Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Geography of the Battle of Long Island

            Also often referred to as the Battle of Brooklyn, the Battle of Long Island began with General William Howe’s forces landing 4000 troops at Denyse’s Ferry, and another 5000 at Gravesend Bay. 

            Today, you can stand at the overlook at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, the area of launch by the British, and see the geography of place.  To the left, as we look across, of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, we note the location of Denyse’s Ferry (a plaque on the Brooklyn side provides some detail).  Also in this area is a small park, in Bay Ridge, where another plaque identifies the scene of the first engagement between American and British forces in New York.  To the right of the bridge we find Gravesend Bay.  We are just about six weeks after the Declaration of Independence.

             The Narrows is the main channel for the Hudson River to empty into the Atlantic Ocean.  It formed an important entrance to New York Harbor. Take away the bridge and the ship, and we can imagine the British soldier looking across and thinking about what lay before him.  It is one thing to look at the tidy maps that show red and blue arrows; it is another thing to look at the water and land, think about the ferry ride across, and landing on hostile territory.

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