Posted by: daynamcdowell | June 23, 2010

Days 13 & 14—Battles and Perspectives

Tuesday, June 15 and Wednesday, June 16 2010—Days 13 & 14

     Day 13: This was another long day on the bus. I think all of us were going stir crazy for fresh air and space. We began the day by picking up our guide, Jim Hughto. He would be responsible for enlightening us about the histories of Ft. Ticonderoga and the battles at Saratoga. He accomplished that goal.

     I sensed controversy and confusion when Jim told us that the movie “The Patriot” was not historically accurate YET we viewed it during the bus ride to Ft. Ticonderoga and watched more of it after we visited the Saratoga battle site. Our first stop was Ft. Ticonderoga and lunch in the café. Having taught the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, this was a stop for which I had been waiting. After stopping at the French defensive lines of Ft. Ticonderoga during the French and Indian War and hearing more information from Mr. Jim, I caught a garter snake. Of course, this caused a stir and photos were snapped, like a snake is a big event. (Most of us live in Pueblo West where snakes are plentiful.) Yet, none of us have been near anything living for some time now, other than each other. Disconnected from nature and my own pets, it was fun to hold a living creature in my hands and regain that personal connection to life as it wound around my wrist.

     Our next stop was to be the fort. When we were given the option to walk or ride the bus, it was a no brainer for me. Definitely walking and viewing the forests without glass in the way. Jim thought it would be a 15 minute walk, yet we arrived at the fort only minutes after the bus arrived. (It must have been due to all those walking tours in NY City!) It must have only been a half mile walk at most. Again, this is the upstate New York that I had envisioned. Thick forests of green; firs, maples, ferns, rolling hills, and glimpses of lakesides here and there were in every view as I walked to Ft. Ticonderoga and lunch. Once lunch was eaten and a quick walk through of the gift shop was accomplished with a find of a NY state map, it was on to see the fort. I was pleased that Jim’s lecture was short because I wanted to explore the fort for myself and take a look at the map so that I could orient myself to the cardinal directions that I was having difficulty locating correctly.

     The fort was filled with colonial and revolutionary artifacts that thrilled me. Everywhere I looked, history was present from the French and Indian War to the American Revolution. I especially enjoyed looking at the military weapons, soldier attire, the hollow silver bullet used to conceal Clinton’s message to Burgoyne, and the painting of Henry Knox’s struggle to pull confiscated English cannons through the mountains to Boston. The grit and determination was evident in this portrait. The fort architecture, the cannons and mortars, the vantage point of this fort all reflected the presence of my heritage as an American. To think that the Marquis de Montcalm, Lord Jeffery Amherst, Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and Henry Knox all were present at this fort at some time impressed me. Standing at the southeast bastion and gazing at nearby Lake George and Lake Champlain, the importance of the location of this fort crystallized in my mind. Now, I feel that when teaching about Fort Ticonderoga, I can effectively explain why controlling this fort was so important in both wars. Fort Ticonderoga was definitely a bonus in the trip for me. Travelling this far north was worth the encapsulation in the bus.

     The next stop was Saratoga. During the bus ride, we watched a video, “Something More at Stake”. A 30 minute length , this would be a great video to show in parts to students to impress upon them the importance of Saratoga, since a field trip to the battle site will not be feasible. At the Saratoga Visitor Center, the group shopped while our guide transformed into a quick change artist. Jim became a coureur de bois; a French “runner of the woods” or mountain man. This guise works well with the French and Indian War but, how prevalent were the coureurs de bois in the American Revolution? After all, this war was fight between the British and the Americans, with the French allying with the Americans. Our visit of the battle sites was minimal, yet we did see the site of the first battle at Freeman’s Farm; a farm owned by a farmer named John Freeman who escaped to Canada and returned with Burgoyne to see that his farm had been occupied by Isaac Leggett. Apparently, the Freeman Farm was intact at the time of the first battle. The description of the ravines was helpful in understanding the importance that topography played in these revolutionary events.

     Mr. Hughto did seem somewhat opinionated concerning the monument to Benedict Arnold as an American war hero. Yes, Arnold did commit treason but, I believe Arnold’s change of loyalties occurred after Saratoga. To obliterate records of our past, simply because we don’t agree is a denial of our history and is a cover up. Arnold did serve his fledgling country well, to the battle of Saratoga. There should be a monument to recognize those facts. Maybe that memorial is a way to make amends for shortcomings of others in their treatment of Arnold? Yes, I do agree that Arnold would have been viewed as a traitor by Patriots. I do not think he would have been labeled a terrorist, for the word was not in use then, as it is today. So the comparison to Timothy McVeigh is a stretch. Yes, Arnold did lead British soldiers at New London, Connecticut and attacked Fort Griswold. Yes, property was destroyed and lives were taken. This happens in any war. Was Arnold THE only one to use excessive force throughout the American Revolution? Of course not. This excessive force, also labeled as such by the British officers, may have been Arnold’s attempt to prove to his superiors that he was loyal to them and not to Americans. To connect Arnold’s memorial at Saratoga to later events during his life, I believe, is a mistake. After all, don’t teachers have a responsibility to teach ALL the facts without distorting them to further our own opinions? I feel these points should have been raised at the Arnold monument to provide a more balanced presentation. These points concerning Arnold will definitely be mentioned in my classroom and I will endeavor to provide my students with a balanced perspective, allowing them to make their own conclusions without tainting them with my personal views.

     We finished a day of battles with a tasty dinner at Salty’s Pub and Bistro. This establishment provided the best service and the most congenial staff of the entire trip! Then, we traveled the short drive to Albany for the night.

     Day 14: This was actually a travel day with a short stop to the grave site of President Chester Alan Arthur located in the Albany Rural Cemetery. Arthur became the next commander-in-chief when President Garfield died of blood poisoning after an assassination attempt. The visit to the grave site was the typical rainy, dark afternoon scene come to life. With all of us walking through the rain and some of us carrying umbrellas, we paid our respects to this former president. The memorial, called “The Peace Hat and President Chester Arthur” was tucked away in a corner of the cemetery. A memorial of a graceful angel holding a military hat and a palm frond contrasts with the black starkness and solidity of the coffin. There is no placard to provide information of this president or to explain why Albany is his burial location. I guess it might be true that President Arthur, the 21st and one term president, is the “forgotten president”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: