One of the reasons I love New York City is that it is so rich in US History. It was here in lower Manhattan that many battles were fought during the revolutionary war. The battles here in New York were the first major battles of the American Revolutionary War to take place after the United States declared its independence on July 4, 1776
While George Washington beat the British in Boston in The Siege of Boston, (April 19, 1775 – March 17, 1776), he was completely outgunned and out manned in the Battle of Brooklyn a few months later in August of 1776. Washington would retreat from the Battle of Brooklyn saving his Army to fight another day. In September of 1776, Washington and his troops would eventually return and fight in The Battle of Harlem Heights .
For close to 7 years until the the end of the war, the British navy controlled the harbor and lower Manhattan. During this British occupation, no one trusted each other, basically everyone was a spy. When the British occupied New York City in 1776, Samuel Frauncis had already relocated to Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Fraunces was eventually captured in June of 1778 and brought back to New York City as a prisoner of war.
Captive Fraunces was forced to work as the family cook for General Robertson. He used his position in the kitchen to aid American prisoners, sneaking them table scraps, giving them clothing and money, and even assisting some with escaping. Fraunces also passed on intelligence. Later, George Washington would write, identifying himself as a “warm friend” of Fraunces, that the man had invariably “maintained a constant Friendship and attention to the Cause of our Country and its Independence and Freedom.
At the time close to 25,000 people lived in Lower Manhattan. Many New Yorkers abandoned Lower Manhattan while the city became a jail with 30,000 prisoners, many of them on prison ships in deplorable conditions. The prisoners kept on British ships in Brooklyn had it the worst. More than 11,500 of the inmates on the prison ships died of starvation or disease.
After British troops evacuated on Nov. 25th, 1776 the tavern hosted a week later, an elaborate “turtle feast” dinner on December 4, 1783, in the building’s Long Room for U.S. General George Washington where he bade farewell to his officers of the Continental Army by saying “With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.” As he later asked to take each one of his officers by the hand for a personal word
It could be argued that NYC helped the cause of liberty by providing Washington a valuable lesson. It was in Brooklyn, that “Washington learned never to fight the British directly again.” Eventually in 1783, Evacuation Day occurred which was celebrated into the 1800s, a day which is still memorialized at Fraunces Tavern.
Fraunces Tavern played a prominent role in history before, during and after the American Revolution, serving as a headquarters for George Washington, a venue for peace negotiations with the British housing federal offices in the Early Republic.
It has been owned by the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York Inc since 1904, which carried out a major conjectural reconstruction and claim it is Manhattan’s oldest surviving building. The tavern remains a tourist site and a part of the American Whiskey Trail and the New York Freedom Trail.
So if you are ever in New York City, you should visit Fraunces Tavern Museum on 54 Pearl Street in lower Manhattan. It’s an experience you will never forget! You can visit the website at Fraunces Tavern Museum