Revolutionary War battlefield of Saratoga to be excavated

Revolutionary War, Saratoga
One of the most important battlefields of the Revolutionary War is going to be excavated by archaeologists ahead of an EPA cleanup.

Back in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, General Electric dumped polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River near Saratoga, New York. The dumping was banned in 1977 due to risks to public health, and the EPA has ordered GE to dredge up the affected silt from the river. Dredging destroys archaeological sites, though, and has already damaged Fort Edward, a British fort in the area dating to the mid 18th century. Archaeologists are working to excavate the stretch of river near Saratoga before the dredgers arrive.

Saratoga was on the frontier for much of the 18th century and played a large part in the French and Indian Wars (1755-1763) and the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). During the two battles of Saratoga in September and October of 1777, the American army stopped the British advance down the Hudson River Valley, then surrounded them and forced them to surrender. It was a major victory that led to the French coming into the war on the American side. French help was one of the deciding factors in an ultimate American victory, and the creation of the United States.

The Saratoga National Historical Park 9 miles south of Saratoga, New York, includes the battlefield, a visitor center, the restored country house of American General Philip Schuyler, a monument, and Victory Woods where the British surrendered on October 17, 1777.

Archaeologists hope to find artifacts from both wars and are currently looking for a British army camp.

[Image courtesy U.S. government]

Oswego, New York. Historical for Two Reasons

Snow is dumping on Oswego, New York. Five inches by the hour. When I heard this on the news, I perked up. I used to live there, and I haven’t lived in that much snow since. If anything, it’s been the opposite. From time to time I’ve even lived close to the equator. I don’t know if it’s the snow that chased me south.

I’ve thought about the Oswego snow from time to time, though. From where it sits next to Lake Ontario it can’t help but get snow. It’s called “lake effect.” Whatever it’s called, it’s a sight. Snow plows have some sort of contraption that throws snow into dump trucks so it can heaved onto the lake. The result is that streets look more like corridors that can reach chest high and the lake has mini-mountains. Cars sometimes put orange flags on the antennas so they can be seen at crossroads.

Although Oswego’s snow puts it in the national and local news across the U.S. from time to time, there is another claim to fame that not many people know about. It’s not as flashy as the snow, but it’s interesting to note just the same. During World War II almost 1,000 Jews were allowed to “temporarily” enter the United States to escape the Nazi regime in Germany. They were housed at Fort Ontario which just happens to be in Oswego.

Fort Ontario is the sight of a battleground bonanza. First built by the British in 1775 it was destroyed by the French only to be built again by the British, to then be destroyed by the Americans during the American Revolution and again destroyed again by the British in the War of 1812 (Are you keeping up?). Eventually, after wars weren’t fought in upstate New York anymore, the fort had some more incarnations until its rare use as a refugee camp between the years 1944-1946. This was the only place in the U.S. that served as such a haven and the only organized U.S. effort to bring Jews into the United States. There was fear that once people were allowed into the U.S., they wouldn’t leave. For awhile, the people who were housed at the fort had to stay there 24-7. After awhile the regulations lifted so the adults could get jobs and kids could go to Oswego’s schools. The kids going to school happened first. It wasn’t, I think, until year number two when the adults could leave for longer periods of time.

Today the fort is open as a tourist site. I’ve been there but I can’t recall how much information is on display about the fort’s role during WWII. I didn’t find out about this bit of history myself until after I had moved away and saw a program on educational television.