Capital Region

For Memorial Day, region rich with historic sites

Battlefield ceremony to honor Connecticut militiamen
In a special ceremony on Memorial Day, Saratoga National Historical Park and Battlefield in Stillwater will remember militiamen.
In a special ceremony on Memorial Day, Saratoga National Historical Park and Battlefield in Stillwater will remember militiamen.

Throughout New York’s long colonial history, the men of Connecticut were always at the ready, willing to lend assistance in times of need.

It was 240 years ago, as summer turned to Autumn in 1777, that Connecticut militiamen came to upstate New York during the American Revolution and fought bravely at the Battles of Saratoga. Twenty-four Connecticut men were killed during those two engagements, and those soldiers will be remembered Monday during a special ceremony at the Saratoga National Historical Park and Battlefield. Park rangers will read off the names of the militiamen at 11 a.m. and again at 3 p.m. Monday, and at 1 p.m. the sad story of a Connecticut widow who lost her husband at Saratoga will be told.

“We started recognizing the men that served here by state last year when we did New Hampshire and read the names of about 70 men,” said Saratoga Park Ranger Eric Schnitzer. “We’re doing Connecticut this year, and we’ll either do New York or a combined Virginia/Pennsylvania reading next year. We’ll also get to Massachusetts and some troops who served on the American side from Canada.”

Connecticut men also came to the area nearly 100 years earlier in February 1690 when the French and Indians attacked the small settlement of Schenectady, killing 60 and taking 23 captive back to Canada. Four Connecticut soldiers died and three were captured that day defending the snow-covered village.  For information about the Schenectady Massacre, you can visit the Schenectady County Historical Society in the Stockade Neighborhood, but as military confrontations it doesn’t begin to match the scale of what took place 25 miles to the north in 1777.

The Schenectady Massacre was a minor affair during the often-forgotten King WiIliam’s War, while the American victory at Saratoga, is considered by many historians as a major turning point not only of the Revolutionary War but world history in general. With that in mind, many Capital Region residents looking to remember veterans during this Memorial Day Weekend will make the Saratoga Battlefield their first stop.

While a visit to the Capital Region’s only national park is paramount for history buffs, there are plenty of other historic sites to enjoy and appreciate in the region. Here is a list of 10 sites, all of them west of the Hudson River, where history and honoring veterans are part of the daily routine.

1. Saratoga National Historical Park

The battlefield, its visitor center and a 10-mile auto tour are the main components of the park, although the Philip Schuyler House in Schuylerville and the Saratoga Monument in the nearby village of Victory are also operated by the National Park Service and should not be overlooked. A 20-minute film and the fibre-optic light map in the visitor center are must-sees for those with a real interest in what took pace there, and if history isn’t your thing, a lengthy hiking trail and numerous scenic views offer other ways to enjoy the experience. Website.

2. New York State Capitol Building

Anything that took 32 years to build must be something worth seeing. And, along with the architecture, there are two more treasures that can’t be missed; the Hall of Governors and the Capitol Flag Room. This Friday there will be free tours at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Website.

3. Mabee Farm Historic Site

Reputed to be the oldest house west of Schenectady in the Mohawk Valley, the site has a circa 1705 farmhouse, a large Dutch barn, a blacksmith shop and the George Franchere Education Center all resting comfortably on the southern bank of the Mohawk River in Rotterdam Junction. It is owned and operated by the Schenectady County Historical Society, which has an ongoing exhibit on World War I at its headquarters at 32 Washington Ave. Website.

4. Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site

With all the excitement recently over Alexander Hamilton and his connection to Albany, the Schuyler Mansion is a busy place these days but well worth the visit. A tour of the house, home to Revolutionary War general Philip Schuyler, takes about 50 minutes. Website.

5. Ulysses S. Grant Cottage

In the town of Wilton in Saratoga County, the Grant Cottage is a monument to the Civil War general and the 18th U.S. President, one of our country’s most honored veterans. Grant spent the last few weeks of his life battling throat cancer there before passing away on July 23, 1885. Website.

6. Old Fort Johnson

For those whose history revolves around the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, Old Fort Johnson on Route 5 just west of Amsterdam is a place you won’t want to miss. Owned and operated by the Montgomery County Historical Society, Old Fort Johnson was the home of Indian agent William Johnson, one of the most famous men in America between 1750-1775. Website.

7. Johnson Hall State Historic Site

When William Johnson felt the need to expand his domain, he left his home in Fort Johnson and headed further west to Johnstown where he built Johnson Hall. It’s where he died in 1774, and the home, its two outbuildings and large front lawn were the subject of Edward Lamson Henry’s famous painting from 1903, showing Johnson dealing with the Native Americans. Website.

8. Old Stone Fort

Built as a German Reformed Church in 1772, the building was turned into a fort when the American Revolution came to the Schoharie Valley a few years later. The site also includes an old cemetery, the William W. Badgley Museum and seven other outbuildings from the late 18th and early 19th century. Website.

9. Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site

With New York celebrating the 200th birthday of the Erie Canal, this state historic site offers great looks at the Mohawk River and today’s canal system. It has a visitor’s center with interpretive exhibits on the canal, as well as information about 18th century Fort Hunter and the Lower Castle Mohawk Village, both located on the grounds of the site. Website.

10. Ten Broeck Mansion

Abraham Ten Broeck led the New York Militia at the Battles of Saratoga in 1777, was mayor of Albany from 1779-1783, served in the state senate during that same time period and was appointed the first judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1781. His house, built in 1797, is home to the Albany County Historical Association and offers educational exhibits, several paintings and artifacts, and a splendid view of Albany. Website.

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