September 2, 2012

Local battle holds special place in history


By the summer of 1814, the momentum of the war had ebbed, but not in our favor. The British had been better organized and resourced, and divisions within our own country, including talk of secession of the New England states, was taking its toll on the spirit of a ragtag and regional militia-based American force. The British planned the Battle of Plattsburgh as the final blow that would give them the momentum to bisect a fledgling America at its heart. New England could be peeled off at the Hudson River, as might much of the Midwest.

The British strategy for Plattsburgh was central. The recriminations after their failure demonstrate that. And, our leaders did not fully appreciate, or were not fully able to resource, the significant battle that was about to occur.

Nonetheless, an indomitable American spirit emerged, and the British thrust was repulsed. That we now know, even though few appreciate how this nation would be different had Britain succeeded.

The events of this week are designed to demonstrate not only that we can celebrate and enjoy the present, but that an important and somewhat untapped part of our regional psyche is defined by our past. While we don’t have national anthems immortalizing Plattsburgh’s role in the maintenance of borders as we know them, we are at the center of most everything we see today.

Without Plattsburgh, there would likely not have been any great American cities like Boston, Detroit, Buffalo, Chicago and even Burlington. If we had failed in Plattsburgh, and had allowed the British to maintain the upper hand in negotiations in Ghent, our defeat may not have ended with that war. It is even possible that a British consolidation of the north of our nation would have resulted in additional conflicts against a weakened and dis-spirited people.

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