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Fort Defiance (Brooklyn) was one of the forts constructed by General Nathanael Greene in 1776 to provide for the defense of New York.[1]


1867 Stiles Map of Brooklyn, New York City, New York - Geographicus - BrooklynBattle-stiles-1867

On August 27, 1776, during the Battle of Long Island, five cannons, a series of earthworks and a defensive wall were manned by colonials on an island in New York Bay.[2] It was the westernmost of forts along Brooklyn Heights, defending the Upper New York Bay from incursion by the British navy.[3] Prior to the battle a thousand men worked under General Israel Putnam's direction to prepare for the invasion of New York, building the fort during one night in April.[4] General George Washington inspected the fort in May, finding it 'exceedingly strong'.[5] The complex consisted of three redoubts on the small island, connected by trenches, with an earthwork on the island's south side to defend against a landing.[6][7][8] On 12 July 1776, the first test of the redoubts came when Admiral Howe sent two British ships, the Phoenix and the HMS Rose, to run the American gauntlet by heading up to New York City. The cannons at Fort Defiance fired, as did the cannons at Governor's Island and at Fort George. The ships survived, bombarded the city and went on to blockade the crossings at Tarrytown, N.Y.

Outline map of New York Island, Statten Island, Long Island and a portion of the Hudson River, showing British and American positions during the Battle of Long Island

Map marking British and American positions at the Battle of Long Island. Roebuck is shown bombarding an American battery at Red Hook

H.M.S. Roebuck

Early on the morning of the battle the British fleet, anchored off Staten Island, proceeded up the harbor and encountered stiff north-easterly winds. All were forced to turn back, except for H.M.S. Roebuck. Stalled at Buttermilk Channel, it came under fire from Fort Defiance, and returned same. By midmorning the Carronade from Roebuck had silenced the redoubts, but she had been damaged and retired to anchorage.[9]


The fort was abandoned after the war, the embankments leveled, the dredges filled in the ponds and the Atlantic Basin was hollowed out to be made into a protected wharf. The Indian path to the fort was named the Red Hook Road from the fort to Fulton St. By the 1850s, it was becoming the largest port in NYC. Valentino Park has a plaque commemorating Fort Defiance (a stop on the Revolutionary War Heritage Trail) about 2 blocks from its actual location at Conover and Van Dyke Streets.[10] In the 1950s a plaque was placed in a wall at Todd Shipyards Corporation on the corner of Dwight and Beard streets.[11] The bronze plaque was installed by the historian of Brooklyn; it is now lost.[12]


  1. Suzanne Spellen (aka Montrose Morris) (October 12, 2015). "How Red Hook's Fort Defiance Changed the Revolutionary War". 
  2. "New York Forts: page 5". 
  3. "Red Hook". January 1, 2020. 
  4. Hubbard, Robert Ernest (2017). Major General Israel Putnam: Hero of the American Revolution. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 120–126. ISBN 978-1-4766-6453-8. 
  5. "Valentino Pier Highlights - Fort Defiance : NYC Parks". 
  6. The entire earthwork was about 1,600 feet (490 m) long and covered the entire island.
  7. "Historic Maps". July 25, 2016. 
  8. "Exploring Pre-Revolutionary New York: THE RATZER MAP". Brooklyn Historical Society. p. 19. 
  9. "A (Not So) Brief History of Red Hook". September 10, 2019. 
  10. "How Red Hook's Fort Defiance Changed the Revolutionary War". October 12, 2015. 
  11. "Red Hook History: Where exactly was Fort Defiance anyway? By Connor Eugene Gaudet". August 27, 2015. 
  12. "Todd Shipyards". 

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