Is There A Mass Revolutionary War Grave Hidden In Gowanus? Maybe!

The Battle of Brooklyn!
  • theoldstonehouse.org
  • The Battle of Brooklyn!

In case you missed it over the weekend, The New York Times checked in with local historian Bob Furman, and it turns out there just might be a mass grave of Revolutionary War soldiers hidden under a nondescript lot in Gowanus, if his calculations are correct.

“The evidence is quite strong,” insists Furman, who serves as president of the Brooklyn Preservation Council. “I’m confident enough that I tell everyone I know.”

And he isn’t alone: Furman is one of a number of people who have suspected for decades that a lot at the corner of Third avenue and Eighth street is home to a long lost grave of soldiers from the First Maryland Regiment, who by all accounts saved the day (and Washington’s army) during the 1776 Battle of Brooklyn. In 1957 there was even a dig in the area, which failed to turn up any new evidence.

Naturally, the issue is no longer just a historical debate, but a real estate struggle, too.

Not only would the designation of the grave (if it were to be found) as a historical site throw a wrench in the neighborhood’s rapid property development, but the owners of the lot have also refused requests for an “archaeological probe,” calling the speculation “a bunch of gibberish.” The foundation was originally dug in the 1900s, they claim, with no reports of human remains found.

Other archaeologists are skeptical, too. Brooklyn College’s Department of Anthropology and Arcaheology chairman said, “The grave site has been difficult to pinpoint because the descriptions are, in fact, general and in most cases secondhand. There is a distinct possibility that the graves have been destroyed.”

So, for the time being, Furman and his cohorts are struggling to fund an effort to search with expensive, ground-penetrating radar, or to persuade city officials to buy the lot and designate it as a park.

Since neither eventuality seems likely or at all imminent, I’d say a good old fashioned vigilante seance is in order. Anyone have a Ouija board I can borrow for the weekend? Serious inquiries only, please.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.