Tag Archives: Saratoga County

Company Wants to Mine Fort Anne Battlefield


By on

2 Comments

A battle is brewing in Fort Ann, Washington County. Troy Topsoil has purchased part of Battle Hill, the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Fort Anne. The company hopes to mine the battlefield, where an estimated 100 to 200 men were killed, wounded, or captured.

A group of historians and volunteers has planned a day of events to highlight the history of the Battle of Fort Anne, including an afternoon roundtable discussion on the current threat to the battlefield this Saturday, April 28th at Fort Ann Central School.

“This place has remained undisturbed for over 235 years, then Troy [Topsoil] obtained the property and has cleared out trees, built roads, installed culverts and drilled wells, in order to operate a sand and gravel pit,” Fort Ann Town Historian Virginia Parrott, who opposes the project, told me, “To most people in town including the Fort Ann American Legion Post 703, this is a desecration of sacred ground as people have fought and died here in the name of freedom, and are buried on Battle Hill.” [You can read more about the history of Battle Hill here].

“That whole hill is a battle site,” Parrott had previously told the Glens Falls Post-Star. “There was thousands of troops there. We’re not talking about a little group of soldiers … like Roger’s Rangers that went out with 10 or 12 people. We’re talking about Burgoyne’s entire army.”

Anthony Grande, speaking for the mining company, said an archaeologist report commissioned by his company showed no one was buried in the area targeted for the open pit mine. “The battlefield is south of me where there is an issue,” Grande told the Post-Star. “It’s definitely south of there, probably 3,000 to 4,000 feet. I’m not exactly sure.” The company is seeking to open a 30 to 40-acre mine on Battle Hill.

Several historic sources report that at least six men are buried at Battle Hill according to Parrott, who has been town historian since 1975. The site has never been listed on state or national registers of historic places, although the Town of Fort Anne installed a plaque at the site in 1929 and the American Legion places flowers on one of the graves each year. The lack of established protection for important American battlefields is common. “Of the nation’s 243 Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields, 141 have been severely impaired or destroyed” a recent report by the Department of Interior’s American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) concluded (2007).

Battle Hill was classified as a Principal Battlefield, Priority 2, Class C site in that report, meaning that it was home to a “nationally significant event” and the “site of a military or naval action that influenced the strategy, direction, or outcome of a campaign or other operation.” Furthermore, the report found that “The endangered Class C sites in this category should be the focus of immediate and direct preservation measures by state and local governments and organizations. These sites may not survive without immediate intervention.”

Tanya Grossett, surveyed the battlefield in 2001 for that report and concluded, with help of Jim Warren of NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and Chris Martin of NYS Archives and Records Administration, that the quarry does fall within the core of the battlefield. Paul Hawke, director of the American Battlefield Protection Program concurred with that finding after a tour of the site last Tuesday.

The land is owned by Gino Vona. According to a story last week in Post-Star, “Vona said he’s offered to donate a small sliver of the site, about 20 or 30 acres, for preservation and he questions whether stalling a project that could create jobs, for the sake of historic preservation, is an appropriate governmental move.”

“These men fought against the king who was taking their things. Many of them were just regular, hard-working people,” Vona told Post-Star reporter Jon Alexander, “Aren’t we talking about doing the same thing?”

The company had applied for a permit to mine the location in August 2009 which did not include a state Historic Preservation Office review and was denied. The company submitted a new application at the end of 2011. The public will be able to comment on the project officially after the application is ruled complete by the NYS Department of Conservation.

The event on Saturday is sponsored by the Washington County Historical Society and will feature Author Karl Crannell, Fort Ticonderoga Chris Fox, Kingsbury historian Paul Loding, and Matt Zembo from Hudson Valley Community College.

The event will begin run from 11 am to 4 pm. There will be a memorial service at Noon; the roundtable discussion will follow at 1 pm at the Fort Ann Central School Auditorium.

New Social Studies Curriculum: The Time to Act is Now


By on

0 Comments

Bruce Dearstyne’s recent post, Historical Societies: Getting Past Hard Times, raises a number of disturbing issues. The story of the tribulations of the Saratoga County Historical Society is one of concern. The Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education (IHARE) has had several Teacherhostels / Historyhostels in Saratoga County mostly relating to the Battle of Saratoga and also in Waterford. Last summer as part of a Teaching American History grant, a group of teachers from Vermont stayed in Clifton Park while learning about the battle. I have had email exchanges with Brookside’s Executive Director Joy Houle about the possibility of having a Saratoga County History Conference there as was done in the Hudson Valley. Continue reading

Black History Month at Saratoga Battlefield


By on

0 Comments

In February 2012, Saratoga National Historical Park, located between Rt. 4 and Rt. 32 just north of the Village of Stillwater, will offer a free, month-long highlight exhibit on Agrippa Hull, a black soldier who fought in the Battle of Saratoga. And from 1:30 to 3:30 PM on Sunday, February 12, 2012, the Park presents a special free program, “Men of African Descent at the Battle of Saratoga.”

This special exhibit focuses on the Agrippa Hull, a black soldier who fought in the Battle of Saratoga. Hull, who was a slave in early life, fought in the American Revolution and eventually became a very successful businessman. Historical documentation on his life and family gives us a unique look into an ordinary soldier and extraordinary man.

The program on Sunday the 19th unveils new information about free and enslaved black soldiers fighting in the Battle of Saratoga. Among the fascinating findings is the racial integration in the ranks of the Continental Army, a situation that did not happen again until the Korean War.

For more information about this or other events, please call the Visitor Center at 518-664-9821 or check the park website at www.nps.gov/sara.

Illustration: Agrippa Hull.

Recent Publications: New York Archives Magazine (Winter 2012)


By on

0 Comments

New York Archives is a beautifully designed quarterly magazine featuring articles for a popular audience by distinguished authors, scholars, and journalists. New York Archives is published by the Archives Partnership Trust primarily as a benefit of membership in the Trust. Visit www.nysarchivestrust.org to become a member.

The Winter 2012 issue of New York Archives features these articles: Continue reading

A New Contributer: Saratoga Historian Sean Kelleher


By on

1 Comment

Please join all of us here at New York History in welcoming our newest contributor Sean Kelleher. Kelleher is the Historian for the Town of Saratoga and Village of Victory in the Upper Hudson Valley. He has a particular interest in colonial history, being active as a reenactor for 34 years and has served as a Commissioner on the New York State French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemoration Commission.

Kelleher worked for a decade at a public television station, in addition to assisting on documentaries for PBS’s American Experience and the BBC. As an educator, he was a New Hampshire Council for the Social Studies Executive Board member and the Director of the New Hampshire Teacher Training Institute for Character and Citizenship Education. As a historian, he served as the Director of the Washington County Fair Farm Museum, and has designed a number of interpretive panels in his community. As a consultant, he has worked with a number of Champlain, Hudson and Mohawk Valleys historic sites on grant writing, interpretive planning, and marketing.

He writes about colonial history, the upper Hudson River, commemorations, and history education.

Saratoga Battlefield’s 17th Annual Frost Faire


By on

0 Comments

The 17th annual Frost Faire will take place from 10:30am to 3pm on Saturday, January 28 at Saratoga National Historical Park, located on Routes 4 and 32 in Stillwater. Popular in the 1700s, a “Frost Faire” eased the effects of “cabin fever” with opportunities to visit friends and enjoy winter activities, refreshments and entertainment.

If there’s snow, participants can bring their snow tube or plastic sled for rides on the “Big Hill.” Even if there is no snow, you can still enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides, winter nature treks, contra-dancing, special exhibits, games, plus cocoa and cookies by the bonfire. The event is free.

At Stop One — snow tubing the “Big Hill” (snow tubes/plastic sleds/toboggans only), bonfire, horse-drawn carriage rides and games including Giant Soldier Puzzle, Ice Bowling and Bottle Fishing, warming tent with cocoa and cookies. 12 noon: Winter Nature Hike with hidden treasures and prizes – open to all.

At the visitor center — contra-dancing, colonial handwriting demonstration, children’s craft room including decorative tin piercing and copper embossing, bonfire, cannon and musket firing demonstrations every half hour. 10:30am – Guided Snow-Shoe Trek by reservation only – call 664.9821 ext. 219 or email: megan_stevens@nps.gov

This event is sponsored by the Town of Stillwater and Saratoga National Historical Park. For more information on this or other events at Saratoga National Historical Park, call the Visitor Center at 518-664-9821 ext. 224 or check their website.

Auto Museum Offers Pinewood Derby Clinic


By on

0 Comments

The Saratoga Auto Museum will be holding a workshop for area Cub Scouts on the science involved in building a winning Pinewood Derby Car. The event, which will take place on January 7, 2012 at the Museum (110 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs), will begin at 1:00 pm and include Tech Talk (The physics of speed), Speed Shop, and Track Time.

To participate in the full event, preregistration is required and will be limited to the first 40 registrants. Each registration includes a pinewood derby car kit with regulation axles and wheels which will be assembled during the Speed Shop segment. Once the cars are completed, a weigh in will precede a series of heat races on the SAM’s Garage Pinewood Derby Track.

Registration fee for the event is $10.00 and will include a car kit and Museum admission for the scout and an adult, so participants should come early to check out the “Porsche: 60 Years of Speed and Style in North America” exhibit before the Pinewood Derby event begins.

Participation in the Tech Talk and Track Time segments is also open to Cub Scouts who have previously completed their car and just want to join in the fun.

For registration, visit www.saratogaautomuseum.org and click on the Pinewood Derby link.

Photo: Pinewood Article from 1954 Boy’s Life magazine. Hat tip PinewoodPro.com.

Grant to Fund Saratoga Sword Surrender Sculpture


By on

0 Comments

The Friends of Saratoga Battlefield have been awarded a $38,000 grant from the Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Trust for the design and fabrication of a classic brass or bronze bas relief sculpture replicating the famous painting by John Trumbull (1756–1843) celebrating the Revolutionary War victory at Saratoga. It is expected to be a major part of the cultural landscape development of the historic “Sword Surrender Site” on the west side of Route 4 just south of Schuylerville.

Friends’ President Tim Holmes said, “The Solomon Trust grant will jump-start the magnificent cultural landscape plan by Saratoga Associates for this key historic site recently purchased and protected by the Open Space Institute. With our many partners we will commence the first stages of development to include a memorial wall, interpretive kiosk and a sculptural bas-relief of John Trumbull’s iconic painting The Surrender of General Burgoyne which stands in the U.S. Capitol as one of four scenes depicting the birth of American independence.”

The historic 19-acre site is where British General John Burgoyne surrendered his sword to American General Horatio Gates in 1777, marking the “Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War.” It will be a key feature for heritage tourism in the area, linking Saratoga Battlefield to sites in Schuylerville and Victory where the British retreated before their surrender. A broad alliance is raising awareness of the impact of the
Battles of Saratoga on the region. It is being advanced by the Historic Saratoga-Washington on the Hudson Partnership, an entity created through cooperative action in the State Senate and Assembly to support local efforts through a voluntary framework of public and private groups.

The scene of the surrender of the British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga on October 17, 1777, painted by Trumbull in 1822, shows American General Horatio Gates, who refused to take the sword offered by General Burgoyne, and, treating him as a gentleman, invited him into his tent. All of the figures in the scene are portraits of specific officers (from left to right, beginning with mounted officer):

American Captain Seymour of Connecticut (mounted)
American Colonel Scammel of New Hampshire (in blue)
British Major General William Phillips (British Army officer) (in red)
British Lieutenant General John Burgoyne (in red)
American Major General Horatio Gates (in blue)
Americal Colonel Daniel Morgan (in white)

A full key to those depicted in the painting is available here.

John Trumbull was born in Connecticut, the son of the governor. After graduating from Harvard University, he served in the Continental Army under General Washington. He studied painting with Benjamin West in London and focused on history painting.

To find out more about the grant or the Friends of Saratoga Battlefield, call Tim Holmes at 518.587.9499

Book Features Saratoga Race Course History


By on

0 Comments

In the early 1800s, Saratoga Springs was a destination for its natural mineral waters and their healing powers. But that changed in 1863 with the opening of the Saratoga Race Course. From then on, summers in the Spa City came alive with the excitement of the “sport of kings.” Since the victory of the great horse Kentucky in the introductory Travers Stakes, the racecourse has showcased the sport’s greatest champions. Otherwise seemingly uncatchable thoroughbreds — including Man o’ War and Secretariat — faced unexpected defeat on its turf, earning Saratoga the nickname the “Graveyard of Champions.”

In Saratoga Race Course: The August Place to Be (History Press, 2011), author Kimberly Gatto chronicles the story of the oldest thoroughbred racetrack in the country, with tales of the famous people and horses that contributed to its illustrious history.

Gatto begins the book with a brief history of racing in New York beginning with the old Newmarket track at Belmont, and the Union Course, and moving toward the early expansion of racing across New York state. She offers a look at Saratoga Springs itself, and Irishman John “Old Smoke” Morrissey who built the track and nearby casino which also still stands as a local historical society.

Through the rest of the book, Gatto describes many of the great horses that have competed at Saratoga, including short histories of the major stakes races. She begins with the Travers Stakes, first run in 1864 and America’s first major stakes race.

A chapter is devoted to Man o’War and in later chapters relates the stories of Gallant Fox, Seabiscuit, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Native Dancer, Nashua, Jaipur and Ridan, Kelso. Gatto devotes a chapter to Secretariat and Ruffian. Later chapters cover Timely Writer, Lady’s Secret, Personal Ensign, Fourstardave, Lonesome Glory, Point Given, Commentator, and Rachel Alexandra.

Accompanying the text are recent color and black and white archival photos and illustrations by Allison Pareis. An appendix includes every winner of the Travers, Alabama, and Whitney, with jockey, trainer, owner, and running time.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.