Category Archives: Military History

New Netherland: The Esopus Wars


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417px-EsopusTreatyThis year marks the 350th anniversary of the Second Esopus War, which was fought primarily between the Munsee Esopus and the New Netherland colonists in 1663. The image of an “Indian” war most often conjures up scenes of the American West, yet this conflict took place right in the proverbial backyard of the Hudson Valley.

The Esopus Wars were centered around the settlement of Wiltwijck, a place we know today as Kingston. The conflict completely changed the power dynamic of the region, from one dominated by American Indians to European colonists. While from another angle, a look at the war’s participants offers a view of the diverse population that composed Dutch New York. Continue reading

ALCO WWII History Program Planned For Schenectady


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Army Navy PosterSarah Jones will present and discuss her National History Day website, “‘The City that Kept a Secret’: How ALCO’s M7 Turned the Tide in North Africa” on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.at the Schenectady County Historical Society in Schenectady.

ALCO was an important producer of locomotives and tanks for the war. During the first four years of the war, ALCO produced more product than it had in the first twenty-five years of the 20th century. In 1940, the Schenectady plant received a contract to build medium tanks and the company become the first to produce a satisfactory M3 “General Lee” for the army. Continue reading

The Misnamed Columbia County ‘Battle of Egremont’


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MilitiamenA small, but important part of the American Revolutionary War took place during 1777 at Livingston Manor, Albany County (now Columbia County), New York. The few historical references about this event identify the event as the Battle of Egremont, implying that it happened in Massachusetts.

While it was customary to name a battle after its location, participants or some other feature, these conventions were overlooked in this case and the involvement of Egremont, Massachusetts militiamen seems to be the primary reason for the naming of the battle. However, many participants were from New York militia units, and the battle actually took place in New York. The battle was actually a series of four skirmishes that occurred over two-days. Continue reading

Westchester County: Religion, Gravestones and Archaeology


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1(2)Gravestones represent some of the most valuable evidence available to archaeologists currently working on the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Church site in Mount Kisco, New York. Once occupied by two Episcopal churches – St. George’s (1761–1819) and St. Mark’s (1850–1916) – the site is also the final resting place of over 400 people, all buried between the 1760s and 1940. The area where the churches once stood was excavated this fall. The artifacts and information they uncovered is now undergoing analysis, and the excavation is planned to resume in the spring.

As co-directors of the excavation, Laurie Kimsal and I have discovered just how essential gravestones are to our understanding of the site. To begin with, gravestones offer clues to the location and orientation of the 18th-century St. George’s Church. Secondly, the gravestones provide insights into the values and beliefs of the people who erected them, as well as the social, religious, and economic worlds of the 18th and 19th centuries. Continue reading

New Exhibit Features Mount Kisco Dig Artifacts


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1(1)A new exhibit, presented by the Mount Kisco Historical Society and the Lower Hudson Chapter of the New York Archaeological Association (NYSAA) has opened at the Mount Kisco Town Hall, 104 Main Street, Mount Kisco, New York (Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm).

The exhibit features dozens of artifacts unearthed from an archaeological excavation
undertaken this fall at the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Cemetery, the oldest historic site in Mount Kisco, a suburban town thirty miles north of Manhattan in Westchester County. Continue reading

Lecture: David Bushnell’s Turtle and Underwater Mines


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The Turtle First SubmarineOn September 6, 1776 American forces launched the first-ever submarine attack against British warships in New York Harbor. The submarine Turtle utilized in the attack was later called “an effort of genius” by George Washington.

Historian and author Mike Kochan will present the story of the Turtle’s inventor David Bushnell, his development of the first underwater mine and the submarine invented to carry it to the enemy, his later success with drift mines and the resulting Battle of the Kegs. Continue reading

The Battle of Plattsburgh and Pearl Harbor Connection


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USS Cassin Pearl HarborThe anniversary of the Battle of Plattsburgh passed recently (it was fought September 11, 1814), and this week, the anniversary of another famous American battle is noted: the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Within the military, both engagements are held in the highest regard as critical moments in American history, and oddly enough, the two have an unusual link of sorts.

I discovered this several years ago while working on one of my earlier publications, The Battle of Plattsburgh Question & Answer Book. What I found was not earth-shattering stuff, but instead more of an “I’ll be darned!” moment that happened during research. Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga Material Culture Weekend Seminar


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Clothing MM 2011Fort Ticonderoga will present its Fourth Annual “Material Matters: It’s in the Details” Seminar the weekend of January 25 & 26, 2014. The weekend event focuses on the material culture of the 18th century and is intended for people with an interest in learning more about objects of the 18th century and what they can tell us about history.

“Material Matters” takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center at Fort Ticonderoga and is open by pre-registration only. Continue reading

The Hudson River Valley in the American Revolution


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9781438448145_p0_v1_s260x420The Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College has released a new edited collection of articles about the American Revolution, published by SUNY Press. Key to the Northern Country: The Hudson River Valley in the American Revolution represents nearly forty years of collected scholarship on the region’s role in the American Revolution.

This interdisciplinary anthology provides essays about political and social issues as well as battles, fortifications, and strategy. The range of perspectives and material make it an ideal textbook for classes on American, regional, and military history, as well as a source for education classes learning about local history and critical thinking. Continue reading

Schaghticoke: An American Revolution Militia Rendezvous


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sgtkesauthierAt the juncture of well worn roads and trails, Schaghticoke became a hub of activity during September and October 1777. Schaghticoke is located east of the Hudson River in what was at the time Albany (now Rensselaer) County, opposite the hamlet of Stillwater. It was a stopping place for hundreds of militiamen who came and went to battle stations in the area.

Like other nearby communities, Schaghticoke was all but abandoned during late summer and fall of 1777. An 8,000 man British Army, invading the Hudson River Valley, was reason enough for most residents to flee to safer places. Many of these refugees went to Albany to escape the threats of war. This article describes the activities of New England militiamen in and around Schaghticoke during the Saratoga Campaign. Continue reading

Patriot Fires: Nationalism in the Civil War North


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9780700614189_p0_v1_s260x420Union College professor Melinda Lawson will discusses how the Civil War brought about changes in American national identity, redefining the relationship between the individual and the government, and trace how the North came together as a nation and mobilized its populace for war.

Through efforts such as sanitary fairs to promote the welfare of soldiers, the war bond drives of Jay Cooke, and the establishment of Union Leagues, Northerners cultivated a new sense of patriotism rooted not just in the subjective American idea, but in existing religious, political, and cultural values. Continue reading

War of 1812: Wilkinson’s Descent of the St. Lawrence


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James_WilkinsonWhy would Major General James Wilkinson march his troops around the Village of Ogdensburg while his flotilla of more than 300 boats sailed down the St. Lawrence River during the War of 1812?

Learn the answer when John Austin presents Wilkinson’s Descent of the St. Lawrence on Saturday, November 9th, 2 p.m. at the St. Lawrence County Historical Association at the Silas Wright House, 3 East Main St., Canton.  This War of 1812 program is part of the St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s Commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. Continue reading

Archives Partnership Trust to Recognize James McPherson


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nonameEach year the Archives Partnership Trust recognizes the outstanding contribution by a national figure to advance the understanding and uses of history in society at the Empire State Archives and History Award program.

This year’s program will honor Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dr. James McPherson with a conversation between McPherson and prominent Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. McPherson will talk about his research, Civil War history, national history, and his long career as a historian. Continue reading

French Heritage Society Supports Fort Ti Restoration Project


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WindowsFort Ticonderoga has received a grant from the French Heritage Society to underwrite restoration work on the Fort’s Soldiers’ Barracks.  The grant was given to Fort Ticonderoga, originally named Fort Carillon in 1755, because of its historic significance as a French heritage site. The project will replace 80 year old windows and sills on the third floor of the Soldiers’ Barracks. Restoration work is currently underway with the windows expected to be installed by the spring of 2014.

“The restoration and preservation of Fort Ticonderoga’s historic structures require on-going effort and investment,” said Beth Hill, President and CEO of Fort Ticonderoga. “Fort Ticonderoga is delighted to be recognized by the French Heritage Society for its significant French story and its on-going legacy. This grant provides important funding that will have a big impact on the preservation of the Soldiers’ Barracks.” Continue reading

The Battle of Brooklyn Scavenger Hunt Saturday


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Battle of Brooklyn MapOne of the first battles of the American Revolution, the Battle of Brooklyn (a.k.a. the Battle of Long Island) took place on August 27, 1776 in what is now Western Brooklyn around Prospect Park and Greenwood Cemetery.

This Saturday the historic Districts Council of New York City is hosting a Battle of Brooklyn Scavenger Hunt, co-sponsored by the urban archaeology firm Chrysalis and Green-Wood Cemetery. Continue reading

Allegany to Appomattox:
Life and Letters of Private William Whitlock


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Allegany to AppomattoxOn September 7, 1864, William Whitlock, aged thirty-five, left his wife and four children in Allegany, New York, to join the Union army in battle. More than 100 years later, his unpublished letters to his wife were found in the attic of a family home.

These letters serve as the foundation for Allegany to Appomattox: The Life and Letters of Private William Whitlock of the 188th New York Volunteers, by Valgene Dunham (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2013), which gives readers a vivid glimpse into the environment and political atmosphere that surrounded the Civil War from the perspective of a northern farmer and lumberman. Continue reading

George Chahoon and the Richmond Disaster


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GeorgeChahoonGeorge Chahoon, a man who lived in the North Country for 60 years, mostly in Ausable Forks, was the focus of two of the most remarkable incidents in the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War.

When the South seceded, it had named Richmond, Virginia, as its capital city. During the post-war years, appointees chosen by the military were placed in power to guide the recovery. Then in 1868 George Chahoon, a native of Chenango County, but a Virginia resident for most of his 28 years, was installed as mayor of Richmond, replacing a popular leader who had served in the position for 15 years. Continue reading

An Historic Trail From Lake George to Lake Champlain


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Lachute River in Spring (Tony hall Photo)The hill that separates the outlet of Lake George from the creek that opens into Lake Champlain is among the oldest portages in continuous use in North America.

The Native Americans gave it a name: Ticonderoga, “the place between waters.”

Up and down its slope have passed explorers and naturalists such as Isaac Jogues and Peter Kalm, travelers such as Thomas Jefferson and, of course, the armies of the French, the British and the Americans as supremacy over North America and its strategic waterways shifted from one nation to another. Continue reading

Everyone Knows Elsie:
A Short History of the Borden Company


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WelcomeBackElsieWhen you enter the Hamlet of Wallkill, you are greeted by the happy face of the Borden Company’s mascot, Elsie the Cow. The company’s website states that this mascot dates to the 1930s.

Underneath Elsie is a sign stating that the Hamlet of Wallkill was the location the “Home Farm” of John G. Borden. Thus, many commonly believe that Borden Condensed Milk was in fact invented in the Hamlet of Wallkill; however, its origins can be traced to Burrville, Connecticut and Gail Borden, Jr. Actually, the business was not originally called Borden at all – that title would come later. Continue reading

Event to Commemorate the Battles of Saratoga in NYC


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Trinity_Church_Cemetery_NYC_9109A ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the American victory at the Battles of Saratoga will take place at 2 pm on Saturday, October 12, in New York City’s Trinity Church, in the churchyard where Horatio Gates and Marinus Willett, two of the most important American commanders at the Battles, are buried.

For many years various communities have celebrated the anniversaries of important Revolutionary War battles. For more than 150 years, Boston’s annual celebration of the battle of Bunker Hill has been a major civic event. However, the anniversary of the resounding American victory at Saratoga and its related battles, which most historians consider the clear turning point of the Revolutionary War, is believed to have never been celebrated in New York City. Continue reading