If this doesn't fit your image of a Victorian burial ground, then you don't know Green-Wood Cemetery. The flags were flying along "Battle Avenue" in Brooklyn's grandly historic graveyard yesterday as a host of re-enactors in 1776 regalia celebrated the 236th anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn. The cemetery sits atop "Battle Hill," the highest point in Brooklyn, with a stunning view of the harbor that bristled with King George's fleet, which had sailed through the Narrows to kick our rebel butts.
Subversive fun to be reminded just how much little boys of all ages love guns. This musket was a perfect reproduction of a "Brown Bess," the patriots' already-obsolescent workhorse weapon. Despite a loading protocol that involves biting twists of paper and jamming in a ball with a long rod, a crack musketeer could reload four times a minute, said our demonstrator.
The profusion of weapons proved inspirational. America's freedom: not defended with gender-neutral toys and cooperative games!
Cannons were precious treasures in the battle, and the patriots spent much energy hauling "field pieces" like this one from place to place. The report ignited by this cannon-master (minus cannonball) was deafening; Brooklyn's hills must have echoed terrifyingly.
Really good re-enactors spark the imagination with a startling truth: Those distant textbook wars were fought by real people. They put a human face on history.
And speaking of gender roles: Girls can play guys! (We have more practice with ponytails anyway.) I think I see my retirement hobby, and it does not include wearing a corset and quilting on the sidelines.
Carrying regimental flags (including many from our French allies), we all marched up Battle Hill to the statue of Minerva, who gazes across the harbor directly to Lady Liberty. A wreath was laid, the Declaration of Independence was read, and I confess to feeling a little choked up as I said the Pledge of Allegiance.
Because, you see, it could all so easily have been lost during those August days of 1776. A startling reminder came from General Adkins, the current commander of the Maryland Regiment whose troops made a legendary sacrifice at the nearby Gowanus and its Old Stone House, absorbing the fury of British bayonets and cannons while the bulk of Washington's troops retreated, escaped, and (after more years of brutal fighting) eventually won our liberty.