One of the largest annual events in Plattsburgh begins Thursday. The Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration starts with memorial ceremonies and features a number of reenactments.
On September 11, 1814 the British engaged American forces in Plattsburgh in one of the most significant battles of the War of 1812. Battle of Plattsburgh Association President and archaeologist Keith Herkalo says despite its significance it’s often a forgotten battle. “The battles at Plattsburgh here: the largest invasion of our country’s history ever. Here in Plattsburgh there were 10,351 British soldiers. There were 450 American regulars. On the British side there were 4 major ships. On the American side there were 4 major ships. In our bay here, Cumberland Bay, they beat each other up for two hours and twenty minutes. The British surrendered their fleet and the British land general thought that his army of 10,000 was surrounded and they issued an immediate order to retreat.”
“Highlights always for me personally are the reenactments.” Plattsburgh Promotions and Special Events Coordinator Sandra Geddes is responsible for coordinating the Battle of Plattsburgh events. “We have returning reenactments that we’ve done for several years one being the Battle of Plattsburgh Bay. And it’s a wonderful representation of the water battle. We have a reenactment, last year we had it for the first time, and the audience has to actually walk alongside of the reenactment as its taking place. And it ends with the battle right on the Oval. And then we have a Bridge Street reenactment where the British and the Americans face off. We have another new reenactment and it’s a nighttime reenactment. And we have like over 200 reenactors that are going to come this year.”
Herkalo notes that Plattsburgh has commemorated the battle in some form every year since 1815. “The correct word is commemorate. It’s not a celebration. Winston Churchill believes that the Battles of Plattsburgh were the most important of the War of 1812. Theodore Roosevelt said so. And the largest invasion was right here.”
This is the first year Colin Read will attend the Battle of Plattsburgh as mayor. He says the battle’s history is one of the most important yet hidden assets of the city. “Some really significant history will be celebrated tomorrow, on Thursday. We’ve got about five events alone. I’m very much looking forward to the commemoration at Riverside Cemetery. As you know really important figures from the battle in 1814 are still buried there on both the British and the American side. Then on Friday there’s another almost dozen historical and entertainment events and things really take off on Saturday with quite literally dozens of events throughout the day and continuing right into Sunday.”