Kip’s Bay

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On this day 236 years ago, rebels against an imperial government far less overreaching than ours skulked on York Island (now known as Manhattan). They had battled that government across the East River in Brooklyn two weeks before, but its army of Redcoats routed them and sent them scurrying back to York Island. They’d huddled there ever since. They knew it was only a matter of time before the Redcoats followed and finished them and their Revolution. What they didn’t know was where along York Island’s approximately 50 miles of coastline that attack would come.

A handful of troops from Connecticut found out this sunny Sunday morning. General George Washington had scattered his paltry regiments among the areas he thought likeliest for a British beachhead. These men lay in a ditch along a bay that then dented York Island’s eastern shore (landfill has obliterated the cove while adding to New York City’s invaluable real estate—today, a one-bedroom apartment in Kip’s Bay rents for approximately $3,000/month). They watched open-mouthed as four warships anchored in the river, cannon aimed at them. Then those guns deafeningly roared and belched shot. Their bombardment covered the disembarking of 4,000 British troops — with another 9,000 due to follow in a few hours.

Would you, an amateur and volunteer, have stayed in that ditch to defy the professionals wading ashore a few yards away to kill you? Or would you have run so you could live to fight another day?

As the government that replaced King George III’s in North America waxes more tyrannical than that monarch ever dreamed of being, we can look to earlier Americans for inspiration on living free and defying Our Rulers. (And you can read more about the Battle of Kip’s Bay in my novel, Halestorm, available in paperback or for Kindle, NookiPad, Sony, or your computer.)

6:35 am on September 15, 2012