Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Things: The Battle Pass

I guess this could also be a "place" as well. But the place was the location of today's Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York. And to complicate things more - it was known as the Flatbush Pass at the time. And it was the linchpin in the American outer defense ring on Long Island, a battle that unfolded during this week back in August 1776. The good news is you can still visit the Battle Pass as it is in 526 acre oasis in the sprawl of Brooklyn. This week is the anniversary of the events leading up to the critical Battle of Long Island - America's first battle as a nation. I thought a blog post on one aspect of this Revolutionary War battle fitting.

The Flatbush (Battle) Pass 1776

The Original Ground Zero 

The Flatbush Pass was the key terrain in the outer defenses on Long Island. Most of his troops were frantically digging a series of earth works and small redoubts from Wallabout Bay to the Gowanus Creek in an effort to shield the village of Brooklyn and the ferry point below the famed heights of that name. Recognizing British superiority in numbers and equipment, General George Washington counted on a Breed's Hill style defense that would bloody the British the way the rebel army did the previous year outside of Boston. Yet the advantages of holding the British at the "great Moraine" was too tantalizing. The moraine, known then as the Heights of Guan, was the southern extremity of the glacier from the last great ice age. When the glacier receded it left a slash of rugged terrain across the normally flat lands of Long Island that ran from southwest to northeast. Although it was only some 100 feet above sea level, the Heights of Guan formed a formidable barrier mitigated only by three passes. The central of these was the Flatbush Pass.

The Great Moraine dominated the terrain of Long Island

While the British executed a night envelopment via the Jamaica Pass to the east - the British commander in chief, General William Howe launched two holding attacks to pin the Americans
defending the other two passes. One  of some 7,000 men under British General Grant struck near today's  Greenwood Cemetery in an attempt to force the Martense Road.

General von Heister 's force struck the
Flatbush Pass

But the center attack at Flatbush Pass all but made the British encirclement unnecessary. It consisted mostly of Hessians under the command of the German General Von Heister. The Hessians struck the pass. Realizing the situation was dire (in fact, hopeless), most of the some 1,500 American defenders abandoned their posts and headed for the safety of the main defenses near Brooklyn. The undaunted American commander at the pass, General John Sullivan tried to hold, but as panic ensued he and his men were forced to fight their way out. The overwhelming numbers of a determined enemy trapped him and his what remained of his force at Baker's Tavern ( near today's Fulton and Flatbush Avenue). The brave but headstrong  veteran of Boston and Quebec was cut off from his men and  became one of two generals captured on Long Island that fateful day.

American General John Sullivan captured
near the Flatbush Pass

The Place Today

Defenders on Long Island fought desperately against all odds

The site of the Battle Pass is just north of the Prospect Park Zoo.

Battle Pass Marker

The Maryland Monument still stands at the south central part of the park just between the Prospect Park Lake and Lookout Hill. The monument commemorates the gallant fight by the First Maryland Continental Line who gallantly fought the British against all odds. I will save the telling of the tale of the Maryland 400 for another post (actually I have already posted on it).

The Maryland Monument

Site of the Dongan Oak - a huge tree felled to block the Flatbush Pass

There is a Quaker Cemetery near Lookout Hill that dates back to the 17th century. The Lefferts Homestead was situated at Empire Boulevard and Flatbush Avenue. The original Dutch colonial farmhouse was accidentally burnt by the American defenders. The owner, Peter Lefferts, rebuilt the house  during the latter part of the war using some of the original wood.  In 1918, the family gave the residence to the city and it was moved to Prospect Park from its original sire at 563 Flatbush Avenue.

Restored Lefferts House

On a beautiful summer day, Prospect Park is filled with thousands of visitors walking, riding, visiting the zoo or languishing by the lake. As Brooklyn is in the throes of a sot of renaissance - the park and its lush greenery provide an ideal place to enjoy a little bit of nature. But almost none of today's visitors have any idea of the drama and tragedy that unfolded in the heart of their oasis.

Few visitors to Prospect Park today realize they are on Hallowed Ground

1 comment:

  1. Foster's,Meadow farm was home to my Greats Grandfather Christopher Foster and his brother. They refused to aide the British and were forced to evacuate to Connecticut. They lost everything. 660 acres of farmland