The detail that I chose to be the focus of May’s Map of the Month comes from “Map of New-York and Its Vicinity. Drawn by D.H. Burr for New York as it is in 1835” — “Ft. Lafayette.”
When I first started at BHS in 2006 I resided in the wonderful south Brooklyn neighborhood, Bay Ridge. Naturally I looked up the early history of the area, and I learned that there used to be two forts, Fort Hamilton (which still exists) and Fort LaFayette (which was torn down for the building of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in January 1960).
If you look at the map detail on the left you will see both forts labeled. Fort Lafayette is the little diamond shaped island just off the coast of what was then the town of New Utrecht. Built just after the War of 1812, it was named after the Marquis de La Fayette, a French military officer who who fought with the Americans during the Revolutionary War. During the Civil War the fort was also used as a prison for captured Confederate soldiers and those found to be opposed to the Union. In the library’s stacks there is a great self-published memoir entitled “Two Months in Fort La Fayette,” printed for the author in New York in 1862, in which the anonymous author describes in detail the conditions under which prisoners lived. The former prisoner goes into great detail about dinner:
On each tin plate is a lump of boiled beef, apparently cut with a hatchet; in each tin cup is a greasy looking mixture, which on examination is seen to be intended for ice soup; the piles of good baker’s bread are strewn along the table, with a few plates of salt at intervals; the rice, nine times out ten, is cooked no softer than it came from its original package, and the whole greasy mess, in its greasy cup, to be eaten with a greasy spoon, seldom fails to turn the stomach of some of the guests. (passage taken from page 20)
Interested in reading more from this memoir? As with many materials published prior to 1923 you can read this memoir online through a resource such as Internet Archive.
Interested in seeing more maps or want to research this one further? Come check this and other maps out anytime during the library’s open hours, Wed.-Fri., from 1-5 p.m. No appointment is necessary to view most maps. Our cataloged maps can be searched through BobCat and our map inventories through Emma.
Map of the Month is part of a project to catalog our map holdings, funded through the Council on Library and Information Resources Hidden Collections program. If you would like to help us do more of this kind of work with our exciting map holdings, donate here.