Friday, January 24, 2014

Views of the Battle of Fort Washington

My commute to work takes through the Bronx. The highway follows the Bronx side of the Harlem River at one point. From here you get a wonderful view of the tip of northern Manhattan Island. This area was the location of the Battle of Fort Washington on November 16, 1776.Today, the neighborhood with the fort is known as Washington Heights. Coincidentally, It is also the highest land point on Manhattan Island. Checking out the Wikipedia page for the battle, I saw this great illustration (see below) from the New York Library collection.

Battle of Fort Washington. View from the Bronx looking south. The Harlem River is visible with boat loads of English soldiers on their way to land on Manhattan Island. Puffs of white smoke from the battle are seen where troops are fighting. On the right side of the picture you can see the rock cliffs of the Palisades along the Hudson River in New Jersey. The fort itself would be just out of view in the center. However, I can’t tell if that is smoke or a dip of the ridge line in that location.

I was thinking about this picture as I was driving home, and looking past the modern buildings and transit artery’s, I could still glimpse the ancient terrain features. The quality of the print is such that I thought that maybe I could find the location or angle that it was drawn from. This has been done with many early photographs from the civil war with remarkable results.
Driving down the highway I try and see if I can match up the angle of view that is similar to the print. Then I look off to my left to see what terrain feature I could use to photograph from. I identified a wooded area under the University. It has a road I could park and offers a high vantage point where I could look out over the highway.

Last March the week before the leaves appeared I was able to make some photographs of the area. I wasn’t happy with the results, partly due to the area is not that photogenic as it exists today and I also had some camera, exposure issues. I also realized that I was not in the right place the original drawing was made.
I constructed a Google map to get a better visualization of the area. Check it out. I guess before the leaves pop out and obstruct the view again I will try and get a photograph from this new vantage point.

View Battle of Fort Washington Painting in a larger map

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