I recently returned from the 35th annual conference on New York State History in Poughkeepsie, which I attended for the first time. I understand this was the largest convocation of history professionals in New York State, and that the attendance at this conference was the highest ever. As my perspective and background is perhaps slightly different from most attendees at the conference, I feel it appropriate to provide certain observations.
Unfortunately, while others at the conference were somewhat more upbeat, my perception is that for the reasons set forth below there is at all levels an appalling lack of knowledge about critical elements of the history of New York State, and that we as a society suffer from this lack of knowledge every day. While I believe there are individuals in the history community who are in good faith seeking to address this problem, I am not sure that the efforts are close to adequate.
American Heritage Living History Productions and the Historical Society of Rockland County have teamed up to offer: “Drums Along the Mohawk” overnight, guided bus tour. This attraction dense trip occurs on Saturday August 9th and Sunday August 10th, 2014.
There will be two convenient departure and return points that take you to 12 upstate New York locations. The on-board guide, step-on guides, and off-bus docents will add rich commentary to enhance the factual aspects of the story. Continue reading
New York was an object of great importance during the American Revolution. At the kick off of the Path through History project in August 2012, plenary speaker Ken Jackson, Columbia University, criticized New York for its inadequate efforts to tell its story compared to what Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts are doing. He welcomed the opportunity that New York finally was going to get it right.
By coincidence, at the New York History community roundtable convened by Assemblyman Englebright several weeks ago in connection with his proposed New York History Commission, he began with a similar plea for New York to tell its story as well as those same states Jackson had mentioned 20 months earlier. He was particularly incensed over the new TV show Turn about America’s first spy ring set in the very community he represents. Continue reading
The Revolutionary War spy drama “Turn” on the AMC cable TV network is a much fictionalized version of the activities of a real life American patriot, Ben Tallmadge who headed the “Culper Spy Ring” based on Long Island.
However, Westchester and the surrounding counties of Dutchess, Orange and Putnam have their own connection to Revolutionary War espionage story in the persons of John Jay, Elijah Hunter, and Enoch Crosby. Continue reading
Brian Kilmeade has done historians on Long Island a great favor. With his latest book, George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution (Sentinel, 2013), co-authored by Don Yaeger and currently one of the top-selling non-fiction books in the country, he has focused national attention on the role played by the Culper Spy Ring that operated between New York City and Setauket, bringing information about British plans and troop movements across Long Island Sound to Connecticut and on to General Washington.
Using his bully pulpits on Fox & Friends, carried on Fox News Channel daily from 6 AM to 9 AM, and his nationally syndicated radio program, Kilmeade & Friends, from 9 AM to noon, he has elevated the nation’s awareness of the significance of Long Island to the outcome of the American Revolution.
Their story unfolds seamlessly, with well-written descriptions of General Washington’s loss of New York after the Battle of Long Island that set the stage for Washington’s desperate need for information, and ending with Morton Pennypacker’s handwriting analysis that identified Robert Townsend as the key information gatherer. But there’s the rub: Kilmeade and Yaeger have spun more than one story here. This non-fiction book hovers dangerously close to the side of fiction. Continue reading
Fort Ticonderoga Museum’s first clothing exhibition in over a quarter century opened in May and brings together a remarkable collection of historical military garments, accessories, and artworks.
The exhibit, entitled Founding Fashion: The Diversity of Regularity in 18th-Century Military Clothing, explores how European military fashion and global commerce influenced American martial appearance throughout the American Revolution. Continue reading
Fort Ticonderoga’s 2014 Author Series continues on Sunday, June 8, with Stephen Darley, author of The Battle of Valcour Island: The Participants and Vessels of Benedict Arnold’s 1776 Defense of Lake Champlain.
In his new book about the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, Steve Darley includes a roster of 448 officers and men who participated, the names and personal history of 16 captains of the American vessels on the lake in 1776, as well as first hand accounts in letters, journals, memoirs, and pension applications that tell this amazing story of a Lake Champlain battle. No such comprehensive information has been published before. It contains a description of all of the American vessels in the battle as well as the story of how the first vessels of the American fleet were obtained and how the last group of vessels were destroyed or captured in 1777. Continue reading
Brown’s Brewing Company in Hoosick Falls and Troy, NY, has brewed a special beer in tribute to the Germans that served at the Battle of Bennington which took place in the Town of Hoosick in 1777 during the American Revolutionary War.
The historic Braunschweigers Mumme Ale is a dark, spicy beer created in the late 1400s in the German province of Braunschweig in what is now Lower Saxony, home of Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum and his elite regiment of mounted infantrymen called Dragoons. Continue reading
Oh, dear. What a disappointment. Many who were thrilled by the news that the AMC Channel was creating “Turn”, a television series to tell the true story of George Washington’s Long Island spy ring were startled to see glaring inaccuracies depicted, from the opening scene on April 6th.
Had the writers not pinned the names of historic figures onto their characters, and instead developed a script of pure fiction about spying, adultery, gratuitous violence and traitorous generals during the American Revolution, one could sit back with feet up and relax with escapist fantasy. No problem. But – when a producer and a network advertise a program as “a true story,” and then proceed not only to bend the truth but, on occasion, to break it across their knees, and when “real” characters bear no resemblance to their flesh and blood namesakes, it is time to protest. Continue reading
Dr. Michael P. Gabriel, author of The Battle of Bennington: Soldiers & Civilians, will be giving a short presentation as part of the Road to the Battle of Bennington Inaugural Event to be held at Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site on Saturday June 7 from 2- 4 p.m.
The Path Through History Weekend event celebrates the inauguration of an interpretive driving route that follows the ill-fated excursion of German Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum to Bennington Battlefield in 1777, during the American Revolutionary War. Continue reading
Following a successful debut in 2013, the Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama is expanding its performance schedule to four shows for 2014 at Gelston Castle Estate, 980 Robinson Road, Mohawk, NY.
Kyle Jenks, the writer and producer of Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama used the plotline from the famous novel Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds and adapted it for the outdoor stage. Continue reading
The road once traveled to a battle that set the stage for America¹s victory in the Revolutionary War will be the focal point of a special event on Saturday, June 7.
The grand opening of the Road to the Battle of Bennington will also introduce an interpretive driving tour featuring a Lakes to Locks Passage mobile application. Continue reading
Organizations with deep roots in Lower Manhattan have come together to once again bring the celebration of July 4th to Lower Manhattan. Their efforts reflect Founding Father John Adam’s original admonition back in 1776 that the day of our independence be celebrated forever more in ways that will appeal to all Americans.
More than two hundred years ago Independence Day celebrations in Lower Manhattan helped give rise to the American government. More than a hundred years ago July 4th celebrations were the vehicle by which thousands of new immigrants to America learned about this country and its history. This year, the July 4th Festival Committee, a coalition of institutions, individuals, and organizations with an interest in Lower Manhattan and its history, intends to revive the American spirit by returning to Lower Manhattan’s roots with patriot celebrations. Continue reading
Architect Robert Dadras is quick to admit that when he helped conceive the idea of an Architectural-Historical Bus Tour back in 1996, he wasn’t at all sure it would catch on.
“There were comments like, where will you ever find architecture in Sullivan County?” he recalls.
The fact that cities from Miami, Florida and Greensboro, North Carolina to Chicago, Illinois and Toronto, Canada had successfully used similarly constructed tours to boost tourism and economic development did not make it any easier to sell the idea locally, Dadras concedes, at the same time relishing the fact that this year’s tour will be his nineteenth. Continue reading
The Memorial Day weekend brings the start of the 2014 season at the Chimney Point, Mount Independence, and Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Sites. The sites open on Saturday, May 24, at 9:30 a.m. and starting at 8:00 a.m. is the annual Early Bird Nature Walk at Mount Independence.
These sites preserve and present Vermont’s significant history in their museums and on their historic grounds. There are also State Historic Sites on the New York State side of Lake Champlain, but they almost never issue announcements to the press. Continue reading
A new book by Dave Richards, Swords in Their Hands: George Washington and the Newburgh Conspiracy (Pisgah Press, 2014) is being hailed as the first book-length account of a plot that can be described as the closest thing to a coup that the United States has ever experienced.
In late 1782, many Revolutionary War officers in the Hudson Highlands had grown angry and frustrated that they had not been paid—for months or even years. With victory in sight, they feared they might never get their back pay and promised pensions, because the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia under the Articles of Confederation, had no authority to raise money. Nationalists wanted Congress to have direct taxation authority, while their opponents insisted that only individual states should have that power. Continue reading
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