In 1781 soldiers fighting in the American Revolution on local land were making history, and now Yorktown resident and police officer Michael Kahn will bring history to life by erecting a life-size monument commemorating those soldiers.
Kahn said our heritage is in danger.
"I want people to know that the American Revolution happened here, and not some distant place," he said. "We're descendents of our past. Let's take pride in our heritage."
Kahn is proposing to place a bronze statue at the corner of Routes 100 and 118, which would feature three soldiers of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, whose duties were to protect the Pines Bridge, which is where the battle took place.
The Pines Bridge at the time was the only way to get over the Croton River. The river was a vital and natural barrier, which separated Northern from Southern Westchester. Lt. Christopher Greene of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment was charged with the duty to guard the bridge. His Continental regiment consisted of whites, freed blacks and Native American soldiers. Every night the guards would move the wooden planks, making it impossible for people to cross the bridge, only to put them back in the morning.
Greene was ordered by George Washington to arrest Lt. James DeLancey of the Loyalist forces, who was a criminal attacking citizens and destroying and taking people's properties. He commanded a unit also known as the "Refugees" who were stationed in the Bronx.
Early morning on May 14, 1781, Lt. De Lancey's men crossed a good portion of the bridge and launched a surprise attack against Lt. Christopher Greene who was staying at the Davenport House on Croton Heights Road in Yorktown, Kahn said.
Greene, 44, went down fighting. He was shot and stabbed and taken as a prisoner. His body was found the next day a mile south of the Davenport House.
Just at the end of last year, Kahn took on this project. The estimated cost of the monument is $100,000, which Kahn said would be paid for through grants and private donations.
The monument, approximately 6 feet 6 inches, would feature three life-size soldiers, a white, black, and Native American soldier. They would represent all cultures involved, and that way everybody would be respected, Kahn said.
"Everybody should appreciate what these people did and respect them," he said.
According to a scientific study done by the American Revolution Center, 35 percent of American adults had no idea what century or decade the Revolution occurred; 50 percent did not know the chronology of events that transpired during the war (i.e., the Declaration of Independence, the war's duration, etc.); 80 percent had no idea American Indians were involved, or that they fought with both sides.
However, 60 percent of Americans could correctly identify that John and Kate had eight kids.
"It's amazing how people don't remember the things that are important," Kahn said.
Joseph Visconti, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said they support the project 100 percent.
"We are very excited about it," he said. "It was an important part of the Revolution."
Planning Board Director John Tegeder, who has been working with Kahn on the project, is in the process of searching and applying for grants.
"It's a great idea," he said of the monument. "I look forward to seeing it to its conclusion."
Kahn hopes the project would come to its completion by May 14, 2012, which would mark the 229th anniversary of the battle.
Partially, the purpose of the project is to draw the attention of businesses and community, Kahn said. Local school districts would incorporate elements of local history into their curriculums since NYS Education Law requires them to teach about the American Revolution. Local historical societies have also expressed interest in the monument, the site of which will border four municipalities.
On Saturday, August 14, there will be a fundraiser at Finnegan's Bar & Grill, 347 Downing Drive, from 9 p.m. –11 p.m. to help raise money for the monument. There will be a silent auction with various sports memorabilia.
To make a donation, make checks payable to the Yorktown Historical Society, PO Box 355 Yorktown Heights, New York 10598. Write "monument fund" in the memo section. Donations are tax deductible.
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