On August 27, 1776, several weeks after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Battle of Brooklyn took place. It was the largest battle of the American Revolutionary War and the first battle in U.S. history.
We Greeters had our own fearless leader in Mike from the Historical Society, located at 77th Street and Central Park West. Mike’s voluminous knowledge made us suspect he’d been at the battle himself!
In January 1774, Thomas Paine, a British immigrant, wrote the inflammatory pamphlet “Common Sense.” It promoted the common sense of the colonies being independent from Great Britain. By the end of the year, it had sold 500,000 copies. A copy of the original pamphlet was there for us to see.
At least ten Tea Parties – the most famous was Boston – roused popular opposition to the British. The Boston Tea Party was a revolt by colonists against the Tea Tax imposed by the British government. Boston patriots dressed as Mohawk Indians raided three British ships in Boston harbor and dumped 342 containers of tea into the harbor.
In July 1775, the colonists sent an olive branch petition to King George III, saying “we can work it out.” The King tore it up and sent back a “Proclamation for rebellion and sedition.” Seeing that document was chilling.
All hell broke loose in July 1776. After the reading of the Declaration of independence, the colonists rushed to Bowling Green and pulled down the statue – two tons of lead – of King George III. By early August, the British sent 437 ships with 20,000 men to the shores of Long Island. Unfortunately, General George Washington’s ragtag, untrained army was vastly outnumbered everywhere they skirmished – from Gowanus, Bunker Hill, and Brooklyn Heights, to Greenwood Heights, Prospect Park and Park Slope.
Although the Continental Army lost the Battle of Brooklyn, Washington’s masterful retreat to Manhattan by boat saved 9500 soldiers from capture. This retreat, and the courage of the Continental Army in the face of the mighty British, makes the Battle of Brooklyn one of the most important in the American Revolution.
To see this inspiring piece of American history, go to www.nyhistory.com or call (212) 873-3400. The exhibit lasts through January 8, 2017.