On September 11, 1814 a critical battle of the War of 1812 was fought. The land and naval Battle of Plattsburgh led to the Treaty of Ghent that ended one of the few wars fought on United States soil. Wednesday afternoon, Plattsburgh officials outlined plans for this year’s annual commemoration.
Winston Churchill called the Battle of Plattsburgh the “most decisive engagement of the war” and Theodore Roosevelt found the naval altercation on Plattsburgh Bay the “greatest naval battle” of the War of 1812. Every year the city of Plattsburgh commemorates it with reenactments, a parade and various activities. Commemoration co-founder Kit Booth: "Right here in Plattsburgh on Cumberland Bay the British navy was defeated. Why is that important? Because the whole idea of the whole British attack on the United States at that time was to go down Lake Champlain and control that. That was the main north-south supply line. They’d go right on down to New York City. They’d take all of New England. Obviously that didn’t happen. In a couple of hours right here on Lake Champlain the whole war was finished, over. And it led to the Treaty of Ghent which was signed on December 24th of 1814.”
Over the years the Battle of Plattsburgh commemoration has expanded its focus to include the land battles. Co-founder Gary VanCour said while the naval engagement was the definitive fight, the British Army had marched from Canada, and one of the commemorations will be held north of Plattsburgh at one of the first battle sites. “The most vicious battle was on the lake on September 11th. But the bloodiest day for the British army was September 6th. Now there was no way that the American forces could withstand this powerhouse. But there were some attempts to at least slow them down. And they took their stand on a little knoll called Culver Hill. And so on September 12th we will have our what almost is now an annual memorial ceremony at Culver Hill Park which is just north of the city at 11:00.”
It will be a busy time for reenactors as they portray the British and American soldiers and militia. Chair P.J. Miller describes a few the planned events. “On Saturday September 14th at 10 a.m. will be the defense of the bridge reenactment. We’ll be having a court martial. You’ll have to come and see the judgment. On Sunday will be the Fall of the British Batteries reenactment which will be a new one this year. It is in the field adjacent to Wilcox Dock. There will be artillery, soldiers with muskets and possibly even bateau in the lake firing at everyone. By the end of the week this week there will be posters out and they will feature a proclamation offering a free pardon to all deserters from the British army.”
Every year, fourth-graders from across the region submit drawings in a Battle of Plattsburgh poster contest. The winner’s image becomes the design for the annual button. Nine-year-old Elena Recor from Beekmantown Elementary School won. “I love it. I’m so happy. I don’t know. This is kind of the happiest moment in my life.”
Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration events begin Wednesday, September 11th.