(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Campaign 1776, a project of the Civil War Trust, today announced the preservation of 184 acres at two New York sites where fighting helped turn the tide in the Revolutionary War’s 1777 Saratoga Campaign and saved a U.S. fleet during the War of 1812.
In its inaugural New York preservation effort through Campaign 1776, the Trust preserved 160 acres where the American Revolution’s Battle of Fort Ann was waged in Washington County, northeast of Saratoga Springs.
The first War of 1812 land to be saved by the Trust is 24-acre Horse Island in Lake Ontario near the upstate village of Sackets Harbor, N.Y.
“The bravery and resilience shown by patriots on the hallowed battlegrounds of Fort Ann and Sackets Harbor will be forever honored, thanks to concerned citizens, the state of New York and the American Battlefield Protection Program,” Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer said.
The Battle of Fort Ann was fought on July 8, 1777, a year and four days after the Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, when the country’s future was very much in doubt.
British troops—under General “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne—sought to slice the new nation in two. His plan: Cut off New England from the rest of the colonies by marching down the Hudson River, capturing Albany, and building a chain of outposts from New York City to Montreal.
But after Burgoyne’s army dealt them many setbacks, American forces made a stand at Fort Ann, attacking a detachment of 200 Redcoats on a wooded hill above the Hudson. The combatants fought until they exhausted their ammunition and the Americans withdrew, anticipating British reinforcements. The Battle of Fort Ann portended the destruction of Burgoyne's army three months later at Saratoga.
Thirty-six years later, Sackets Harbor was where America’s Great Lakes fleet was saved during the nation’s “Second War of Independence” against Great Britain. The harbor was the main U.S. naval base and shipyard on Lake Ontario. Its capture would have handed the British control of Lakes Ontario and Erie, and opened the central United States to invasion from Canada.
British soldiers went ashore on May 29, 1813, striking the naval shipyard and forcing U.S. militia to fall back. But the Americans rallied, attacked the British right flank and forced General George Prevost to abandon efforts to capture the port.
The harbor’s Horse Island, which includes an 1870 lighthouse, was purchased with the assistance of an American Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant awarded by the National Park Service.
Prevost’s troops landed on Horse Island, about a mile west of the town of Sackets Harbor. Militiamen from Albany were waiting, but couldn’t stop the landing party of British and Canadian infantrymen. The New Yorkers fell back across the causeway linking the island to the mainland, and the British followed. Fortunately, contrary winds kept most of the British naval squadron from joining the fight.
The Sackets Harbor battlefield is among 19 sites in nine states benefiting from $7.2 million in grants announced July 5 by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at Antietam National Battlefield. It is the first time that the American Battlefield Land Grant program has been used to preserve a War of 1812 site, anywhere in the nation, since the Park Service expanded the program in 2014 to include Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields, Zinke noted.
The Trust eventually plans to transfer Horse Island to the New York state park system for incorporation into the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, with financial assistance from the state. The Fort Ann property will be transferred to the Town of Fort Ann, New York, for public access and interpretation.
The cost of acquiring the two properties was $1.01 million.
Campaign 1776 is a national initiative of the Civil War Trust, America’s largest and most effective battlefield preservation organization. Its purpose is to protect the battlefields of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, and to educate the public about the importance of these battlefields in forging the nation we are today. To learn more, visit the Campaign 1776 website at www.campaign1776.org.
Campaign 1776 was created in 2014 as an initiative of the Civil War Trust; in May 2018 it became the Revolutionary War Trust, a division of the American Battlefield Trust.