Much of America’s story was forged on domestic battlefields. Were it not for the early American revolutionaries and the sacrifices they made, we might be singing “God Save the Queen” instead of “God Bless America” today. Nearly one third of the Revolutionary War’s battles and skirmishes were fought in New York State, as was much of the French and Indian War and the War of 1812. Visits to some of these wartime heritage sites are stirring and bittersweet, as they represent not only glory, but human heartache as well. Inspiration and admiration for those who fought and died for our freedom can be experienced at these historic, New York State locations.
Lake Champlain, N.Y.
The French and Indian War marked the last Colonial conflict fought in America, concurrent with the Seven Years War which was raging throughout much of Europe. The whispered, local dissent voiced by the Colonists created the backdrop upon which English and French forces battled for North American domination. The French & Indian War marked the beginning of an open period of hostility between America and Britain and the road to revolution. The site of multiple battles spanning the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, Fort Ticonderoga was the outpost guarding the water way which connected New France with the British American colonies, and for this reason, was pivotal. The country that controlled Ticonderoga would subsequently run the continent entire. Today, Fort Ticonderoga is the site of living history programs and museum exhibitions that include magnificent artwork, examples of weaponry and historic gardens.
Battle of Saratoga
Saratoga National Historic Park
Considered to be the turning point of the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Saratoga was comprised of two pivotal encounters of Patriot and British forces in September and October of 1777. The Battle of Saratoga served as the catalyst for France’s entry into the war against Britain, supplying not only much needed supplies to the Patriots, but also a boost in morale and emotional resources. Still acknowledged as one of the 15 most decisive battles ever fought in world history, the Battle of Saratoga is commemorated at this site, where American independence became undeniable.
This is the site where the man who would be king announced Armistice and determined he would opt to be president, instead. George Washington’s time in Newburgh was one spent in deep reflection and much of what was discussed and decided upon within these walls influenced the Constitution and shaped the country we ultimately became. Comprised of several historic buildings, Washington’s Headquarters near the Hudson River is the site of a picnic area, museum, tours and special events today.
Sacket’s Harbor Battlefield
Sacket’s Harbor, N.Y.
When the War of 1812 erupted between the United States and Great Britain, Sackets Harbor was handily positioned as the epicenter of naval and military activity, as well as forming an imposing barrier to smuggling between New York and Canada. Here a massive ship fleet was constructed from local forests and thousands of sailors, soldiers and workers called the docks along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario home. Today, the Battlefield site educates visitors through reenactments of military life, self-guided tours, restorations and exhibits.
United States Military Academy at West Point
West Point, N.Y.
No battles have been fought on the grounds of West Point, but this post which is the oldest, continuously occupied military installation in the United States, has been the training ground for military leaders since 1802. The Point is situated up high on scenic grounds, overlooking the majestic Hudson River. The entire main campus is a national landmark and includes many historic buildings, monuments and the West Point Cemetery, the stated mission of which is to deliver the final salute to those who served.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.