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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Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia’s Historic Triangle

Step back in time and explore the former capital of Colonial Virginia, where Founding Fathers like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and more walked the streets.

Both an actual town and open air museum, Colonial Williamsburg allows visitors to walk the same streets as legendary figures from the past and explore authentic and reconstructed Colonial-Era buildings. You need a ticket to enter the buildings and museums, but you can walk the streets and enter the shops and restaurants for free. Historical and haunted tours are plentiful, including carriage rides!

You can also visit the College of William & Mary, second-oldest college in the United States, and Eastern State Hospital, oldest mental asylum in the U.S. and now an art museum.

In many ways, Colonial Williamsburg reminds me of Tombstone, Arizona, another attempt by a living community to reconstruct history. Like Tombstone, Williamsburg got left behind when its moment in the sun passed. Its historic buildings were modified and fell into disrepair over the decades after Virginia’s capitol was moved to Richmond in 1780.

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Fort Henry National Historic Site in Kingston, Ontario

Built for a war with the U.S. that never came, this nineteenth century relic is a treasure of Canadian military history.

The War of 1812 left relations between the United States and Great Britain at an all-time low. Raids along the Saint Lawrence River were common during the war, and Kingston, Ontario in what was then Upper Canada was seen as potentially vulnerable. The British eyed Point Henry as an ideal place for what became known as the “Citadel of Upper Canada”.

Early in the war, British Canadians erected a blockhouse and artillery battery on Point Henry to help defend Kingston and its naval dockyards. They continued fortifying it throughout the war, calling it Fort Henry after Henry Hamilton, one-time Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Quebec and Governor of Bermuda.

After the War of 1812, the British saw a need to strengthen their defenses around Kingston and Rideau Canal, which connects the Canadian capitol to Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River. Between 1832 and 1836, they built a more permanent stone fort in place of the old wooden one.

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A Trip to Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

As part of our trip to West Virginia last month, my wife and I stopped by the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, a destination that’s been on my bucket list for a while. Yes, it’s appeared on just about every paranormal-themed TV show, but it has an interesting history dating back to the Civil War as well.

Welcome Home

Designed by Baltimore architect Richard Snowden Andrews in Gothic and Tudor Revival styles, construction on the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum began in 1858. In 1861, the Civil War’s outbreak interrupted construction on Virginia’s new asylum as Union troops seized its construction funds from a local bank (totaling nearly $30,000.00 in gold) and used them to help fund a pro-Union Virginia government in Wheeling. It opened in 1864, though construction wasn’t fully completed until nearly 20 years later.

The Institution

During the mid-twentieth century, it was notoriously overcrowded and closed in 1994. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990. After sitting abandoned for several years, it opened for tours as a museum and it slowly being restored.

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Burgwin-Wright House in Wilmington, North Carolina

Tour this Colonial-Era home and gardens built atop Wilmington’s oldest jail.

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In its early days as a British colony, North Carolina was perceived as a backwoods territory full of crime, indentured servants, pirates, and other rough characters. In the mid-eighteenth century, however, that began to change. The Burgwin-Wright House tells the story of this transition. Today, you can tour the house and see its history firsthand.

Wilmington’s original wood, brick, and stone jail, known as a gaol, stood at the corner of Market and Third Streets from 1744 to 1768, when it burned in a fire. Sensing an opportunity, a British merchant named John Burgwin purchased the property, along with its stone foundations. He built a handsome Georgian home, where he could conduct business while in town, over one foundation.

Ingenious construction methods allowed the home to remain cool over the hot summer months, but the Burgwin family spent most of their time on their plantation outside of town. Joshua Grainger Wright and his wife Susan purchased the house from Burgwin in 1799. The Wright family lived there until 1869. Its rooms are well-furnished with eighteenth and nineteenth century antiques, reflecting how these families lived.

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They Burned the Corn: Ganondagan State Historic Site

After over three centuries, few remember this raid on an Indian settlement in east-central New York, but a state historic site tells the story of the native people who once lived there.

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The Battle of Ganondagan (or Canagora/Gandagora) was fought on July 13, 1687 between French forces and their native allies commanded by Marquis de Denonville and Chief Athasata and a force of Seneca Indians near present-day Victor, New York during the Beaver Wars. The battle was both a tactical and strategic (albeit temporary) French victory. They succeeded in destroying Ganondagan and its grain stores, as well as several other nearby villages.

King Louis XIV appointed Jacques-René de Brisay de Denonville Governor General of New France in 1685, and he wasted little time in making an impression on the continent. In 1686, Denonville lured 50 chiefs of the Iroquois Confederacy to a meeting under a flag of truce, then put them in chains and shipped them back to Europe as galley slaves. The next spring he set out with approximately 800 colonial regulars, 900 Canadian militia, and 550 Indian allies on a punitive expedition to break the Seneca tribe. They landed at Irondequoit Bay on Lake Ontario on July 10, 1687.

On July 13, a stiflingly hot day, the French-led column made its way south toward the Seneca heartland and the village of Ganondagan. Seneca warriors decided to ambush Denonville’s army in a marsh approximately three miles north of the village. They divided into two groups of 300 and 500 men. The larger group would block Denonville’s advance while the smaller group would wait until his army passed before rising up and attacking them from the rear.

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Vermont Toy Museum at Quechee Gorge Village

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Every generation has its favorite toys. When I was a kid in the 1980s, we had a lot of action figures and toys based on popular TV shows like G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, and My Little Pony. How those toys change decade by decade can be very interesting, even educational. Toys tell us something about the values of our society at the time, and what kinds of activities we want children to be interested in.

The Vermont Toy Museum at Quechee Gorge Village is a unique window into that world. The museum features action figures, dolls, comic books, lunchboxes, games, and more, plus a huge model train set. Display cases are packed with toys decade by decade beginning with the 1950s, so you can easily see how toys have changed over the years. It also has separate displays for Star Wars, Star Trek, and other popular franchises.

An entire display cabinet shows how prevalent toy guns were in the 1950s, and it’s incredible how realistic-looking toy guns were marketed to children (yet there were no mass shootings at schools back then). My favorite are the metal revolvers that fired caps, but my mom was totally against having any toy guns in the house, so I never got to play with them.

The Vermont Toy & Train Museum is located on the second floor above Cabot Cheese at Quechee Gorge Village, 5575 Woodstock Road, U.S. Route 4 in Quechee, Vermont. They are open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Call (802) 295-1550 Ext. 102 or email robin@quecheegorge.com for more information.