Historic America

Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site

Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site is located in northwestern New York on Black Harbor Bay, Lake Ontario, in the town of Sackets Harbor. It was the scene of two battles in the War of 1812. You can tour the battlefield, or check out a restored 1850s Navy Yard and Commandant’s House. The park is open to the public year-round, but the museum and gift shop operate seasonally, from May 21 until Labor Day (Sept 5). Their website says there’s a small admission fee ($3), but I’ve never seen anyone collecting money.

The buildings at the historic site were not present at the time of the battles in 1813. The site offices, exhibits, and gift shop are located in the Lieutenant’s House, which was built in 1847-48. Directly behind it are the Stable and Ice House, also built in the mid-1800s. The stable contains interesting and informative exhibits on early 19th century American naval history.

There was a functioning naval base at Sackets Harbor until 1955, though the original forts and structures were long since leveled. Today, an empty field is all that remains of Fort Tompkins, the principal fort during the 1813 battle. This gives the historic site a park-like atmosphere. You can enjoy a sunset stroll along a bluff overlooking Lake Ontario, or sit on park benches and take in the view.

Sackets Harbor has several nice restaurants, including Tin Pan Galley and Sackets Harbor Brewing Company, all of which are in walking distance from the historic site. It does have its own parking lot as well.

The battlefield park, featuring the 1913 Centennial Monument, is the main attraction. In addition to the office and gift shop, here you will find the Hall House, 1912 Barn, and Commandant’s House, all featuring interpretive exhibits.

If you wish, you may walk the entire Interpretive Trail, which extends west from the battlefield park through an open field past several monuments and interpretive signs. The state park acquired this forty acres of land in 2006 and erected monuments to the U.S. and British forces who fought there on May 29, 1813. Dozens of British soldiers were buried on the battlefield. Their names are now engraved on a monument erected in 2013. The actual location of their burial site has been lost to history.

New York has done a great job preserving the Sackets Harbor Battlefield and creating a space where visitors can learn about one of America’s “forgotten wars” and enjoy this interesting and chapter in local history. While in Sackets Harbor, make sure to sample the local cuisine or check out some of the unique shops and antique stores. The remains of another historic fort, Fort Pike, and a burial ground for 200 unknown soldiers lost during the War of 1812 are located on the eastern side of the harbor.

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