New York State is a beautiful place to live for a myriad of reasons (the sheer amount of Stewart's locations alone makes living here worth it). But people may not realize how many absolutely pivotal Revolutionary War moments took place in the area. The locations of all these moments are still easily accessible, often well-kept and well-preserved in beautifully picturesque locations. From tracing the steps of Benedict Arnold's treason, to visiting an 18th Century pub...New York is loaded with cool historical treasures.
If you're looking for a day trip or some weekend sightseeing, I've got you covered! Here are 10 places mentioned in Rebellion episodes that you can visit today:
1. Valcour Bay near Plattsburgh, NY (pictured above)
This little bay was the site of one of the most unlikely events of the war. General Washington and the rest of the Continental Army were desperate for help in stopping the enemy advance.
After they invaded New York and took it over with terrifying force, the British threatened to virtually split the colonies in half. With troops already stationed in Canada, they were primed to sail down the Hudson River, taking control of one of America's most important waterways.
And who was the only one standing between them and victory? Benedict Arnold.
Yup, that's right. Before he became an infamous traitor, he successfully stood up to the formidable British Navy with a tiny force of boats that came to be known as the Mosquito Fleet. Most of the key fighting took place in Valcour Bay, where the USS Philadelphia sank to the bottom of Lake Champlain. In 1935, it was raised by a group of divers and is now on display in the Smithsonian. This location remains a National Historic Landmark, and just a generally picturesque place to visit.
2. Fort Ticonderoga in Ticonderoga, NY
Fort Ticonderoga was one of the most important locations of the war. It changed hands several times, first taken from the British by Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys (with an assist from, you guessed it, Benedict Arnold). It was then taken back by the British, led by General John Burgoyne on his way to Saratoga. While Burgoyne continued to move South (his plan was to go all the way to Albany), rebel forces met and eventually defeated him at the Battle of Saratoga (where ya boi Benedict Arnold was hailed a hero). As the first shots rang out in Saratoga, Colonel John Brown led a surprise raid on Fort Ticonderoga, returning command of the fort to the Americans, where it remained ever since.
The fort is now an awesome museum with a killer view of Lake Champlain, Mt. Defiance and Mt. Independence across the water.
Fort Ticonderoga website
3. Saratoga Battlefield
Continuing South from Lake Champlain, we arrive in Stillwater, NY for the site of the war's most important battle, the Saratoga Battlefield. Officially named Saratoga National Historical Park, the battlefield is chock full of goodies. A quick car ride, bike ride, or jog around the paved pathways takes you through the Turning Point of the Revolution. The path is dotted with monuments, replica cannons, a farm house that dates back to the days of the battle, markers pointing out locations of significant events (like the spot where ya boi Benedict Arnold was shot)...and like everything else on this list, the park is just beautiful.
Think about it, you can go for a gorgeous fall bike ride AND stand in the exact location where a sniper took out a British officer at a distance of 300 yards, tipping the battle in the rebels' favor - a pretty enjoyable autumn day in my opinion.
Directions and more information here.
4. Victory Woods (just a few miles north)
If you're going to the Saratoga Battlefield, you have to shoot up to Victory Woods in the village of Victory, NY (near Schuylerville). It marks the location where British General John Burgoyne surrendered, marking the end of the Battle of Saratoga. Aside from the very cool obelisk on the left (known as the Saratoga Monument), Victory Woods offers beautiful scenery. Park in the parking lot near the monument, walk all the way through the cemetery and enter a dirt path that takes you through history. Detailed markers give information on the bleak conditions of the battle and the exact location where Burgoyne surrendered. It's a nice, relaxing walk through a serene forest. Afterwards, you can climb to the top of the monument or admire it from outside. It features sculptures of the major players in the battle, and contains a mysterious omission regarding Benedict Arnold - from the National Park Service website:
"General Philip Schuyler faces east toward his Saratoga estate, burned by the British but rebuilt the following month. To the west, Colonel Daniel Morgan faces the positions his corps took to help surround the British. In the northern niche, General Horatio Gates faces toward the route of British invasion from Canada. The southern niche remains empty, signifying General Benedict Arnold’s heroism in 1777 overshadowed by his later treachery."
Get more info here.
5. Schuyler House (a stone's throw away)
Jump back onto Route 4 and head south for like a minute to visit the Schuyler House. General Phillip Schuyler, whose family go back to the earliest Dutch settlers and for whom Schuylerville is named, used that house for manufacturing and farming, taking advantage of its proximity to the Hudson River for shipping. It was also used throughout the war to house some of America's most influential leaders: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Marquis de Lafayette were all known to have stayed in the home. It's quite a picturesque little estate, and the helpful tour guides there can also provide insight into the farming, the treatment of slaves on the property, details on how items were used throughout the house, and more.
Visit their website for directions and more info.
6. Schuyler Mansion (Albany, NY)
Still up for some Schuyler sites? Head to Albany to visit Phillip Schuyler's home, nestled between Lincoln Park and the Western bank of the Hudson River. Thanks to I-787, the breathtaking view that most certainly was to be had from this location is now frightfully obscured, but this National Historical Site still effectively transports you to the 18th Century. For all you Hamilton: An American Musical fans out there...this was where Eliza Schuyler married Alexander Hamilton...it's the site of the Winter's Ball y'all!
7. Lower Hudson Valley
OK, there are so many good sites in this area, I'll just have to summarize them. My favorite thing to do here is retrace the steps of Benedict Arnold and John Andre. First, a little background:
Benedict Arnold was put in charge of the fort at West Point. Unbeknownst to his fellow officers, he was secretly communicating with the British to surrender the fort in exchange for money and a place in their army.
In 1780, Arnold made secret plans with a British officer named John Andre, who crossed the Hudson River to meet with him at the house of Joshua Hett Smith (seen below).
The house is no longer standing, but the location is in tact. Today, it operates as the Helen Hayes Hospital.
Then there's the wonderful Stony Point Battlefield, a historic park right on the bank of the Hudson River. This is the location where "Mad" Anthony Wayne and Peter Francisco charged the enemy's defenses, capturing the fort in dramatic fashion (as detailed in the episode above). It's extremely well-preserved and a great place to spend a sunny afternoon.
Check it out here.
Then there's the actual wooded path where John Andre met Arnold to discuss their plans. You can park your car and walk, jog, or bike down this path, drinking in a great view of the Hudson the whole way.
There's a ton of other stuff in that area too, offering a plethora of historic goodies to enjoy.
8. Patriot's Park - Tarrytown, NY
Tarrytown, NY lies on the East side of the Hudson River. This is where John Andre escaped to before finally being caught by some rebel soldiers on patrol. One of those soldiers was wearing a Hessian-like hat (Hessians were German mercenaries fighting for the British), which signaled to Andre that he had finally reached the safety of the British lines...he was wrong.
As a matter of fact, the whole reason he had to cross the river on his own in the first place was because a couple of dudes saw his ship, the HMS Vulture, floating in the river and fired their cannon at it, forcing it to sail away.
A park called Patriot's Park is situated in Tarrytown, where you can stand at the spot where Andre was captured. A statue there is dedicated to the soldiers who apprehended John Andre, uncovering the traitorous plot of Benedict Arnold.
9. West Point
Sick of Benedict Arnold yet? Well, if you ever have the time, you should take a trip down to the United States Military Academy at West Point. The campus is overflowing with historical nuggets and the view of the Hudson River is breathtaking. There are awesome tours of the campus available, a visitor's center, and a museum, so it covers a lot more than just Benedict Arnold.
10. The Old '76 House - Tappan, NY
Right above the New York/New Jersey border is an astonishing establishment...in that it was established in 1754! It still operates as a restaurant/bar today, featuring all sorts of historical memorabilia. During the Revolution, it was used by George Washington as a headquarters, and is probably most famous for housing everyone's favorite British officer, John Andre, until he was hanged a few blocks away in 1780. So drop in and order a pint next time you're in the neighborhood!
BONUS: Stockbridge Cemetery - Stockbridge, MA
OK, so this one isn't technically in New York, but it's not very far over the border.
If you remember the first ever episode of Rebellion, it featured an amazing former slave, the first ever to sue for her freedom: Elizabeth Freeman. If you need a little refresher, you can listen above:
Elizabeth Freeman is buried in this cemetery. Her gravestone still stands and features the following inscription:
ELIZABETH FREEMAN, also known by the name of MUMBET died Dec. 28th 1829. Her supposed age was 85 Years. She was born a slave and remained a slave for nearly thirty years; She could neither read nor write, yet in her own sphere she had no superior or equal. She neither wasted time nor property. She never violated a trust, nor failed to perform a duty. In every situation of domestic trial, she was the most efficient helper and the tenderest friend. Good mother, farewell.
So that's it! And that's barely scratching the surface of what New York has to offer in Revolutionary War History (I didn't even include everything in New York City)!
If you're at all interested in making any of these trips, New York State has a great resource that I've linked to here.
Or feel free to shoot me a note in the comments or write me an email if you want suggestions or have any questions about any of these places. I'd be more than happy to help you plan an outing!
So jump in the car, get out there while the leaves are changing, and get yourself a big ol' helping of New York State and Revolutionary War History!