Evacuation Day (New York)

Evacuation Day (New York)

Following the American Revolution, Evacuation Day on November 25 marks the day in 1783 when the last vestige of British authority in the United States — its troops in New York — departed from Manhattan. [However, British troops still remained in frontier forts in areas which had clearly been defined by the Treaty of Paris (1783) to be part of the United States.Treaty of Paris, 1783, Article 2] The last shot of the American Revolutionary War was reported to be fired on this day, as a British gunner on one of the departing ships fired a cannon at jeering crowds gathered on the shore of Staten Island, at the mouth of New York Harbor (the shot fell well short of the shore). [ [http://www.nypl.org/branch/staten/index2.cfm?Trg=1&d1=962&template=timeline3 Staten Island on the Web: History ] ]


Following the first and largest major engagement of the Continental Army and British troops in the American Revolutionary War, at the Battle of Long Island (also known as the "Battle of Brooklyn") on August 27 1776, General George Washington and the Americans retreated to Manhattan Island. The Continentals withdrew north and west and, following the Battle of Fort Washington on 16 November 1776, evacuated the island. For the remainder of the Revolutionary War much of what is now Greater New York and its surroundings were under British control. New York City became, under Lord Howe and his brother Sir William, the British political and military center of operations in North America. Correspondingly, the region became central to the development of an American intelligence network, headed by Washington himself. The famous Nathan Hale was but one of Washington's operatives working in New York, though the others were generally more successful. The city suffered two devastating fires of uncertain origin during the British occupation. These resulted in the British forces and prominent Loyalist collaborators occupying the remaining undamaged structures, relegating the fire scarred ruins for the rest of the city's residents to live in squalor. In addition, over 10,000 American soldiers and sailors died through deliberate neglect on prison ships in New York waters (Wallabout Bay) during the British occupation — more than died in every single battle of the war, combined. These men are memorialized, and many of their remains are interred, at the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, overlooking the nearby site of their torment and deaths.

The Evacuation

In mid-August 1783, Sir Guy Carleton received orders from London for the evacuation of New York City. He told the President of the Continental Congress that he was proceeding with the withdraw of refugees and military personnel as fast as possible, but it was not possible to give an exact date because the number of refugees entering the city had increased dramatically. More than 29,000 Loyalist refugees were evacuated from the city. The British also evacuated former slaves and did not return them to the Americans into slavery as the Treaty of Paris had required them to do.

Carleton gave a final evacuation date of noon on November 25. Entry into the city by George Washington was delayed until after a British flag had been removed. Wounded British pride resulted in the nailing of a Union Flag to the flagpole in the Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, and the greasing of said pole. After a number of men attempted to tear down the British colors a veteran, John Van Arsdale, was able to ascend the pole with the use of climbing cleats used to scale masts on ships, remove the flag - a symbol of tyranny for contemporary American Patriots, and replace it with the Stars and Stripes before the British fleet had sailed out of sight. [Riker, J. 1883, p. 3.] Hood, C. 2004, p. 6. [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2005/is_4_37/ai_n6137401 Clifton Hood] in his essay on New York's Evacuation Day makes the following citation for John Van Arsdale's role in removing the Union Flag and replacing it with the Stars and Stripes: "Rivington’s New York Gazette", November 26, 1783; "The Independent New-York Gazette", November 29, 1783; Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, "Gotham: A History of New York to 1898" (New York, 1999): 259–61; Douglas Southall Freeman, "George Washington: A Biography, v. 5, Victory with the Help of France" (New York, 1952): 461; James Thomas Flexner, "George Washington, v. 3, In the American Revolution (1775–1783)" (Boston, 1967): 522–8. Van Arsdale has sometimes been identified as an Army enlisted man or an Army officer.] General George Washington led the Continental Army in a triumphal march down Broadway to The Battery immediately afterward.

Sir Guy Carleton, the governor Andrew Elliot, and some other former British officials left the city on December 4. [Schecter, pg. 379] Washington left the city shortly after the British departure.


For many years, until the warming of relations with Britain immediately preceding World War I, this event was commemorated annually with boys competing to tear down a Union Jack from a greased pole in Battery Park, as well as the anniversary in general being celebrated with much adult revelry and corresponding beverages.

In the 1890's the anniversary was celebrated at Battery Park with the raising of the Stars and Stripes by Christopher R. Forbes, the great grandson of John Van Arsdale, with the assistance of a Civil War veterans' association from Manhattan — the Anderson Zouaves. ["The Sunday Advocate (Newark, Ohio)" November 26, 1893,"New York Times", November 26, 1896,] John Lafayette Riker, the original commander of the Anderson Zouaves, was also a descendant of John Van Arsdale. Riker's older brother was the New York genealogist James Riker, who authored "Evacuation Day, 1783" [Riker, James, 1883, "Evacuation Day, 1783; Its many stirring events; with recollections of Capt. John Van Arsdale of the Veteran Corps of Artillery, by whose efforts on that day the enemy were circumvented and the American flag successfully raised on the Battery", New York.] for the spectacular 100th anniversary celebrations of 1883, which were ranked as “one of the great civic events of the nineteenth century in New York City.” [Goler, 'Evacuation Day', "The Encyclopedia of New York City", p. 385.]

In 1900 Christopher R. Forbes was denied the honor to raise the flag at the Battery on Independence Day and on Evacuation Day ["New York Times", July 3, 1900,quote |

Christopher R. Forbes, who for many years has had the privilege of raising and lowering the flag at the Battery on Evacuation Day and the Fourth of July, and claims that he inherited the right from his great-grandfather, John Van Arsdale, who tore down the British’colors on the spot and hoisted the American flag instead, feels very sore over the way in which he has been treated by the Park Department. He said last evening:

"“Early in June I made an application for permission to raise the flag on the Fourth, and I received a reply from President Clausen, on June 5 giving me permission to participate in the raising of the flag by the employes of the Park Department. Now any tramp can participate in the raising of the flag if he stands by and looks on, and that was the kind of permission that was given to me. If this was not a snub and an insult, I’d like to know what is. When my great-grandfather hauled down the British flag and hoisted the American colors I’d like to know where Mr. Clausen’s great-grandfather was and what he was doing."

"Later even this tramp permission was revoked. To-day I received another letter from Mr. Clausen informing, me that instead of my participating with the Park Department employes in hoisting the flag, that ceremony would be performed by the Veteran Corps of Artillery, Military Society of the War of 1812."

"“I saw the hand of Asa Bird Gardiner behind all this. He tried to do me out of I my privileges before, and he has succeeded now. The Veteran Corps was really wiped out in 1872 and in 1892 Mr. Gardiner was instrumental in organizing the present one. He wanted me and C. B. Riker to join, but we refused."

"In former years the Anderson Post, the Anderson Zouaves, the Anderson Girls, and the Camp Sons of Veterans used to go with me and assist me in the ceremony of raising the flag and now even the tramp permission of participating with employes has been revoked."

"I am going to consult with Mr. Riker about this matter and I shall probably be somewhere near the flag raising Wednesday morning. I think they will hear from me before then.”"

] and it appears that neither he nor any veterans' organization associated with the Riker family or the Anderson Zouaves took part in the ceremony after this time.


* [http://www.thebattlefornewyork.com Schecter, Barnet. "The Battle for New York — The City at the Heart of the American Revolution" (2002)]
* Riker, James. "Evacuation Day, 1783; Its many stirring events; with recollections of Capt. John Van Arsdale of the Veteran Corps of Artillery, by whose efforts on that day the enemy were circumvented and the American flag successfully raised on the Battery", New York, 1883.
* Hood, Clifton. " [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2005/is_4_37/ai_n6137401 An Unusable Past] : Urban Elites, New York City’s Evacuation Day, and the Transformations of Memory Culture", Journal of Social History, Summer 2004.


External links

* [http://www.thebattlefornewyork.com/ The Battle for New York, a book by Barnet Schecter]
* [https://www.cia.gov/csi/books/940299/art-1.html The Founding Fathers of American Intelligence]
* [http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/north5.html Britain's Prison Ships]

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