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Gowanus site rumored to hold a Revolutionary War mass grave will be excavated

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Whether there’s anything there remains to be seen

Currently, a monument in Prospect Park pays tribute to the fallen Maryland 400.
Via Forgotten NY

Some local historians believe the future site of a Gowanus pre-K could be the final resting place of Revolutionary War heroes the Maryland 400—and, after years of speculation, they’re about to find out.

As the Brooklyn Paper reports, the city is currently in negotiations to buy the empty Ninth Street lot between Third and Fourth Avenues, where they plan to build a 180-seat school for the city’s pre-K program. Before it can start construction, though, the city is required to contract archeologists to “spend a few days excavating the property to determine its cultural value.”

This is where the plot thickens. Some Revolutionary War buffs (and, uh, Patrick Stewart) think that vacant lot could cover a storied mass grave containing the remains of troops who died during the Battle of Brooklyn to buy George Washington time to flee British forces.

It’s not just idle speculation. Chris Ricciardi, founder of Chrysalis Archeology, told the Brooklyn Paper that 19th-century journals put the grave site around that location — which, he notes, would have been an appropriate burial ground. At the time, Brooklyn was covered in marshland. The Ninth Street plot would have been on comparatively high ground. “They wouldn’t have thrown them in the muck,” Ricciardi said. “This was a gentleman’s war.”

(Stewart is doing his part to spread the word. “All it is is a concreted-over car park, but underneath the concrete is the mass grave,” he told GQ last month. “It’s worth making, I think, a bit of a fuss of.”)

Despite Stewart’s certainty, though—he has requested Mayor de Blasio put up a commemorative statue at the site, though one already exists in Prospect Park—not all experts are quite so convinced. The borough’s “premier memorial” to the losing battle, Old Stone House, has released a report debunking the claims In fact, the report argues, it’s unlikely that any single mass grave exists in Brooklyn. Even the idea that 400 soldiers from Maryland took a heroic last stand may be apocryphal—it’s more likely that the soldiers fell during several smaller engagements across the borough.

And those gentlemanly soldiers? Maybe not so gentlemanly after all. “It is highly likely that those who were killed were interred in shallow graves close to the spots where they fell, and not carried half a mile (or more) through a marsh,” wrote historian and Old Stone House board member William Parry.

Meanwhile, the fate of Sir Patrick Stewart’s requested statue remains in limbo. The mayor has said he is “on it,” though local historians have heard that one before.