It’s August, which means Brooklyn’s history will once again be front and center during Battle of Brooklyn week, which represents the 239th commemoration of the largest battle of the Revolutionary War. Though some may have forgotten, a portion of the battle – aka the Battle of Long Island — was fought in the borough in 1776.
Starting Saturday, August 22, Brooklyn will host a variety of activities throughout the borough, beginning at Green-Wood Cemetery with the display of 85 Revolutionary War flags. The concluding and main event will also be held at the historic cemetery on Sunday, August 30 where thousands of attendees will have the opportunity to enjoy family-friendly activities and learn about the war’s history.
”This is an event that Green-Wood has done for many years,” said Manager of Program and Membership Chelsea Dowell. “It celebrates the earliest pieces in the history of Green-Wood, which we call Battle Hill. It was the first battle after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.”
Dowell stressed the beauty of Battle Hill. “It’s a gorgeous piece of land,” she said. “Years later, it was incorporated into Green-Wood. It’s a great piece of history.”
The activities for the final day also include a trolley tour of the cemetery, a performance by the Regimental Band of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, and one of the most popular attractions, the reenactment of the battle, and of people out of American history.
“The reenactors are great,” Dowell added. “They participate in the event and do drills, weapon demonstration and posing historic figure such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Because it’s such a big expansive green space, we are able to have lots of them. Some are even on horses.”
Attendees also get excited about a specific weapon demonstration. “I think people look forward to the shooting of the cannons the most. People always bring them up,” she said. “They bring one or two and bring other weapons as well.”
Although Dowell recalls Green-Wood holding this event over 10 years, the crowds remain large and enthusiastic. “We usually have around 2,000 people show up to the event. There’s a ton of space which we’re fortunate to have. The event brings families and it’s great for kids to see horses and talk to reenactors. We get a really nice crowd.”
One of the reasons Dowell believes Green-Wood’s event remains so special is the desire many people have to explore the country’s roots. “It’s a really great opportunity to connect with Colonial history and to think about a battle that not many people know about. People don’t think about New York and Revolutionary War history,” she said. “It presents a rare opportunity to do that and to connect with how people were living in America. It’s so different from today and people love to go back in time a little bit.”
Other events throughout the week include the commemoration ceremony at the Prison Ships Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park on Saturday August 22 at 10 a.m., and the Maryland 400 commemoration at noon on Saturday, August 29 at the Old Stone House in Washington Park, near which some of the skirmishes of the Battle of Brooklyn took place.
The Prison Ship Martyrs were American patriots who were captured and perished on board British prison ships moored in Wallabout Bay. The Maryland 400 were American soldiers who died holding off the British troops so that George Washington and his men could escape to fight another day.
There will also be several tours. These include a walking tour of the Evergreens Cemetery at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 23, with participants meeting at the cemetery’s main gate, Bushwick Avenue and Conway Street; the Gowanus Dredgers Estuary Tour, a canoe tour that begins at Second Street between Bond Street and the Gowanus Canal at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, August 26; and a Battle of Brooklyn Neighborhood Walk, led by Old Stone House Board Member and Hunter College Archaeology Professor William Parry on Tuesday, August 25 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, August 29 at 4 p.m. Tickets for the neighborhood walk are $12.
For more information on Battle of Brooklyn Week and a full schedule, or to get your tickets, visit www.theoldstonehouse.org and www.green-wood.com.