For some people, the Revolutionary War evokes the cities of Boston or Philadelphia, but actually first blood in the war was shed in New York, nearly two months before the famous Boston Massacre in March 1770.
Not far from Federal Hall, patriots had erected a symbolic liberty pole, and British soldiers hacked it down. A scuffle escalated, and then a patriot lay dead. Accounts of casualties differed, but the confrontation was immediately immortalized as the Battle of Golden Hill. The cause of revolution had taken root in places like New York’s Fraunces Tavern, a replica of which still stands. Delegates from the colonies began to consider their alternatives. Ultimately, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.
On July 9, the first copy of the Declaration of Independence arrived in New York City. George Washington, recently established as General of a new Continental Army, had it read to his troops who were assembled on the City Commons, what is today New York’s City Hall Park.
A few weeks later, the largest armada the world would see until D-day invaded New York Harbor. Hundreds of ships delivered 30,000 troops to Staten Island where they landed unopposed. When the British Redcoats attacked, General Washington and the 9,000 troops encamped in Brooklyn were hopelessly outnumbered. In the most daring feat of the war, Washington saved the Continental Army in a muffled nighttime retreat across the East River from Brooklyn. They marched north through Manhattan and lived to fight on in a war that lasted for seven long years.