Category Archives: Military History

Battle of Plattsburgh: A Pivotal Naval Battle


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Saratoga (left) and Eagle (right) engaging Confiance at Battle of PlattsburghThey were headed this way. British troops had done that before, without success, but these were not just any British troops. They were 11,000 troops fresh from their victory over Napoleon.

By that third summer of the War of 1812, British shore raiding parties were taking a great toll in the Chesapeake Bay. Supported by a fleet of more than 30 warships, they would put troops ashore near a town, and either burn it, or demand ransom from the inhabitants. Continue reading

The Battle of Plattsburgh: 200 Years Of Forgetting


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1816 BaltimoreBOPDisplay“The naval battle of Lake Champlain was probably the greatest feat of arms that our navy achieved in the War of 1812,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt.

From Secretary of Navy William Jones on Oct. 3, 1814: “To view it in abstract, it is not surpassed by any naval victory on record. To appreciate its result, it is perhaps one of the most important events in the history of our country.”

According to Penn University historian John B. McMaster, it was “the greatest naval battle of the war,” and Thomas Macdonough was “the ablest sea-captain our country has produced.”

Like McMaster, author and historian Teddy Roosevelt called it “the greatest naval battle of the war,” and praised Commodore Thomas Macdonough thusly: “Down to the time of the Civil War, he is the greatest figure in our naval history. … he was skillful and brave. One of the greatest of our sea captains, he has left a stainless name behind him.” And one more: looking back, Sir Winston Churchill said it “was a decisive battle of the war.” Continue reading

Encampment Marks Battles of Saratoga Anniversary


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130921_BAR_crown_hike_smOn Saturday and Sunday, September 20th and 21st, Saratoga National Historical Park, located on Routes 32 and 4 in Stillwater, will present an 18th century living history encampment marking the 237th anniversary of the world’s “most important battle of the last 1,000 years.”

This two-day encampment will offers visitors with the sights, smells, and sounds of military camp life from the American Revolution. Dozens of re-enactors portray American and British officers, soldiers, and camp followers from the Battles of Saratoga. Continue reading

Madison County Civil War Series Begins September 18th


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114th Recruiting Poster Greenhagen 8-28-14In recognition of the last year of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, Sue Greenhagen (Village of Morrisville Historian), Matthew Urtz (Madison County Historian) and Dot Willsey (23rd Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend committee member) are planning a Madison County Civil War Series of programs that feature New York State’s role in the Civil War with particular attention to Madison County’s connection to the War Between the States.

Called “The Banner County” in the mid-1800s because of its voting support of anti-slavery measures, Madison County was a hot-bed of activities that were critical to the outbreak of the war. Continue reading

Debunking The ‘French Fort’ On Albany’s Castle Island


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the 1614 Block mapThe 400th anniversary of Albany’s first documented European settlement gives us an opportunity to clear up some inaccuracies surrounding its history. In particular, it is time to roundly debunk the stubborn myth that the French built the first European structure in Albany.

Several Wikipedia pages—”Albany“, “Castle Island,” “Fort Nassau“—claim that Albany’s first European structure was a fort on Castle Island built by French traders in 1540. The “Castle Island” page calls it a chateau and claims that the Dutch rebuilt the French fort, “which they called a castle[,] giving rise to the name of the island.” This is silly. There is no credible evidence of a French fort on Castle Island or anywhere in the region, and any account of a structure resembling a chateau is particularly absurd. So where did this myth come from? Continue reading

Fort Ti Living History Weekend Features Hut Building


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Hut BuildingVisitors to Fort Ticonderoga this weekend can discover how soldiers of the Continental Army built huts at Ticonderoga in 1776 and try their hand at colonial construction techniques. This living history weekend, entitled “Lodging as the Nature of Campaign will Admit”, takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 13-14, 9:30 am to 5 pm.

The Ticonderoga peninsula was already an old battlefield and encampment site by the summer of 1776 when American soldiers began digging in to block a British invasion southward. For soldiers, such as the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion, their first priority was to erect earthworks with which to hold this vital ground. Continue reading

Revolutionary War Traitors, Spies, Focus of Fishkill Event


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Major John Andre“Traitors & Spies: An American Revolutionary War Experience” is the theme of a Sunday, September 14th educational program sponsored by the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot at the Hyatt House in Fishkill from 2 until 4 pm. “This community program,” explained Lance Ashworth the Friends’ president, “will support our mission to keep the history of the American Revolutionary War alive in the Hudson Valley and to bring the heritage of the Fishkill Supply Depot to more and more people.”

Speakers include Stephen Case, author of Treacherous Beauty: Peggy Shippen, the Woman behind Benedict Arnold’s Plot to Betray America; Damien Cregeau, an independent historian, who will discuss spying in and around New York City during the war; and Rachel Smith from the State Historian’s office at the University of Connecticut who will shed light on Nathan Hale’s legacy. Moderator for the program is Dr. Colonel James M. Johnson from Marist College. Continue reading

New Book: A Dictionary Of Vietnam War Slang


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Vietnam War Slang DictionaryOn August 7th, the US marked the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the basis for the Johnson administration’s escalation of American military involvement in Southeast Asia and war against North Vietnam.

A new book, Vietnam War Slang: A Dictionary on Historical Principles (Routledge, 2014) by Tom Dalzell, outlines the context behind the slang used by members of the United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. Continue reading

Battle Of Brooklyn:
Rare Revolutionary War Map Being Unveiled


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Battle of Brooklyn MapA one-of-a-kind Revolutionary War map used in battle by Lieutenant-General Hugh Percy, a British division commander at the Battle of Brooklyn, will be unveiled at Green-Wood Cemetery on Sunday, August 24, at the Green-Wood Historic Fund’s annual commemoration of the Battle of Brooklyn.  Following its unveiling at Green-Wood Cemetery, General Percy’s Map will travel to the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) on August 27, where it will be exhibited through February 2015.

The Battle of Brooklyn, waged on August 27, 1776, was fought across Brooklyn and on land that is now part of Green-Wood.  It was the first battle of the American Revolution fought after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Continue reading

Newly Discovered Livingston Manuscript Being Exhibited


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12UnitedColonies_Livingston_p01The New-York Historical Society is displaying an important, recently discovered handwritten document that sheds new light on the period leading up to the Declaration of Independence and the final break with Great Britain.

The manuscript was discovered last summer in the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City, which served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War, and was recently acquired by Brian Hendelson, a noted New Jersey-based Americana collector. Hitherto unknown and unstudied, the manuscript is on view at New-York Historical in the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library through November 7, 2014 and will remain on loan to New-York Historical for purposes of study and display for two years. Continue reading

Washington’s Headquarters:
The Death of Jonathan Hasbrouck


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George Washington-Library of CongressThere are many stories circulating about Newburgh’s Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck (better known today as Washington’s Headquarters). Some are believed true, such as Tryntje Hasbrouck sitting in “sullen silence” when told that her home was chosen as Washington’s Headquarters, and some are simply made-up. One such story involves Washington’s stay at the house from 1782-1783.

General Washington loved horses. In fact he loved to go for rides on his favorite mount whenever possible. The story told to me, after a lecture, involved General Washington, Col. Hasbrouck and Hasbrouck’s sons. They would sometimes go horseback riding together. A favorite stop was the vast Hasbrouck family orchards. Washington, the story goes, loved peaches. Hasbrouck, his sons, and Washington spent hours picking peaches. When enough peaches were picked the Hasbroucks and Washington delighted in feasting on them. This story is obviously false for one simple reason; Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck had died in 1780. Continue reading

Free Day At Vermont Owned Historic Sites


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Bennington1777MapAugust 16th is a Vermont State Holiday commemorating Bennington Battle Day and the victory over the British on August 16, 1777. To celebrate this Revolutionary War victory, admission to all the state-owned historic sites will be free on Saturday, August 16, 2014.

Pack the picnic basket, grab the kids, invite your friends and neighbors, and head out to enjoy the great Vermont summer at any of the state-owned historic sites. Continue reading

French And Indian War Event At Chimney, Crown Points


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DSCN0735On August 9 and 10, 2014, some exciting mid-1700s military activity will take place at the Chimney Point State Historic Site in Addison, as part of the annual Crown Point, NY, annual French & Indian War Encampment.  At about 10:30 am both days watch for French and British soldier reenactors to cross the Lake Champlain Bridge or travel by reproduction boats, weather permitting, from New York into Vermont.  By 11:00, if conditions allow, they will engage in a military tactical on the lawn and beach south of the Chimney Point tavern building. Continue reading

Revolutionary War Photographs Linked to Fort Plain


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SamuelDowningThe Fort Plain Museum has announced that researchers have located several early photographs (called a carte de visite or CDV) of two Revolutionary War soldiers who served at Fort Plain.

Private Samuel Downing of Captain John Dennett’s Company, Colonel George Reid Commanding, 2nd New Hampshire Regiment, was stationed at Fort Rensselaer/Fort Plain from February 20, 1782 until September 20th that same year when the regiment was transferred to Johnstown. Downing had his picture taken in 1863 as one of the last surviving veterans of the war for American Independence, a time when the American Civil War was at its height. Downing, who had made Edinburgh, NY his home after the Revolution, passed away there three years later in 1866 at the age of 105. Continue reading

An Explosive Musical On The Atom Bomb


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JeremyKushnierSnazzy musical numbers, snappy dialogue and souped-up friction between bureaucrats and scientists make Atomic: The Idea that Shook the World a sizzling treatment of the history of the Manhattan Project.

Leo Szilard is not the best-known maker of the Atomic Bomb but his dramatic story highlights the high-pressure situation from 1936 to 1945. The play’s run off-Broadway at the Acorn Theater ties to a surge of public interest in the Cold War era. This week is the 75th anniversary of the August 2, 1939 Einstein-Szilard letter to Pres. Roosevelt alerting him to the necessity to move quickly to beat the Nazi regime to the development of an awesomely powerful new weapon. Continue reading

War of 1812: The New Brunswick Regiment of Foot


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The 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot in the War of 1812Best known for its perilous Winter March through the wilderness of New Brunswick to the battlegrounds in Upper Canada, the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot was a British unit originally raised to defend the Maritimes, with members drawn from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Upper and Lower Canada, and the British Isles.

In 1813, the regiment was sent to raid the American naval base in Sackets Harbor, New York, and then moved to the Niagara Peninsula to continue its fight against the invading Americans. Continue reading

150 Years Ago A NY Man Languished In Andersonville


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Rollin O. Sanford, farmerRollin O. Sanford died on July 29, 1864 while a prisoner of war at the infamous Andersonville prison in Georgia. His only son, Rollin J, was born that very same day in Hopkinton NY, twelve hundred miles to the north, in what is now the Adirondack Park. While there are countless stories of tragedy and heartache that occurred during the Civil War, this story seemed especially poignant, since it involved our family.

Rollin O. Sanford, described as a large and powerful man, was the tenth child and youngest son of Jonah and Abigail Greene Sanford. He was a farmer in Hopkinton, married to Ermina Roberts, with whom he had two daughters, Lillian and Jeanette. “Nettie”, the younger daughter, died in November 1863 at age two, one month before Rollin went off to war. Years later Lillian wrote about the death of her little sister and how her father “held Nettie in his arms as her little life went out”. Continue reading

Lecture: Lincoln’s Secret Visit to West Point


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West Point 1860sPresident Abraham Lincoln made a clandestine trip to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in June 1862, during the Civil War. It was his longest journey away from the White House and his only trip to New York State during his Presidency.

Based upon new and original research, Anthony J. Czarnecki, past president of the Lincoln Society in Peekskill, will reveal why Lincoln came to West Point, what he did during his three-day stay in the Lower Hudson Valley, and how history changed as a result of his visit to the Academy. Continue reading

FDR: The Original Game Changer


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Roosevelts Second Act by Richard Moe.jpgThe famous Riddle of the Sphinx asks, “Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and then two-footed, and finally three-footed?” To which Oedipus answered: “Man, who crawls on all fours as a child, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then as an elder uses a walking stick.”

This is what crossed my mind as I came across a small sculpture of Franklin D. Roosevelt as the Sphinx, with cigarette holder and all, at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum gift shop. I’d often find myself browsing the store during breaks from my research there, but the oddity of the sculpture stuck with me as I was unable to answer the riddle of FDR as Sphinx until reading Roosevelt’s Second Act: The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War (Oxford Univ. Press, 2013) by Richard Moe. Continue reading