising efforts by the Society of Old Brooklynites, the Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution plus grants by Congress and the cities of Brooklyn and New York, the Stanford White-designed monument was erected in 1908. It was dedicated by President-elect William Howard Taft, who later served as chief justice of the U.S.

The Prison Ship Martyrs.

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On Saturday, Aug. 28 at 10 a.m., in commemoration of the 245th anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn (a/k/a theBattle of Long Island), the Society of Old Brooklynites will hold its 114th memorial tribute to these gallant countrymen. The event will include opening ceremonies by the FDNY ceremonial unit color guard,with an ensemble of FDNY Pipes and Drums, the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem sung by Metropolitan Opera baritone Daniel Sutin. The program will also include a narrative about the ship martyrs, a symbolic maritime piping ceremony, a brief ballet of mourning by a dancer from the Young Dancers in Repertory, “Taps,” the somber tolling of eight bells and a wreath-laying. Michael Spinner, the society’s 2nd vice president, will emcee the proceedings.

Today, so many people are unaware that this historic,sacred site in Fort Greene Park is reportedly the largest American Revolutionary burial ground in the nation. It really should be made a national monument.

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Over at Green-Wood Cemetery, Fifth Avenue and 25th Street, on the same day from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Colonial-era reenactors will perform drills, fire muskets and host games. From 12:30 to 1:15 p.m., a skirmish will take place between the redcoats and Colonial militiamen on the grassy knoll near the main gate at Green-Wood. At 1:30 p.m. there will be a parade to the top of Battle Hill, followed by a memorial ceremony. Battle Hill is the highest geographic location in Brooklyn. Incidentally, this is the first time in 76 years that the Green-Wood series of Brooklyn Battle Week events were moved from the last Sunday in August to Saturday.

Marching up to Battle Hill.

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