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Archive for Sunday, June 30, 2002

Campaign revolves around revolution

Historic sites commemorate decisive events of 1777

June 30, 2002

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— The marker near the bridge spanning the Hudson River in this upstate village is easy to miss. Posted here at the western end of the bridge linking Saratoga and Washington counties, this particular marker is worth slowing down for, because it commemorates an event that changed the world:

"Surrender site of Gen. Burgoyne to Gen. Gates Oct. 17, 1777."

Rich Strum, director of interpretative education at Fort
Ticonderoga, conducts wooden gun drills with visitors on the parade
ground of the fort in Ticonderoga, N.Y. This summer and fall,
various state, federal, and privately operated historic sites are
commemorating the 225th anniversary of the turning point of the
Revolutionary War.

Rich Strum, director of interpretative education at Fort Ticonderoga, conducts wooden gun drills with visitors on the parade ground of the fort in Ticonderoga, N.Y. This summer and fall, various state, federal, and privately operated historic sites are commemorating the 225th anniversary of the turning point of the Revolutionary War.

Underneath in smaller letters:

"Revolutionary War Turning Point."

The turning point was the American victory over the British at the Battles of Saratoga, fought a few miles south in what is now the town of Stillwater. Later, in a clearing along the river's west bank, "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne's army laid down its arms, concluding what many historians consider one of the most important battles ever fought.

The outcome at Saratoga persuaded the French to join the Americans against the British, ultimately leading to the defeat of Gen. Cornwall at Yorktown four years later.

This summer and fall, various state, federal and privately operated historic sites and organizations in the Hudson, Champlain and Mohawk valleys are commemorating the 225th anniversary of the victory and the events leading up to it.

Dubbed the Northern Campaign the name of Burgoyne's invasion of northern New York dozens of events linked to the decisive year of the American Revolution are planned.

The events roughly trace the original British plan for a three-pronged attack to split New York from the New England colonies. Burgoyne, invading from Canada, intended to use the Hudson River as a highway to New York's interior, while another British force was to move upriver from Manhattan. The third thrust was to come from the west via the Mohawk Valley.

The commemorations of the events of 1777 are likely to benefit from the wave of patriotism following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, organizers say.

"This is about the American spirit," says retired Army Col. James Johnson, military historian for the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. "We in New York state can be proud that the battles that marked the turning point of the Revolutionary War occurred in this state."

The events include:

Ticonderoga

The Saratoga Battlefield Monument is in Victory, N.Y., near the
Hudson River. The monument, started in 1877, has six floors and a
viewing platform at the top. It was built to commemorate the
surrender of the British to the Americans on Oct. 17, 1777.

The Saratoga Battlefield Monument is in Victory, N.Y., near the Hudson River. The monument, started in 1877, has six floors and a viewing platform at the top. It was built to commemorate the surrender of the British to the Americans on Oct. 17, 1777.

July 5: Re-enactment of the evacuation of Fort Ticonderoga by American troops.

Sept. 7-8: Annual Revolutionary War encampment, with re-enactment of the failed American attempt to recapture the fort from the British.

Dominating a bluff overlooking the southern end of Lake Champlain, Fort Ticonderoga was considered the "key to the continent" in the latter half of the 18th century.

Built by the French in the opening years of the French and Indian War, the fort was captured from the British by troops led by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen in 1775, three weeks after the battles of Lexington and Concord. In July 1777, the American troops abandoned the fort after the British hauled cannons to the top of nearby Mount Defiance.

Today, the reconstructed fort bristles with 18th-century cannon and other weapons from the period in exhibits that tell Ticonderoga's bloody history. Musket demonstrations are held daily, as are cannon firings and fife-and-drum performances in July and August.

Saratoga

Sept. 27-29: Remembrance of the Battles of Saratoga, at the Saratoga National Historic Park (Saratoga Battlefield), town of Stillwater. Hundreds of re-enactors portray life in an 18th-century military camp, with cannon firings, musket drills and other period demonstrations.

Oct. 12-13: Re-enactment of the decisive second Battle of Saratoga, in the town of Saratoga, two miles north of battlefield.

Oct. 19: Re-creation of Burgoyne's surrender march, from the Saratoga Monument just outside of Schuylerville to the village's "field of grounded arms."

Burgoyne surrendered in the village of Saratoga, later renamed Schuylerville after Philip Schuyler, an American general whose estate was located nearby.

A monument to commemorate the American victory was erected in the late 1800s on a hill overlooking the village. The granite obelisk towers over nearby farm fields and apple orchards, close to the spot where Burgoyne established his headquarters just before he surrendered.


Inside, visitors can view 16 bas-relief bronze plaques depicting scenes from the Saratoga battles and other events of the American Revolution. A small platform at the top offers views of the Adirondack, Green and Berkshire mountain ranges.

Bennington

Aug. 16-18: Battle of Bennington reenactments and encampments, Bennington, Vt., and Walloomsac.

While the Bennington Battlefield Monument is located in the Vermont town, the actual battle between Burgoyne's Hessian allies and New England militias was in Walloomsac, on the New York side of the state line. The Yankee minutemen beat back the German mercenaries, who were on a raid for horses for their cavalry.

Oriskany

Aug. 1-6: Weeklong commemoration of the British siege of Fort Stanwix, in what is now Rome, N.Y., and the Battle of Oriskany, where the British incursion into the Mohawk Valley was stymied.

A British force, including loyalists and Iroquois Indians, ambushed American militiamen along a forest trail east of the fort. Though they suffered heavy casualties, Gen. Herkimer's citizen soldiers inflicted enough losses on their foes to break the siege.

West Point

Oct. 5-6: Re-enactments and parades at the U.S. Military Academy and nearby Bear Mountain State Park and Fort Montgomery, which will officially be dedicated as a state historic site.

Montgomery, just south of West Point, was part of the American fortifications guarding the southern approach to the Hudson Highlands. The red coats captured Montgomery and nearby Fort Clinton in a belated foray up the Hudson, and later went on to burn Kingston. The fierce resistance by the American defenders at the forts forestalled any British intentions of linking up with Burgoyne.

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