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North Country News

Organizers Announce Plans For Upcoming Battle Of Plattsburgh Commemoration

The Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration is one of the signature events in northern New York’s largest city. Organizers have introduced the schedule for next month’s event and are increasing efforts to engage and excite young people about the historical event.

The Battle of Plattsburgh occurred on September 11, 1814.  Both on land and on Lake Champlain, it was  a defining moment in the War of 1812.  More than 10,000 British troops advanced into New York from Canada hoping to make their way to New York City and divide the nation.  But 25 miles south of the border the British army and naval fleets clashed with the much smaller American forces and the British plans were dashed.

Author Vincent Puliafico is a re-enactor who portrays John Quincy Adams.  He held up a copy of the signature page of the Treaty of Ghent.   “We should all be proud of this Battle of Plattsburgh because it really had a huge impact on the negotiations at the Treaty of Ghent.  When the news was received there the envoys were struggling with this problem of the White House being burned. I’m going to give a talk on how that news affected the negotiators.  I’ll do that by using John Quincy Adams’ letters that he wrote and his diary. I think the War of 1812 was won by the Battle of Plattsburgh.”

A grand and junior encampment will be held at the Kent-Delord House Museum according to Director Don Wickman.  “One of the special things that’s going on is the re-enactor encampment on the grounds of the Kent-Delord House. The British occupied that during the Battle of Plattsburgh.  Re-enactors get very excited about being able to camp on the same ground.  And for the third year running now on Saturday at the Kent-Delord House the junior encampment. It is growing. It’s hands on.  That’s when you get kids interested.”

Enchanting children with history is a theme running through many events.  Retired Plattsburgh Library Director Stan Ransom has researched the types of games that children played in 1814.   “We have come up with more than 40 games that were played.  Some are not played at the present except in places like this. We’ll have sack races, Shut the Box, Game of Graces, stilts, hoops, marbles, jacks, tops, all kinds of things going on. This will help the kids to get a feeling for what it was like to be a young person back in 1814.”

There are events solely for adults.  Plattsburgh Superintendent of Recreation Steve Peters describes the new Foolish Bravado Rum Run.   “One of the things that we’ve always found with the Battle of Plattsburgh is trying to get people today to relate to how it was over 200 years ago.  And so one of the things we’d like to do is help tell a story about Aiken’s Volunteers.  Aikens’ Volunteers were a group of boys between 14 and 16 years old who had volunteered to fight in the land battle and by all accounts had proven to be incredibly valuable.  One of the things that they did that we thought was really cool was during the night of the battle they were on the British now side of the river. They had found their way into a barn where they knew alcohol was stashed.  They were stealing the alcohol and were discovered by British soldiers.  So they ran back across the river under cover fire of their buddies.  So they’re getting shot at with booze under their arms running across the river.  Somehow I feel that most of us can relate to that level of mischievousness.  So we wanted to bring that out with what we call the Foolish Bravado Rum Run.  Runners are going to cross the foot bridge across the river up to Wilcox Dock.  There’ll a stash of rum there that they’re going to have grab, turn around, and run back with.  But there’s a catch.”

Mayor James Calnon noted that while there was a focus last year on the Battle of Plattsburgh’s bicentennial, it has grown to become part of the culture of the city.   “One of the really simple byproducts of that is the new mural that just got painted over here. That just comes from a real recognition of the importance of what went on.  The community really now understands and accepts that our history is such a huge part of what were are today and why we are such an attractive place to live and to work and to play.”

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