Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Alamo of the American Revolution

Just about a block south of my front door stands a monument to a battle, a sobering defeat that almost changed the course of the American colonial rebellion and the history of the world.

The year was 1776 and the ink was barely dry on the Declaration of Independence when construction began on a pentagonal earthen fortification atop a bluff on Manhattan Island overlooking the Hudson River, across from another outpost in New Jersey, Fort Lee. Armed with canon capable of firing clear across the river, Fort Washington was part of a rebel strategy to secure not only Manhattan Island but the Hudson River and prevent the British goal of bisecting the colonies.

To this end, the Americans sank ships in the Hudson between the two forts, their tall masts studded with sharp iron spikes. Rising from the highest natural point on the island, Fort Washington was unapproachable from the west because of the steep cliffs and Fort Lee’s canon. Unfortunately, it was vulnerable from every other direction, and had no convenient water source.

General Washington recommended that the post be abandoned, but his comrade General Nathanael Greene had confidence in the sunken ships and believed in the necessity of the fort’s strategic position.

In early November, an American deserter named William Demont provided drawings of Fort Washington to British officers to help them plan an attack. On the night of November 5, under cover of darkness the British sailed three flat-bottomed ships (thus avoiding the spikes) and took up positions north of the fort, as other garrisons of British and Hessian troops moved in from the east and south.



On November 15, Colonel Robert Magaw, commander of Fort Washington, received an order to surrender from the Royalists, which he refused. After a delay caused by inclement weather, the British, outnumbering the Americans three to one, commenced an attack around noon the next day.

General Washington tried to cross the Hudson from New Jersey to help, but British naval positions fired on him and he was forced to retreat. By nightfall, 54 Americans were dead, and Magaw surrendered. Nearly 3,000 American soldiers were captured, and many of them died under horrible conditions onboard English prison ships anchored off Brooklyn.

Among those who fell at Fort Washington was John Corbin, who was shot while manning one of the cannon. His 25 year old wife Margaret, also inside the fort, rushed to his post and took over his duties until she, too, was hit with a shotgun blast which struck her in the shoulder, chest and jaw; she never regained the use of her left arm. For her valor, the Continental Congress in 1779 made her the first American woman to receive a military pension as a disabled soldier.

The British retained control of Manhattan until their defeat in 1783.

Let us never forget the blood that was shed for our liberty.

24 comments:

kr said...

Cool stuff, thanks :)!

Jeff said...

So many people don't realize that Manhattan was occupied by the British during the Revolutionary War. I didn't even know it until a few years ago.

Luke said...

Well its good to know that the picture-esque Corbin Circle up by us is named after someone important and not just some bureaucrat.

Jean F. said...

Well now, Fort Lee and Fort Washington are going to hold totally different meanings for me in the future! Thanks for the interesting history lesson.

little-cicero said...

I've just linked to this post. Fantastic! A non-devisive post that without a shadow of a doubt shows your love of country!

Andy said...

See? And you thought I was just some gay pinko commie.

little-cicero said...

I have yet to revoke that presupposition entirely. Write a couple of posts on how this is the Greatest Nation on God's Green Earth and we shall see about that! (by the way, those who do not visit my blog are not patriotic- be advised!)

Andy said...

Little Cicero, I say this once and I say this forcefully. God does not recognize nationalities any more than he recognizes skin colors. To say Americans are first among all of God's children IS IDOLATRY, it is not Christianity and I daresay it's not even really patriotism. Loving this country has nothing to do with believing it is perfect or the best, any more than you have to believe your mother is the best possible woman in the world in order for you to love her. There is much, much, much to be proud of about American history. But the rhetoric you use is more in line with Chairman Mao and Stalin than Jefferson. Be careful.

Andy said...

PS, for the record, my mother is the best possible woman in the world.

PPS, I recognize the irony of citing atheists in comparing Little Cicero's frighteningly theocratic statement, but I'm tired and I couldn't think of any good Christian fascists just now.

little-cicero said...

I was only kidding, but I should mention that I never said anything along the lines of "Americans are first among all of God's children" Saying that your nation is the best nation may be preferential and overly subjective (too much so, I have found, for intelligent debate) but it is not anything like saying that Americans are the chosen people of God.

For goodness sake, Anna Nicole Smith is an American!

I'll try to use more of these :) in the future to show that I am joking around.

little-cicero said...

Revelation: If I am making a tongue and cheek humorous statement, and Andy thinks that I'm seriously making a "frighteningly theocratic statement" it is either his sense of humor or my pathetic inability to effectively use tongue-in-cheek humor. I think we can agree upon the latter!
(:

Anonymous said...

"The greatest nation on God's green earth."
This is Michael Medveds sign off line to his radio program, he says it everyday.
Little cicero is educated by Michael Medved, Rush Limbaugh, Mike Savage, Bill O'riely, ect....
Explains a lot.

kr pdx said...

OK folks, this one is not from left field ... perhaps from perpendicular field.

I have a relative who believes she was abducted by aliens. She has never talked to me about it, but every once in a while she would give us alien-consipracy newsletters.

During the Clinton Administration, one of these newsletters, after griping the whole front page about the evil repression of the Australian monetary system(!), had a box on the back that said they were very optimistic because despite all the forces of evil in play (I can't remember, it was I think the UN and something about Australian bankers and The Greys (the unpleasant aliens)), the forces of good looked strong--YAY! The forces of Good? Well, they were centered around Clinton and America--and Pope John Paul II. Odd bedfellows.

Maybe this God's Country thing has something to it ;).

little-cicero said...

Actually, I'm more so educated by Dennis Prager than Medved, but I never listen to O'Reilly, Limbaugh or Savage (except for entertainment value). By the way, Medved and Prager are both fairly moderate compared to other talk radio hosts, and used to be Democrats.

Mostly, the phrase "The Greatest Nation on God's Green Earth" is just a great motto- it sounds good and summarizes my thoughts exactly. That it is percieved as partisan just proves how much the left has lost the values of patriotism in the current political system.

kr pdx said...

I'm maybe willing to go eith "The Greatest Conceptual Nation on what-I-believe-to-be-God's decreasingly-Green-which is our faulty stewardship's-fault Earth" ... maybe. I would think, with your objections to liberals in general and your occasionally biblical-type support-thoughts, you would be disgusted with the majority of the "nation" ... being its people. People who are increasingly led around by the nose political-thought-wise and/or by increasingly catered-to sexual urges.

Keeping the populace mighty placated and unthinking right now, we here are.

I'll give you "America is a pretty nobly conceived nation." Sometimes it (the people) have managed to try to live up to that. Not seein' so much of that just now.

Patriotism, to me, means I support the ideals more or less and am very very willing to fight the badness in America today. But I do have other affiliations (1: God), so I will call down the USA and anyone in it (including myself, regularly) who does not live up to the somewhat loftier ideal-set of "Love One Another," thanks, and if that makes me "unpatriotic"--do you think I really care?

kr pdx said...

Crap.

LC, I just realized that I assumed you were Christian, which was dumb. If you are Jewish, obviously half (most?) of my shit doesn't apply, and I apologize for denigrating the authority of a Book of Moses as obviously subordinate to the Gospels. I still don't agree with it, but I would have argued from a significantly less "Christian" tack.

OK, I said I would quit and now I will. (I figured an apology was an exception.)

Andy said...

Hold on to your rosary, he's a Catholic.

little-cicero said...

I'm sorry to take you out of retirement kr pdx, but for full disclosure of information I must tell you that I am Catholic. Part of my argument on homosexuality was that, even though the stoning of homosexuals is specified in the Books of Moses, that Jesus made the "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" statement.

But if someone can answere this for me, what is so theocratic about saying that this is the greatest nation on God's Green Earth?

kr pdx said...

um, it assumes God?

Andy said...

I don't believe you are that extreme (at least in this regard...) but I wanted to ward you off that particular path. This kind of language is what leads certain people -- mostly pre-millennial dispensationalist Protestants -- to believe that America has some sort of mandate from God to do His will around the world, which for many (and sadly I'm not making this up) means unwavering support for the nation of Israel in order to see the Al Aqsa Mosque destroyed and Solomon's Temple rebuilt to usher in the Second Coming of Christ. I know that sounds wacko, but there really are people out there who belive that is an American foreign policy priority. Personally, the God I believe in does not need help from the U.S. Government to bring about fulfillment of his divine plans for the universe, but that's just me.

kr pdx said...

Well, shit again.

I really do need to stop, though, despite the fact that you are now standing as a conservative and as a Catholic and I don't believe you well represent either.

But, off I go. I so rarely manage to change anyone's mind anyhow, and my kids have been neglected.

Have fun storming the castle!

Jeff said...

Argh... can't one just enjoy a simple historical anecdote about the Revolutionary War without getting into an argument?

:)

little-cicero said...

I share your pain Jeff. I honestly didn't know that it was a theocratic statement. I wrote on this subject on my blog, and Andy was one of those who provided rebuttals to the validity of the statement. It was really just meant as an inside joke.

I really do hope people continue to comment on Andy's post rather than on my ramblings. I have heard that people are avoiding his comment section because of me, which concerns me, but of course this blog is called "The Last Debate".

little-cicero said...

By the way Andy, I just posted an audio track of myself singing "Danny Boy", just so you can see which of us is the better singer! I personally think I sound like Bing Crosby, but that's just me.