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September 4, 2007

Nationally recognized historian visits Plattsburgh

PLATTSBURGH -- Ed Bearss paced the deck of the back veranda at Clinton Community College, his eyes vibrant from the energy he had over the topic he was discussing.

His voice echoed as a couple of dozen people listened intently, some of them bundled in heavy clothing to fight of the chill coming from a brisk wind off nearby Lake Champlain.

"This is a good day to be talking about this topic," he said, noting that the weather on Oct. 11, 1776, was very similar to this late August evening in 2007. "But Arnold's plan would not have worked today."

Bearss is a nationally renowned historian who, in his 80s, still cherishes those moments when he shares his knowledge of the past with others. For this particular presentation, he was leading a tour of history buffs through the experiences of Benedict Arnold from patriot to traitor.

On that historic day during the Revolutionary War when Arnold faced a much stronger British fleet invading from Canada at Valcour Island, the wind was blowing as steadily as it did when Bearss led the tour discussion. However, it was coming down from the north on that eventful day, the opposite of the southerly breeze that greeted the tour members.

"Valcour Island was ideal (for Arnold's plan to face the British)," Bearss said, his gruff voice clear and impassioned, his eyes often closed as he recalled those moments so very long ago. "It was close to the New York shore; it was a relatively shallow channel. Arnold could see possibilities here."

Arnold's plan was to position his fleet in the channel between Valcour and the New York shore and allow the approaching British ships to pass on the lake-side of the island to the south where he would have the strength of the wind at his advantage.

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