Following up on yesterday’s blog post about Nathan Hale for July 4th — I actually wrote briefly about Hale and New York’s revolutionary history in “The Dogs Don’t Bark In Brooklyn Any More.” It was background information about Brooklyn’s Prospect Park; the novel’s story, of course, takes place in a fictional future.
I actually made up the “local legend” about Hale’s ghost brooding around the arch. I have no doubt that the park has its share of ghost stories, but this one was only a bit of poetic license on my part:
“[Prospect Park] is a haunted place. Many men have died in the vicinity of its gently rolling hills, though the occasion of their passing predates the park’s mid-nineteenth century creation. The area around Prospect Park is the site of the Revolutionary War’s first and largest major battle, fought in the waning summer of 1776, not two months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
“The fledgling United States fielded its first official army there, with heartbreaking results. The Battle of Brooklyn was a disaster for America, whose sons were outnumbered two-to-one by 22,000 English and Hessian soldiers. George Washington, flush with his victory at Boston, found his forces routed. He barely escaped to Manhattan in a desperate, stealthy evacuation of more than 9,000 troops. On the morning of August 30, he and his retreating men were met along the Brooklyn hills with a miraculous surprise – a dense morning fog that concealed their perilous exit. To Washington and his war-weary comrades, it must have seemed like nothing short of divine intervention.
“Those were the dark days of America’s infancy – Nathan Hale would not long after be captured on a mission of espionage in Manhattan, disguised as a Dutch schoolteacher, and would be hanged, after his immortal lament that he had but a single life to give for his country. The defeat in Brooklyn also cleared the way for the Crown’s capture of all of New York City. The Great Fire of 1776 would ravage Manhattan. And the city would remain in England’s hands until the end of the war.
“Ironically, the park’s principal monument is devoted to another war entirely – one in which America turned upon itself. This is the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch, a massive structure dedicated to the Union Army during the Civil War. If there is an afterlife, then perhaps it might break Washington’s heart – and Hale’s – to see the Arch as it stands today, a memorial to Americans killing Americans. Indeed, a local legend holds that Hale’s ghost occasions the site of the Arch and hangs his gaze upon it, glum with the knowledge of a nation divided and torn.”
5 thoughts on ““Those were the dark days of America’s infancy.””
Reblogged this on Readsalot and commented:
Eric, I am going to have to give ‘Dogs’ a 2nd read, I think. This is a brilliant piece of history that I do not recall from reading your book nearly two years ago.
You know, in this day and age of our country: with the struggles and distractions of modern citizens. I do like to be reminded of the delicate and precarious birth of our great nation. In fact, your words have inspired me so much that I would like to make a proposal to you. Perhaps this is not the appropriate medium or venue in which for us to brainstorm what I have in mind.
I do hope you respond to my summons to arms. I believe that my idea could be mutually beneficial-not only for you and I-but for The United States of America!
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What did you have in mind, Lance? 🙂
Well, since this is appearing as a comment on your blog I will make it very brief. Maybe if it sounds interesting then we can email back and forth with our brainstorming.
Basically, your history lesson gave me a sudden ‘Holy Shit!’ moment where I envisioned us collaborating on a project that I do not believe has ever been undertaken for this period in history. We both write-so this would be a writing project: whether it to be a series of short stories, or serialized novellas, perhaps even an illustrated YA Historical Fiction venture-I just don’t know yet. But, it hit me like a ton of bricks and I have not been this excited about writing something since I came up with the inspiration for ‘Blood and Fire’.
Want to know more?
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Just sent you a note via TBMN, man!
Okay-on my way over! 🙂