A Revolutionary War sword turns up in Tudor City

hessianswordkipsbaylandingshipsTombstones, wooden ships, mastodon teeth and bones—construction crews over the years have come upon some pretty wild artifacts while digging into the ground beneath New York City.

But here’s a fascinating relic uncovered in 1929, when excavation was underway for the apartment buildings on the far East Side that would eventually become Tudor City.

It’s a Hessian sword, described as a “slightly curved, single-edged iron blade” with a wooden grip and “helmet-shaped iron pommel” by the New-York Historical Society, which has the sword in its collection.

hessianswordstainedglass2hessianswordtudorcitystainedglassHow did it end up underneath Tudor City? The story begins back in 1776. New York was a Revolutionary War battleground, and mercenary German soldiers were paid to fight alongside the British.

That September, thousands of British and Hessian soldiers sailed across the East River and invaded Manhattan at the shores of Kip’s Bay.

hessiansoldierkipsbaylanding

Watching from a fortification at about today’s 42nd Street, George Washington and his army fled across Manhattan to Harlem Heights.

Eventually the Americans were driven out of Manhattan (temporarily, of course)—and at some point, a Hessian soldier must have dropped his sword, where it remained buried for 153 years.

hessianswordtudorcity

Fred French, the developer of Tudor City, donated the sword to the New-York Historical Society.

[First image: Wikipedia; second image: Tudor City Confidential; third image: Wikipedia; fourth image: NYPL]

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11 Responses to “A Revolutionary War sword turns up in Tudor City”

  1. richard tintera Says:

    What, no picture of the sword?

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I tried and tried . . . it’s part of the collection of the N-Y Historical Society, but I couldn’t find it in their digital collections. There’s a link above in the text.

  2. voluntariopr Says:

    Wondering if the NY Historical Society still has this sword in its collection? Any chance you could publish a photo of it?

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      They do have it in their collection, see the link in the text. I could not find and identify a photo though, unfortunately!

  3. voluntariopr Says:

    PS What is that oblisk monument in front of the Tudor City buildings?

  4. Untapped Staff Picks: WNYC Launches Town Hall Tracker, Millionaire’s Mansion in Jeopardy | Untapped Cities Says:

    […] A Revolutionary War Sword Turns Up in Tudor City [Ephemeral NY]:  A fascinating relic uncovered in 1929, when excavation was underway for the apartment buildings on the far East Side that would eventually become Tudor City. It’s a Hessian sword, described as a “slightly curved, single-edged iron blade” with a wooden grip and “helmet-shaped iron pommel” by the New-York Historical Society, which has the sword in its collection. […]

  5. Untapped Staff Reads: Morningside Heights Historic District Designated, A Revolutionary War Sword Turns Up in Tudor City | Untapped Cities Says:

    […] A Revolutionary War sword turns up in Tudor City [Ephemeral New York]: Tombstones, wooden ships, mastodon teeth and bones—construction crews over the years have come upon some pretty wild artifacts while digging into the ground beneath New York City. But here’s a fascinating relic uncovered in 1929, when excavation was underway for the apartment buildings on the far East Side that would eventually become Tudor City. […]

  6. A Revolutionary War hanging near the Bowery | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] 1776 he was part of the personal “life guard” George Washington put together before the British were expected to occupy New York […]

  7. A Revolutionary War hanging near the Bowery ⋆ New York city blog Says:

    […] 1776 he was part of the personal “life guard” George Washington put together before the British were expected to occupy New York […]

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