The first major battle of the Revolutionary War saw George Washington running with his tail between his legs through what would later become Red Hook.
Thanks to just a few cannon shots from Fort Defiance located right here (more or less….), Washington’s retreat into New York Bay during the Battle of Long Island was unhindered by the largest naval force in the world. Pretty impressive work for a modest fort!
Fort Defiance was built in the spring of 1776 and proved its worth that same August. The British were trouncing the motley American forces with sneak attacks from the rear and droves of ships ready to surround one of the most important ports of the region. As the British navy proceeded up the Bay, General Howe attacked Washington’s army from two sides.
Washington retreated, heading through Gowanus, down Red Hook Lain, and into the harbor. The British navy didn’t proceed very far into the upper harbor under the cannon attacks from Fort Defiance amid bad weather. Washington’s watery retreat to Manhattan was clear of enemies and not a single life was lost.
While the battle was ultimately lost to the British, Washington’s escape helped the U.S. to eventually win the war.