Military history of America’s greatest city.
Jaffe (Who Were the Founding Fathers?: Two Hundred Years of Reinventing American History, 1996), a historian attached to the South Street Seaport Museum and the New-York Historical Society, begins his study at the earliest point of which we have records: Henry Hudson’s entry into what is now New York Harbor in 1609. Hudson and his men encountered a group of Indians, and a skirmish broke out, leaving one of Hudson’s men dead. The incident set a pattern that dogged the Dutch colony that grew up on Manhattan Island and spread fingers along the coast and up the Hudson; only in the 1640s was a solid peace with the native peoples concluded. By then, the British were a greater threat, and the city became a British stronghold for more than a century. From there, troops went forth to fight the French and their Indian allies, and there the main force of British power remained during the Revolution. After Washington’s troops were driven away in 1776, the redcoats had Manhattan to themselves. Washington managed to exploit the city’s vulnerability by threatening attacks against it, keeping troops bottled up to defend it while he won battles elsewhere. In the early days of the Republic, the city became a center for privateers preying on British merchantmen, then suffered blockades by the British fleet that all but stifled its mercantile might. Jaffe moves on to more familiar territory with the draft riots of the Civil War. World War I saw anti-German fervor and U-boat raids on ships leaving the harbor. In the final chapters, the author looks at the Cold War and other late-20th-century events, culminating in 9/11 and the aftermath.
Well-researched, with a flair for the dramatic, and full of unexpected tidbits. Military buffs and New Yorkers will especially love it.