Trying to spark a young person’s interest in history is a noble endeavor, according to Thomas Chambers, and in upstate New York it shouldn’t be much of a challenge.
“I went to a re-enactment in Ballston Centre when I was a kid in 1980 and I was hooked,” said Chambers, chair of the Niagara University History Department and a 1987 graduate of Shenendehowa.
“There had been a Loyalist invasion in that area in 1780, and watching all that history played out in front of me was really something. For me it was a touchstone event, and since then I’ve pretty much known what I’ve wanted to do with my life.”
For Chambers, that meant sharing his love of history through teaching and writing. On Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Saratoga National Park and Battlefield Visitors Center, Chambers will discuss his book, “Memories of War: Visiting Battlegrounds and Bonefields in the Early American Republic.”
Chambers’ book, published in October of 2012, largely focuses on battlefields of the American Revolution and War of 1812, which makes upstate New York a perfect place to start.
“We went to Saratoga [battlefield] a couple of times when I was a kid, and I enjoyed visiting the place very much,” said Chambers, who was born in Niskayuna and moved out to Clifton Park as a young boy. “It’s a spot that is unspoiled from the time of the battle. It’s a very evocative place.”
‘Memories of War: Visiting Battlegrounds and Bonefields in the Early American Republic’
WHAT: A presentation by book author Thomas Chambers
WHERE: Saratoga National Park and Battlefield Visitors Center
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: 670-2983
After graduating from Middlebury College in Vermont, Chambers got a job working at one of the Northeast’s most popular tourists sites, Fort Ticonderoga. That experience solidified his love for early American history, and he then headed off to Virginia to further his education at William and Mary, home to another major historic attraction, Colonial Williamsburg.
After securing his master’s and Ph.D. at William and Mary, Chambers taught for a short time at Siena College and Skidmore before landing at the University of Niagara in 2003. A year earlier he had published his first book, “Drinking the Waters: Creating an American Leisure Class at Nineteenth-Century Mineral Springs.”
“When I was working on my first book I kept on reading all these Saratoga guide books and there was always 10 to 15 pages on the Saratoga Battlefield,” he remembered. “I thought to myself that I should go back and see the place again.”
In his current book, he tells of the history of the battle connected to the site, and the story behind how the land came to be protected.
Caring for sites
“We didn’t always take great care of our battlefields,” he said. “These were honored places where people died fighting for independence and liberty, and at first they were just important for their scenic landscapes. Then we decided to also tell the history of the site and how it related to our nation’s history.”
In the area around Chambers’ current home is Fort Niagara, a site that is relevant to three of America’s wars, The French and Indian War, the American Revolution and the War of 1812.
“Fort Niagara is the premiere site for the War of 1812, and I can look out my office window and see a statue of Canadian hero Sir Isaac Brock,” said Chambers.
“New York had more battles than any other state during the War of 1812, and the Niagara frontier was the most important theater of the war.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.