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Bay Ridge & Bensonhurst From 1524 Up 'Til Today
When Bay Ridge Fought Off the Redcoats
The Battle of Brooklyn - August 1776
Bay Ridge & Bensonhurst From 1524 Up 'Til Today by PETER SCARPA
Vice President, Bay Ridge Historical Society
reprinted from 8/20/97 Brooklyn Spectator
Giovanni Verrazano in 1524, explor-ing for France, paused briefly in New York harbor; Henry Hudson in 1609 stayed longer to trade furs; and the Dutch shortly after established the colony of New Amsterdam. Farms rose in Brooklyn, the Nyack tribe vanished and the Dutch prospered.
What is now Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst was part of the village of New Utrecht, whose center was about 84th St. and 16th Ave. Bay Ridge, known as Yellow Hook, because of the yellow sand, was changed to Bay Ridge. Bensonhurst was named after the Benson family who had land in the region.
Cabbage and potato fields dotted the farms when the peace of the town was broken by the battle of Brooklyn on August 26, 1776.
The Americans had declared for independence; the British arrived with German allies to change this view, landing at Denyse Ferry (Dyker Golf Course today) to force Washing ton out of New York.
The British marched on New Utrecht along the paths of Shore Rd and Kings Highway to where the heavy fighting would occur at Battle Pass (Prospect Park) and the "Old Stone House" (3rd St. and 5th Ave.)
We lost this battle but relics of the event remain in the Liberty Pole ii front of the New Utrecht Reformed Church at 83rd St. and in the Barkaboo Cemetery on Narrows Avenue.
The cowpaths and farms during the eighteen hundreds began to make way for large frame residences, shops and brownstone row houses. Fort Hamilton, a military reservation, was built in 1825 to protect the harbor. The Harbor Defense Museum is located there today.
St. John's Episcopal Church; known as the church of the generals, included among her members General Robert E. Lee, "Stonewall" Jackson and Abner Doubleday. Summer villas were built along the shore, of which Fontbonne Hall, once the home of Dia-mond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell, is a fine example.
The erection of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is perhaps the most singular event in our modern history; for as the "R" and "N" Lines linked us to Manhattan, the bridge linked us to Staten Island and New Jersey
So many new homes and stores have moved into the area that it is hard now to recall that in 1900 there were wide open spaces and farms here.
Varied cultures have enriched the area, such as, the Santa Rosalia Street Fair the Jewish Community House and the Norwegian Day Parade. The "Ragamuffin" Parade on 3rd Ave. is a delight to both children and grown-ups alike.
New groups are making Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst their place of busi-ness as well as their residence, adding new culture and ideas to the future history of the community The old town of New Utrecht has become home to all.
When Bay Ridge Fought Off the Redcoats
By JACK GABEL
Reprinted from 8/20/97 Brooklyn Spectator
Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst were part of the colonial Dutch town of Nieuw Utrecht chartered in 1661. Called Yellow Hook because of the color of its soil, it was a small village in one of the original six towns that make up modern Brooklyn. The soil, formed by the glacial moraine of the last ice age, is a hard, rocky clay difficult to cultivate so its farmers turned to the sea and fishing to supplement their harvest.
The first Dutch settlers of Nieuw Utrecht moved in from Breuckelen and Gowanus in 1639, after Governor Kieft of New Amsterdam purchased 200 acres of land between Gowanus and Coney Island from the Nyack Chief Penhawitz. Later, in 1652, Cornelius Van Werckhoven of Utrecht on the Rhine purchased from the Nyacks a tract of land bordering on the Narrows and the Bay for which he paid six shirts, two pairs of shoes, six pairs of stockings, six adzes, six knives, two scissors, and six combs.
By 1657, the Werckhoven tract was settled by farmers including the families of Cortelyou, Corwenhoven, Emmons, DeNyse, Barkaboo, Gelston, Cropsey, VanBrunt, and Lott. The home of Jacques Barkaboo, an original settler of Nieuw Utrecht, still stood on Bay Ridge Avenue and Shore Road until the early 1920s.
These early settlers built their houses after the manner of the Dutch architects of the time. Most were of wood with capacious fireplaces and prominent chimneys in which meat was hung for roasting or "curing" by smoking.
The houses were shingled on the side and roof, and were invariably one story. A distinctive feature of these houses was the front "stoop" where in fair weather, family and visitors gathered. The low browed rooms were unceiled, exposing overhead broad, heavy oak beams. Glazed blue delft-ware decorated the large fireplaces and usually depicted scenes from scripture from which children learned their bible as the family gathered at the hearth. Furniture consisted of oversized chests brought from Holland, trundle beds, and straight-backed chairs with rush seats. Some of these houses could be found on Shore Road before 1650. The earliest reference to Shore Road, however, was in 1715 where it was described as a road 22 Yards wide, running along the banks of the river from the lane of Bernardus Janse (now Bay Ridge Avenue) to a point beyond the Dyker Meadows.
When in 1664, New Netherlands became a British colony, the English governed Nieuw Utrecht but the Dutch language, customs, traditions and culture predominated for generations. Nieuw Utrecht did not grow rapidly. The first census taken in 1735 listed 282 inhabitants of which 119 were slaves.
The bluff upon which Fort Hamilton now stands at the end of Shore Road and Fort Hamilton Parkway was occupied at the time of the Revolution by the houses of Denyse Denyse, John Bennett, and Simon Cortelyou. Nearby was Denyse Ferry. Here, at the start of the Battle of Long Island on August 22, 1776, the Americans had set up a battery of guns which fired at the "Asia" as she sailed up the Narrows with Lord Howe's fleet.
From our very beginning, Nieuw Utrecht was America's first line of defense. The frigate "Rainbow" took station in the Narrows to silence the battery at Denyse Ferry, while "Greyhound" and "Rose" covered the landing of Howe's Army which had embarked from Staten Island with 15,000 troops, including 4,000 Hessians.
The First Division made up of Cessions landed at Bath Beach. The Second Division of English regulars and Highlanders in scarlet coats and tartans came ashore at Denyse Ferry led by Sir Henry Clinton and Lord Cornwallis, accompanied by the sounds of fifes, drums, and bagpipes.
Long Island was a hotbed of Torries, many of whom enlisted to act as spies, and they led the British to the American lines. There, the British almost succeeded in destroying the American Army. The Revolution would have ended in Brooklyn, were it not for Washington's able leadership. His successful withdrawal across the East River to New York, with the bulk of the American Army intact, saved the patriot cause, which would win eventually over British arms.
Our next and last war with Britain (1812-1815), led to the construction of two Bay Ridge landmarks - Forts Lafayette and Hamilton. Fort Lafayette, originally Fort Diamond because of its location on Diamond Reef in the Narrows, was established during the War of 1812. The name was changed to Fort Lafayette in 1825. That same year, the cornerstone of Fort Hamilton was laid. While the remains of Fort Lafayette served as a foundation for the Brooklyn stanchion of the Verrazano Bridge opened in 1964, Fort Hamilton remains an active military installation, built originally to defend the Narrows and thwart any further attempts by an enemy to land troops in Brooklyn. During the Civil War, Fort Hamilton was used as a prison camp for captured Confederates.
The Fort later became the headquarters of the First Division, U.S. Army, and during World War II over 120,000 troops were processed here for overseas duty.
Another historical landmark that still stands in Bay Ridge is St. John's Episcopal Church. Established in 1834 by the garrison at Fort Hamilton, its vestrymen included Captain Robert E. Lee (1842-1844) and General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson, who was baptized in St. John's on April 29, 1849.
A turning point in the history of Yellow Hook took place in 1848-1849 as a result of the Yellow Fever epidemic. The inspection and quarantine of vessels entering American waters was primitive, and a ship entered the harbor with Yellow Fever aboard.
Contaminated bedding and clothing tossed overboard were carried by the tides to the beaches of Nieuw Utrecht spreading the pestilence. The fisher-farmers of Yellow Hook were among the worst victims of the fever. The death rate soared alarmingly and many farmers fled their homes. 0thers gave away their homesteads. Fort Hamilton was abandoned as was prize property along Shore Road which lay deserted.
However, Yellow Hook would be resurrected shortly by a group of wealth3 and farsighted men who took advantage of the panic. They saw a future for Yellow Hook with its woodlands and panoramic view of the sea. They built homes and extended their lawns along the ridge between First and Second Avenues, now called Colonial Road and Ridge Boulevard.
Fifty of them organized a syndicate in 1850, with the objective of developing Yellow Hook's beautiful forested slope along the waters of the Bay. But the name Yellow Hook conjured up memories of the dreaded fever that recently plagued Nieuw Utrecht. I committee was formed to select a new name for Yellow Hook. Headed by James Weir, a florist, the committee took note of the area's two major geographic features, the Bay and the glacial moraine or ridge that ran along Second Avenue. On December 16, 1853, the name Bay Ridge was formally adopted.
Among the wealthy newcomers to Bay Ridge was Henry C. Murphy. A former mayor of Brooklyn and State Senator, Murphy lived on an extensive estate that is now Owl's Head Park.
When Senator Murphy moved to Bay Ridge it was quite inaccessible Using his influence, he persuaded the legislature to fund the paving and grading of Fourth Avenue from Atlantic Avenue to Fort Hamilton at a width of 120 feet.
From Fort Hamilton, north to the city line, Third Avenue remained a mere cowpath, its side streets were leafy lanes arched by shade trees. The horse cars of the Brooklyn City Railroad stopped at 25th Street. One of the four branches of the Long Island Railroad serving Kings County was the Bay Ridge Branch that carried passengers from Long Island City to First Avenue and 65th Street. The line still operates today carrying only freight.
Well into the 19th century, farming and fishing remained the basis of the economy of Bay Ridge. The waters of the Narrows teemed with shad and a catch of 10,000 in a single draught was not uncommon. Bay Ridge had also long been popular as a summer retreat. The beaches and sea breezes attracted bathers and vacationers among the well-to-do of New York and Brooklyn.
The Crescent Athletic Club stood where Fort Hamilton High School now stands and became a center of Brooklyn's social life. During America's "Gilded Age," hotels such as the Grand View and summer cottages dotted Shore Road.
Lillian Russell summered in a villa on 96th Street and Shore Road. The villa, a gift from "Diamond" Jim Brady is now occupied by Fontbonne Hall Academy.
Long into the 19th century, Bay Ridge and the rest of the town of Nieuw Utrecht would retain its Dutch village flavor. Barkaloos, VanBrunts, Bennetts, Denyses, Bergens, Bogarts - descendants of the first Dutch settlers - held on tenaciously to the old farms. In 1889, the first homestead was sold to an outsider when James Townshend bought the Adolphus Bennett farm lying along 79th street between Third and Sixth Avenues. Townshend auctioned off most of the loss and sold the remaining land at retail
The transition from a rustic village to a 2Oth century community had begun in Bay Ridge. The new population was not content to live in houses without running water or burning kerosene lamps at night. They demanded water, gas, sewers, paved roads and rapid transit.
Progress towards developing these improvements accelerated in 1894, when the town of Nieuw Utrecht was annexed to the City of Brooklyn, and again in 1898, when Brooklyn was annexed to New York.
Now part of the largest city in the United States, Bay Ridge met the twin challenges facing the nation at the turn of the century - immigration and urbanization. Parallel with the rest of the nation, the population of Bay Ridge soared. Immigration brought to Bay Ridge, in successive waves, Germans, Irish, Scandanavians, and in later decades, Italians, Greeks, East Asians, Russians, and Indians, more recently. As was the case in countless other communities, they were absorbed, assimilated, and Americanized.
By the decade of the 1920s, rapid transit facilities had been attended to Bay Ridge including the subway which ran as far as 86th Street. Trolley lines operated on Bay Ridge Avenue and Third Avenue as far as 86th Street. As a result of the rapid transit improvements, paved streets and new homes sprang up almost overnight. A little more than a generation later, trolleys would be replaced by buses, and the ferries across the Narrows would give way to the Verrazano Bridge.
After more than three centuries and much physical change, Bay Ridge still retains the spirit of its early Dutch burghers and remains a community of civic-minded and concerned citizens. Bay Ridgeites have always had a reverence for the past, and pride in our heritage. Local history, as well, has instilled a community pride that insures its preservation
The Battle of Brooklyn - August 1776
From the Brooklynonline Web Site.
You can visit them at www.brooklynonline.com
Brooklyn On Line - Brooklyn History - The Battle of Brooklyn. Brooklyn has more than its own place in American History. The first major engagement between The Continental Army and His Majesty's Royal Army was fought right here in Brooklyn, U.S.A. Brooklyn is dotted with important historical landmarks from The Revolution, as well as The Battle of Brooklyn. And make no bones about it, the fate of the entire nation relied on the military capabilities of our Army's situated in Red Hook, Flatbush, and Brooklyn Heights. This is the story of the Battle of Brooklyn, and the forging of the nation.
When you think of American history, the cities of Philadelphia and Boston come to mind. Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg, Virginia are always known for their popular history. We've all known how the Borough of Manhattan is saturated in American History as well. But Brooklyn has more than her own place in the story of America. The first major campaign between The Continental Army and His Majesty's Royal Army happened in Brooklyn, U.S.A. It is here where important historical landmarks resulted from The Battleof Brooklyn in Flatbush and Brooklyn Heights.
Background: The impromptu skirmishes at 'Lexington and Concord', and the defeat of the surprised British garrison at Breeds Hill in Massachusetts late in 1775, locked America and England into mortal conflict. This changed the course of world history. Then, an ill-fated attempt by the American Congress to try to bring Canadian outposts, (especially Montreal and Quebec) into the war on our side, ended in catastrophe. Central New York contains the Hudson River and Lake Champlain forming a central inland water route which maps the United States interior, and would cut off New England from the other colonies. Control the Hudson River and you establish a strong hold on the interior. It was hoped in Philadelphia that Quebec and Montreal, upon being seized by American forces, would join the U.S. in revolt. But for reasons of religious and cultural differences, the Canadian townships, both heavily Catholic, were more than a little weary of an invading Protestant American army occupying their cities. They had just cause for concern. Protestant - Catholic conflict was still active in 1776 and colored much of European politics as late as the 18th century. Irish Catholics had problems being accepted in the U.S. even in the 20th century. English occupation of Canada was proving to be acceptable to Catholic leaders in both cities. The anti-Catholic sentiment was being heard loud and clear above the border. Our armies, beaten by the weather in the north were just not capable of holding Canadian territories without popular activism. The result were northern campaigns collapsing for logistical reasons, even in the face of weak English opposition. In the process, we nearly lost our hold on central New York and the Hudson/Lake Champlain axis. And without the victory of Saratoga, we would had certainly lost the War of Independence. By August 1776, we were being beaten back down the Hudson, towards New York City and the Ocean Harbor. While at the same time, the British were ready to take New York as its first major beach head against the Colonies.
Up until July of 1776, there were many English sympathizers, even within the Continental Congress. Many felt that it was Parliament which was causing our troubles with the Motherland. The King was expected to eventually intercede on our behalf. It's hard for us to imagine in today's world, but during the 18th century which marked the end of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance,the small man looked to the King as his protector and the King was considered benevolent. It was Parliament run by small minded feudal Lords, and their inherent corruption and politics which people feared. As such, the thought that the King would intercede on behalf of the Colonies with the British Parliament was not a far fetched idea. At least not in America.
But King George III had different ideas. He declared to Parliament that the American rebellion would be crushed with the full force of the British Army. And barring its ability to raise enough troops to put down the rebellion with British citizen's, King George declared he would hire German mercenaries. It was this declaration which spawned the commission of the writing of the Declaration of Independence. The first theater of the war after its issue was right here in Brooklyn.
That March in 1776, George Washington, after being appointed Commander and Chief of the Continental Army, entered New York City and entrenched himself in New York and Brooklyn. The New England regiments involved with the scuffled at `Lexington and Concord' headed down from Boston to New York to meet with Washington. Many of who where left from Benedict Arnold's and Robert Montgomery's failed Canadian expeditions also arrived. Regiments from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia joined Washington as well. The names of many who served with Washington in this crucial battle, and its aftermath, ring familiar for many a Brooklynite.
- Israel Putman
- John Durkee
- Henry Knox
- Nathanael Greene
Others less famous deserve even more recognition.
- John Haslet
- William Smallwood
- John Glover
- William Alexander
When finished reading this article, each of these men should become familiar to you, and you will better appreciate that Brooklyn is as holy ground as anywhere in the U.S.
The Main British Army was conveyed across the Atlantic Ocean under the command of General William Howe. Washington had nearly 20,000 soldiers at his disposal in New York. He built Fort Washington in northern Manhattan, at and around 180th Street on the west side. In Brooklyn he engaged Nathaniel Greene and Rufus Putman (Israel Putman's cousin). Putman and Greene traced out works around Brooklyn Heights that sloped gradually into the plains of Flatlands and Flatbush, and surveyed the Marshlands and beaches that makeup Brooklyn's south shore. At the Battery, Knox was to build, well, The Battery, - a line of cannon artillery that projected out into New York Harbor. Battery Park at this time in lower Manhattan was entirely under water.
Washington had his troops spread out over both sides of the East River and up and down Manhattan Island. Just prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, on June 29th in 1776, the British finally arrived in New York Harbor in perhaps the largest flotilla the harbor had seen to that point. Eyewitness Daniel McCurtin wrote, "the whole bay was full of shipping as it could be. I...thought all London afloat." Knox' Battery was a formidable force, which unfortunately was pointed in the wrong direction to be of any use. The British troops landed in Staten Island and formulated a plan, away from Knox' guns, and through that July, more and more transport ships met the British Fleet in Staten Island. Dick Howe, the brother of the General, brought in tremendous reinforcements to help his brother. In August, the British Fleet that was assigned and blockaded in the south, commanded by Admiral Peter Parker (no relation to Mary Jane Watson), joined Howe. General Clinton and General Cornwallis also sailed into New York Harbor. Together they made up Britain's greatest expeditionary force to date, ready to snarl Washington.
And if the British weren't enough, Dick Howe brought to his brother King George's promised German mercenaries.The psychological effect of the German troops could not have been over-estimated. New York City was a Loyalist hotbed. But the appearance of German soldiers was a wake up call to the common man in New York City. If the Brits weren't yet considered a foreign power, the presence of the Germans was greatly resented by the American population.
But all this mattered not, because Washington, without a Navy to control the waters around New York Harbor, was faced with a divided force. Much of it was in Brooklyn, cut off from an escape route if needed as Howe's fleet took control of the East River. On top of this problem, Washington's Army was barely more than a mob. Troops were undisciplined and had little respect for military rank. They were ill equipped without heavy artillery.They had no experience to use the artillery they had. Military drill was critical at a time when the musket firearm was not much more effective than the bayonet, and effective use of weapons depended on elaborately choreographed warfare which laid down thick lines of fire to make up for a lack of accuracy. Strict precision discipline in the ranks translated to successful campaigns. This was an art almost unknown by American troops. Even the senior staff command structure was in flux.
Israel Putman was suppose to be in command within the Brooklyn Heights main garrison. John Sullivan was a Major General who commanded what was known as the American Left in Brooklyn, and the Right Sector ( Western Brooklyn) was given to a New Jersian, William Alexander. Sullivan and Putman feuded as to their respective responsibilities. The entire operations in Brooklyn was supposed to be overseen by General Greene (as in Fort Greene). Greene, however, became ill just prior to the beginning of Howe's move from Staten Island to Brooklyn. The command structure had to be adjusted to compensate for Greene's absence. Hence, the three General command structure was implemented using Putman, Sullivan and Williams.
It was on August 22nd, 1776 when Howe began to move. Rather than face Knox' artillery at the Battery, Howe smartly navigated 88 frigates across the narrows where the Verrazano Bridge now stands, to land in Graves End. Each frigate was filled with German and English troops. Some of the English companies included the 17th Light Dragoons (as they spelled it) and the Black Watch Brigade ( A Scottish brigade with Black Kilts). 15,000 men landed on Brooklyn from Staten Island, along with Commanders Clinton, Cornwallis and the Hessian (German) Count von Donop.
While the move across the Narrows went smoothly for the British, the winds of New York Harbor favored Washington throughout the campaign and all but prevented Howe from sailing war ships up the East River. Washington quickly reinforced Brooklyn by ferrying by row boat more troops to the Brooklyn side of the River. On the 25th of August, after 3 days, winds shifted further in Washington's favor and Howe was unable to add more troops to Brooklyn's south shore. But by the 26th Howe was able to move the many German Troops to the theater of the Brooklyn War.Washington had split his Army in two, half of the Continental Army in Brooklyn, its back to the East River and vulnerable to naval assault, and half in New York City, with Knox' cannons facing the wrong direction.
In Boston the English made the mistake of underestimating the rebels and marched their columns directly in front of fortified American positions on Breed Hill. In Brooklyn, Howe was not going to make the same mistake. The terrain of Brooklyn is such that a large hill runs down the center of its spine from the terminal moraine which runs up Sunset Park, through Prospect Park and Lookout Hill, Mount Prospect behind the Brooklyn Museum, and out along Eastern Parkway. Washington fortified the hill tops and the southern slopes in Red Hook and Flatbush. 10,000 British troops simply marched around the American fortifications in what is called a flanking maneuver. After camping for 5 days in Flatbush, they marched east on what was called Jamaica Pass, which ran approximately along present day Empire Blvd., and was unguarded by the Americans. Unopposed they marched into New Lots and Brownsville. They stopped for drinks (yup - drinks) at a tavern called the Rising Sun Tavern and forced the tavern owner to show them a northern passage called Rockaway Path in today's Evergreen Cemetery, north to what today is the Eastern Parkway area, to the township of Bedford.
They then surprised the American troops, attacking behind their wall of fortified positions, hitting them from the side on the northern slope of the Heights. Sullivan's Left Wing was crushed and sent into turmoil. The American Rifle, superior in most respects to the common musket, was unable to fire more than one round at a time without reloading it and repacking it. Muskets, similarly needed to be reloaded after each shot. But Muskets, especially British Muskets, were fitted with bayonets, and as the British advanced, they would lay down firing column after firing column until in bayonet range at which point they rushed the American lines in a form of organized hand to hand combat. The American's simply couldn't combat this style of open warfare.
In essence, the British attacked the Americans from behind. In Prospect Park there is a marker for what is known as Battle Pass. Battle Pass had a large oak tree known as Dongal Oak. The tree was felled and the Americans took position behind it and along a corridor blocking Battle Pass. The British attacked from Bedford (around Fulton and Bedford Avenue) behind the defensive line. Americans fled in all directions. They were bayoneted near the Atlantic Ave. LIRR train station at Baker's Tavern. They were chased into the woods which are now remolded to Prospect Park, up Flatbush Ave., and down Park Slope on Port Road which was located near 1st street.
On the 26th, Washington came to Brooklyn to oversee the operation. There was little that could be done but to hope that the wind would keep Howe's war fleet out of the East River. Washington must have realized at this point that he had maneuvered his Army into a trap. On the American Right was William Alexander's (a.k.a.: Lord Sterling), and William Smallwood's Marylanders. Accompanying the Marylanders was Haslet's regiment of Delawares. Smallwood's and Haslet's regiments were the real heros of the Battle of Brooklyn. Aside from the flanking maneuver, the British also drove forward from Brooklyn's western shore line. In a strange quirk of history, and in typical Brooklyn fashion, 2 British soldiers were caught stealing watermelons from a field at the Red Lion Inn at 39th street in Sunset Park. They beat a hasty retreat and in an example of truth being stranger than fiction, returned.....but with 5000 more British troops. General Alexander then met the troops there with 1700 men. They arrived on the morning of the 27th badly outnumbered but prepared to die for America's honor. And die they did.
Under the command of Alexander, Haslet's Delawares and Smallwood's Marylanders where surrounded by the British grenadier and Scottish 42nd Black Watch. The Brits were amazed at the valor of these two groups. But they destroyed them anyway. Alexander tried to save his troops and ordered an organized withdrawal. Through the Gowanus Creek they withdrew, except for 200 Marylanders lead by the war hero, Mordecai Gist. At the Cortelyou House, Gist and his men counter attacked and nearly broke the British lines. Alexander had ordered his sixth counter attack when fresh British troops arrived. And Gist and his fellow Marylanders had to fight their way back to the American Line. Only 9, including Mordecai Gist survived. But the offensive on what is now known as the Stone House, allowed the rest of Alexander's Army to survive. 256 died at the Stone House, in an unmarked grave. General Alexander himself is caught by the British Army. More men came over from Manhattan, and then the rains began.
On August 29th, Washington at the Cornell Mansion on Pierpoint Place decides it is time to retreat from Brooklyn, while he still had the wind in his favor. Those of us who live in Brooklyn know what it is like in late August in a pouring rain. Not the sort of thunder stormthat would suddenly appear but the kind of rain where it is overcast and raining for a couple of days, and when fog covers the Harbor. Howe composed a letter to Lord George Germain on his total victory in Brooklyn. He had a clear run to Brooklyn Heights. But in the wake of walking troops into barricaded Americans in Boston and suffering a terrible defeat, he hesitates to enter the Lion's Den of Brooklyn Heights with the weather as heavy as it was. He pulled back east and digs in for a seige. Hoping to push closer and closer to the American troops holed up in Brooklyn Heights from their protection of earthworks, rather than just marching into the American fortifications. In the mists of a full blown Nor'easter, similar to the one that ripped the shore off of Sea Gate a few years back, Howe steadily pushed forward. Washington finally decides to withdraw from Brooklyn. And yet in doing so, he knows that if the British discovered his retreat across the East River, half his Army and most of its command would to be caught in a massacre of British fire and bayonets.
Washington's Army in the moment of withdrawal was in deadly peril. John Glover was a leader of a brigade called the Marbleheaders. They were seamen by trade, and along with the Massachusetts 27th regiment lead by Israel Hutchinson they rowed the Continental Army and their equipment, in complete silence across the East River. One British Military critic had said, "Those who are best aquainted with the difficulty, the embarrassment, noise and tumult which attend even by day, and with no enemy at hand, a movement of this nature...will be the first to acknowledge that this retreat should hold a high place among military transactions. While Washington's misjudgment put the Army in extreme danger, on the strength of his leadership he was able to save the force. When the British arrived at Brooklyn Heights that next morning, they found nothing more than some rusted buckets.
Please note - I am neither a professional historian nor do I intend to make this page a notated thesis. If there are errors in it, my apologies. But I beleive it to be accurate I would like to note that the Stone House where Gist and Company fought and died is still in existence as a Park House on 3rd Street and 5th Avenue. It has an exhibit about the Battle. ~ Ruben
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