Monday, September 19, 2005

A tour through history

I enjoyed a fun activity Saturday afternoon. I went on a bicycle tour of the Saratoga Battlefield.

The Battlefield is preserved as a national historic park. For those unfamiliar with the history, many believe the events that took place there in 1777 where the turning point of the Revolutionary War. Had it not been for the Battle of Saratoga, we might all still be singing “God Save the Queen.”

There were actually two battles fought there. The first was 228 years ago today and the second was on Oct. 7, 1777.

The park is set up so you can either drive or bike through it and stop at designated areas to view plaques and exhibits detailing what happened at each particular location.

At a couple of the stops they also had people in period costumes. At one – the Neilson House – a patriot camp was recreated. It was complete with tents, soldiers and a couple of Indians milling about and women cooking over open fires.

A crowd gathered around a man dressed as Major General Horatio Gates to hear him tell his tales. And I recognized one man’s costume as that of a ranger and struck up conversation with him, asking him some questions about the rangers and Robert Rogers, who I read about in “The Adirondacks: A History of America's First Wilderness.”

I got to hold a replica of a “Brown Bess” rifle and watched soldiers fire their similar weapons. More impressive was the artillery demonstration. Three, five and nine-pound canons were fired. I wisely followed the advice to stick my fingers in my ears – those things were loud!

On the steps of the Neilson House we watched a recreation of a court martial proceeding. It all seemed very authentic until the cell phone of one of the men guarding the defendant started ringing!

We also saw the monument to Benedict Arnold. He was one of the heroes at Saratoga. It would be another three years or so before he would become the most famous traitor in American history. The monument was erected in the 1800s and stands on the site where he was wounded. It has a lengthy inscription detailing his feats, but never mentions his name!

The whole route is about 11 miles. As I said, you can drive through the park, but I can’t think of a better way to see it than on a bicycle. I’ve always had a passing interest in colonial America and the Revolutionary War. This was a great way to learn a little more about our history while enjoying a pleasant ride (except for a couple of challenging hills) with some beautiful scenery.


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