Brooklyn Irish show the flag throughout battle's commemorations

By Gerry Regan
For The Wild Geese

WGT Photo/Gerry Regan
Minerva, one hand upon the "Altar to Liberty," salutes "Lady Liberty" in New York Harbor in this monument to those who fought at the Battle of Brooklyn.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- August 26 -- More than 200 people climbed or drove to Green-Wood Cemetery's Battle Hill, the highest point in the borough, to participate in Brooklyn's annual commemoration of the Battle of Long Island, the first major battle of the American Revolution.

Those on the summit had a panaromic view of New York Harbor, lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and New Jersey beyond. The hour-long ceremonies were the last major offering of the 12-day long 225th anniversary commemoration of the battle, which resulted in 2,000 American casualties, 1,000 prisoners, and Washington's withdrawal from Brooklyn, and eventually New York, to fight another day.

"THE PLACE WHEREON THOU STANDEST IS HOLY GROUND"
Glory to the memory of our first national heroes who fought and fell on this battleground to win our liberty and independence! Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom, Glory and Patriotism, here salutes the Goddess of Liberty and enwreathes this altar in tribute to the heroes of American Liberty and to the wisdom of American institutions.
-- engraved on the east side of "Altar to Liberty"

The focal point of the tribute every year is the 82-year-old monument titled "Altar to Liberty," a square Grecian altar, carved in granite, with engraved, bronze plates on its four sides. The bronze figure of Minerva, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, Glory and Patriotism, stands beside the altar, saluting "Lady Liberty" seen off in the distance, with her left hand.

Bernard Brennan, the master of ceremonies, born well before World War II, decried the "Harvard types" who neglected the Battle of Brooklyn, as it is also known, lionizing instead Bunker Hill, Lexington, and Concord when writing the history of the American Revolution.

The monument fronts the mausoleum of Charles M. Higgins, a benefactor of the monument when it was built .... The Irish influence here, while not overt, was quite apparent.

WGT Photo/Gerry Regan
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy's band, "George M. Cohan's Own," plays at Green-Wood Cemetery's chapel.

In fact, the Brooklyn Irish American Parade Committee was very much a presence today, as it was during much of the 12 days of commemorations, beginning with its 11:30 a.m. wreath laying at the grave of Matilda Tone, the widow of Irish revolutionary Wolfe Tone. The 36 or so present then processed to the unveiling of the monument to Derry-born John Haslet's Delaware Regi..., then hiked to Green-Wood's chapel, and finally ascended Battle Hill. Wherever the committee's members traveled, Irish tricolor and unit banner in tow, they elicited comments from speakers about either their own Irish ancestors or the Irish who fought at the battle.

Jay Jackson, of the Society of the Cincinnati, a fraternal society created for officers of Washington's army, said at the unveiling of the monument to Derry native John Haslet's Delaware Regiment: "I think it's wonderful what the Brooklyn Irish are doing to commemorate this history."

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Tags: Battle of Long Island, Delaware, Diaspora History, Irish Freedom Struggle, Revolutionary War, United States

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