PLATTSBURGH — On Oct. 11, 1776, the trees along the Lake Champlain shoreline were probably showing off their beautiful fall colors.
The serenity of the scene contradicted the do-or-die mindset of the 30 British ships sailing south from Canada to destroy the rebel fleet on Lake Champlain. What ensued has come to be called the Battle of Valcour, when that huge fleet met a “motley” bunch in a measly 15 ships.
Many Americans were killed, others taken captive. In a daring act, the survivors escaped under cover of night, leaving the British shocked when they discovered the escape the next morning.
Such bravery has not escaped the Saranac Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Plattsburgh, however. For the past 116 years, it has been commemorating the battle, intending that the brave sailors and soldiers not be forgotten.
“Bringing our local heritage alive right at the site of the battle is important,” Saranac Chapter Vice Regent Trudy Burger said. “This will be our 117th ceremony, and it’s just as important as the first.”
The ceremony, set for 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Clinton Community College, will include the laying of 10 wreaths commemorating all American battles from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Wreaths will also be presented in honor of the Gold Star Mothers and Dads and the POW/MIA from all wars.
Adding to the ceremony will be the Police Pipe and Drums of Plattsburgh, SUNY Plattsburgh ROTC, the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir and a bugle solo by Bill Long.
“Our featured speaker will be John Krueger, who is the director of the Kent-Delord House in Plattsburgh, another historic site,” Burger said.
Krueger, who is also City of Plattsburgh historian, will deliver an address entitled “Halting the First Invasion of the United States from Canada: Benedict Arnold and Valcour Island, 1776.”
“We are really fortunate to have so many gifted people and history enthusiasts in our area,” Saranac DAR Regent Pam Meyers said. “It will be a very nice ceremony.”
While the keynote address, posting of the colors and other greetings will be held inside the main building at CCC, a lakeside naval cannonade salute by local historian and re-enactor Craig Russell will take place on the outdoor colonnade.
Following the ceremony, a drawing will be held for a quilt created by Burger, entitled “Waving American Flag.” Tickets are $5 each or 3 for $10 and can be purchased at the Kent-Delord House Museum on Cumberland Avenue in Plattsburgh or at the commemoration. Proceeds will go toward preserving the historic Kate Cleveland Smith House, home of the DAR Saranac Chapter on Cornelia Street in Plattsburgh.
“Observance of the Battle of Valcour is a wonderful way to learn about history from so many excellent sources,” said member and Master of Ceremonies Amy Sheldrake. “It is open to the public, and I encourage anyone who is interested, especially in local history, to take the time to attend.”