battlefield

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.

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Saratoga National Historical Park in Stillwater, New York

Saratoga National Historical Park preserves the ground on which two strategically important Revolutionary War battles were fought. The Battle of Freeman’s Farm was fought on September 19, 1777 and the Battle of Bemis Heights was fought on October 7. Collectively, they are known as the Battles of Saratoga. They are considered Benedict Arnold’s greatest victories, before his traitorous defection to the British.

In 1777, British General John Burgoyne marched south from Canada down the Champlain Valley in a plan to cut New England off from the other American colonies. He didn’t get far. At the Battle of Freeman’s Farm, Burgoyne confronted Generals Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold and the Continental Army with 9,000 men to 7,200. Though technically a British victory, the engagement cost them nearly 600 casualties. The Americans suffered approximately 300 killed and wounded. Burgoyne decided to forgo an immediate pursuit.

Eighteen days later, at the Battle of Bemis Heights, Burgoyne took 5,000 effectives and advanced on the Continental Army’s positions. Benedict Arnold, furious at having been unjustly relieved of command, appeared on the field and led an attack that shattered the British lines. Burgoyne ordered a retreat to Saratoga (Schuylerville), where his army was surrounded. He surrendered along with his entire army on October 16, 1777.

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Lexington Battle Green

The fight at Lexington Green between American colonial militia and British regulars is more significant for what it represents than what actually happened there. The fight itself was brief, spontaneous, and indecisive. But it represented the opening salvo of what became the American Revolutionary War and the birth of our new nation.

On the morning of April 19, 1775, British soldiers set out from Boston to capture colonial leaders Sam Adams and John Hancock. Paul Revere famously rode out to alert local colonists of the British plan. Later that morning, several hundred British soldiers arrived in Lexington and were met by approximately 70-77 militiamen. It’s unclear who fired the first shot, but when the smoke cleared, seven colonists lay dead and eight wounded.

It was chilly when I visited Lexington Battle Green in the Spring of 2017. A recent rain wet the streets and monuments. I found a volunteer tour guide, dressed in period clothes, sitting in the park waiting to give a short tour to whoever was interested. What a cool idea! I felt sorry for her having to stand out in the cold all morning, but it was nice to have an impromptu guide to tell the site’s story.

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Minuteman National Park and Concord Battleground

Before visiting Minuteman National Park, my impression was the battles of Lexington and Concord were separate and distinct engagements. I didn’t realize they were part of a longer, running fight between British soldiers and militiamen spanning several miles. Though periodic rain dampened my trip, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm to explore this exciting piece of our country’s founding history.

The fight at Concord’s North Bridge actually took place in the middle of the whole affair. On April 19, 1775, after the confrontation at Lexington Green, the British continued on to Concord, where they set fire to some supplies. American colonial militia gathered and tried to push across the bridge. A fight erupted, touching off the Revolutionary War. It was “the shot heard ’round the world.”

At North Bridge, 400 militiamen confronted 100 British regulars, resulting in approximately two militia killed and four wounded, and three British regulars killed and eight wounded. The engagement shocked both sides. On one side of the bridge stands Daniel Chester French’s 1875 Minute Man statue, on the other, an obelisk memorializing the militia casualties. There was a group of British tourists there when I visited, and I couldn’t help wondering how they felt standing on this ground.

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Bunker Hill Monument

The Battle of Bunker Hill was one of the earliest engagements of the Revolutionary War, and the Bunker Hill Monument, a 221-foot granite obelisk, was one of our nation’s first monuments. Neither the battlefield nor the monument, however, are actually located on Bunker Hill. The monument sits atop Breed’s Hill, where most of the fighting occurred.

After the battles of Lexington and Concord, the colonial army besieged the City of Boston, which was held by the British. On the night of June 16, 1775, Colonel William Prescott led a force of 1,200 men onto the Charlestown Peninsula, across the Charles River from Boston, to fortify Breed’s Hill. They built a square earthen redoubt, from which they could fire artillery at British ships on the water and British forces in Boston.

On June 17, the British landed two columns on the peninsula, totaling 1,500 men, with 400 reinforcements joining the final attack, and stormed the colonists’ defenses. Though victorious, they suffered 226 dead and 828 wounded, the highest British casualty count of the war. The colonists lost 135 dead (including 20 prisoners) and 305 wounded.

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Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park

The Battle of Cedar Creek (or Battle of Belle Grove) was fought in Frederick County, Shenandoah County and Warren County, Virginia on October 19, 1864 between Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Early’s Army of the Valley and Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan’s Army of the Shenandoah in the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 8,500 total casualties.

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park was created in 2002 and encompasses over 3,700 acres, 1,500 of which are preserved and administered by partner sites, including the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, Belle Grove Plantation, and Hupp’s Hill Civil War Park.

Belle Grove Manor House was built between 1794 and 1797 for Isaac Hite, Jr. and his bride Nelly Conway Madison. Hite owned a general store, grist-mill, saw-mill and a distillery. 276 slaves lived at Belle Grove between 1783 and 1851.

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Antietam National Battlefield

The Battle of Antietam was fought on September 17, 1862 near Sharpsburg, Maryland, between Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. The battle ended inconclusively and resulted in approximately 22,717 total casualties.

Established August 30, 1890, Antietam National Battlefield preserves 3,230 acres of the original battlefield east of Sharpsburg. A self-guided driving tour of the park is 8.5 miles long with 11 stops. They also offer several smaller walking tours at principal battle sites, with accompanying full-color booklets. The booklets are available in the Visitor Center for $1 and offer detailed maps, photos, and a narrative of events. It’s a great way to experience the battlefield outside your car, and really understand the battle in relation to the fields, forests, and landmarks.

The Battle of Antietam unfolded in three stages: morning (north), mid-day (center), and afternoon (south), with three uncoordinated Union attacks. The much smaller Confederate army was able to shift forces to meet each attack individually. The fighting was desperate and deadly, some of the bloodiest of the war. Lee’s army was at a low point in terms of manpower because many Confederate soldiers had gone home to harvest their fields. General Lee believed Marylanders would join his ranks as he moved north, but with a few exceptions, they stayed home.

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