Rogers Island in Fort Edward (Washington County) is offering a walking tour on Thursday, June 28, at 7 pm. This event, open to the public free of charge, is hosted by the Old Saratoga Historical Association.
Exhibits at the Visitors Center, opened in 2001, highlight the history of the Fort Edward area from the earliest Native Americans through the Revolutionary War. According to the Rogers Island website, “Fort Edward and adjacent Rogers Island was once the third largest ‘-city’ in colonial North America.” The site continues, “The history that was made from this place at the bend in the Hudson River in the 1750s would lay the foundations for the nation that would be born two decades later.”
There are picnic tables for those who would like to enjoy supper at the Visitors Center before the 7 pm tour begins. Sturdy shoes are advised for the walking tour of the island. Rogers Island is just off Route 197 (Bridge Street) between the two bridges just west of Route 4. For more information call Historical Association president Deb Peck Kelleher, 698-3211 or visit the website, www.rogersisland.org.
On Saturday an event in Fort Ann, Washington County will highlight Battle Hill, the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Fort Anne. A company has plans to mine the battlefield, where an estimated 100 to 200 men were killed, wounded, or captured, and a group of local historians and volunteers has come together to oppose the plan. You can read more about the mining threat to the battlefield and the planned event here, but I thought a look at the importance of the Battle of Fort Anne was worth a look.
The story of Fort Anne’s Battle Hill really begins about 30 miles north at Fort Ticonderoga. Read more →
A living history event at Fort Ticonderoga highlighting Major Robert Rogers and the Battle of Snowshoes will be held on Saturday, March 10 from 10 am – 4 pm. Visitors will be able to encounter the French Garrison in the middle of winter inside Fort Ticonderoga and tour through opposing pickets of British rangers and French soldiers adapted to frontier, winter warfare. At 1 pm on Saturday, visitors will experience the hectic tree to tree fighting in a recreated battle during which the rangers make a stand against superior numbers, only to retreat through the deep woods. Visitors will be invited to tour Fort Ticonderoga as it appeared in the winter of 1758, meet the French and Indians who overwhelmed Roger’s experienced woodsmen, and see how native and French soldiers survived the deep winter at this remote military post. More adventurous visitors can take a hike led by a historic interpreter through the opposed pickets of soldiers in the deep woods. In these tours visitors can see how rangers kept a vigilant watch for subtle signs that might reveal their ferocious enemy.
“The Battle on Snowshoes event recreates the savage fight between Robert Roger’s rangers, and a mixed French force of regular soldiers, milice, and allied native warriors on March 13, 1758,” said Stuart Lilie, Director of Interpretation at Fort Ticonderoga. “This event is designed to be a rich experience for both participants and visitors alike.”
Re-enactors portraying French soldiers and native allies will live inside the period furnished barracks rooms of Fort Ticonderoga. They will recreate the winter garrison for Fort Carillon, as it was known until 1759. Just as in the March of 1758 these re-enactors will sortie out from the Fort to meet and overwhelm Roger’s men.
Major Robert Rogers force of both volunteers from the 27th foot, and his own rangers headed out on an extended scout from Fort Edward along Lake George, following an attack on a similar patrol from Captain Israel Putnam’s Connecticut rangers. Hiking on snowshoes due to the three feet of snow, the tracks of Roger’s force were spotted on its march up the west side of Lake George. Near the north end of Lake George, Major Rogers, advanced scouts spotted their French counterparts. Rogers and his Rangers took up positions in a ravine, setting his force in ambuscade to await whatever French patrol would come to meet him.
The French patrol that met Roger’s men proved far larger than he imagined, and in this Battle on Snowshoes, the rangers’ ambush was itself surrounded and overwhelmed. In deep woods on deep snow, the rangers were forced to retreat with heavy casualties as the French regulars, malice, and natives pressed home their attack. Despite stands along the way, this retreat quickly became chaotic as rangers, Roger’s included, ran for their lives from superior numbers of French.
Illustration from Gary S Zaboly‘-s “A True Ranger: The Life and Many Wars of Major Robert Rogers” (Garden City Park, NY: Royal Blockhouse, 2004).
The 1776-1777 Northern Campaigns of the American War for Independence and Their Sequel: Contemporary Maps of Mainly German Origin by Thomas M. Barker and Paul R. Huey is the first, full-scale, presentation in atlas form of the two, abortive British-German invasions of New York – events crucial to understanding the rebel American victory in the War for Independence. The book includes 240 pages with 32 full-color illustrations. The bulk of the maps are from the German archives. The material has previously been little used by researchers in the United States due to linguistic and handwriting barriers. The volume includes transcriptions, translations, and detailed textual analysis of the naval and land operations of 1776 and 1777. It is written from a novel military-historical perspective, namely, British, German, loyalist, French Canadian, and First American.
The attack of Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery on Quebec City, the colonial assailants’ repulse and withdrawal to the Province of New York and the Hudson River corridor, prior actions in the adjacent St. Lawrence-Richelieu river region of Canada, the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, the forts at Crown Point and Ticonderoga, and the Battles of Bennington and Saratoga all receive detailed attention. The last section of the atlas deals with the less known, final phase of combat, in which the Britons, Germans, refugee tories, Quebec militia, and Amerindians kept the insurgents off balance by mounting numerous small-scale expeditions into New York.
The significance of the publication is highlighted by Russell Bellico, author of Sails and Steam in the Mountains: A Maritime History of Lake George and Lake Champlain. He writes that Barker’s and Huey’s tome is “a superb work of scholarship based on exhaustive research on both sides of the Atlantic.” J. Winthrop Aldrich, New York State Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation, states that the maps “are of significant help now as we continue to build our understanding of what happened in our war for independence, and why. This rediscovered treasure and the illuminating commentary and notes superbly advance that understanding.”
Dr. Thomas M. Barker is emeritus professor of history, University of Albany, State University of New York at Albany. He is the author of numerous books about European military history, especially the Habsburg monarchy, Spain, World War II as well as ethnic minority issues. Dr. Paul R. Huey is a well-known New York State historical archeologist and also has many publications to his credit. He is particularly knowledgeable about the locations of old forts, battlefields, colonial and nineteenth-century buildings, and/or their buried vestiges. He works at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation Bureau of Historic Sites office on Peebles Island in Waterford, New York. The book is co-published with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.
Two full days of free family entertainment and education are being offered at Rogers Island Visitors Center in Fort Edward this weekend, September 25 and 26. French and Indian War reenactors from across the Northeast will establish an authentic period encampment on Rogers Island along the Hudson River.
Visitors can see how the men prepared for battle, learn what the women did in the military camps, and browse through the sutlers’ tents and see the merchandise that was offered in the military camps. Enjoy the smells as meals are prepared over open camp fires and listen to stories of 18th century camp life. At the 2:00 PM military tactical each day you will hear the musket fire as troops are ambushed by the French beyond the fort and watch as the British and provincial soldiers, along with their Native American allies, hurry to their defense. With the dredging now completed around the Island four period bateau will be launched in the river and joining in the battle. “The End of the Campaign Reenactment” is this Saturday and Sunday, September 25 and 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Rogers Island Visitors Center, Route 197 (just off Route 4) in the Village of Fort Edward. Free admission. For more information call 518-747-3693.
“It’s a prime example of American folk art, probably one of the best collections of decorated stoneware in the country,” is how John Scherer, Historian Emeritus of the New York State Museum characterized the Weitsman Stoneware Collection. The over 200-piece collection was donated to the museum by Adam J. Weitsman, one of the leading collectors of 18th and 19th Century stoneware. Forty unique vessels from the collection titled Art for the People: Decorated Stoneware from the Weitsman Collection are currently on exhibit at the Albany museum’s New York Metropolis Gallery. The show was recently extended due to popular demand through the summer of 2010. “We are delighted with this collection. It attracts a lot of visitors to the museum. They are very, very impressed and almost overwhelmed by the quality of the collection,” said Scherer.
The exhibition features decorated stoneware vessels, including jugs, crocks, pitchers, jars and water coolers. The designs are considered premier examples of American folk art. Most were created in New York State and many are “presentation pieces,” oversized and often richly decorated with cobalt blue designs and folk art illustrations. Decoration tools, early pottery related graphics and photography complement the exhibit.
After the exhibition, it will become a permanent part of the New York State Museum. The collection is also the subject of a color, coffee-table format book being published by the museum that will be released this spring. The book is being funded by the generosity of Mr. Weitsman.
“We had a few important pieces of stoneware, but nowhere near the quality that Adam donated. The Weitsman Collection is supreme,” said Scherer.
Adam Weitsman collected his first piece of stoneware in 1980 at age 11 and the experience sparked his passion for the genre. Since then he acquired rare pieces at antique shows, estate sales and auctions. One example was a water cooler decorated with a portrait of a Civil War general and his wife. He purchased it at auction for $88,000 which set a record price for American stoneware at the time.
In 1996, Weitsman donated 100 pieces to the museum to ensure his collection would be preserved. From those and pieces acquired subsequently, 40 were carefully selected for the current exhibition. Most have never been publicly displayed.
Stoneware was vitally important to the development of New York State and its central role in western expansion of the country via the Hudson River, the Erie Canal and its network of feeder canals, and through the Great Lakes to the western river systems. Stoneware was in high demand for storage and preservation for things like drinking water, milk, butter, eggs, beer, ale, whisky, pickles and salted meat. Clay deposits ideal for making stoneware were found in what is now South Amboy, New Jersey, lower Manhattan and eastern Long Island. As a result, New York State became a large stoneware producer.
Potters sprang up along the Hudson River and throughout the New York State canal system making vessels of various shapes and sizes. During kiln firing, salt was applied to vessels that combined with clay silica to create a smooth, lustrous finish. Chocolate brown Albany Slip, named for where the clay was mined, was used to coat the insides of vessels. To identify or decorate the vessel, a painter applied a metallic oxide clay slip that turned a rich blue when fired. Sometimes manganese that turned purplish-brown was used. Simple identification included the makers’ mark and the vessel’s capacity. Elaborate designs and highly creative illustrations such as those found in the Weitsman Collection represent the sublime expression of this folk art period.
Historically significant of examples of stoneware from the Weitsman Collection include:
A Jar made by Paul Cushman of Albany in 1809–Weitsman acquired it from the personal collection of PBS’ Antique Road Show host Leigh Keno.
A Jug created by William Lundy & Co. of Troy, New York in the 1820s that depicts cobalt blue caricature of a merman, a male version of mermaid.
Crocks displaying a prancing zebra and a camel were inspired by the traveling circuses of the era.
A Jug displaying a fisherman with a pole on a lake signed Nathan Clark, Lyons, NY.
A Crock decorated with a Dutch or German-style church with a gambrel roof and round tower and a weather cock, signed W. A. Maquoid, Little West 12th Street, New York City.
A two-gallon crock made by Charles W. Braun of Buffalo around 1870 is decorated with what appears to be a caricature of Buffalo Bill.
A humorous long-necked gooney bird on a six-gallon water cooler made by M. Woodruff of Cortland, New York around 1860. It was acquired from the collection of Donald Shelley, former director of the Henry Ford Museum.
A highly decorated five-gallon water cooler came from the famous George S. McKearin Collection. It was created by Julius and Edward Norton of Bennington, Vermont and shows three types of decoration commonly associated with potters at Bennington, Troy and Fort Edward, New York.
One of the rarest is a six-gallon crock made by Nathan Clark & Co. of Rochester, New York in about 1845. Decorated with the mythical phoenix firebird, it was rendered in such detail that it has a three-dimensional quality.
“I emphasized to Adam how important his collection was and how important it is to New York State. He not only donated it, but also acquires new pieces every year to add to it which is wonderful for us,” Scherer concluded.
While not engaged in collecting stoneware and fine art, Mr. Weitsman is busy with his other passion as President of Upstate Shredding LLC. With numerous locations, Upstate is the largest privately owned metal processing and recycling operation on the East Coast.
Photo: Two-Gallon Jug, (c. 1815) by Israel Seymour (1784-1852) of Troy, New York. The finely incised figure of an American Indian decorates this early ovoid jug. He carries a sword in one hand and a banner with the letter T (for temperance) in the other. Some intricately decorated stoneware pieces commemorate special events and historical figures. The Indian is believed to be Handsome Lake (c. 1734-1815), the Seneca religious prophet who in 1799 began to tell his people to refrain from drinking and doing evil.
In no particular order, the Ten Biggest Stories in New York State History in 2009.
150th Anniversary of John Brown’s Death 2009 marked the 150th anniversary of abolitionist John Brown’s anti-slavery raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, his subsequent execution and the return of his body to North Elba, Essex County. To commemorate Brown’s struggle to end slavery in America, activities included lectures, a symposium, and a reenactment of the return of Brown’s body to North Elba including an overnight stay in Elizabethtown.
Archeological Discoveries It was a big year for archeological discoveries in Essex County where work on the pre-civil African American community progressed, in Lake Ontario where an 1850s Schooner was discovered, in Albany where an early 19th century cemetery was uncovered, and in Fishkill where a number of Revolutionary War era graves were found. Also, a Civil War soldier was finally returned to Saratoga National Cemetery to be reburied.
Rogers Island, Fort Edward While dredging PCBs from the Hudson River in Fort Edward a dredge struck the remains of Old Fort Edward damaging one of the most important and historic military sites in New York State. Archaeologist scrambled to asses and mitigate the damage. Another tragic event happened in November when Jeffrey Harbison, part of a 5-person archaeological crew hired by General Electric to begin research for Phase 2 of the Hudson River dredging project next summer, was drowned after going over a dam. The bad news at Rogers Island was capped with later that month when a development plan for the southern end of the island was presented.
400th Anniversary of Henry Hudson New Year’s Day 2009 marked the start of New York’s Quadricentennial celebration commemorating 400 years of history on the Hudson River, New York Harbor and Lake Champlain. Throughout the year, New York honored the 400th anniversaries of the voyage of Captain Henry Hudson, who led (for the Dutch) the first European expedition to sail up the river that now bears his name, as well as the voyage of Samuel de Champlain, the first to discover the namesake lake. Communities from the Big Apple to the Canadian border held events to highlight New York’s rich history of exploration and discovery.
Lake Champlain Bridge Demolition The Lake Champlain Bridge, built in 1929 to span between Crown Point, New York and Chimney Point, Vermont, was undergoing study to deal with it’s historic preservation when on October 16, 2009 it was closed indefinitely. In November an engineering report suggested the bridge be demolished and in late December it was unceremoniously destroyed by demolished with explosives. A several hour detour now replaces the old bridge.
Historic Preservation Tax Credit In July Governor David Paterson signed legislation that greatly improves the New York State Rehabilitation Tax Credit program. The new law provides incentives and program features for developers and municipalities seeking to rehabilitate historic buildings, and is hoped to advance redevelopment and economic stimulus goals throughout New York State. An economic impact study predicts that the enhanced rehabilitation tax credit will spur over $500 million dollars of economic activity in New York State and create some 2,000 jobs over its initial five-year lifespan.
Rensselaer County Historical Society Threatened The Rensselaer County Historical Society announced in March that they may be forced to close due to economic hardship. “RCHS is currently experiencing severe financial difficulty,” officials at the Society told their supporters, “The organization been running annual deficits for several years, and despite special efforts, the situation has now become critical. In a matter of weeks RCHS will no longer have funds available to meet its basic operating needs.” RCHS is still holding on, but the economic crisis appears far from over.
Coney Island’s Demise Hastened A major debate raged this year about the future of Coney Island. Thor Equities (a development company) has purchased large tracts of land in the reknown seaside resort of yore, and the City Planning Commission passed a radical rezoning to encourage economic redevelopment – a plan vehemently opposed by preservation interests. This year Coney lost landmarks like Astroland and Major Meats on Mermaid Avenue. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park may be next as the park has sold it’s popular Thunderbolt ride late last year. In December the grassroots activist group Save Coney Island, along with several Coney Island residents and amusement district workers and performers filed a lawsuit challenging the Bloomberg administration’s rezoning of Coney Island’s amusement area. It may be the only hope of saving an American landmark.
New York Writers Institute’s 25th Anniversary 2009 marked the 25th Anniversary of one of New York State’s most important literary institutions. Since 1984, more than 1,000 novelists, poets, biographers, filmmakers, historians, essayists and creative artists have presented a wide ranging variety of performance, readings, workshops, seminars, and other public events. Since the Institute was started by writer and historian William Kennedy (using some of his MacArthur award prize money) more then a quarter million people have attended its events. War of 1812 Bill Vetoed Governor David Paterson vetoed a bill that would have created a commission to organize and promote bi-national events related to the War of 1812′-s 200th anniversary. Paterson said the expense, which he put at about $2.25 million by 2016, was “not absolutely necessary” in light of a then-looming state. Supporters however, pointed out that the bill did not require a budget appropriation, but would provide a structure of volunteers to coordinate commemorative events.
Rogers Island Visitors Center in Fort Edward is hosting dinner with Samuel de Champlain on October 24th at the Tee Bird North Golf Club (30 Reservoir Road, Fort Edward). Local Chefs, Neal Orsini owner of the Anvil Restaurant in Fort Edward and Steve Collyer, researched the stores list aboard Champlain’s ship, the Saint-Julien, to develop a dinner menu using European, 17th century ship and New World ingredients. Some menu items were standard fare aboard 17th century ships, but the Saint-Julien was 500 tons, carried more than 100 crew and had a galley which meant that even livestock was brought on board aboard, if only for the captain and officers. Don Thompson, who has spent this Quadricentennial year traveling throughout New York, Vermont and Canada portraying Samuel de Champlain, will serve as a special guest presenter bringing the story of de Champlain’s North American explorations to life.
There will be a cash bar at 5 pm- and dinner served at 6 pm. The price is $22 for Rogers Island VC members, $25 for non-members and $8 for children under 12. Special prize baskets have been donated for a raffle.
For reservations call Rogers Island Visitor Center at 518-747-3693 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Proceeds benefit the Rogers Island Visitor Center.
Rogers Island Visitors Center in Fort Edward will be hosting two full days of free family entertainment and education on September 26 and 27, as nearly 200 French and Indian War reenactors from across the Northeast establish an authentic period encampment along the Hudson River. Sutlers will sell merchandise that was offered in French and Indian War period military camps and visitors will be able to see how men prepared for battle and the domestic life of camp women including meals are prepared over open camp fires. “Hear the musket fire as troops are ambushed by the French beyond the fort and watch as the British and provincial soldiers, along with their Native American allies, hurry to their defense,” according to a recent press announcement. At 11:00 on Saturday watch a fashion show and learn about the civilian and military clothing of the 18th century.
The encampment will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Rogers Island Visitors Center, Route 197 (just off Route 4) in the Village of Fort Edward. Admission is free. For more information call 518-747-3693.
A piece of historic Fort Edward, site of the Great Carrying Place portage between the Hudson River and Lake George and prominent in the history of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, is reported to have been brought up while dredging the Hudson River for PCBs according to the Glens Falls Post Star. “Neal Orsini said he was awakened at 4 a.m. by the noise of a clamshell dredge pulling the piece of wood, which he estimated to be about 14 feet long, from his property,” the paper reported. “There was a breakdown somewhere in the system and they took a piece of old Fort Edward out of the bank they weren’t supposed to be touching,” Orsini said, “It was really loud.”
Orsini also told the paper that a clamshell dredge removed a section of riverbank. “It left a gaping hole in my river bank,” he said. The paper is reporting that archeologists are on the scene and a “survey is being performed on the pieces taken from the area.”
Fort Edward was built in 1755 on “The Great Warpath” between Albany and the head of northward navigation at Lake George. It’s three components, the fort itself, a fortified encampment on Rogers Island, and a Royal blockhouse built in 1758 across the river was Britain’s largest military outpost in North America during the French and Indian War housing more than 15,000 troops. An earlier stockaded area named Fort Nicholson was located there in 1709 during Queen Anne’s War- it was rebuilt as Fort Lydus (primarily the trading post of John Lydus) and in 1731 was rebuilt as Fort Lyman. It was renamed For Edward by Sir William Johnson during the French and Indian War in 1755.
Although the historic site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it has been largely forgotten, after the area was heavily contaminated with PCBs, and has fallen into disuse except for the Rogers Island Visitors Center. The Associated Press reported this week that three entities are hoping to purchase parts of the site including the Archaeological Conservancy, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and archeologist David Starbuck, who has been excavating the site since at least 2001.
Rogers Island was also the base camp of Major Robert Rogers and his company of Rangers and it was there that he composed his “Ranging Rules” which form the basis of military tactics adopted by irregular fighting forces all over the world. The site is considered the birthplace of the U.S. Army Rangers. The fort fell to British forces under John Burgoyne in 1777 during the American Revolution.
The dredging project is in its fourth month of removing approximately 2.65 million cubic yards of Hudson Riverbed sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). General Electric is believed to have dischargeed more than 1 million pounds of PCBs from its plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward into the Hudson River. The company then fought a legal, political, and media battle to avoid cleanup for nearly 20 years. GE fought the Superfund law in court and conducted a media campaign to convince the public that cleaning the toxic waste from the river would stir up PCBs. This week high levels of PCBs downriver slowed the dredging. GE was ordered by the EPA to clean up a 40-mile stretch of the Hudson River it contaminated in 2002. Photo: Fort Edward from “A Set of Plans and Forts in Americas, Reduced From Actual Surveys”