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Forgotten Monuments of the American Revolution

Happy Fourth of July! While fireworks will be rocketing their glare into the sky around the United States and patriotic sites will be draped in flags, some monuments and remains of the American Revolution will stay quiet. 

Here are five of the overlooked and forgotten sites of the Revolutionary War:

BOOT MONUMENT
Stillwater, New York

Boots Monument to Benedict Arnold in Saratoga Springsvia U.S. Army RDECOM

Before his name became synonymous with traitor when he defected to the British during the Revolutionary War, Benedict Arnold was a prominent military leader. Some of that early service is still remembered in obscure sites including this Boot Monument in New York’s Saratoga National Park. The long shoe carved in the stone recognizes when his leg was badly wounded in the Battle of Saratoga, but you won’t find Arnold’s name anywhere on it. Just these words: 

In memory of the ‘most brilliant soldier’ of the Continental Army who was desperately wounded on this spot the sally port of BORGOYNES GREAT WESTERN REDOUBT 7th October, 1777 winning for his countrymen the decisive battle of the American Revolution and for himself the rank of Major General.

FIRST MARYLAND REGIMENT MASS GRAVE
Brooklyn, New York

Maryland Regiment mass grave by the Gowanus Canalphotograph by the author

You would think a mass grave filled with military heroes wouldn’t go missing, but the final resting place of the 1st Maryland Regiment was long forgotten. Located near the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, it’s only recognized with a small explanatory plaque in front of the American Legion, yet around this concrete lot are over 200 dead. The “Maryland 400” were incredibly outnumbered by 2,000 British on August 27, 1776, part of what would be known as the Battle of Brooklyn. They stood their ground and made six charges, giving Washington’s army time to get out. Just 10 of the group made it back to the American forces, with 256 dead, the rest injured or taken prisoner. The corpses were buried in six trenches in the area that became Third Avenue. 

ARCH OF COLONIAL TREES
San Francisco, California

Arch of Colonial Trees in San Franciscophotograph by Annetta Black/Atlas Obscura

Across the country is a quieter memorial. The Arch of Colonial Trees in San Francisco has 13 trees for the original 13 colonies. Each was selected to represent a colony, planted right in collected Revolutionary battlefield earth. The center tree is a hemlock symbolizing Pennsylvania, with soil from the Marquis de Lafayette’s grave in Paris. The grove was planted in October of 1896 to mark the 115th anniversary of the 1781 surrender at the Battle of Yorktown, and colonial flags once topped the trees. The Daughters of the American Revolution even buried the tree roots with a silver shovel said to have belonged to Martha Washington at Mount Vernon. However, now the trees are mostly anonymous with only a small plaque indicating the non-native flora is a tribute to the war. 

EXECUTION ROCKS LIGHTHOUSE
Westchester County, New York

Execution Rocks Lighthouse in the Long Island Soundphotograph by Luke J. Spencer

Execution Rocks Lighthouse has a gruesome tale behind its name. The island in the Long Island Sound, which got its lighthouse in the 1850s, is said to have been used as an execution site by the British. According to the Travel Channel, Colonial prisoners would be chained to the rocks and slowly drowned by the rising tide. However, some confine the story to legend, although the rocks are still an eerie sight out in the waters. 

MINERVA IN THE GREEN-WOOD CEMETERY
Brooklyn, New York

Minerva at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklynphotograph by the author

Most visitors to the Statue of Liberty don’t know a smaller metal lady is saluting back from Brooklyn. In Green-Wood Cemetery the statue of Minerva marks the “Battle Hill” of the Battle of Brooklyn, the first major engagement of the American Revolution. The monument was dedicated in 1920 with funds by Charles Higgins, whose mausoleum is just behind the waving bronze of the Roman Goddess, sculpted by Frederick Wellington Ruckstull. While New Yorkers will be looking away from the hill to the Brooklyn Bridge for the Fourth of July fireworks, Minerva will remain at her “Altar of Liberty,” memorializing the blood shed on both sides of the war commenced on the borough’s soil. 


Discover more of the overlooked sites of the American Revolution on the Atlas Obscura >