Thursday, July 03, 2008

Independence Weekend!!!

Yes, the 4th of July has become such a big deal that I can no longer celebrate it in just one day. Sort of like my friend Andy who doesn't celebrate just his birthday but the entire week of his birth so that we're blessed with what has been termed "Andy-gras".

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. It's Independence Day eve here in the Big Apple and I thought I'd give you a little peek into how the city celebrates. Last year I shared my fireworks pictures with you but since the fireworks aren't until tomorrow this year we're going to play a little game. Too often people think of Boston, Philadelpia, etc. when they think of how the U.S. gained her independence. However, New York also played a pivitol role. So without further ado, I give you:

10 Fun Facts About New York and American Independence

10. Three-times as many patriots died in jails in New York and on prison ships in the harbor as the number killed in all the battles of the eight-year war. Approximately one-third of the skirmishes and engagements of the war were fought on New York soil.

9. Nathan Hale, the most famous martyr to the cause of American liberty, was hung in Manhattan after making his famous statement, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Hale, a Yale graduate and school teacher, had enlisted in the American army as a lieutenant and been promoted to captain of an elite unit. He volunteered to enter New York after the British occupation as a spy to gather information for George Washington. He was captured with valuable intelligence stored in his boots.

8. St. Paul's Chapel is the only surviving church in New York of the Revolutionary era. St. Paul's was completed in 1766 on what was then the northern edge of the city. Washington came here for a special service after his inauguration on April 30, 1789. He continued to attend services at the chapel during the two years that New York served as the capital of the United States.

7. Trinity Church was chartered by King William III in 1697 but was destroyed when the British burned New York in 1776. When the British evacuated the city on Nov. 25, 1783, the Americans marched into New York and stood near Trinity Church as a salute of 13 guns was fired marking the end of the war. Alexander Hamilton is buried there and there are several war monuments in the surrounding grounds.

6. The steps of Federal Hall were the site of Washington's inaguration as first POTUS (President of the United States) on April 30, 1789 and on September 25, 1789 Congress adopted the Bill of Rights inside Federal Hall.

5. Fraunces Tavern was a meeting place of the Sons of Liberty prior to the start of the war and continued to serve as host for meetings and government offices well after the war. On Dec. 4, 1783, Washington met here one last time with his officers before resigning in the hopes of avoiding the fate of many republics that turned quickly to military dictatorship.

4. On July 9, 1776, after hearing the Declaration of Independence read in City Hall Park, the people and soldiers headed to Fort George at the tip of Manhattan where they proceeded to pull down the statue of King George III and melt it to make bullets.

3. The first submarine attack took place just off of Liberty Island (then known as Bedloe Island) in August 1776. During training to work the submarine - the creation of a local engineer - fishermen reported stories of a sea monster in the harbor. It wasn't successful in destroying the British ship but the use of a submarine was unprescedented.

2. The Battle of Long Island (or the Battle of Brooklyn) was the largest battle of the war and was the first battle fought after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Spanning just over 24 hours it is estimated that between 350 - 600 Americans died while over 1,100 were captured. The following night Washington and his commanders stealthily sneaked the remaining 9,000 American troops across the East River into Manhattan - past 400 British ships. **side note** I love this information because I'm living in Brooklyn right on top of where all this happened. Who knows who was marching or camping where I'm not sleeping.

1. John Greenwood is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery (no relation). Greenwood was not a general or some other hero. Rather he was a dentist. The dentist who made George Washington's false teeth in fact (and no, they weren't actually wooden).

So the next time you stop to think about how America gained her Independence remember to think about all that New York sacraficed too. Historian David McCullough brought the point home while discussing one of the earliest drawings of the city of New York.

"It was some houses and a dock for boats. And I looked at the drawing of that little place and thought not just of the history that would take place there, but of all the music that will be played there, the books that will be written there, the poetry, drama and the architecture that will come from there. There will be no city like it on earth."

Have a fabulous 4th!!

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