Categories
Historic America

The 1777 Van Cortlandtville Skirmish

A daring attack by outnumbered colonials routs a British raid, while a blue cloak captured in the skirmish later provided material for a U.S. flag flying above Fort Stanwix.

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The Van Cortlandtville Skirmish was fought on March 24, 1777 between American patriot troops commanded by Lt. Col. Marinus Willett and a British raiding party commanded by Lt. Col. John Bird near modern-day Cortlandt, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle ended in American victory, with the British withdrawing back to their boats.

After being pushed out of New York City in 1776, George Washington established his headquarters in Peekskill along the Hudson River. He considered the area critical for keeping the Continental Army supplied. The British were well-aware, and in late March 1777, 500 British troops sailed up the Hudson River to raid Patriot farms and burn supplies. They landed at Peekskill Bay on March 23 and began pummeling Brig. Gen. Alexander McDougall‘s 250-man force on Fort Hill with artillery.

The following day, a force of 200 British troops marched northeast toward the Van Cortlandt family manor and began pillaging. Some became separated from the main body. Sensing an opportunity, Lt. Col. Marinus Willett, newly arrived with his 80-man detachment, persuaded McDougall to allow him to attack. His men fixed bayonets and charged the unsuspecting British raiders as the sun disappeared behind the horizon.

Categories
Mysterious America

Fort William Henry Offers Haunted History After Dark

A steady-stream of curiosity seekers visit this reconstructed French and Indian War-era fort after dark, hoping to catch a glimpse of the unknown.

Not to be confused with the other haunted Fort William Henry in Maine, Fort William Henry Museum and Restoration in Lake George, New York is a must-see for any history buff or paranormal enthusiast. Since being featured on an episode of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters in 2009, thousands have explored this reconstructed French and Indian War-era fort on nighttime ghost tours, hoping to snap an anomalous photo or experience something extraordinary.

British official Sir William Johnson ordered the fort’s construction in 1755 in preparation for a British attack on Crown Point on Lake Champlain. The French and their Indian allies, however, destroyed it less than two years later. French forces besieged the fort in 1757, and the siege only lasted a few days, with French artillery inflicting most of the damage.

To end the siege, French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm arranged for the British forces to leave, but American Indians under his command were angry at being denied war spoils and massacred several hundred retreating British. Montcalm’s army tried to stop deprivations inflicted by their allies on paroled British captives, but events spiraled out of their control. These events formed the backdrop for James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Last of the Mohicans (1826).

Categories
Historic America

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.

Categories
Historic America

Battle of Valcour Island

A roadside sign marks this little-known naval battle on Lake Champlain, which delayed the British advance for months and allowed American colonists time to rebuild their forces and eventually win the Battle of Saratoga.

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The Battle of Valcour Island was fought on October 11, 1776 between American naval forces commanded by Benedict Arnold and British naval forces commanded by General Guy Carleton in Lake Champlain near Valcour Island, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was a tactical British victory, but delayed their overall military campaign until spring.

Roads in Northern New York were too primitive in the eighteenth century to move large numbers of troops and supplies by land, so control of Lake Champlain was key to gaining access to the Hudson Valley. Controlling this corridor was key to the British plan for linking their forces in Canada with those in New York City, severing New England from the rest of the colonies.

The Americans cobbled together 16 vessels to oppose a naval invasion. Benedict Arnold had experience as a ship captain, so he was put in charge of the American fleet. In August 1776, he sailed to the northern end of the lake, where he encountered a much larger British fleet. On September 30, he retreated to Valcour Island with 15 ships, while one left to be resupplied. On October 11, a British fleet of 5 ships and 22 gunboats appeared north of the island and sailed south to cut off the American’s retreat.

Categories
Roadside America

Ambrosia Diner in Queensbury, New York

Ambrosia Diner, at 518 Aviation Road in Queensbury, New York, opened off I-87 Exit 19 in 2012. It is a DeRaffele model, owned by Dennis and Robert Pilarinos, who also own several other diners in the area, including Capital City Diner in Albany. It is rumored to have heated sidewalks! I love the stainless steel on the exterior and retro design.

Look for a new diner every Tuesday in 2019! Click to expand photos.

Diner Resources

Categories
Roadside America

Red Line Diner in Fishkill, New York

Red Line Diner, at 588 U.S. Route 9 (off I-84) in Fishkill, New York, is a DeRaffele model owned by the Vanikiotis Group. It’s become a local favorite since opening in 2012 and is marketed as a healthier alternative to typical diner fare. Its doors are open 24/7 and the red and stainless steel exterior is sharp.

Look for a new diner every Tuesday in 2019! Click to expand photos.

Diner Resources

Categories
Historic America

Monmouth Battlefield State Park

In 1778, two armies slugged it out in sweltering heat in these east-central New Jersey fields. Though technically a draw, the Continental Army showed it could finally stand toe-to-toe with the best soldiers in the British Army.

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The Battle of Monmouth Court House was fought on June 28, 1778 between American forces commanded by General George Washington and Major Generals Nathanael Greene, William Lord Stirling Alexander, Charles Lee, and Marquis de Lafayette and British forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis and Lt. Gen. Baron Wilhelm von Knyphausen near Freehold, New Jersey during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was a tactical draw, with both sides exhausted after fighting the longest battle of the war in brutal heat.

After France’s entry into the war on the American side, British Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton withdrew his army from Philadelphia and retreated toward New York City, which was under British control. He sent several thousand Tory volunteers and most of his supplies down the Delaware River, while his remaining 10,000-man army marched overland. General Washington’s 12,000-man army caught up with them at Monmouth Court House.

Washington sent Maj. Gen. Charles Lee and Marquis de Lafayette forward with 5,000 men to attack Clinton’s 1,500-man rearguard. When Clinton turned Maj. Gen. Cornwallis’ forces around to strike Lee’s left flank, the Americans broke and withdrew in confusion. Just then, General Washington arrived ahead of the rest of his army and sharply rebuked Lee. He cobbled together a defensive line, but that also broke under relentless British attacks. Washington’s third line held.