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Nov 25 2011

Happy Evacuation Day

Sarah Vowell thinks that Americans should be thanking the 11,000 loyal patriots who perished on British prison ships instead of some Mayflower-cruising Jesus freaks.

2 comments

  1. ek hornbeck
  2. TMC

    Having worked in Brooklyn for over 30 years, I became interested in the history of many parts of the borough. One of the most starkly beautiful parks is the Fort Greene Park on DeKalb Av, near Brooklyn Hospital and the old Brooklyn Navy Yard. At the top of the park is a monument to the Prison Ship Martyrs:

    This impressive monument, consisting of a 100-foot-wide granite staircase and a central Doric column 149 feet in height, was designed by renowned architect Stanford White (1853-1906). The monument marks the site of a crypt for more than 11,500 men and women, known as the prison ship martyrs, who were buried in a tomb near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

    In 1776 American Major General Nathanael Greene supervised the construction of Fort Putnam on high ground that is now part of this park. During the Battle of Long Island, the Continental Army surrendered the fort and retreated to Manhattan. The British held thousands of captives on prison ships anchored in the East River. Over 11,500 men and women died of overcrowding, contaminated water, starvation, and disease aboard the ships, and their bodies were hastily buried along the shore. These brave patriots represented all thirteen colonies and at least thirteen different nationalities. In 1808 the remains of the prison ship martyrs were buried in a tomb on Jackson Street (now Hudson Avenue), near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

    The Brooklyn fort was renamed for General Greene and rebuilt for the War of 1812. When the threat of war passed, locals enjoyed visiting the grounds of the old fort for recreation and relaxation. The City of Brooklyn designated the site for use as a public park in 1845, and newspaper editor Walt Whitman rallied popular support for the project from the pages of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. In 1847 the legislature approved an act to secure land for Washington Park on the site of the old fort. The improvements were complete by 1850. In 1867 landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, designers of Central and Prospect Parks, were engaged to prepare a new design for Washington Park as well as a new crypt for the remains of the prison ship martyrs.

    The remains of the prisoners were moved to the site in 1873 into the newly created 25 by 11 foot brick vault. Twenty-two boxes, containing a mere fraction of total volume of remains, were interred in the vault. Towards the end of the 19th century, a diverse group of interests including the federal government, municipal and state governments, private societies, and donors, began a campaign for a permanent monument to the prison ship martyrs. In 1905 the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White was hired to design a new entrance to the crypt and a wide granite stairway leading to a plaza on top of the hill. From its center rose a freestanding Doric column crowned by a bronze lantern. President-elect William Howard Taft attended the monument’s dedication in 1908.

    Also from Wikipedia:

    The Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument in Fort Greene Park, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is a memorial to the more than 11,500 prisoners of war who died in captivity, known as the prison ship martyrs. The remains of a small fraction of all those who died on the ships are in a crypt below its base.

    It consists of a 100-foot (30 m)-wide granite staircase and a central Doric column 149 feet (45 m) in height. At the top is an eight-ton urn. It was designed by renowned architect Stanford White (1853-1906), and its design is similar to doric column monuments around the nation and the globe.

    It is sometimes called the tallest freestanding Doric column in the world when it was built, but the Monument to the Great Fire of London in London, Great Britain was built in 1671-77 and is 202 feet (62 m) in height.

    More American soldiers and sailors died of intentional neglect in these ships than died on all the battlefields of the American Revolutionary War, combined. One such ship was the HMS Jersey.

    Click On image for larger view

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