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November 10, 2011

After the Battle of Plattsburgh

PLATTSBURGH — Have you ever wondered what happened to some of the soldiers who participated in the Battle of Plattsburgh on Sept. 11, 1814?

In 1995, I was working for the U.S. Department of Defense, posted to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. When I married in August of that year, our wedding reception was at the Hale Koa Hotel on Waikiki Beach.

One of the guests approached me and said, "Didn't you say that you were from Plattsburgh, New York?"

I replied that I was, and she asked me to come with her to see something. We went to the huge stairway leading to the second floor, and she pointed out a large portrait hanging on the wall labeled "Brigadier General Rene E. DeRussy."

A plaque at the bottom indicated that one of his major accomplishments was being decorated for gallant conduct in the Battle of Plattsburgh.

FRENCH HERITAGE

My curiosity was piqued, and I began researching this Battle of Plattsburgh soldier.

I requested information on DeRussy from the Department of Defense, U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii, the National Archives and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Rene DeRussy was born in Santo Domingo in 1789, the son of Thomas DeRussy. Rene's father, a French citizen from St. Malo, France, had been recruited by Benjamin Franklin to fight against the British in the Revolutionary War. He was brevetted to a lieutenancy by Franklin for his heroic conduct as a midshipman against the British on Sept. 23, 1779, in the fleet of John Paul Jones. Thomas and his family moved to New York in 1791.

GALLANT CONDUCT

When Rene and his brother, Lewis, were old enough, they attended West Point. Rene started on March 20, 1807, and graduated on June 12, 1812, in time to serve in the War of 1812.

He participated in the campaign on the St. Lawrence River and the operations on Lake Champlain. He was an engineer and drew several sketches of the fortifications around Plattsburgh during the Battle of Plattsburgh.

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