Historic America

Battle Pass in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York

Alternatively named the Battle of Brooklyn or Battle of Brooklyn Heights, the Battle of Long Island was fought on August 27, 1776 between General George Washington’s Continental Army and British Generals William Howe and Charles Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War. It was the largest battle of the war and a British victory. Today, much of the battlefield is preserved within Prospect Park, with outlying areas nearby. Several small monuments commemorate key locations in the battle.

After the successful Siege of Boston and the Declaration of Independence, George Washington correctly surmised the British would move to secure strategic naval ports around New York City. The colonists secured and fortified key terrain on the islands around the city. The British arrived in force, with approx. 32,000 men and 400 ships. Opposing them were 30,434 colonial regulars and militia. Only about half of these forces would participate in the battle.

On August 27, approx. 10,000 colonial troops met 20,000 British regulars and Hessian mercenaries near Brooklyn Heights. The British divided their forces and attacked the Continental Army from two sides around Battle Pass. Hard fighting by American Brig. General Samuel H. Parsons and Colonel Samuel J. Atlee inflicted heavy casualties on the British.

Meanwhile, the Hessians broke through and the colonists fell back to their prepared defenses on Brooklyn Heights, where they were surrounded with their backs to the East River. General Washington successfully evacuated the position, but the British ultimately took control of New York City.

The Battle of Long Island took place approximately around the area of Prospect Park. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and opened in 1867. The first shots were fired in the vicinity of present-day 39th Street and 4th Avenue. Battle Hill, another scene of fighting, is today in Green-Wood Cemetery near 23rd Street and 7th Avenue.

Prospect Park is located west of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden between Flatbrush Avenue, Parkside Avenue, and Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, New York. Battle Pass is behind the Prospect Park Zoo along a running/walking trail east of Sullivan Hill. This map gives a rough approximation of where the monuments are. Prospect Park is open daily from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Woodlands, playgrounds, and the Parade Ground close at sunset. When I visited in 2017, the park was closed to traffic. Visitors must find roadside parking around the park’s perimeter.

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