Saturday, May 22, 2010

You're the Writer: (2)

History Finally Uncovered
By John J. Burkard Red Hook Area Historic Researcher

When I was a lad, (I'm now 75) quite some time ago, I remembered a bronze plaque that adorned the wall of the Todd Shipyards building in Red Hook Brooklyn. This historic treasure proclaimed an event that transpired August 27, 1776 and marked the end of Red Hook Lane an old Indian trail used by the American Colonists. The marker had been missing for over 50 years, and mentioned the heroic soldiers stationed at a redoubt type of entrenchment called Fort Defiance, located at the end of this Red Hook Lane.

It went on to speak about these brave soldiers and how on that fateful day they did turn their cannons upon a British man-o-war vessel attempting entrance to the East River. But their assault, coupled with the elements of weather forced this frigate the HMS Roebuck to turn back to the anchored British fleet off Gravesend Bay. It was under the command of Lord Viceroy Admiral Howe, whose brother General Howe led the land based British troops, and history tells us, "the failure of this ship to gain access to the waterway was a major turning point in the Battle Of Brooklyn".

As a result, George Washington was able two days later to evacuate His entire Army successfully to the shores of Manhattan. Had the Roebuck gained access, they would have effectfully cut off this withdrawal by surrounding the American Army on all sides of the field of battle, and the results would have been catastrophic.

I attended grade school in Red Hook, and I have lived in the neighborhood all my life, so it seemed only natural when I retired 14 years ago I should set out on a quest to locate this historic marker that, as a youngster I admired and proudly looked upon and, cherished, the story of how important Red Hook was, to bring a sense of pride and joy to my neighborhood.

You see, I've always wondered why this neighborhood history, so critical to the birth of our nation was never taught in our local schools, certainly not when I attended, there was two public schools, and one parochial school. History not taught by the teachers, not listed in the history books, never was it spoke of, not a soul would relate this story to the children, that Red Hook Brooklyn could indeed be considered responsible for allowing the American Army to withdraw and regroup, and go on to defeat the British Army. It could be safely said that the happenings I speak about did indeed contributed to the birth of our Nation.

I have learned a great deal in my 14 years as a history buff, some pleasant, some not so pleasant. For instance, I found that many historians interpret the facts to conform to their own versions of the events. I learned also, some neighborhoods have been overlooked, to give recognition to others. and It is my wish in future writings to this site to explain and give examples of this deliberate but obvious omission.

Why was Red Hook neglected? why did not those responsible impart to the neighborhood school children that needed sense of pride? the ability to be proud of their community and its importance in the role of the making of America.

I will close on a happy note, this summer August 27th on the 229th anniversary of this historic moment, a new plaque will be unveiled in a beautiful newly constructed waterfront park and garden at the foot of Conover Street in Red Hook. This will be like a dream come true for myself, the achievement of my intended goal to bring deserved recognition to my neighborhood.

John J. Burkard, Red Hook Area Historic Researcher

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