Hotel Oneida

Hotel Oneida
Hotel Oneida, at Main Street and Lenox Avenue in Oneida, New York, opened in 1927 and was a fixture of downtown Oneida for decades. It became an apartment building in 1982, sold at public auction in 2009 for a mere $25,000. By 2017, the town council received so many complaints about the decaying building, they threatened to tear it down. It was still standing when I drove by in the summer of 2018.

Fort Magruder and the Battle of Williamsburg

A small monument and a few wayside markers are all that remind passersby that two Civil War armies once fought here.

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The Battle of Williamsburg was fought on May 5, 1862 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet outside Williamsburg, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was tactically a draw, with the Confederate army withdrawing toward Richmond during the night.

In the spring of 1862, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan took his massive 120,000-man Army of the Potomac by boat and landed at Fort Monroe near Hampton Roads. He planned to march up the Virginia Peninsula and capture the Confederate capitol of Richmond, bringing a swift end to the war. Standing in his way was Confederate Brig. Gen. John B. Magruder, a series of small forts and defensive works, and 11,000 men. Magruder’s elaborate showmanship and deceptive tactics delayed the Union army for nearly 30 days.

The delay bought time for Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston to arrive with reinforcements. Their combined force of 57,000 was still no match for McClellan, so Johnston decided to withdraw to the defenses around Richmond. A force of 32,000 commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet was left to defend Fort Magruder, southeast of Williamsburg, and cover the withdrawal.

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Capture of Fort Niagara during the War of 1812

A daring British night attack during the War of 1812 quickly secured this old French fort at the mouth of the Niagara River.

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The Second Battle of Fort Niagara was fought on December 19, 1813 between British forces commanded by Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond and American forces commanded by Captain Nathaniel Leonard at the mouth of the Niagara River near Youngstown, New York during the War of 1812. The British night attack was successful, and the fort remained in British hands for the remainder of the war.

On December 10, 1813, U.S. Brigadier General George McClure decided to abandon Fort George on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, which the United States had captured in May. His troops burned the nearby village of Newark to the ground before retreating across the river. Filled with thoughts of revenge, British forces seized the initiative.

On the night of December 19, approximately 562 British regulars commanded by Colonel John Murray crossed the Niagara River under cover of darkness, about three miles south of Fort Niagara. They captured some American sentries who had been warming themselves by a fire, and obtained the watch’s challenge and password. From there, a British soldier feigning a Southern accent gained entry to the fort, and British troops rushed in.

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A Trip to the Library of Congress

I’ve always loved libraries, from my days as a kid browsing the shelves after school, to being fascinated with my grandpa’s old books, to my college years and beyond, so the Library of Congress was one of the first places I wanted to visit when I moved to this area. What I didn’t realize was how it is just as much a museum as a functional library.

Unfortunately, the library’s oldest collection of books has been devastated by fire several times, first in 1814 and again in 1851. The second fire ruined many of the over 6,000 books Thomas Jefferson personally donated. An ongoing exhibition of Jefferson’s library in the main Thomas Jefferson Building shows 2,000 original volumes, as well as thousands of replacements and indicates which books are still missing. Other exhibits include a display on women’s suffrage, Rosa Parks, and comic book art. You can even see a copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

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South Mountain State Battlefield, Maryland

Idyllic southern Maryland scenery overshadows the carnage that once took place here.

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The Battle of South Mountain was fought on September 14, 1862 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet in Frederick and Washington counties, Maryland during the American Civil War. The battle was a Union victory, with the Confederate army withdrawing and General Robert E. Lee considering prematurely ending his invasion of Maryland.

After General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia destroyed the Union Army of Virginia at the Second Battle of Manassas, Lee saw an opportunity to invade Maryland, threaten Washington, DC, and possibly influence European powers to recognize Confederate independence. Lee divided his army and sent one wing to capture Harper’s Ferry, Virginia and the other into Maryland. A copy of his orders fell into enemy hands, however, and for once Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan acted swiftly to catch Lee off guard.

McClellan sent elements of his reconstituted Army of the Potomac to capture three strategic gaps in South Mountain, hoping to sever Lee’s army and destroy it in detail. The mountain passes were known as Turner’s Gap, Fox’s Gap, and Crampton’s Gap. Because of the difficult terrain and distance between them, the Battle of South Mountain was actually three separate engagements, though they all took place in a single day.

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Exploring Redoubt Park in Williamsburg, Virginia

This 1862 Confederate earthwork was designed to defend Williamsburg during the American Civil War. Today, you can enjoy a nature trail and learn its history at this quiet and unassuming preserve.

When Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan landed an army of 120,000 men at Fort Monroe at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula in late March 1862, Confederate Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder was tasked to delay him with 13,600 men until reinforcements arrived. With his mustache, large mutton chops, and plumed hat, Maj. Gen. “Prince John” Magruder cut a dashing figure. He was a veteran of the Mexican War and amateur actor with unconventional views on warfare for the time period.

He ordered his men to paint logs to look like cannon and march in circles, beating drums and making a racket to deceive the enemy into thinking he had a much larger force. He also employed Brig. Gen. Gabriel Rains’ expertise in “land torpedoes,” an early form of IED–buried or hidden artillery shells designed to explode when encountered.

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Battle of Plattsburgh Historic Sites

This decisive naval battle on Lake Champlain is celebrated as a pivotal moment in the War of 1812. A large monument towers over Plattsburgh, New York, where you can look out over the water and imagine the old wooden sailing ships locked in deadly combat.

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The Battle of Plattsburgh was fought from September 6 to Sept. 11, 1814 between British forces commanded by Lieutenant General Sir George Prévost and Captain George Downie and American forces commanded by Brigadier General Alexander Macomb and Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough on Lake Champlain and Plattsburgh, New York during the War of 1812. The battle was a major American victory. It stopped the British invasion of New York and led to denial of British territorial demands in the Treaty of Ghent.

In late summer 1814, the British planned to conduct a combined land and naval campaign down Lake Champlain, which had it succeeded, would have drastically altered the balance of power in the region. They gathered approximately 11,000 men and a fleet of four ships and 12 gunboats for the expedition. Opposing them were approximately 6,000 American regulars and militia and four ships and ten gunboats.

Brig. Gen. Alexander Macomb decided to make his stand at Plattsburgh, and sent troops north to harass the British as they advanced. Plattsburgh Bay allowed Commandant Macdonough’s ships to engage the British at close range, where the British would lose the advantage of their long-range guns. On the morning of September 11, the British ships HMS Chubb, HMS Linnet, HMS Confiance, and HMS Finch engaged the American ships USS Eagle, USS Saratoga, USS Ticonderoga, and USS Preble.

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