The actual remains of 11,500 sailors, soldiers and merchant mariners from the American Revolutionary War are entombed in a large crypt under the 149-foot-tall Prison Ship Martyrs Monument on the top of the hill in Fort Greene Park.
This past Saturday morning, August 27, officers, directors and members of the Society of Old Brooklynites gathered at the base of this historic, towering edifice. It was designed by famed architect Stanford White. When erected in 1908, it was the highest free-standing Doric column in the world!
On these hallowed grounds, the society paid tribute to the unsung patriots who were captured and incarcerated aboard decrepit British prison ships under the most horrendous, and almost sub-human conditions for their failure to swear allegiance to the British Crown. When they died, they were tossed overboard or placed in shallow sandy graves along Wallabout Bay. Please see the website www.prisonshipmartyrs.com for an extended history of this site.
The day’s program also commemorated the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn. Keynote speaker for the event was noted Revolutionary War re-enactor Norman Goben. Marine Corps veteran and Vice President of the 84th Precinct Community Council Anthony Ibelli led the Pledge of Allegiance. The national anthem was sung by Madison Marie McIntoch of the Martha Cardona Opera Company. The invocation and benediction were delivered by the Reverend Edwin Colon, pastor of the New Baptist Temple in Downtown Brooklyn.
FDNY’s elite Ceremonial Honor Guard and Pipe and Drum Band opened the ceremonies. (My sincere thanks to FDNY Chief of the Department Jim Leonard for providing this extraordinary unit.) Craig Gabrian, who heads the Young Dancers in Repertory, performed an interpretive dance highlighting the sorrowful plight of the imprisoned martyrs.
DAR Regent and society Director Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly read a proclamation on behalf of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Also extending brief remarks were Assemblymember Walter Mosley, City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, Fort Greene Parks Conservatory Chair Charles Jarden, and Brooklyn Parks Chief of Staff Marty Maher.
Program Emcee Michael Spinner conducted the Maritime Piping ceremony which included the shrill of the Bosun’s pipe, Taps and the tolling of eight slow bells by your correspondent with Society Treasurer Sherman Silverman. As the Navy Hymn (“Eternal Father”) played, a wreath was walked to the base of the monument by former City Commissioner Myrtle Whitmore and Silverman.
The next day, we were at Green-Wood Cemetery for its annual Battle of Brooklyn commemoration with the Battle of Brooklyn Memorial Society. Prior to the ceremony on the top of Battle Hill, the highest geographic point in Brooklyn, British and American Colonial militia re-enactors engaged in a battle skirmish with cannon and musket fire, swords and horseback combatants, near the 25th Street entrance to the cemetery.
Later in the day, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Regimental Band led a parade up to Battle Hill. At the commemorative ceremony, Eric Kramer, president of the society, gave opening remarks, greeting was extended by attorney and Green-Wood Historian Jeff Richman. The Reverend Kathleen Salisbury of St. Ann and Holy Trinity Church gave the invocation and benediction. The main speaker was Joseph McCarthy, director of the movie “The Brave Man.” The national anthem, Taps and “Amazing Grace” were played by the Regimental Band.
The Battle of Brooklyn (aka Battle of Long Island) was the first and largest battle fought after the signing of the Declaration of Independence was announced. The bloodiest battle of the American Revolution was fought across the hills of Greenwood and the swamps of the Gowanus.