PLATTSBURGH — Much like Commodore Thomas Macdonough at the helm of the USS Saratoga, 1814 Commemoration Inc. did not throw away its shot.
BOOM! A PANDEMIC
The Battle of Plattsburgh, known locally as the real end to the War of 1812, has been commemorated in the Lake City since 1997, but administrative challenges late last year had made longtime volunteers question the ability of the decades-long tradition to go on.
"There was about 14 of us who got together and thought, 'Well, let's not let it die,'" Tom Donahue said, adding that 1814 Commemoration Inc. had thus been born.
"Then, right in the middle of all of that, 'Boom!'" Donahue said, "COVID-19 happened."
LED TO VICTORY
It was more than two centuries ago that Macdonough was faced with his own challenges on the waters of Lake Champlain.
The commodore led a U.S. naval force to battle against a much larger British squadron there.
Battle of Plattsburgh volunteers have said it was Macdonough's naval strategies and anchoring tactics that had, despite all odds, led the Americans to victory on Sept. 11, 1814.
With a global health crisis discouraging large gatherings, commemoration volunteers had to channel their own strategies and tactics to navigate the rough waters of 2020.
While volunteers could have packed up the costumes and muskets and kept history books shut this year, 1814 Commemoration Inc. was determined to host the annual event.
"Our mission statement was to have a commemoration every year," Donahue, the group's president, said. "We thought maybe we could do a virtual presentation on a website.
"Then we realized, we don't have a website."
After pairing up with Bruce Carlin of Carlin Media, the group recently launched its website: 1814inc.com.
1814 Commemoration Inc. planned to premier new videos there every couple of days, starting Sunday, Aug. 23 and lasting through Sunday, Sept. 13.
"That way when people come back to the website they won't see the same things," Donahue said.
Per the commemoration schedule, videos would feature various aspects of the Battle of Plattsburgh and its time period, including works on the British invasion, the battle's reenactors and popular children's games of the times.
1814 Commemoration Inc. was to host about a half dozen live events this year, as well.
Those would kick-off Thursday, Sept. 10 with the Culver Hill Commemoration Ceremony at the Culver Hill Monument in Beekmantown and wrap up on Saturday, Sept. 12 with the "Battle of Plattsburgh and Songs of the North Country" drive-in concert at Curbside at Harborside.
Musical guests have performed at that weekly concert series all summer long down by the City of Plattsburgh's waterfront off Dock Street.
The Connecticut Peddler, also known as Stanley "Stan" Ransom, as well as Peter Cadieux, Two Tall String Band and The Jolly Rogues would perform that night, rounding off both the 2020 Battle of Plattsburgh commemoration and the summer concert series.
'ALL OVER THE WORLD'
The 2020 commemoration has been financially supported by donations from locals and area businesses, as well as grants from Stewart's Shops and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.
While Donahue hoped, via a vaccine, that the commemoration would return in its traditional form next year, he thought its virtual format could up its exposure this year.
"There are people all over the country that have no idea what happened in Plattsburgh and how it changed the course of our country," he said. "With this new website, it will be available all over the world.
"As people are looking at all of these different videos, maybe they'll say, "Next year, let's take a ride up to Plattsburgh to see it in person."
And the 1814 Commemoration Inc. president was proud the group hadn't thrown away its shot.
"You're looking at this new organization that was stuck in the mud because of the pandemic," Donahue said. "I'm proud that we were able to do this."
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VIRTUAL EVENTS SCHEDULE
The 2020 Battle of Plattsburgh Virtual Commemoration launches Sunday, Aug. 23. The 1814 Commemoration Inc. will release videos to its website according to the following schedule:
• Sunday, Aug. 23 at 6 a.m.: The Final Invasion, an original documentary by Bruce Carlin of Carlin Media and David Fitz-Enz.
• Tuesday, Aug. 25 at 12 p.m.: Kids' Games of 1814, presented by Stanley and Christine Ransom.
• Thursday, Aug. 27 at 12 p.m.: William Beaumont — Physician and Researcher, presented by Dr. Paolo Fedi.
• Saturday, Aug. 29 at 12 p.m.: Thomas Macdonough Memorial Monument, presented by Steven Englehart.
• Monday, Aug. 31 at 12 p.m.: 1814 Reenactors, presented by Craig Russell and Paul "PJ" Miller.
• Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 12 p.m.: British Invasion Orders Confirm the Importance of the Invasion of Plattsburgh, presented by Keith Herkalo.
• Friday, Sept. 4 at 12 p.m.: Aiken's Rifles, presented by John Barton and Luke Cyphers.
• Sunday, Sept. 6 at 12 p.m.: Battle of Culver Hill, presented by Gary VanCour.
• Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 12 p.m.: How American Victory of Plattsburgh Changed Peace Negotiations, presented by Vince Pliafico.
• Wednesday, Sept. 9 at 12 p.m.: Battle of Plattsburgh Memorials, presented by John Rock.
• Thursday, Sept. 10 at 12 p.m.: Commemoration Parade and Beat Retreat, produced by Bruce Carlin.
• Friday, Sept. 11 at 6 a.m.: 2014 Battle of Plattsburgh Bicentennial Commemoration, produced by Bruce Carlin of Carlin Media.
LIVE EVENTS SCHEDULE
The 1814 Commemoration Inc. would host a series of live events for its 2020 commemoration. All in-person events would adhere to federal and state guidelines, and masks were required, officials said.
The schedule was as follows:
• Thursday, Sept. 10 at 11 a.m.: Culver Hill Commemoration Ceremony at the Culver Hill Monument on Route 22, two miles north of Route 374, in Beekmantown.
• Thursday, Sept. 10 at 4:30 p.m.: Riverside Cemetery Commemoration Ceremony at 7 Seltzer Road in the City of Plattsburgh.
• Thursday, Sept. 10 at 6 p.m.: Old Post Cemetery Commemoration Ceremony at Route 9 and Lake Forest Drive in the City of Plattsburgh.
• Saturday, Sept. 12 at 11 a.m.: Crab Island Commemoration Ceremony. The boats will leave the Peru Boat Launch on Route 9 in Peru starting at 9 a.m. and will return after the ceremony.
• Saturday, Sept. 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Military Encampment Displays Reenactors, exhibits and demonstrations at the City Marina at the end of Dock Street in the City of Plattsburgh.
• Saturday, Sept. 12 at 11 a.m.: Thomas Macdonough Memorial Monument Commemoration Ceremony at the monument on City Hall Place in the City of Plattsburgh.
• Saturday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m.: Battle of Plattsburgh and Songs of the North Country drive-in concert at Curbside at Harborside at the City of Plattsburgh's waterfront off Dock Street.