At its April 25, 2017 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution, originally proposed by the CAG’s Archaeology Committee.
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Environmental Remediation 625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-7017
By Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Site Name: Gowanus Canal Northside
Site Code: C224080
Program: Brownfield Cleanup Program
The following comments have been prepared by the Archaeology Committee and approved by the full Gowanus EPA Community Advisory Group for consideration as part of the DEC lead cleanup of contamination on this site.
There is reason to believe that this brownfield site may have significant archaeological remains from the events that took place during the August 1776 Battle of Brooklyn. The area is noted as the place where General Washington’s army operated Fort Box, a one-gun fort to guard the Freek’s mill-pond passage across the Gowanus Creek. Maps from 1776 indicate this passage across the creek met solid ground on the west side at the location of your C224080 cleanup site.
Historic references, both maps and historical documents, state that Fort Box was located in the vicinity of present-day Sackett and DeGraw streets on the western side of the Gowanus, which is the same area as the proposed brownfield clean up.
An eyewitness account of the 1776 Battle of Brooklyn, as seen from the west side of the Gowanus, near Fort Box, was given by a Private Joseph Martin in a book he wrote in 1830 under the title, A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier. The present-day historian, David McCullough, referenced Private Martin’s writings in his book, 1776.
Private Martin tells of the artillery-gun from the fort being dragged down to the muddy marsh (near present day Sackett and Union Streets) where the greater fire power of the cannon caused the British to pull back. Private Martin also tells of watching as another of Washington’s regiments removed war dead from Gowanus Creek as the tide was falling. There remains the potential that these fallen soldiers, who were retrieved to the west side of the Creek, were buried in the vicinity of the protection of the Fort Box artillery.
We ask that an archaeologist carefully review historic materials regarding this site around the time of the 1776 battle, and that any remediation work in this area give careful and appropriate consideration to potential remains of war dead and potential artifacts remaining of Fort Box and the battle that occurred in and around this property at the time of the event.
Members of the Gowanus CAG (see GowanusCAG.org for a full membership list)
U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer
U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez
NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery
NYS Senator Kenneth P. LaValle
Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon
NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation