Fort Greene’s martyrs remembered

Members of the Society of Old Brooklynites kept the Spriit of ’76 going strong for another year last Saturday, gathering at the monument in Fort Greene Park to honor the 11,500 men and women who died on British prison ships during our war for independence.

Those martyrs — America’s first POWs — are memorialized by the 149-foot Doric column that anchors the park. Remains of thousands of the dead, who were killed on barges that were anchored in what is now the Brooklyn Navy Yard, are in a crypt under the plinth.

Members of the 230-year-old civic group convene every year at the monument, which stands near the original Fort Putnam, a poorly situated fort that the Continental Army surrendered to the British in 1776 before retreating to Manhattan in the Battle of Long Island.

The Society has been doing the ceremony since 1908, when the monument was dedicated.

The group’s vice president, Ted General said the annual commemoration is a “signature event” for the society.

“We think it’s very important — these are unsung heroes,” said General. “It’s sacred ground, and if we don’t promote it, current generations will forget what happened there and the fact there are remains of soldiers, sailors and supporters of the American Revolution entombed in a crypt under that monument.”

Fortunately, the American rebels outlasted the British occupying army over the next nine years and secured our nation’s freedom, such as it is.