Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quest to remember Revolutionary hero

From the NY Daily News:

Exactly 234 years ago this month, a Revolutionary War general died from wounds incurred during a defiant showdown with the British - a gripping tale of patriotism that began in Queens.

But the spot where Nathaniel Woodhull was mortally wounded in 1776 does not bear tribute to the first high-ranking colonial officer to become a prisoner of war and die in enemy captivity.

A few weeks ago, Daily News reader Lavington Charles suggested the spot where Woodhull was fatally injured - at 196th St. and Jamaica Ave. in Hollis - as part of the Queens Heritage Quest series.

Tradition describes a dramatic scene during which Woodhull encountered British forces and soon surrendered his sword. An officer then ordered Woodhull to proclaim, "God save the king."

"God save us all!" Woodhull responded. The officer, sometimes identified as Capt. James Baird, slashed Woodhull with a saber - delivering multiple blows that led to his death in captivity about a month later on Sept. 20.

But a different story emerged in 1951 when The New York Times ran a front-page article in which researcher W.H.W. Sabine doubted the compelling exchange.

Sabine cited a dusty scrapbook with Woodhull's own account of the capture - apparently given to a lieutenant who was with him in a prison camp when he died.

Woodhull supposedly said that he surrendered his sword to - and was then struck by - an American Tory, loyal to the British, named Capt. Oliver DeLancey.

Whether Woodhull was fatally struck while defending himself or after surrendering also became a point of contention. Experts even question his memorable quote.

Regardless of the circumstances, historians insist that Woodhull's death helped define a crucial period around the time of the famous Battle of Long Island.

His agonizing demise - and the apparent refusal by the British to allow medical care - reminded colonists of the brutality of their rivals.

Photo from NYS Military Museum


Anonymous said...

He should be commemorated as they do upstate, with a historic marker and brief description.

Anonymous said...

Yea, but its Queens.

So we need to find his manservant, a person of color, and put a marker up where his grandson ran a stop on the underground railroad.

Anonymous said...

I think the Dragon Boat docks should get the first monument.

Anonymous said...

Loved the new Borough Historian's comments about letting the local community redesign St George's spire.

Deke DaSilva said...

So we need to find his manservant, a person of color, and put a marker up where his grandson ran a stop on the underground railroad.


Miles Mullin said...

Well, thank you!

Keith said...

General Woodhull was one of my ancestors. I can tell you that no one in the family ever took the nonsense about "God save us all!" seriously. He seems to have been a stand-up guy and we're proud of him. No need to embellish.
Keith Woodhull Acker