Struggle of Independence Martyrs Tour of Brooklyn’s Jail Ships • Brooklyn Paper
Sign up for our PoliticsNY newsletter to get the latest coverage and stay informed of the 2021 elections in your district and across NYC
Brooklyn combat fans keen to investigate the county’s proud contribution to the founding of America can take a tour of Dumbo, Vinegar Hill Fort Greene, which takes today’s anti-redcoat warriors through an exploration of the prisoners held captive on British ships died off the coast of Kings County.
“When people hear about the American Revolution, they obviously think of Boston, Philadelphia, Lexington, and Concord – they really don’t think of New York City,” said urban archaeologist Alyssa Loorya, who will lead the tour on May 8th.
More than 11,500 Americans, known as the martyrs of the prison ships, died on the prison boats after the catastrophic defeat during the Battle of Brooklyn 177676, and the guide hopes to show New Yorkers the central role the city played during the 18th century independence rebellion.
After General George Washington withdrew to Manhattan during the conflict, the British transferred thousands of prisoners to disused ships in New York Harbor, where they languished in miserable and overcrowded conditions – including ships docked in Wallabout Bay at what is now Navy Yard The death rate ranged from 60 to 70 percent, said the history buff.
“Except during the Civil War, we never had American prisoners of war on American soil,” Loorya said. “It really is a forgotten part of American history.”
In addition to patriotic lore, the redcoats had offered their freedom to the continental rebels if they swore loyalty to the king – but most remained true to their patriotic ideals, Loorya said.
“For the most part, the patriots chose to stay in prison and suffer rather than abandon the ideal they believed in – and that ideal was America and independence,” she said.
After the Revolutionary War, the thousands who died on the ships were hastily buried along the Brooklyn coast, but in 1808 the politically influential Tammany Society convinced a local landowner to collect the bodies in a grave on what is now Hudson Avenue near York Street .
Some of these remains were moved in 22 boxes to a newly created 25 x 11 foot brick vault in Fort Greene Park in 1873, where they remain to this day.
In the late 19th century, local activists, including the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and the Society of Old Brooklynites, campaigned for a major monument in the city Name of the prison ship martyrs.
Renowned Gilded Age architects Charles Follen McKim, William Rutherford Mead, and Stanford White designed a new entrance to the crypt in 1905, along with a wide granite staircase that leads to the park’s hilltop plaza from which the famous 149-foot square -Doric column protrudes from the center, which was inaugurated in 1908 by President-elect William Howard Taft.
Loorya begins her tour at Jane’s Carousel – near where Washington escaped to Manhattan at Fulton Ferry Landing – before continuing through Vinegar Hill on the edge of Navy Yard and ending at the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park.
The leader who is a member of the Fort Greene Chapter of the NSDAR and is also committed to the preservation of the historic Hendrick I. Lott House in Marine Park, will examine firsthand accounts from ex-prisoners and show how their courage inspired the new nation’s struggle for independence.
“I think people don’t want to focus on losing. We’ve been busy and it’s much more exciting to talk about the fight and the bravery than the loss, ”said Loorya. “It’s an important part of understanding that zeal, the desire for a free and independent America. The prisoners, their victims is a clear statement about this. “
Brooklyn Prison Ship Walking Tour [Starts at Jane’s Carousel at New Dock Street near Water Street in Dumbo, www.ftgreenedar.org]. May 8 at 11 a.m. $ 10. Buy tickets here.