This is the third year the Boerum Hill Association has supported an art installation at this intersection. We’re proud to present a Boerum Hill artist’s work and offer a place to sit and contemplate art. Here is the artist’s explanation of the work. We hope you enjoy it.
Battle Pass – Revolution II by Sasha Chavchavadze
“Battle Pass – Revolution II” was inspired by the Liberty Pole, a ship’s mast erected in Lower Manhattan as a symbol of protest in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War and by Walt Whitman’s poem about the battle, “The Centenarian’s Story.” The Battle Pass project, a series of public art installations, performances and workshops, draws parallels between past and present as it explores the complexity and devastation of war.
In the spring of 1776, Brooklyn prepared for war; farmers abandoned their homes and fields. Soldiers from other colonies arrived, and built a string of forts from Brooklyn Heights to Red Hook to defend Manhattan from British attack. Cobble Hill Fort stood almost due north of Bergen and Smith Streets, on a hill that once rose near the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street.
From this vantage point in Cobble Hill, George Washington watched the Battle of Brooklyn unfold on the morning of August 27, 1776. He saw a small band of soldiers from Maryland fight, and die, at the Old Stone House to the southeast – in what in now Park Slope. And he saw his fledgling army, outmaneuvered and overwhelmed by British and Hessian forces make a hasty, desperate retreat across Gowanus Creek.
When the battle ended, Washington’s army was cornered, trapped between enemy troops and the East River in the very forts they had constructed to defend the city. The American Revolution could easily have ended here, in Brooklyn, if Washington had not made a daring escape to Manhattan by boat. Approximately nine thousand soldiers were ferried from Fulton Landing – to the north west of this spot – and across the East River to safety.
Eighty years later, Walt Whitman published “The Centenarian’s Story,” recalling the Battle of Brooklyn in the voice of an elderly veteran – remembering what happened here before these streets and brownstones were built:
The years recede, pavements and stately houses disappear.
Rude forts appear again, the old hoop’d guns are mounted,
I see the lines of rais’d earth stretching from river to bay,
I mark the vista of waters, I mark the uplands and slopes;
Here we lay encamp’d, it was this time in summer also.
Battle Pass is an initiative of Proteus Gowanus Interdisciplinary Gallery in Partnership with the NYC Department of Transportation Urban Art Program and the Boerum Hill Association.
Battle Pass Collaborators: Angela Kramer Murphy, educator; Eva Melas and Robyn Love, workshop artists; and Paul Benney, performer.
Proteus Gowanus, 543 Union Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215, www.proteusgowanus.org