Fifty yards north of Rifstone Arch near west 72nd street, the bridle path narrows slightly between what appears to be two large vertical rock walls. This is Pinkerton Pass, named after a little known casualty of the War of 1812.
As the War raged along the east coast the United Stated Army, fearing the British would once again attack the area now known as Central Park like they did during the Revolutionary War, worked feverishly with volunteers to rebuild forts and fortify various strategic locations to hold off potential invaders.
One volunteer was a local haberdasher Halvard Pinkerton. Though he was a fine tailor and respected businessman, Pinkerton contributed little to the Army’s efforts aside from complaining to his fellow volunteers about the hot weather, the flies, and the negative effects hard labor was having on his crisp shirt cuffs.
Pinkerton further annoyed his companions and the Army when he set fire to the newly completed Fort Clinton while trying to toast some raisin bread.
Pinkerton was relegated to sentry duty on the west side of the park on a chilly September evening in 1814. Perched upon a rock overlooking a little used horse trail, Pinkerton heard a group of men coming up the path. Since he left his rifle at home, Pinkerton began hurling small stones at the approaching men while repeatedly shouting “Go home, British ruffians!”
Pinkerton was shot 26 times by his own volunteer unit who were on a patrol. He was taken to a nearby hospital where the doctors examined him and determined his chances of dying were likely to very soon. When questioned about the shooting, the men swore they shot what they thought was a wild bird that was pelting them with stones and calling them names.
Miraculously Halvard Pinkerton survived the attack, but died a week later from 15 additional gunshot wounds he received from the commander of his volunteer unit who was visiting Pinkerton in his hospital room. The unnamed officer claimed he was cleaning his flintlock pistol at Pinkerton’s bedside when it accidentally discharged.