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July 29, 2013

Historic marker placed at Pike's Cantonment

PLATTSBURGH — It was 200 years ago this week when British Col. John Murray and his troops raided Plattsburgh and burned an abandoned American encampment west of the village on the Saranac River.

At a ceremony on Saturday, the Town of Plattsburgh and the Battle of Plattsburgh Association remembered Murray’s Raid and the role it would play in the Sept. 11, 2014, battle on Cumberland Bay.

“This is so fantastic,” said Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Bernard Bassett as he unveiled a new interpretive sign at the site on Route 22 that describes both Pike’s Cantonment and Murray’s Raid.

“This (recognition of Pike’s Cantonment) is another piece that adds to our local history and to the community,” he said. 

“There’s so much more we need to learn (about the cantonment) that was almost lost.”

EMPTY GROUND

Pike’s Cantonment was a military encampment that stretched from the wooded area east of Route 22 all the way down to the Saranac River. More than 2,000 soldiers spent the winter of 1812-13 at the site after a failed attempt to march on Montreal in November 1812.

Town of Plattsburgh Historian Jerry Bates described the events leading up to the formation of Pike’s Cantonment, including American attempts to end the War of 1812 quickly with attacks at Detroit and Niagara, followed by the activity on Lake Champlain.

“By the time they reached Plattsburgh (following skirmishes at Lacolle, Que.,) there was nothing prepared for their return (to their home posts),” he said. 

“All they had was this empty ground, a place to stay but nothing to camp with.”

DESERTED CAMP

The troops began to construct dozens of cabins during those early winter days, but more than 200 died from measles, typhoid and other illnesses caused by the horrid conditions.

Most of the surviving troops marched from Plattsburgh in the spring of 1813, leaving a deserted encampment behind. 

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