Fort George/Grand Battery

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 Fort George

What happened here:

Place name(s): Fort George, Grand Battery

Location: Lower Manhattan, New York City, NY

Event in Hamilton’s life: Alexander Hamilton saw military action here as a private in the militia and was stationed at Fort George and the Grand Battery as captain of the New York Company of Artillery.

Details:

Shortly after fighting broke out between the British and the Americans in Lexington, Massachusetts in April 1775, Alexander Hamilton joined a militia group in New York City. As part of the Corsicans militia group, Alexander Hamilton participated in the first military action in New York City during the Revolutionary War at the Grand Battery. The defensive works of the Grand Battery, situated next to Fort George along the southern tip of the city, held many cannon pieces vulnerable to the British. On the night of August 23, 1775, Hamilton joined in the successful effort to remove twenty-one cannon pieces from the Grand Battery, all while under fire from the British warship Asia stationed in the harbor.

On March 14, 1776, Hamilton was made a captain of the New York Artillery Company. By June, part of Hamilton's artillery company was stationed at Fort George, while the rest were stationed at the nearby Grand Battery.There, Hamilton's company was in charge of building up the defenses, drilling, and manning the cannon in case of military action. Just one month later (July 12, 1776), his artillery company was put to the test when the British sent two warships, the Phoenix and the Rose to pass the American defensive works. According to his friend Hercules Mulligan, “Capt. Hamilton went on the Battery with his Company and his piece of artillery and commenced a Brisk fire upon the Phoenix and Rose then passing up the river." Several men in Hamilton's company were killed that night when one of their cannons exploded. They were buried nearby at Bowling Green.

Hamilton's artillery company continued to be stationed at Fort George and the Grand Battery through the fall of 1776. Meanwhile, the British army landed in the New York area and quickly overran the Continental Army - first on Long Island in Brooklyn and finally Manhattan. As the British advanced, the Continental and New York troops finally had to abandon Ft. George and the Battery, moving to Fort Bunker Hill and finally to temporary safety in upper Manhattan. Their evacuation of Lower Manhattan cut it extremely close - Alexander Hamilton testified that "I was among the last of our army that left the city," being constantly pursued by the British and almost captured. The person that arrived at Fort Bunker Hill and guided troops there to safety just in time? None other than Aaron Burr. 

With this military offensive, the British took complete possession of New York City, which they would hold until 1783. Alexander Hamilton would not return to New York City for seven years. Finally, at the end of the Revolutionary War, Hamilton moved back to New York City, settling in a home in Lower Manhattan not far from Fort George and the Grand Battery.

1 Newton, Michael E. Alexander Hamilton, The Formative Years.

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Links to related websites:


AH US Custom House

How to visit:

The Grand Battery and Fort George no longer stand. On the site of Fort George today is the Alexander Hamilton US Custom House, completed in 1907. It was renamed in honor of Alexander Hamilton at the end of the 20th century. The historic building is open to the public and guided tours are available.

History of the Alexander Hamilton US Custom House:

The Alexander Hamilton US Custom House also hosts the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Archives at New York City, both which are open to visitors for free.

Visiting Information:

Visiting Tip:  Visitors must pass through a security screening checkpoint upon entering the Custom House

Address: 1 Bowling Green, Lower Manhattan, NYC

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