America is the crossroads of the world — a distinction it owes in great part to Brooklyn. Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago on Wed. Aug. 27 the largest campaign of the American Revolution and the first fought after the Declaration of Independence transformed the borough’s streets into rivers of blood, as a ragtag band of misfit soldiers crushed British pride and paved the way to victory during the Battle of Brooklyn.
The Redcoats won the battle, but lost the war, their defeat traceable to the 48 brutal hours they spent in this ironically named County of Kings. The unexpected American onslaught was a mighty wallop to the stouthearted cavalrymen from across the pond. They had superior equipment, first-rate training, better supplies, and a great nautical reputation, but they lacked the ache for a better life that raged in the humble hearts of the revolutionaries.
The Brits eroded the king’s purse preparing for new battles and riled public opinion against them, as the Americans developed the tactical muscle needed to defeat their colonists.
Today, a walk through the borough is a walk in the footsteps of the nation’s first freedom fighters: the battle’s initial shots were fired on a watermelon patch near the Red Lion Inn on Gowanus Road — today the southern tip of Green-Wood Cemetery. The Brooklyn Heights observation post known as Ponkiesberg where Washington supervised the battle was near the corner of Court Street and Atlantic Avenue. George Washington’s Continental Army traversed East Drive, crossed the Long Meadow in Prospect Park, walked down First Street and stopped at Third Street and Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, then crossed the Union Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal and stood at Fulton Ferry Landing.
The next time you’re at Battle Pass in Prospect Park, imagine Colonial soldiers axing a huge white oak and tossing it across the road to block the British advance. Take in the Old Stone House on Third Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues — once a British artillery post — and the memorial north of the lake and south of the Nethermead dedicated to the Maryland “400” soldiers, who gave up their lives so that the American army could escape and live to fight another day. View also the commemoration to the Marquis de Lafayette at the Ninth Street entrance to the park, honoring the French-born general who fought alongside the revolutionaries.
The Battle of Brooklyn was instrumental in helping to birth the greatest nation ever to rise on the face of the earth. On Wednesday take a moment to remember the brave soldiers, whose blood etches our streets, alleys, and parks, and without whose sacrifices you too might be speaking with a British brogue.
Follow me on Twitter @BritShavana