6. Gowanus Canal
Lord Stirling ordered New Yorkers to assist in the defense of the city “every other day,” with the help of their slaves. This directive was officially passed by the New York Provincial Congress, who then required those in Kings County (Brooklyn) to follow suit. An earthen wall built in Brooklyn started at the head of Gowanus Creek and stretched to Wallabout Bay (where the Brooklyn Navy Yard is today). As Joseph Alexiou writes in Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal, “with several redoubts, it provided an inner layer of defense for Brooklyn,” with Fort Box protecting Gowanus.
Despite this defense, the Americans would lose the Battle of Brooklyn, of which much was fought on the edges of Gowanus Creek. The famous Patriot retreat involved crossing the Gowanus Creek. Many of the troops drowned or were shot in the crossing. Still Alexiou writes, “It is fair to call [the Gowanus Creek] an unsung hero of the Battle of Brooklyn—twice critical to the escape of Washington’s army. More than Battle Pass, honored by several plaques tucked away in Prospect Park, the Gowanus waters bore witness to that bloody day in history, as have generations of Brooklynites since.”