Battle of Cranberry Creek

The Battle of Cranberry Creek was a small but dramatic part of the War of 1812 in Upstate New York. Southeast of Alexandria Bay, Cranberry Creek flows into a branch of the St. Lawrence River leading into Goose Bay.

The St. Lawrence River, as the border between the United States and British Canada, was a vital waterway that saw dozens of naval battles as each side sought to control it. Both sides attacked vulnerable supply shipments being ferried up and down the river.

In late July 1813, the American Navy learned that several British bateaux loaded with munitions, salt pork, pilot bread, and other supplies, escorted by the Spit Fire, were bound up-river for Fort Henry at Kingston, Ontario.

Two privately-armed schooners, the Neptune and Fox, were dispatched from the naval base at Sackets Harbor to intercept them. Major Dimoch of the Forsyth Rifles commanded approximately 72 riflemen and militia on board.

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14th Annual Marilla Civil War Reenactment

On July 29 & 30, Marilla, New York held its 14th Annual Civil War Days at Marilla Town Park. The weekend was packed full of activities, including a ladies period tea party, artillery demonstrations, candlelight tours, a period dance and church service, and of course battle reenactments. At Sutlers Row, vendors sold Civil War memorabilia, flags, books, and uniforms.

Each year has something a little different to offer. Previously, the event featured barn burnings, ground charges, and falling trees and buildings. Saturday’s reenactment was more conventional.

Participating units included the 1st Tennessee, 4th South Carolina, 21st Georgia, 42 Virginia, 138th New York, 200th Indiana, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery, and more.

Maxwell’s Battery was one of the Union artillery units to participate in the reenactment. They hail from Canisteo in western New York and are unique in that they re-enact both sides of the conflict.

As a Union outfit, they represent Battery K of the 1st U.S. Artillery. When Confederate, they are Maxwell’s Battery of the 1st Georgia Regular Artillery. Historically, Battery K was a horse artillery unit, meaning its crew traveled on horseback for rapid movement.

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All-American Diner Tour: The Gem Diner in Syracuse, New York

Located off Spencer Street near I-690 in Syracuse’s Lakefront neighborhood, The Gem is a 1950s-style or rock ‘n’ roll-themed diner that also has an impressive beer menu featuring local breweries.

The Gem was founded by Henry “Hank” McCall in 1950 as The Little Gem Diner. In 1997, Francis “Doc” Good bought the Little Gem and renamed it Doc’s Little Gem Diner. In 2003, the State of New York banned smoking in most public places, and Doc estimated he lost 40% of his customers.

Then, in September 2007, a fire ravaged the diner and it was closed for repairs for over two months. After years of financial trouble, he sold it in 2011 to Len Montreal and Samuel Flatt. Doug LaLone leased the Gem, renovated, rebranded, and built an addition that expanded its seating from 47 seats to 130.

As an interesting aside, in 2009 Doc’s Little Gem Diner appeared in an episode of Jesse Ventura’s TruTV show Conspiracy Theory. The diner served as a backdrop for an interview with 9/11 conspiracy theorist Mike Bellone of Seneca Falls.

The Gem’s breakfast menu is heavy on the meat. You can get a 6 oz. Filet Mignon with two eggs, home fries and toast for $17.95, or a New York strip steak with two eggs, home fries and toast for $11.95. They also offer a cheeseburger breakfast, or if you want to cut right to the chase, just a half pound of chopped ground beef with with two eggs, home fries and toast for $9.00. You can also smother it in grilled mushrooms, onions, and peppers for a dollar.

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Video from Marilla Civil War Days

Marilla, New York held its 14th Annual Civil War Days the weekend of July 29 & 30, 2017. The weekend was packed full of activities, including a ladies period tea party, artillery demonstrations, candlelight tours, a period dance and church service, and of course battle reenactments. Participating units included the 1st TN, 4th SC, 21st GA, 42 VA, 138th NY, 200th IN, Maxwell’s Battery, and more! Music for this video is “The Secesh (Shiloh)” by John Hartford, from the compilation album Songs Of The Civil War (1991).

Battle of Big Sandy Creek

Lake Ontario was strategically vital during the War of 1812. Over water, the British could easily send men and supplies from their Canadian colony into the other Great Lakes or use waterways to strike inland. Likewise, the Americans could use the lake as a route to attack Canada. Sackets Harbor in Upstate New York was an important naval yard and key to American control of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

The quickest way to transport vital ship-building supplies from the Brooklyn Naval Yards on Long Island to Sackets Harbor was by river to Albany, from Albany to the Mohawk River, to Wood Creek and Oneida Lake, and finally the Oswego River to Lake Ontario. British destruction of Fort Ontario at the mouth of the Oswego River complicated things, however. The supplies had to be transported at night past patrolling British ships in Lake Ontario.

On the night of May 28, 1814, Major Daniel Appling and Lieutenant Melancthon Taylor Woolsey were transporting supplies north to Sacketts Harbor in 19 boats, along with 150 riflemen. A contingent of 120 Oneida braves accompanied the shipment along the shoreline. A boat somehow floated off course and was captured by the British.

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All-American Diner Tour: Gram’s Diner in Adams, New York

Located in downtown Adams, New York near Sandy Creek, Gram’s is a modern diner with a contemporary style. According to the Watertown Daily Times, Gram’s has been open for decades, with a handmade, wooden sign above the door (you can see old photos in this article). New owners took over Gram’s in 2013 and updated its decor to give it a fresh new look.

When I visited, I was impressed with the diner’s cleanliness, bright atmosphere, and local pride, but not its wait time. I made the mistake of waiting to be seated and was left standing by the register for quite some time before I realized I could just seat myself. I decided to take a spot at the counter. Even as the only person at the counter, it took at least ten to fifteen minutes before I even got a menu. Despite feeling invisible, my omelet was good (loaded with meat), and they offered a wide selection of toast.

Gram’s no-frills menu includes the usual eggs, omelets, pancakes, and French toast. You won’t find many surprises on their lunch and dinner menu either. Their dinner menu is divided into four categories: steaks, chicken, Italian, and seafood, with four offerings a piece. They do have deep fried cheese curds, which is more commonly found in the upper Midwest, particularly Wisconsin.  They also offer bacon cheeseburger poutine for $9.

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Are We Too Politically Correct to Accurately Portray the Past?

Last weekend, I attended the 14th Annual Marilla Civil War Days in western New York. I haven’t been to a Civil War reenactment since I briefly participated at the Gettysburg reenactment in 2009 (aw yea, check it out ladies—->).

The event website promised a unique experience (“The Civil War Days event is nowhere close to your typical reenactment. We have been known for barn burnings, ground charges, falling trees & buildings and much more!”). Suffice to say, only one of those things happened while I was there. I left disappointed, but not only because nothing caught on fire.

I thought the purpose of reenacting was not just to have fun and dress up for the day but to educate the public and commemorate the American soldiers who fought on both sides.

Before I continue, a disclaimer: Nothing I’m about to say is meant to disparage the men and women who have a passion for history, the Civil War, and historical reenacting. I love all those things, and am happy to find people who share those interests. I wish more would become involved in these events.

However, there were a number of things that left me shaking my head.

  • Where were the horses? Horses were the primary means of transportation for wagons, cannon, officers, and mounted troops during the Civil War. Not. One. Single. Horse.
  • The Confederates used what I was told was a 30-pound cannon. The 4.2-inch (30-pounder) Parrott rifle was a siege cannon that wasn’t used in the field. Historically, Confederates used two at the Battle of Fredericksburg in defensive positions but their barrels burst.
  • I saw women reenactors dressed up as soldiers and fighting in infantry units.
  • I saw African American reenactors (one with a huge Afro) fighting with white troops in a Union regiment.
  • I saw some reenactors wearing obviously modern clothing (including sneakers).

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