5. Bryant Park’s Military History
During the Revolutionary War, George Washington’s troops crossed quickly over the public space at Bryant Park while retreating from the Battle of Long Island. After the Croton Reservoir was demolished, there was a failed petition to transform the site into an armory. During the Civil War, Bryant Park (known then as Reservoir Square) was used as an encampment and site for military drills for the Union troops, like many other of the city’s parks. The deadly Draft Riots of 1863 took place around Bryant Park, with the burning down of the Colored Orphan Asylum at Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street. Protesting conscription, white mobs roamed the streets, murdering and killing at will. By the time the police had retaken the city four days later, perhaps 2000 people had died.
Today a statue of William Earle Dodge, father of Civil War Brigadier General Charles Cleveland Dodge, stands in Bryant Park. The elder Dodge was a New York congressman, founding member of the YMCA in America, and a proponent of Native American rights.