April 17, 2014

Editorial: Looking ahead and behind

In case you hadn’t yet thought about it, 2014 is a very big year for Plattsburgh.

It is the bicentennial of the most famous date in the city’s history — Plattsburgh’s claim to national fame and immortality.

In September 1814, British forces descended on our neighborhood, crossing the Canadian border by both land and sea, bent on overpowering our forebears and our upstart nation.

Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration volunteers and community leaders are already deep into making plans to mark this hallowed occasion.

It’s interesting to look back on what was done 100 years ago to pay homage to the first-century anniversary.

In 1914, the federal, state and city governments collaborated on the construction of the iconic Macdonough Monument, which was finally erected in 1926.

According to a Press-Republican archive article, a commission was appointed and Congress and the State Legislature passed appropriations “to erect and establish a suitable memorial” to the heroic achievements of the 1,700 local soldiers under the command of Brig. Gen. Alexander Macomb and the sailors under Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough who pulled off one of the great upsets in military history.

It took almost a week for the British to advance from near Montreal to Plattsburgh, during which time the locals got wind of the campaign and prepared for it. The planking was pulled from bridges across the Saranac River to impede the infantry advance, and Macdonough and his men lay in wait on Lake Champlain.

When Macdonough shockingly overwhelmed the British on the water, British Gen. Sir George Prevost ordered his soldiers to retreat back to Canada, rendering Americans victorious in Plattsburgh and, subsequently, the United States.

One hundred years later, a grateful Congress and legislature hadn’t forgotten. From the Press-Republican report: “An appropriation of $125,000 by the State Legislature … was followed by an equal appropriation by Congress.

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