Press-Republican

Columns

September 2, 2012

Local battle holds special place in history

This week marks the beginning, and next weekend the culmination, of a celebration in this region of historic proportion. We once again remember our important role in the creation of our nation, and especially in its defense in the War of 1812.

One does not have to look deeply to see that others recognize the history around us. Books abound about the Battle of Plattsburgh’s pivotal role in the culmination of the war by 1814. A couple of these books are written by local authors. Many more are written by authors from far and wide who realize that Plattsburgh’s stand defined our success in the war.

Some complain that history spends too much time documenting war and not enough time demonstrating the progress of cultures and civilizations in entirely peaceful ways. Perhaps the intensity of war in a nation’s collective consciousness and conscience is often so compelling that battles are easy historic events to research. And, because so much of our human and economic energy is devoted to such a singular purpose in those times, there is so much recorded that historians have an easier time recreating for later generations the mood of a nation at war.

Not all battles are pivotal, even though most significant battles carry with them the dramas of lives lost and individual families torn apart. Certainly not all battles change forever the course of a nation’s history, even if each battle may play a small part.

This battle, though, the Battle of Plattsburgh, did change our nation’s history forever. Its significance is that it left our battle with Canada and England as a stalemate. Borders as defined before the war remained essentially intact as the conclusion of the war was negotiated at the Treaty of Ghent.

The Battle of Plattsburgh, on Sept. 11, 1814, and a smaller battle at about that time in Baltimore that was designed to divert American attention away from the British strategy for Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, was the reason why a stalemate was reached.

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