One of my favorite aspects of hosting this blog is the opportunity it gives me to showcase the work of talented historians who do not have blogs of their own. Over the last few months I have been corresponding with several writers who all share a common interest in the Colonial/Revolutionary Period. All of them have submitted articles to Patriots of the American Revolution and are conducting some highly original studies into our Nation's fight for independence. I have invited each of them to appear on ‘Blog or Die’ as guest posters and today I would like to share the first of these. Our inaugural guest blogger is Michael J. Kahn, a NY Police Officer, Board Trustee for the Yorktown Historical Society and leader for the Pines Bridge Monument.
A Monumental Effort: The 1st RI at Pines Bridge
by Michael J. Kahn
I would like to share a project that I am working on in my hometown that would honor a unique Continental regiment and their commander who were “massacred” at the hands of Tories. It is my goal to have a monument to erect three statues commemorating those soldiers and officers of the First Rhode Island Regiment.
Colonel Christopher Greene and several soldiers under his command died in an ambush attack on May 14, 1781 just north of the Croton River (in modern-day Yorktown Heights, NY). His regiment was an integrated unit, comprised of whites, African Americans, and Native Americans. This skirmish (known locally as the Battle of Pines Bridge) involved Loyalist troops under the command of Colonel James DeLancey, the unit known as the DeLancey's Refugees (or Cowboys). The African Americans that were captured alive were sold into slavery in the British West Indies.
These men and their assigned duties have not been totally lost to history, but they have yet to receive, in my opinion, their due respect and admiration. The Pines Bridge was a vital strategic crossing point of the Croton River, a river that links New England directly with the Hudson River. We all know the significance of the Hudson during the war, but the Croton River almost never gets the appropriate mention. Washington knew that control of the Croton River mean three things: a natural barrier, it allowed for a defense from incursions from southern Westchester County and New York City; the river also established a staging point for a potential re-conquest of Manhattan Island; and the Croton allowed for trade and communication to flow between New England and the Middle Colonies.
The theme of the monument is to reflect the diversity of the regiment and how different people came together to fight for a common glorious cause. Each statue would represent the three cultures involved, and would ideally be placed near the current Pines Bridge.
This project has received a lot of local political support, as well as interest of Congressman Jim Langevin's office (2nd Congressional District, RI). The local media as well as the Rhode Island media have contacted me to follow the project's progression. We have also partnered with our town planning department as well as our local chamber of commerce. (Pic: Artist Paul Gioacchini’s rendering of the monument.)
Additionally, NY State Senator-Elect Greg Ball and Congresswoman-Elect Dr. Nan Hayworth have pledged their assistance and shown interest, respectively, to seeing this undertaking through to completion. The President of the Putnam County/Westchester County Sons of the American Revolution, Ken Stevens, is also attached to this project. Furthermore, I will be speaking about this project to local chapters of the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution this month.
I’m hoping that many more people will come out to support this project, both politically and financially. The committee charged with the task of bringing this project to fruition is working diligently on getting it done by May 14, 2012. We just finished a site plan and are applying for the necessary permits to place the statue at the chosen location.
Anyone wishing to make donations towards the funding of the monument may send a check made out to the Yorktown Historical Society with “monument fund” written on the memo section of the check. They can be mailed to the Yorktown Historical Society, PO Box 355, Yorktown Heights, New York 10598. The Yorktown Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and all donations are tax-deductible.
BIO: Michael J. Kahn is a police officer for the Town of Yorktown, New York and a Board Trustee for the Yorktown Historical Society. He is the project leader for the Pines Bridge Monument and can be reached at Monument1781@yahoo.com.