Historic America

Saratoga National Historical Park in Stillwater, New York

Saratoga National Historical Park preserves the ground on which two strategically important Revolutionary War battles were fought. The Battle of Freeman’s Farm was fought on September 19, 1777 and the Battle of Bemis Heights was fought on October 7. Collectively, they are known as the Battles of Saratoga. They are considered Benedict Arnold’s greatest victories, before his traitorous defection to the British.

In 1777, British General John Burgoyne marched south from Canada down the Champlain Valley in a plan to cut New England off from the other American colonies. He didn’t get far. At the Battle of Freeman’s Farm, Burgoyne confronted Generals Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold and the Continental Army with 9,000 men to 7,200. Though technically a British victory, the engagement cost them nearly 600 casualties. The Americans suffered approximately 300 killed and wounded. Burgoyne decided to forgo an immediate pursuit.

Eighteen days later, at the Battle of Bemis Heights, Burgoyne took 5,000 effectives and advanced on the Continental Army’s positions. Benedict Arnold, furious at having been unjustly relieved of command, appeared on the field and led an attack that shattered the British lines. Burgoyne ordered a retreat to Saratoga (Schuylerville), where his army was surrounded. He surrendered along with his entire army on October 16, 1777.

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Chappaquiddick: A Sober but Colorless Docudrama

Chappaquiddick (2017) recounts the tragic death of campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne in this historical drama supporters of the late Senator Ted Kennedy don’t want you to see. Written by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, and directed by John Curran, the film is competently handled but falls into the trap of “and then” storytelling, with only a halfhearted conflict between Ted Kennedy’s character and a funny but oddly out of place Ed Helms.

The year is 1969. Senator Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) is still mourning the loss of his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, the second brother to fall to an assassin’s bullet. The country is preparing to fulfill his late brother President John F. Kennedy’s dream of putting a man on the moon. He plans a party on Chappaquiddick Island for Robert’s former campaign staff, including Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). He is joined by Massachusetts US Attorney Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan) and his cousin, Joe Gargan (Ed Helms).

Kennedy and Mary Jo drive off alone together, and although it’s implied there might be an affair brewing (Kennedy was married), it’s never shown. Kennedy, drunk, accidentally drives off a bridge. We see him lethargically return to the beach house where, despite protests by Markham and Gargan, he waits until morning to report the accident. Gargan, his family’s longtime “fixer,” is unable and unwilling to help Kennedy make this “problem” go away.

Kennedy returns to his family home, where he seeks help from his nightmarish and stroke-disabled father Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (Bruce Dern). Kennedy, Sr. summons a damage control team led by ruthless Robert McNamara (Clancy Brown), who attempts to gain sympathy for Kennedy in the press. Joe Gargan urges him to resign, but Kennedy ultimately chooses to run for re-election. “Even Moses had personal flaws,” he argues, but Gargan retorts, “Moses didn’t leave a girl at the bottom of the Red Sea.”

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Fort Stanwix National Monument

Fort Stanwix National Monument is a reconstruction of a historic fort occupying approximately 16 acres in downtown Rome, New York. Originally built by the British, it was captured and used by American colonists during the Revolutionary War. It was also the setting for two treaties with American Indians. Reconstruction finished in 1978.

British General John Stanwix ordered construction of the fort in the summer of 1758 to guard a portage connecting the Mohawk River and Wood Creek during the French and Indian War. It finished in 1762. The 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix between the British and the Iroquois attempted to solidify the frontier boundary and reduce hostility there. The fort was then abandoned and allowed to fall into ruin.

Colonial troops under the command of Colonel Elias Dayton occupied and repaired the fort in July 1776 and renamed it Fort Schuyler. British forces besieged the fort in August 1777, but were demoralized by a colonial raid on their camp and withdrew. It burned down in 1781. A treaty between the United States and the Iroquois League was signed at the site in 1784.

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