Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Punkiesburg- Cobble Hill- And the Battle of Long Island

From this lofty perch the eye of the commander (General George Washington) swept the field, and gathered up its various tokens of disaster. "Good God!" he cryed; "what brave fellows I must lose this day"! as he saw the young Marylanders fling themselves again and again upon the enemy." 
“Within the lines of the entrenchments”, says Field “two other fortifications had been constructed to command important points. One of these was erected upon a conical hill called Ponkiesberg. Which rose in such prominent and well defined outline from nearby plane surface, as to excite the query if it was not the work of human hands. It occupied the western half of the block bounded by Atlantic, Pacific, Court and Clinton Streets, and it’s elevation above the present grade was from sixty to eighty feet.” “The work mounted four guns, and from it’s central interior position could have prevented the enemy from securing a foothold on the peninsular in the rear or flank of the main line in case they effected a landing back of Red Hook or crossed the Gowanus Creek above”
The above quotes were taken from "The Heroes of the American Revolution and their Descendants, Battle of Long Island" by Henry Whittemore 1897
This post is part of a continuing series examining areas of Brooklyn that were involved in the Battle of Long Island. My goal is to create art work that is some how related to these long ago events. I am not simply illustrating these event but am looking for a more universal, personal documentation of the events and landscape. The Punkiesburg location is one of the more interesting points on the battlefield. It was such an unusual land feature, and has been so utterly erased, that viewing this location today; it's hard to imagine a round hill sixty or seventy feet high. It is precisely this idea that lead me to create some art works that attempt to re imagine this location. The post below out lines some of my "armchair Internet research" about the area and it's history. Future posts will feature the art work that I have created.
Detail from a map that was posted on the Brooklyn Historical society blog. I found this visual depiction of the hill in the center of the map quite compelling. The hill stood out as a unique feature in the landscape. It looks like a tall round mound with tress all around it. It is curious to note that Mr. Bergan has spelled it "Punkins Barach". Not sure where this spelling comes from. The map is said to be a copied from a much older map. For more information about this map, the original blog post is Here-
The image above is from 1922 and shows the intersection of Atlantic Ave and Court Street. As you can see the hill has been  leveled, and is long gone. I have read that this was done by the occupying British army in the 1780's.But below there is a reference to a later fort from 1812 era. I have found it hard to construct a firm time line for events from this period. This photo is interesting because it shows the structures that were there before the present Brooklyn Savings Bank building. Today the building is occupied by a Trader Joe's.The buildings in the photo look like they date back a good 75 years, dating the structures to the 1840's. It was around this time that the street grid was formally laid out.The image was taken from the New York Public Library web site found here
Today A kiosk marks the spot in front of Trader Joe's. Nighttime photo from iPhone.
My first approach was to document the area with photography. Because the location is only a 5min walk from my studio I made several trips over time and shot with a number of cameras.    

"Corkscrew fort, a small redoubt upon an eminence near the Brooklyn Athenaeum* of today, commanding Red Hook Lane, and meant for it's defence in case the enemy should cross Gowanus Creek. Tradition says the the redoubt was sixty or seventy feet above the present street grade of Atlantic Avenue at this point."
 My wide angle pinhole image of the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street, Brooklyn New York. From this prospective you can get a feel as to how high the original hill was. Local folklore has it that the hill was as high as the top of the flag pole. The fort got the name "Corkscrew" because of the way the pathway spiraled up to the top of the mound.
Image taken with my 1920's era Kodak Brownie No2
Close up of the flag pole. Image taken with my 1920's era Kodak Brownie No2

The plaque describing the Battle of Long Island. It shows General George Washington on his horse. He is pointing in the direction of the fighting at the Old Stone House. "Good God!" he cryed; "what brave fellows I must lose this day"! Image taken with my 1920's era Kodak Brownie No2
Perhaps a little to far away.
“During the war of 1812 another fort was erected upon this hill and called Fort Swift, but at the point of the Revolution it was known as Corkscrew Fort and Cobble Hill”
 From "The Heroes of the American Revolution and their Descendants, Battle of Long Island" by Henry Whittemore 1897

My Brownie No2- like new, with original box and a number# 1 close up lens. Thanks E-bay. The number 2s are great because they take regular 120 film. I haven't had time to play with the close up lens. It's a simple lens that snaps in over the lens hole in the camera face.
In a following blog post I will show some art work that I have created. For further information about this area check out this link to the Old Stone House-

*=See this article in in brownstoner blog for more information about the Brooklyn Athenaeum.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rose Farm Gettysburg

I am going to add this image from 1863 to compare with the above image that I took in March 2012. I am including it so as to inform readers that are perhaps not familiar with this series of photographs.

Back in March I stopped of at Gettysburg.The photos above were shot in the Rose Farm field with a Holga 120 on Fuji Acros. The angles are roughly the same as the famous photos of Confederate dead awaiting burial. Photographed by by Alexander Gardner and crew, July 1863. Although it is quite extraordinary to be at this location and see exactly where this horrific set of photos were taken, I will refrain from republishing all of them here. If you are unfamiliar with them and need to see more. I recommend William Frassanito's book "Gettysburg a Journey in Time"

On a lighter note, I could not resist having my photo taken sitting on Alfred Waud's perch at Devil's Den. His beard was a lot thicker than mine!