Prospect Park, a sprawling green oasis in Brooklyn known today for its peaceful meadows and picturesque architecture, has a violent past. During the 18th century, the rambling hills, dense forest and open flatlands of Brooklyn that Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux would later come to transform and incorporate into their park, were the site of the largest battle of the revolutionary war.
The Battle of Brooklyn, also known as the Battle of Long Island, was the first conflict after the July 4th signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and it was a defeat that took the lives of around 1,000 American soldiers. This revolutionary history was actually part of the reason this site was chosen to create the park on top of and over two hundred years later, remnants of the battle can still be seen today. Discover the revolutionary remnants of Prospect Park:
1. Battle Pass Rock
Along East Drive visitors to the park will find a series of bronze plaques dedicated to American efforts during the battle. The location of the plaques denotes the line of defense the Americans put up along the ridgeline that extends from today’s Green-Wood Cemetery, through Prospect Park to Mount Prospect Park. One of the points of entry along this defense line was Flatbush Pass, a path between rugged hills on today’s East Drive. This spot is marked by a small rock on the ground on the west side of East Drive known as Battle Pass Rock.
Dedicated in 1929, the plaque’s inscription says that it marks the spot where the old Porte Road or Valley Grove Road intersected with the line of hills separating Flatbush from Gowanus. This pass was blocked during the battle by a large white oak tree, known as the Dongan Oak (which has its own monument), that was chopped down to sure up the front of the defensive line. To the east, the pass was guarded by artillery. The inscription describes how the British came up on the Americans from the river and forced them to retreat across what is now Long Meadow.
Celebrate the revolutionary history of Prospect Park this July 4th weekend, and uncover more of its hidden histories on an upcoming Secrets of Prospect Park walking tour! Keep reading to discover more revolutionary remnants.