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Fort Greene’s Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument may become a national monument

The monument honors some 11,500 Revolutionary War POWs

Felix Lipov / Shutterstock, Inc.

Fort Greene Park’s 149-foot-tall monument that marks the final resting place of thousands of Revolutionary War POWs is inch closer to becoming a national monument.

The sober doric column, officially known as the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, stands at the site of a crypt for some of the 11,500 men and women who died aboard 16 British prison ships that were once anchored in New York Harbor.

The Brooklyn Eagle explains:

As they died — of starvation, disease, lack of medical attention and wanton cruelty — their British jailers simply dumped their bodies into the river. Body parts and bones washed up on Brooklyn’s shores near Wallabout Bay, now the site of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, for years. The skulls on the coast were once "as thick as pumpkins in an autumn cornfield," Edwin Burrows wrote in “Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War.”

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries first sponsored the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument Preservation Act back in 2014. The bill won approval from the House, and was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Now, the National Park Service has conducted a special study of the site, which will help determine whether it qualifies for national monument status, which would allow it to be protected and maintained by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Those considerations include the monument’s national significance, the “suitability and feasibility for inclusion within the national park system,” and the need for NPS management.

“In general, NPS involvement can offer connectivity to a larger system and other related sites, greater visibility, enhanced interpretive and educational opportunities, and support for resource protection,” National Park Service Community Planner Amanda Jones told the Brooklyn Eagle. If the study shows the monument meets the NPS’s criteria, she said, the next step would be to “evaluate a set of management alternatives that would give us a better understanding of what a park would look like for the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument.”

The NPS will hold a public meeting to discuss the study at the end of this month.