Wednesday, August 18, 2010

'Battle' star Brooklyn

By Damian Harris-Hernandez

Ready the cannons and prime the muskets, it’s Battle Week in Brooklyn.

All next week, roughly a dozen events will commemorate the foul August of 1776, when Brooklyn hosted the first real battle of the Revolutionary War — and most of the action was found around an old farmhouse near Fifth Avenue and Third Street.

“The Battle of Brooklyn was the largest battle of the war,” says Kim Maier, executive director at the Old Stone House in Park Slope. “Washington learned from the defeat that he couldn’t fight a traditional war.”

Certainly, to some, Washington was nothing but a high-tailing coward. But to others, he saved the nation during those two August days 234 years ago when he escaped the Redcoat horde and sailed to Manhattan with 9,000 troops that would later send the British packing.

To celebrate, the Old Stone House, along with the Green-Wood Historic Fund, has a welter of events:

• Begin the week at Rawley Post in Park Slope by doffing your three-cornered hat to the Maryland 400, who held down the fort long enough for Washington’s pivotal flight across the Gowanus Creek and then the East River.

• From the remembrance ceremony, march like a Continental soldier to the Old Stone House — in the renamed “Washington Park” — to kick off the week’s festivities on Aug. 21 with snacks and free ranger-guided van tours.

• Next, walk, paddle or pedal the Battle of Brooklyn during a bike tour on Aug. 22 led by history buff Marylin Pettit, which starts at Grand Army Plaza and ends at Red Hook’s Fort Defiance Café, highlighting strategic points along the way.

• On Aug. 25, pretend the British are really coming and cross the Gowanus in a canoe, as the Gowanus Dredgers lend boats for self-guided tours of Washington’s escape route. Or, tour battle sites by land as archeology professor William J. Parry leads a neighborhood walking tour on on Aug. 27.

• Over in Fort Greene Park, the Society of Old Brooklynites honor the 11,500 American martyrs who died on British prison ships in Wallabout Bay with Taps and a 21-gun salute on Aug. 28.

• The week ends with guns blazing in Green-Wood Cemetery on Aug. 29, where musketeers in genuine revolutionary garb shoot off cannons and muskets. The re-enactors, including the all-black First Rhode Island Regiment, begin maneuvers at noon near the graveyard’s main gate, followed by the annual Battle of Brooklyn Parade, which marches to the Merchant Marine’s Regimental Band to the top of Battle Hill.

Maryland 400 Remembrance Ceremony [meet at Eighth Street and Third Avenue in Park Slope, (718) 499-9482], Aug. 21 at 10 am; Battle of Brooklyn van tour from the Old Stone House [336 Third St. between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 768-3195], Aug. 21 at 11 am, reservations required; Battle of Brooklyn bike tour [meet at Park Drive and Flatbush Avenue in Grand Army Plaza, (718) 768-3195], Aug. 22 at 11 am, reservation required; Gowanus canoe tour [Second Street and the canal in Gowanus, (718) 768-3195], Aug. 25 at 6 pm; Battle of Brooklyn Neighborhood Walk [meet at Park Drive in Grand Army Plaza, (718) 768-3195], Aug. 27 at 6 pm, $12; Prison Ships Martyrs Memorial Ceremony at Fort Greene Park [enter at Washington Park and Dekalb Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 499-7600], Aug. 28 at 10 am; Battle of Brooklyn Commemoration at Green-Wood Cemetery [500 25th St. at Fifth Avenue in Greenwood Heights, (718) 768-7300], Aug. 29 at 1:30 pm.


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