The Battle of Brooklyn at the NY Historical Society

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by Miriam Silverberg

The Battle of Brooklyn at the NY Historical SocietyDid you know that the Battle of Brooklyn was the first major battle of the American Revolution? Neither did I, but now we do if we go to the NY Historical Society on CPW and 77th and see their wonderful new exhibit, the Battle of Brooklyn. On display Sept. 23 – Jan. 8, 2017.

In 1776 the British troops, having lost the battle of Boston, decamped to Nova Scotia.  There they stayed, gathering strength.  Washington correctly assumed that the next major invasion would be New York, giving the British access to the Hudson and linkage to Canada.  The exhibit shows the correspondence among the Colonists and also between British General Howe and his troops and the anxiety and tension as the Colonists waited and prepared as best they could for the invasion which they knew would come.

The Battle of Brooklyn at the NY Historical Society

Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger, Soldiers in Uniform, ca. 1781–84. Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, John Hay Library, Brown University.

It was a bloody rout and the Colonists’ worst defeat of the war.  In four hours the American militia of 9,000 men were defeated.  One of the most interesting parts of the exhibit shows how Washington made the decision to evacuate all 9,000 of his troops to Manhattan, during the night and under cover of darkness.

Thus, the British missed a crucial opportunity to capture Washington and his men and end the revolution.


John Trumbull (1756–1843), George Washington (1732–1799), 1780. Metropolitan Museum of Art Bequest of Charles Allen Munn, 1924, 24.109.88

On view are portraits of Washington and George III, followed by profiles of important figures on both sides of the conflict.  There is a copy of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense to illustrate the arguments made for separation.  The exhibit’s first section shows why the British targeted New York and the second centers on the battle itself.

There are also public lectures and gallery tours.  This is one of the most truly fascinating exhibits I have ever seen.  I urge all of you to go.  You will enjoy it immensely.

A concurrent exhibit is on American presidential elections from 1960 to 1972 presenting vintage American presidential campaign memorabilia.  This is also very interesting and timely during this election year.

Get more details.

miriamMiriam Silverberg is a freelance journalist and owner of a boutique publicity firm in Manhattan, Miriam Silverberg Associates.  She may be reached at




  • New York City has some of the best museums in the world, large and small. Exploring NYC's cultural activities is highlight of living or visiting here.

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