Volume 19 • Issue 15 | August 25 - 31, 2006

Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel

Brooklyn residents Michael Grillo, dressed as a British grenadier, and Maria Lutz, as a camp follower, take a break.

Muskets, cannons are a blast from past on Governors

By Jefferson Siegel

Governors Island has hosted a series of special events on weekends this summer, and last Saturday’s was a special treat for history buffs as well as the hundreds of day-trippers who ventured across the harbor on the free ferry.

Cavalry dragoons fire their muskets.
A Revolutionary War-era encampment was enacted on the former military base, complete with demonstrations of historic weapons and a walking tour led by a “British officer.” Perhaps the most popular, and certainly the loudest, event of the day was the firing of a cannon before groups of families and camera-toting visitors.

Tourists stepping off the ferry took a brief walk to an open field dubbed the “Artillery Camp,” where history enthusiasts were dressed as soldiers and civilians of the era. Michael Grillo and Marcia Lutz of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, sat on the grass dressed as a British grenadier and a camp follower, respectively. Standing nearby, Mark Kahn and Frost Decker of Pennsylvania were outfitted in the garb of 1777 Connecticut militiamen.

Leading a regiment of cavalry dragoons was a General George Washington look-alike on horseback. A dozen soldiers lined up on a grassy knoll as dozens of onlookers stood watching. The cavalry lined up, raised their muskets and fired several salvos into the distance. Then several soldiers surrounded a cannon and went through the motions of inserting powder and ramming it down the barrel. The detonation resounded in the distance as smoke shot forward. Visitors then had a chance to mingle with and ask questions of the reenactors, who were well versed in the customs and history of the Revolutionary War.

This summer proved popular with visitors to the island. Yvette DeBow of the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation estimated that over 2,000 people took the seven-minute free ferry ride each Saturday for a visit. On this cool, rainy Saturday, several hundred people filled the hourly ferry to visit the encampment or just take a walk on the quiet island with a spectacular view of Downtown and the harbor.

This weekend will be the last this summer when the island will be open to the public. No special events are planned, but park rangers will be available for tours, and visitors can also just walk around the historic former military base. There are no dining facilities but the public is welcome to pack a picnic lunch. Cars and bicycles are not allowed on the island, but cyclists riding to the ferry can bring their bikes across the harbor and secure them near the ferry dock on the island.

The free ferry will leave from the Battery Maritime Building at 10 South St., just to the north of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, on Friday and Saturday. Ferries depart hourly from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with return trips on the half-hour.


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