The battle at Golden Hill started after British soldiers cut down a liberty pole erected by a group known as the Sons of Liberty. Liberty poles were erected in town squares across the colonies as symbols of defiance in the face of British rule. For years preceeding the Golden Hill incident, British authorities had cut down liberty poles. The poles were replaced immediately by the patriotic Sons of Liberty. The liberty pole in New York City had been crowned with a gilt vane bearing the single word, "Liberty".
On January 17, 1770, British soldiers sawed down the Liberty pole and began posting handbills denouncing the Sons of Liberty as "the real enemies of society" who "thought their freedom depended on a piece of wood".
Colonists, led by Isaac Sears, captured a squad of soldiers posting derogatory handbills and marched them toward the mayors office. Other British soldiers arrived and more patriots showed up to support the Sons of liberty. A mobbed formed and surrounded the soldiers who retreated to Golden Hill, a block formed by the modern day streets of William, John, Cliff and Fulton in lower Manhattan.
During the two day battle the British soldiers exhausted their ammunition and the colonists fought them with guns, clubs and rocks. After the battle many colonists lay wounded and bleeding on the street. One Quaker was killed.
Today there are no markers in lower Manhattan marking where the first blood was shed in the American Revolution.