As early as the 1800s, chroniclers have had differing accounts as to whether or not the Buttermilk Channel separating Red Hook from Governor's Island was once so narrow and shallow that cattle could be herded across it. Edwin Williams wrote in 1834 that this was undeniably true sometime before the American Revolution. Historians today think he was mistaken, and that the channel was never that shallow.
“Decrease of Land.—
There is little doubt, that Governor's Island (formerly called Nutten Island, from the nut-trees with which it was in ancient times covered,) was once connected with Red Hook Point on Long Island. It is an established fact that previously to the revolution, cattle were driven from Red Hook to Governor's Island, which places at that time were only separated by a very narrow channel, now called Buttermilk Channel, and which now admits the passage of merchant vessels of the largest size.”