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Colonel Burr Burns the Blockhouse

One of the more flamboyant episodes in Bronx River history took place 230 years ago this month.

During the Revolutionary War much of the present-day Bronxwasano-mans-land between the two contending armies.While the British held the approaches to Manhattanat FordhamandKingsbridge,the powerful DeLancey family turned WestFarms into a Loyalist stronghold,from which young JamesDeLancey led bands of mountedraiders toseizecattle and tangle with American forces venturing down from White Plains.To secure his strong hold,DeLancey built a wooden Fort Apachestyle block house to guard the bridge crossing the Bronx River at todays 179thStreet.

Lack in gartillery,frustrated American raider scould do little more than take pot-shots at the block house from the opposite side of the river,but when Colonel Aaron Burr took command of the American forces in Westchester County at the beginning of 1779 hehatched his own plan to take the proud DeLanceys down apegor two.

One February night just pas this 23rdbirthday,Burrledaraiding party galloping down the White Plains Road.Reaching the block house,mendashed forward to toss lampoilfilled firebombs through the gunports,followed by littorches and hand grenades.In moments the block house was hopeless lyablaze,and its frightened garrison tumbled out to surrender.Burrsraiders gathered their prisoners and vanished into the night without losing amanor firing a shot.

The block house burned to the ground,leaving West Farms open to increasingly bold attacks from American forces.It was the beginning of the end for the DeLancey family,who at the end of the war four years later would be forced to abandon their Bronx Riverestate and fleet he country.

StephenPaulDeVillo

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