In the last week we have received two major expressions of support for the development of Marylander Park. First, the Red Hook Veterans of Foreign Wars Post has stated its support for locating the graves and commemorating some of America’s first war dead. See their letter at the Robertson website as part of our proposal. Second, the Brooklyn delegation of the NYS Assembly has sent a support letter to Governor Cuomo asking him to work on the project. There are nineteen members of the delegation. To put this is perspective, Kings County (Brooklyn) is the third most populous county in the nation, after Los Angeles (which includes the entire city of four million), and Cook, in Illinois, which is Chicago plus many of its suburbs. This is also on the website at: http://gaz.jrshelby.com/md-mass-grave.htm. More is expected soon!
There is a series of sketches being displayed at St. Francis College (Remsen between Court and Clinton in Bklyn Heights) that concentrates on impressions of the Battle of Brooklyn, the Prison Ship Martyrs in Wallabout Bay (Bklyn Navy Yard) and some civil war motifs inspired by the Grand Army Plaza’s arch. Members of the Society of Old Brooklynites and the Brooklyn Preservation Council augmented the artist’s talk by explaining how the Marylanders had kept the escapte route open to the Americans by relentlessly enaging the British in a vicious battle for the Old Stone House. The works are by Howard Skrill. A re-enactor recommended by Kim Maier of the Old Stone House read an essay on the artist’s impressions of the prison ship martyrs’ treatments and deaths. The art display is open to all, through end of March.
This is disingenuous at best. She is familiar with the evidence and chooses to disbelieve and ignore it because she considers efforts to commemorate the Marylanders where they were buried competitive with the house, rather than complementary, which they are. What “primary evidence” does she think there should be? British burial records for enemy dead?
New York State has had a different opinion for a very long time. Two state signs at the Joseph Rawley American Legion post on Ninth Street between Third and Fourth Avenues, one from 1952 and another installed in 2002, state that the Marylanders are buried there.
The evidence that the Marylanders were buried in the area is strong. Dr. Nicholas Ryan, a Brooklyn Heights physician, said in 1956 that in the 1890s his father, a building contractor, found “the bones of some thirty bodies in regular, or military order,” in the course of digging cellars for three apartment buildings near the site, at the southeast corner of Seventh Street and Third Avenue.
Henry Wildhack, Jr. wrote a letter to Borough Historian James Kelly on February 9, 1957, to the effect that in 1905, his father bought the property at 429 and 431 Third Avenue, in the middle of the block between Seventh and Eighth Streets, for a coal yard, and the Marylanders’ burial trenches were then still visible. He drew a site sketch which shows them running diagonally toward the southeast.
In fact, as a child he and his friends, whom he named, “used to dig around the marked spot (on a site plan) frequently, and it was nothing new for us to find bones and various shapes and pieces of metal (sic).” This letter, discovered by the writer in 2013, is available at the Brooklyn Historical Society, and is primary source evidence..
It is in fact remarkable that remains of the Marylanders survived into the twentieth century when development began in the 1850s with the opening of Third Avenue.
This evidence convinces objective observers that the Marylanders were buried there and that the site should be investigated and that these heroes who saved the Revolution by sacrificing their lives to cover the retreat of the Continental Army towards its successful withdrawal from Brooklyn Ferry (now Fulton Ferry Landing) deserve to be honored. The Times agreed in 2012 and published an article in the Metro section on these efforts on August 26 when then governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland visited the Rawley Post. A site in the area just east of the Rawley Post is available for archaeological search and commemoration as a community and ecological park.
This year’s election had significant impact for our efforts, both positive and possibly negative. Our friend Jo Anne Simon has been elected to the state Assembly (the site is in her district), and Jesse Hamilton will be the new site state Senator on January 1. Jesse’s seat was vacant due to Eric Adams becoming Borough President on 1/1/14, while Jo Anne’s was inactive due to the pending departure of Joan Millman. This will be very helpful since action may depend on the state legislature.
Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who led the effort from Annapolis, was term limited, and the new incumbent will be Republican Larry Hogan. While Republicans have historically been interested in military affairs and Revolution commemoration, we will have to begin work on developing a relationship with him. He takes office in January.
The Sunday Times carried an article in the Metropolitan section on his efforts to discover the ancient streams that fed the Gowanus Creek. Eymund is a director of the Brooklyn Preservation Council. This is crucial to local water management, including this component of our proposed Marylander Memorial Park.
Went to the Rawley American Legion post Sunday afternoon for the annual Marylander observance. We read the names of the known dead and missing. Very moving and saw many old and new friends. Kim Maier, who organized the event for the Old Stone House, was very gracious. Saturday is the Prison Ship Martyrs event in Fort Greene Park sponsored by the Society of Old Brooklynites, of which I am one, at 10 AM. The keynoter will be Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, and Boro President Eric Adams will add a few words. There will be musical and dance events also. I may comment on the history of the martyrs, the site’s forts, martyr commemoration and the column we now have. Sunday is a re-enactment of the battle at Green-Wood Cemetery from 10AM to 2PM followed by a ceremony on Battle Hill at 2PM.