War memorials tend to be one sided. This one is different.
Picture a monument of a white American officer flanked in battle by an African American enlistee and a Native American Sharpshooter, and you really must limit the commemoration to no earlier than the Korean War. Therefore, only a revisionist form of history driven by the demands of excessive political correctness could place the scene before that time. Then, for someone to actually put up the statue would have to be seen as taking the rewrite to a whole other level. That said, Michael Kahn of Yorktown Heights has set such an initiative in motion and hopes to have the very Revolutionary War Monument in place in 2015 at Downing Park. Nonetheless, he feels very secure in the historical accuracy and its intent to remember all who served in the Revolution – especially in this area.
“We have a popularly inaccurate perception that it was white guys in red coats versus white guys in blue coats, but the reality was a lot more diverse,” says the Yorktown police officer.
The Pines Bridge Monument will commemorate the stand integrated forces of the Rhode Island Regiment made in defense of Pines Bridge on the Croton River on May 14 1781. “It was a surprise attack by an
all American British sided force known as the refugees or the cowboys,” he says.
As innocuous as that may sound in the grand scheme of Revolutionary Warheroics, the passageway definitely played a crucial role in the colonists overall strategy. Maintaining control of the Hudson and
Croton Rivers enabled the rebellion to keep communication and supply linesopen between the North and South.
Given that New York City and its surrounding areas were more prone to support of the British, Pines Bridge was always in a precarious position. As a result, he says, “If the British could capture it, they
could have gone on to divide and conquer.”
Instead, George Washington was able to employ a strategy that centered on holding off the British long enough until they tired of the cause and eventually forced them to make their final exit at the other Yorktown.
But war weariness brought on by casualties were not just problems the British faced. At the same time, shifting sentiments of the all volunteer American force always had Washington struggling to maintain numbers and troop decimation eventually reached a critical mass.
As a result, initiatives to recruit among people of mixed heritage emerged. “This was not a popular thing back then – especially in the South, but they went and did it anyway,” he says.
The battle in question began when Colonel John DeLancey of the loyalist forces crossed the Pines Bridge and attacked the Davenport House, where Colonel Christopher Green headquartered the defense of the area. Depicted in the statue to be, Green was captured and killed, but the patriot forces were still able to draw back the cowboys.
The victory aside, the monument is meant also to mark the early emergence of something our nation continues to strive for. “Everybody served and fought and died equally as Americans – despite any racial disparities at the time,” he says. “That’s something we want to highlight.”
The same goes for the all the citizen soldiers who did not have the chance to make their own mark on history in the new nation as a result of the supreme level of sacrifice given. “We tend to forget the 30,000
who died then the thousands who went to live on as politicians and statesmen,” he says.
Encompassing all this with the focal point our area had on the outcome, he realized when he was taking a college course on historical preservation that Yorktown had nothing concrete to point to in this regard. At the same time, he says, “I was kind of inspired by the Sybil Ludington statue in Carmel, where I grew up,” and how everyone had a strong sense of their town’s place inhistory, he added.
Writing the proposal in 2009 and gaining support of the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce, the town and the planning department, he hopes this statue comes to mean the same here. The design was recently selected and accumulating the necessary $300,000 is the last piece.
Well on their way, he knows the dollars signs will eventually fall in favor of something much more valuable. “It’s a testament to our heritage and we want generations down the road to remember what people sacrificed and gave before our time,” he says.
A little longer to wait, he will gladly concede the short shelf life of any words for actually having the sentiment set in stone for all.
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