Inspecting Fort Defiance, 1776

July 7 - We breakfasted with General Putnam, who we found to be rough in his manner and speaking, but cheerful. He offered us his barge and D Morgan accompanied us to Governor’s Island, Red Hook and a Neck that joined Long Island. The works at theses places were good, but the general complaint was want of cannon.

Diary of Dr. James Clitherall, 1776.

The "works" in Red Hook that Dr. Clitheral is referring to were raised earthen walls which were part of the defense of Fort Defiance.  Fort Defiance, a battery of cannons aimed at the harbor, is said to be important to the American Revolution.  Its cannon fire harassed the British fleet playing a roll in the slow advance of British forces allowing George Washington and the American forces to withdraw from Brooklyn during the Battle of Long Island.

George S. Sproule's 1781 map of the American defences during the Revolutionary War provides a depiction of Fort Defiance. In 1776 Fort Defiance was practically on an island separated by ponds and streams from the rest of Red Hook. The high points on which the Fort was situated are the same high points that did not flood during Hurricane Sandy.

[Note: The History of Fort Defiance and its exact location is a far more involved story than is reflected by this short entry]

Images

<em>A Plan of the Environs of Brooklyn Showing the Position of the Rebel Lines and Defenses on the 27th of August</em>, 1776. by George S. Sproule, 1781

A Plan of the Environs of Brooklyn Showing the Position of the Rebel Lines and Defenses on the 27th of August, 1776. by George S. Sproule, 1781

This map was drawn up by Loyalist Engineer George S. Sproule. He was born in Long Island in 1741 and was an assistant to map maker Samuel Holland. The map seems to draw on Bernard Ratzer’s 1766 topographical survey work, with Sproule giving more detail of hills. Sproule shows more detailed fortification works than the British Military Headquarters Map of 1782, making it possible that some fortifications shown, such as the double bank of earthworks at Degraw Street near Brouwers Mill and fortifications on Red Hook Lane near the Seabrings Red Hook mill ponds were planned, rather than actually built. The original map is at the Clements Library, University of Michigan. Scan kindly provided by Bob Furman of the Brooklyn Preservation CouncilImage and caption courtesy of Proteusgowanus: https://issuu.com/proteusgowanus/docs/1781_a_map_of_the_environs_of_brooklyn_showing_gow:  View File Details Page

Date:

1776

Subjects

Sources:

  • James Clitherall, "Extracts from the Diary of Dr. James Clitherall, 1776" in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Vol. 22, No. 4 (1898), pp. 468-474 http://www.jstor.org/stable/20085818


    Map:
    George S. Sproule, “A Plan of the Environs of Brooklyn Showing the Position of the Rebel Lines and Defenses on the 27th of August, 1776”  

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