Military History Began Well Before WWII
By LIZ SKALKA
For many, the history of the United States prior to World War I is
far overlooked. Even more forgotten is the borough’s involvement
in that history and its contribution to the wars that shaped our nation.
in John Mark Park, 173rd Street and Hillside Avenue, this bronze
monument stands to honor those from Queens who died in the Civil
the inscription “For a Better Union,” this boulder
and its accompanying plaque, now missing but originally located
at 216th Street and 48th Avenue, was dedicated to Capt. William
C. Dermody, who died in action in Spotsylvania, Va., in 1864.
Astoria Park near Shore Boulevard lies this 20-foot monument
paying tribute to the “fellow citizens who served in the
World War 1914-1918.”
important to know is before 1898, Queens County consisted of parts
of the Nassau and Queens counties we know today. Queens included Oyster
Bay, Hempstead, North Hempstead, Jamaica, Newtown – now Elmhurst
– and Flushing. Part of Elmhurst later split off to become Long
One of the initial battles to involve Queens soldiers was the Battle
of Long Island in 1776. It is also referred to as the Battle of Brooklyn,
as it took place on Brooklyn soil.
The Battle of Long Island was the first major battle of the American
Revolutionary War and ended with the British capture of New York City,
which it held for the entire war.
The battle was the largest of the entire Revolutionary War and the
first battle engaged in by the United States Army.
“It was fought on Brooklyn soil but it affected all of this
area,” said James Driscoll, president of the Queens Historical
Society. “English troops occupied it throughout the American
Driscoll pointed out that during the Revolution, troops were stationed
throughout Queens in what we now know as Jamaica, Woodside and Astoria.
“There were quite a few troops stationed throughout Queens,”
Years after the Battle of Long Island came the War of 1812 and the
Mexican American War fought from 1846 to 1848. “There were probably
people from Queens who joined the Army and joined those wars,”
Driscoll pointed out.
Driscoll also said there were several fortresses built in Queens during
that time, including Fort Stevens in Astoria, which was built to defend
against attacks from the British. The fort is no longer in existence.
Later came the Civil War, for which towns in Queens sent men for battle,
though Driscoll pointed out that since Queens was not very populated
at this time, not a large number of men were sent.
“There were scattered soldiers,” he said. “It wasn’t
a great number because the population in some of the larger towns
in Queens was small.”
As many probably know, Fort Totten is a Civil War era relic built
in 1862. It was controlled by the Army for a number of years before
being turned over recently to the Department of Parks and Recreation
and the Fire Department of New York. The Army still controls a portion
of the 93-acre area.
Perhaps one of the biggest Queens contributions in terms of soldiers
came far later during World War I.
“In terms of World War I, they certainly contributed their men
from all over Queens,” Driscoll said.