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Mapping Where New York City's Crucial Battles Were Waged

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Memorial Day, that entry gate to summer, is upon us. As barbecues and beaches abound this weekend, do take a moment to think about the reason for our free time: a day dedicated to the country's fallen soldiers. Memorial Day began after the American Civil War to honor slain Union and Confederate soldiers. As such, we thought it'd be a good time to think about sites of battle, uprising, and contention across our (for now, at least) fair-weather city that have unfolded in the past 250 years. Did you know that Lower Manhattan was, for a time, controlled by the British during the Revolutionary War? Or that General George Washington defeated the British, outnumbered by their 5,000 soldiers to America's 1,800-strong corps, just to the west of where Columbia University stands today in Morningside Heights? If we missed any, chime in below, in the comments section, or let us know.
—Research by Hannah Frishberg



· Curbed Maps archive [Curbed]

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1. Old Stone House

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336 3rd St
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(718) 768-3195
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Arguably the most famous of the Revolutionary War bouts in the city and the war’s largest battle, the Battle of Brooklyn, took place across the borough on August 27, 1776. Notable locations: The skirmish begun in a watermelon patch at the edge of what is today Green-Wood Cemetery, and peaked when the British attacked George Washington’s army in Guan Heights—nowadays known as Gowanus. Outnumbered by 15,000 British soldiers, Washington ordered a retreat to Manhattan as the 1st Maryland Regiment, 400 men from Baltimore, held off the Redcoats at the Old Stone House while the rest of the army fled through Brooklyn Heights. Washington watched the casualties build from Ponkiesberg, an observation post in Cobble Hill, at the present day intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street. Washington and his troops successfully trekked through the Gowanus marshes and made it to Manhattan. The boys from Baltimore became known as the Maryland 400, and are attributed with single-handedly covering the Continental Army’s retreat. It is memorialized in Prospect Park with the Dongan Oak Monument and the Maryland Monument. The Old Stone House that stands today in JJ Byrne Park is a 1933 recreation, albeit constructed with some original material.

2. The Conference House

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298 Satterlee Street
Staten Island, NY 10307

As war raged throughout the country, a peace conference was called on September 11, 1776 at Billop Manor, British barracks in Tottenville, to discuss the possibility of ending the Revolution. The meeting between Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and British Admiral Lord Richard Howe lasted three hours and was a complete failure, with Lord Howe refusing to acknowledge American independence and referring to Adams as a British subject. Despite the meeting’s failure, the building which still stands today is today known as The Conference House.

3. Kip's Bay

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East River Esplanade
New York, NY 10016

As the Revolutionary War continued on, Washington believed he had all but lost the city. No bit of the Landing at Kip’s Bay—at that time, still referred to possessively, as belonging to Dutch settler Jacobus Hendrickson Kip—on September 15, 1776 would change that. That morning, five British warships sailed into the East River and anchored two hundred yards offshore, between what would today be between East 32nd and East 38th streets. American militia had been guarding Kip’s Bay from the British navy, but fled with the Redcoats’ heavy advance fire. With the area now unguarded, the Brits landed and the Continental Army was forced to cede control of the lower half of Manhattan Island. Talk about a real estate coup: well, there goes the neighborhood, anyway.

4. Morningside Heights

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Broadway & West 120th Street, Columbia University
New York, NY 10027

As the Continental Army retreated through Harlem they day following their loss at Kip’s Bay, more skirmishing began. Pompous British infantry buglers sounded a fox hunting call meant to mock Washington, an avid fox hunter, and insult the American militia. Enraged by the low-blow, Washington's troops flanked their British attackers and pushed them back, forcing their withdrawal. They defeated the British, who’d significantly outnumbered them, 5,000 men to 1,800. The victory at Harlem Heights was Washington’s first battlefield win of the war, and his only success in the New York campaign. Over a dozen smaller monuments dot upper Manhattan commemorating the battle, notably a plaque on 147th Street and Broadway.

5. Pelham Bay Park

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Pelham Bay Park
Bronx, NY

Not far from where fictional, punky New York City street gang the Warriors would convene two centuries later, the Continental Army thwarted a British assault on October 18, 1776 in what is now known as Pelham Bay Park. The Battle of Pell’s Point, delaying the Redcoats long enough for Washington to retreat the main army to White Plains, so as to avoid being surrounded in Manhattan.

6. Bennett Park Manhattan

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20 Gouverneur Lane
New York, NY

In mid-November of 1776, Manhattan’s highest point and home to Fort Washington found itself under threat of invasion by British militia. To avoid capture, General George Washington ordered troops to abandon the fort, surrender the garrison, and retreat to New Jersey. One bullheaded colonel refused to follow Washington’s orders and, by choosing to fight, lost 59 Americans with nearly 3,000 taken as prisoners of war. The last American stronghold on Manhattan of the Revolutionary War now captured, Washington’s army was chased across New Jersey into Pennsylvania, and the British consolidated their control of New York City. Matriarchal England would maintain control of New York until the end of the war in 1783. Today, the site is home to Bennett Park.

7. Wallabout Bay

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Wallabout Bay, a small harbor standing between Brooklyn and the East River off of the Brooklyn Navy Yards, is regarded as the site of the “greatest suffering in the cause of American liberty,” throughout the Revolutionary War. During the British occupation of New York, the commanding forces docked their prison ships in the bay and packed their men inside, leaving them susceptible to freezing conditions, starvation, and disease. The British granted freedom to any prisoner who would pledge loyalty to the king, but few did. In Fort Greene Park, a monument honors the dead of these afflicted days.

8. Assistant Ninth District Provost Marshal's Office

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3rd Avenue & East 47th Street
New York, NY 10017

The new military draft lottery began in New York City on July 13, 1863, which barred African Americans from enlisting on grounds of lack of citizenship, and allowed the rich to buy their way out for a mere $300. Shortly after the lottery began, a volunteer fire company known as the Black Joke Engine Co. No. 33 took to smashing the draft office’s windows at the assistant Ninth District Provost Marshal's Office at 47th Street and Third Avenue, where an angry mob quickly formed. For the next four days, a massive, growing throng of men took to the streets, destroying downtown stores, setting fires in homes, and lynching African American men in the most violent street battle in American history. Although it began as an opposition to conscription laws, the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 morphed into a destructive uprising against African Americans, the city’s elite, and the Civil War itself. By the end, 50 buildings burnt to the ground, 115 people were killed, and less than 2,400 of the 80,000 men drafted actually entered the army. Indeed, the madness did not cease until 4,000 federal troops, fresh from Gettysburg, were able to stop the rioters in a final clash in Murray Hill.

9. Hart Island

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Hart Island
Bronx, NY

Today, Hart Island is home to the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world, eternally home to nearly one million bodies. During the Civil War, the island served as an internment camp for confederate prisoners of war. Inmates reported horrible conditions, and many of the soldiers died of exposure and were buried on the island, serving as some of the first graves at the site.

10. Fort Tilden

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While records indicate this site once hosted a blockhouse during the War of 1812, it is today known as Fort Tilden. The fort was established as a fixture in southern New York coastal defence in 1917, and served as part of the outer network of defences from World War I to the Cold War era all the while keeping current with the technology of the time. In the 1950’s Nike-Hercules missiles with and without atomic warheads were installed in the fort’s underground silos. Phew—Fort Tilden was never called upon for use against opposing forces, but represents an important military site nonetheless. These days, the slice of the Gateway Recreational Area is preparing for its post-Sandy relaunch.

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1. Old Stone House

336 3rd St, Brooklyn, NY 11215

Arguably the most famous of the Revolutionary War bouts in the city and the war’s largest battle, the Battle of Brooklyn, took place across the borough on August 27, 1776. Notable locations: The skirmish begun in a watermelon patch at the edge of what is today Green-Wood Cemetery, and peaked when the British attacked George Washington’s army in Guan Heights—nowadays known as Gowanus. Outnumbered by 15,000 British soldiers, Washington ordered a retreat to Manhattan as the 1st Maryland Regiment, 400 men from Baltimore, held off the Redcoats at the Old Stone House while the rest of the army fled through Brooklyn Heights. Washington watched the casualties build from Ponkiesberg, an observation post in Cobble Hill, at the present day intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street. Washington and his troops successfully trekked through the Gowanus marshes and made it to Manhattan. The boys from Baltimore became known as the Maryland 400, and are attributed with single-handedly covering the Continental Army’s retreat. It is memorialized in Prospect Park with the Dongan Oak Monument and the Maryland Monument. The Old Stone House that stands today in JJ Byrne Park is a 1933 recreation, albeit constructed with some original material.

336 3rd St
Brooklyn, NY 11215

2. The Conference House

298 Satterlee Street, Staten Island, NY 10307

As war raged throughout the country, a peace conference was called on September 11, 1776 at Billop Manor, British barracks in Tottenville, to discuss the possibility of ending the Revolution. The meeting between Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and British Admiral Lord Richard Howe lasted three hours and was a complete failure, with Lord Howe refusing to acknowledge American independence and referring to Adams as a British subject. Despite the meeting’s failure, the building which still stands today is today known as The Conference House.

298 Satterlee Street
Staten Island, NY 10307

3. Kip's Bay

East River Esplanade, New York, NY 10016

As the Revolutionary War continued on, Washington believed he had all but lost the city. No bit of the Landing at Kip’s Bay—at that time, still referred to possessively, as belonging to Dutch settler Jacobus Hendrickson Kip—on September 15, 1776 would change that. That morning, five British warships sailed into the East River and anchored two hundred yards offshore, between what would today be between East 32nd and East 38th streets. American militia had been guarding Kip’s Bay from the British navy, but fled with the Redcoats’ heavy advance fire. With the area now unguarded, the Brits landed and the Continental Army was forced to cede control of the lower half of Manhattan Island. Talk about a real estate coup: well, there goes the neighborhood, anyway.

East River Esplanade
New York, NY 10016

4. Morningside Heights

Broadway & West 120th Street, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027

As the Continental Army retreated through Harlem they day following their loss at Kip’s Bay, more skirmishing began. Pompous British infantry buglers sounded a fox hunting call meant to mock Washington, an avid fox hunter, and insult the American militia. Enraged by the low-blow, Washington's troops flanked their British attackers and pushed them back, forcing their withdrawal. They defeated the British, who’d significantly outnumbered them, 5,000 men to 1,800. The victory at Harlem Heights was Washington’s first battlefield win of the war, and his only success in the New York campaign. Over a dozen smaller monuments dot upper Manhattan commemorating the battle, notably a plaque on 147th Street and Broadway.

Broadway & West 120th Street, Columbia University
New York, NY 10027

5. Pelham Bay Park

Pelham Bay Park, Bronx, NY

Not far from where fictional, punky New York City street gang the Warriors would convene two centuries later, the Continental Army thwarted a British assault on October 18, 1776 in what is now known as Pelham Bay Park. The Battle of Pell’s Point, delaying the Redcoats long enough for Washington to retreat the main army to White Plains, so as to avoid being surrounded in Manhattan.

Pelham Bay Park
Bronx, NY

6. Bennett Park Manhattan

20 Gouverneur Lane, New York, NY

In mid-November of 1776, Manhattan’s highest point and home to Fort Washington found itself under threat of invasion by British militia. To avoid capture, General George Washington ordered troops to abandon the fort, surrender the garrison, and retreat to New Jersey. One bullheaded colonel refused to follow Washington’s orders and, by choosing to fight, lost 59 Americans with nearly 3,000 taken as prisoners of war. The last American stronghold on Manhattan of the Revolutionary War now captured, Washington’s army was chased across New Jersey into Pennsylvania, and the British consolidated their control of New York City. Matriarchal England would maintain control of New York until the end of the war in 1783. Today, the site is home to Bennett Park.

20 Gouverneur Lane
New York, NY

7. Wallabout Bay

New York

Wallabout Bay, a small harbor standing between Brooklyn and the East River off of the Brooklyn Navy Yards, is regarded as the site of the “greatest suffering in the cause of American liberty,” throughout the Revolutionary War. During the British occupation of New York, the commanding forces docked their prison ships in the bay and packed their men inside, leaving them susceptible to freezing conditions, starvation, and disease. The British granted freedom to any prisoner who would pledge loyalty to the king, but few did. In Fort Greene Park, a monument honors the dead of these afflicted days.

8. Assistant Ninth District Provost Marshal's Office

3rd Avenue & East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017

The new military draft lottery began in New York City on July 13, 1863, which barred African Americans from enlisting on grounds of lack of citizenship, and allowed the rich to buy their way out for a mere $300. Shortly after the lottery began, a volunteer fire company known as the Black Joke Engine Co. No. 33 took to smashing the draft office’s windows at the assistant Ninth District Provost Marshal's Office at 47th Street and Third Avenue, where an angry mob quickly formed. For the next four days, a massive, growing throng of men took to the streets, destroying downtown stores, setting fires in homes, and lynching African American men in the most violent street battle in American history. Although it began as an opposition to conscription laws, the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 morphed into a destructive uprising against African Americans, the city’s elite, and the Civil War itself. By the end, 50 buildings burnt to the ground, 115 people were killed, and less than 2,400 of the 80,000 men drafted actually entered the army. Indeed, the madness did not cease until 4,000 federal troops, fresh from Gettysburg, were able to stop the rioters in a final clash in Murray Hill.

3rd Avenue & East 47th Street
New York, NY 10017

9. Hart Island

Hart Island, Bronx, NY

Today, Hart Island is home to the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world, eternally home to nearly one million bodies. During the Civil War, the island served as an internment camp for confederate prisoners of war. Inmates reported horrible conditions, and many of the soldiers died of exposure and were buried on the island, serving as some of the first graves at the site.

Hart Island
Bronx, NY

10. Fort Tilden

New York

While records indicate this site once hosted a blockhouse during the War of 1812, it is today known as Fort Tilden. The fort was established as a fixture in southern New York coastal defence in 1917, and served as part of the outer network of defences from World War I to the Cold War era all the while keeping current with the technology of the time. In the 1950’s Nike-Hercules missiles with and without atomic warheads were installed in the fort’s underground silos. Phew—Fort Tilden was never called upon for use against opposing forces, but represents an important military site nonetheless. These days, the slice of the Gateway Recreational Area is preparing for its post-Sandy relaunch.