It’s remarkable how two unrelated historical events sometimes converge to form a new piece of history. In one such North Country connection, the job choice of a future president became linked to a famous encounter on Lake Champlain. The future president was Warren Harding (1921–23), and the lake event was the Battle of Valcour Island (1776). The results weren’t earth shattering, but the connection did spawn coast-to-coast media stories covering part of our region’s (and our nation’s) history.
In 1882, Harding (1865–1923) graduated from Ohio Central College. Among the positions he held to pay for schooling was editor of the college newspaper. In 1884, after pursuing various job options, he partnered with two other men and purchased the failing Marion Daily Star. Harding eventually took full control of the newspaper, serving as both publisher and editor. Continue reading
Fort Ticonderoga kicks off the 2014 season May 10-11 with its “No Quarter” event recreating the capture of Fort Ticonderoga on May 10, 1775.
In this weekend-long recreation visitors will experience “America’s First Victory” by exploring this dramatic story from the perspectives of both the British garrison and the Green Mountain Boys, including face-to-face interactions with the historical characters including Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold. Continue reading
Following its debut at Gelston Castle Estate in 2013, Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama, based on the book by Walter D. Edmonds, is expanding its performance schedule to four shows. The show opens Saturday, August 2, and Sunday, August 3, 2014 at Gelston Castle Estate (980 Robinson Road in Mohawk, NY). It continues the following weekend (August 9-10). Performance times are: Saturdays at 5:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm.
Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama is the story of Gil and Lana Martin, a young couple who settle in the Mohawk Valley of upstate NY to raise a family in 1777, only to find they are in the pathway of the American Revolution. It’s the story of Nicholas Herkimer, a patriot of Palatine German descent who carved out a successful livelihood despite living on the edge of the frontier. The strife amongst colonial neighbors in the Mohawk Valley of upstate NY was vehement in 1777 and these events set up several flashpoints that spark a conflagration of valley conflict during the American Revolution. Continue reading
New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site will host a weekend of Revolutionary War military firing demonstrations and period activities on Saturday April 26 and Sunday April 27, presented by the Brigade of the American Revolution, an international organization dedicated to recreating the life and times of the common soldier of the War for Independence, 1775-1783.
A battle demonstration takes place at 2:00 PM each day with colorfully uniformed soldiers firing muskets, a cannon and maneuvering to the music of fifes and drums. The soldiers will also set up tents, prepare cooking fires and demonstrate other aspects of 18th century life. Continue reading
On Sunday, April 6, at 2pm, Saratoga National Historical Park hosts Dr. Thomas Chambers as he discusses his new book, Memories of War: Visiting Battlegrounds and Bonefields in the Early American Republic.
In this free program, Dr. Chambers addresses the progression of early American battlefields from places of conflict to places of tourism and remembrance. Fields and forests, once green and serene, became witness to great privation, suffering, tragedy, and triumph. After, they gave way to relative obscurity, falling back to quiet agricultural use, and sometimes passing into aging ruins. Yet in time, as better mobility and leisure time encouraged tourism, a growing romanticizing of the past breathed new life in these sites and called forth many people to experience their own connections with these bygone battlefields. Continue reading
Fort Ticonderoga is now accepting applications from teachers to participate in the 2014 Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute July 13-17, 2014.
The focus of this year’s institute is “1776 at Ticonderoga” and will accommodate 14 teachers for a week-long exploration of the critical year of Independence as it unfolded at Fort Ticonderoga. Applications are due April 15. Continue reading
Black Americans have a long and distinguished history of military service. They participated in every colonial war from 1690 through the French and Indian War (1754-1763) as soldiers, sailors, laborers, scouts, and spies. Blacks generally served in integrated units and earned the same pay as whites. Even slaves served in the army and were paid although their enlistment compelled them to surrender some portion of this money to their owners.
In the early Revolutionary War battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill, free and enslaved Blacks fought shoulder to shoulder with white patriots. However, by the summer of 1775, under pressure from Southern plantation owners, General George Washington and the Continental Congress opposed the further enlistment of free blacks and slaves. Historians James and Lois Horton state that southern planters were “well aware of African-Americans desire for freedom, and most feared insurrection should slaves gain access to guns.” Continue reading
Like many historical events, the American Revolution is often shrouded in romantic myth and stubborn stereotypes. Perhaps no event offers a better example than General George Washington’s famous crossing of icy Delaware River on Christmas night to lead the Continental Army’s defeat of the Hessians at Trenton, New Jersey, an event which revived the flickering morale American revolutionaries.
In George Washington’s Surprise Attack: A New Look at the Battle That Decided the Fate of America (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014), Phillip Thomas Tucker attempts to parse fiction from fact. He provides an in-depth look (more than 600 pages, with notes) at the events of the Battle of Trenton, presenting new insights and analysis about a battle that holds a mythical place in American national history. Continue reading
Knox’s Headquarters in Newburgh and the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site will be offering a full schedule of activities for the Presidents’ weekend. New Windsor Cantonment was the final encampment of the northern Continental Army, in 1782-83. Here over 7,000 soldiers and 500 family members endured the winter and prepared for a renewal of the fighting in the spring. Instead peace was proclaimed and after 8 long years of war they returned home.
Knox’s Headquarters, the elegant 1754 combination English and Dutch style home, of the prosperous merchant miller John Ellison, was one of the longest occupied military headquarters of the Revolutionary War. Continental Army Generals, Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox and Horatio Gates used the house as headquarters, during various periods between 1779-1783. Continue reading
In early spring 1782, General George Washington arrived at the Hasbrouck House in Newburgh, New York for his longest stay – 16-1/2 months. Washington’s time at the Hasbrouck House was one of watchful waiting, followed by a cessation of hostilities, and finally an end to the war.
From the Hasbrouck House Washington made a short trip through the scenic Roundout Valley, stopping at Stone Ridge (or Stoney Ridge), on his way to Kingston, which the British had burned in 1777. En route to his destination, Washington stopped to dine and sleep at the home of Major Cornelius Evert Wynkoop. Continue reading
During the critical Battle of Oriskany in August 1777, Continental forces led by General Nicholas Herkimer defeated the British army under St. Leger in the heart of New York’s Mohawk Valley. It was a hard-won victory, but he and his troops prevented the British from splitting the colonies in two.
In The Battle of Oriskany and General Nicholas Herkimer: Revolution in the Mohawk Valley (History Press, 2013), Paul Boehlert presents a gripping account of the events before, during and after this critical battle. Continue reading
A loyalist is a man with his head in England, his body in America, and a neck that needs to be stretched. – an anonymous patriot.
Late in June of 1776, the New York Provincial Convention (NYPC) received a troubling report from the Dutchess County Committee of Safety. It said that Poughkeepsie officials and patriot warships were being threatened by loyalists, so-called Tories. Continue reading
In the first continental war, the French and Indian War, America fought with the British and against the French. That war was then followed by two others where “We the People” were not good, proud, loyal subjects of British king. We even allied with France against England. Imagine that!
The initial focus was on New York City. At that time, it was limited to southern Manhattan There the statue of King George would be toppled following a reading of the new Declaration of Independence in one of the iconic moments of the war. The remains of the statue would be smelted into bullets to be used against the King’s troops. Later, the sudden appearance of the British armada was a true “shock and awe” experience for the city. The Revolution was nearly nipped in the bud as a providential fog enabled Washington to cross the East River on August 29, 1776. Continue reading
Scholars divide time into periods in an effort to make history comprehensible, but when to draw the diving line can be problematical and historians often disagree where one period ends and another begins.
For the birth of the nation, I am using the end of the colonial period, roughly from the French and Indian War to the end of the War of 1812. The colonial era for me was the time of the settlement of the 13 colonies which would become the United States. That process began in Jamestown and ended approximately 130 years later in Georgia. Up until then individual colonies, notably New York, Massachusetts / New England, and Virginia, dominate the curriculum, scholarship, and tourism, with only passing references to the Quakers in Pennsylvania and the Dutch in New York. Continue reading
Peacefully sharing a space-time continuum does not come easily to our species. The challenge of doing so was played out in colonial New Amsterdam/New York in the 17th and 18th centuries especially from Albany and Schenectady westward throughout the Mohawk Valley.
There, and north to the Champlain Valley and Canada, multiple peoples who had not yet become two-dimensional cliches struggled to dominate, share, and survive in what became increasingly contentious terrain. Battles were fought, settlements were burned, and captives were taken, again and again.
By the 19th century, much of that world had vanished save for the novels of James Fenimore Cooper. By the 20th century, that world existed in state historic sites, historical societies and local museums, Hollywood, and at times in the state’s social studies curriculum. Continue reading
I’ve been researching the Hasbrouck Family for close to twenty years. During that time, I’ve spent most of my time exploring and writing about Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck. His home, located in Newburgh, is famous for being the headquarters of General George Washington from 1782-1783 and today it’s a state historic site.
An often overlooked member of this family is Jonathan’s oldest brother, Abraham. During his long life, Abraham kept a diary and because of this journal, we know a lot about Jonathan and his family, as well as the events (and even notable weather) of his time. Continue reading
A 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
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
Once upon a time many years ago, there was no tourism in America. And then there was. And the place where tourism began was here in New York State especially along the Hudson Valley.
The tourist explosion combined the artistic explosion generated by people like Irving, Cooper, and Cole along with technological developments like the steamship all New York State developments…and peace with England helped too!
Saratoga helped create this tourist boom. Continue reading
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