This week we’re headed to upstate New York for a visit to Saratoga National Historic Park – site of a Revolutionary War battle that changed the course of history. It was certainly the turning point of the Revolutionary War.
The mighty British army was attempting to stamp out an annoying rebellion. Instead, they surrendered tor the first time in history. This lured France into the conflict on the American side, affirmed U.S. independence and sent the redcoats staggering toward their eventual defeat.
I’ll serve up some details in a few paragraphs and provide a link to even more on the battle.
First, however, lets focus on Saratoga as a visitor destination. Sadly, there’s a big gap between what was and what is. Unless you can mentally close that gap – vicariously see, hear and smell the events of 240-odd years ago, you won’t find a lot to see – just a nice visitor center, one restored farmhouse, a few cannons strewn about, and a pleasant drive through some bucolic countryside.
So is Saratoga worth a visit, either as a weekend destination or as a side excursion from a longer road trip?
To help you decide, let me offer up a comparison, using Fort Stanwix, another Revolutionary War site in upstate New York. Stanwix played a supportive role in the big victory at Saratoga. It also lacks the pretty countryside – it’s right in the middle of a somewhat dumpy city. But it offers a reconstructed fort where you can interact with costumed interpreters and learn what life was like for the soldiers stationed there. It’s a great place to bring kids. Fort Stanwix was a featured destination in this blog a few weeks ago. To view that article. type Fort Stanwix in the search box.
Frankly, I think both Saratoga and Stanwix are worthwhile destinations.
Good web site
Okay, let’s focus on Saratoga National Historic Park. A good place to start is the park’s excellent web site: www.nps.gov/sara. The park is located about am hour’s drive north of Albany, not far from the Lake George resort area. The directions are complex. Here’s a summary: https://www.nps.gov/sara/planyourvisit/directions.htm
A few miles north of the main entrance via SR 32 are two detached attractions – The Philip Schuyler House and the 155-foot Saratoga Victory Tower. For details on both, go to the park’s landing page, then Plan Your Visit >> Things To Do.
The park is open daily, but the battlefield is open seasonally. Here’s the schedule: https://www.nps.gov/sara/planyourvisit/hours.htm Saratoga National Historic Park has no entry fee. It’s FREE!
The 9-mile-long Battlefield Tour Rd. climbs, dips and meanders through meadows and forests. Numbered stops are keyed to the map you get at the visitor center. At Stop #3 you have a great view of the Hudson River from the strategic bluff known as Bemis Heights. Here, the mighty Hudson is a modest river lined with farms and bluffs. This was the highlight for me and the location for our featured photo at the top of this post.
To further expand interpretation of the tour, the National Park Service offers a mobile web app, a cell phone tour, an MP3 tour and a special MP3 tour for kids. Go to https://www.nps.gov/sara/learn/photosmultimedia/multimedia.htm
The United States defeated the British by out-generaling and outfighting them. But the British contributed mightily to their own demise with a combination of indecision and blunders. General John Burgoyne’s plan was to lead 10,000 troops south from Montreal to Albany, where he would meet up with British forces arriving from the west and south. Burgoyne showed up, but the other guys didn’t.
It’s a fascinating story. You can read a complete description at https://www.nps.gov/sara/learn/historyculture/index.htm
Thanks to the many fine links on Saratoga’s web site, I’ve had less writing to do than usual. Join me again Monday, April 9, for our next update, when we visit Arizona’s rugged Apache Trail.