For the 100th straight year, Americans prisoners who perished on British ships during the Revolutionary War in the East River will be honored in Fort Greene Park next Saturday.
As they have every year since the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument was built a century ago on a hill in the Olmsted and Vaux-designed park, the Society of Old Brooklynites will remember the 11,500 prisoners of war who died in British captivity on scummy boats moored in what is now the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The Society, founded in 1880 and one of the oldest civic organizations in the borough, is maintaining a tradition encouraged by one of their earliest and most prominent members.
“The reasons the society keeps this up is that when you look back at our early history, Walt Whitman was advocating for such a monument,” said Old Brooklynite Ted General.
This festivities this year will include a re-enactment of Revolutionary War-era maneuvers in period garb, and remarks by Barnet Schecter, author of “The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the American Revolution.”
That fight included the shipboard deaths of 11,500 rebellious colonists whose remains are interred in a rarely-opened crypt beneath the 148-foot tall granite statue designed by Stanford White, who also designed the Washington Square Park archway.
The dedication of White’s tower in 1908 was such a big deal that then-President-elect Taft (and his tremendous girth) attended.
General, who is part of the committee planning the martyrs’ memorial official centennial for November, told The Brooklyn Paper that he hopes the next president-elect, whoever he may be, will attend those events, which are scheduled to include a speech by historian David McCullough, who once called the monument one of the three most sacred sites in the war for independence.
The Aug. 23 tribute is part of the history bonanza that is “Battle Week,” which recalls the Battle of Brooklyn, fought in 1776, when Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army lost, but managed to escape the Redcoats in a daring escape across the East River under cover of night.
The Society of Old Brooklynites event is scheduled for Fort Greene Park (Myrtle Avenue, between Washington Park and St. Edwards Street), 10 am. Call (718) 833-4928 for info. For info about Battle Week events, visit theoldstonehouse.org or call all (718) 768-3195 for info.