By JEFF MEYERS
CRAB ISLAND — John Rock has taken the rich history of Crab Island to heart.
It was more than a decade ago that Rock first learned that a flagpole that had been placed on the island in the early 1900s had tumbled to the ground during a wind storm and was in serious disrepair.
The former New York State Electric and Gas lineman became a moving force in restoring the pole and ensuring that the American flag has a permanent place on the island.
He has been outspoken in his desire to honor the troops who are buried on Crab Island, victims of the Sept. 11, 1814, Battle of Plattsburgh — whether with the flag or the 100-year-old monument that also stands as a reminder of the soldiers who died for their country.
More recently, Rock has become proactive in telling the entire story of Crab Island's military heritage, including recognition of the British troops who are also buried beneath the thick vegetation of the small island.
"Last fall, we took the Carters — Roy and Joanne — for a tour of the island," Rock said Thursday as he stood near the Peru boat launch.
"They are direct descendants of Col. (James) Wellington, and they felt they wanted to do something to recognize the British troops who are buried on the island."
Wellington was killed in the battle at Culver Hill in Beekmantown a few days before the Battle of Plattsburgh.
Mr. Carter returned to England after his visit to the North Country last year and collected from British Naval Archives the names of 47 British sailors who had been killed during the battle and buried in makeshift grave sites on the nearby island.
He and Mrs. Carter then agreed to purchase a granite monument to place on the island, near the flagpole, in memory of those 47 men.
"With help from American Legion Post 1619 and Post Commander Mike Rock, we were able to get the monument finished and erected in time for this year's memorial service," Rock said of today's annual service on the island.
The new monument has been placed just to the south of the flagpole and near a similar monument that recognizes the 50 Americans who were also buried on the island.
"There were actually 52 Americans who were buried there, but two of them were officers and were exhumed after the battle and buried at Riverside Cemetery (in Plattsburgh)," Rock said.
His work is not complete, however. Mr. Carter uncovered the names of the 47 men who died instantly during battle. Another 55 British sailors were mortally wounded during the battle but were not buried on Crab Island until a day or more later and were not listed in the British Naval Archives that Carter accessed.
"What we're going to do over a period of time is collect some funds to put in a plaque for those other men," Rock said, adding that the names are available through other accounts of the action that day on Plattsburgh Bay.
Today's ceremony begins at 11 a.m. at the monument on the north end of the island, where a wreath will be placed for all American veterans killed in action. Then, the party will walk a few hundred yards to the south, where the new monument for the British troops will be unveiled.
The services are open to the public, but no boat service is available to and from the island.
If time permits before the services begin, Rock said, he will use his pontoon boat to help boaters who can't land on the island but have to moor several feet from shore.
E-mail Jeff Meyers at: firstname.lastname@example.org