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Battle of Plattsburgh organizers announce this year’s commemoration schedule

An American takes aim at British invaders during a 2013 Battle of Plattsburgh reenactment
Pat Bradley
An American takes aim at British invaders during a 2013 Battle of Plattsburgh reenactment

In two months, the Plattsburgh region will commemorate a battle on Lake Champlain that helped lead to the end of the War of 1812.

On September 11, 1814 British warships engaged a small American fleet at Cumberland Bay on Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh. At the same time 11,000 British troops moved south from Canada to engage about 3,000 American soldiers in the Plattsburgh area. The British lost the battles, influencing negotiations leading to the Treaty of Ghent ending the war.

The annual commemoration in Plattsburgh will occur this year from September 11th through the 15th.

Organizers were at City Hall to announce this year’s schedule and the winner of a poster contest.

This year a contest among fourth-graders in Clinton and Essex Counties was held to design the event poster and button. Since 1998 students have been asked to create a picture of what they think the Battle of Plattsburgh looked like. More than 200 students entered this year.

1814 Commemoration Education Committee Chair Linda Ward says it’s an important way to promote local history in schools.

“Initally the children were able to have an easier time interpreting history because they actually learned the history,” said Ward. “It was part of the New York state curriculum to include local history. So we decided that we really needed to make a stand and get into the schools.”

Following the poster awards, 1814 Commemoration President Tom Donahue highlighted the upcoming events.

“On the 11th all the museums are all open with Battle of Plattsburgh information on what happened here back in 1814,” Donahue said. “And also on the 11th, which happens every year on the 11th, is the ceremony out on Crab Island. If you have a personal watercraft you can go out on the island, but there is no actual transportation out there. But you can see the event from the new Battlefield Memorial Gateway.”

Crab Island is the burial site of both American and British soldiers who died during the battle.

Donahue adds traditional ceremonies honoring soldiers at the Riverside Cemetery are planned. Musical festivities will occur in the downtown including a free concert on the steps of City Hall. A tribute to the Honor Flight and veterans is planned along with a parade and fireworks.

“Reenactors are back with encampments. And a big part of our weekend is to do with the kids. Many, many hands on things for the kids,” Donahue said. “Rotary is back with their celebrity bed race. And this year we have the parade with the theme of ships, boats and buggies.”

Donahue believes it’s critical to remember the Battle of Plattsburgh and its significance to American history.

“What happened here in back in 1814 laid the basis for us being the United States today. If we had lost that battle most likely the British would have gone right through to New York and we’d be speaking with a British accent right now,” said Donahue. “So, making people aware of what happened here in Plattsburgh and the importance of it, you know. People they talk about the battle of this and the battle of that. But very seldom do they talk about the Battle of Plattsburgh. It’s up to us to get that word out to people and not to let it die.”

The 1814 Commemoration is also working with the 4H of Clinton County to develop a program to get youth interested in becoming reenactors.

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