Aug 29, 2010

Visit New York's Sackets Harbor

Hugging the shore of Lake Ontario, Sacket’s Harbor is today a beautiful serene town, which belies its tumultuous days during the War of 1812. Following the outbreak of war between the United States and Great Britain in 1812, Sackets Harbor became the center of American naval and military activity for the upper St. Lawrence Valley and Lake Ontario.

Standing on the porch of the Commandant’s House looking over what was once the battlefield it was hard to envision what the peaceful, green expanse looked like during the summer of 1813. There were two long log barracks that housed 1000 soldiers each and all the equipment needed to supply 2000 soldiers. During the war, Sackets Harbor was an active station where naval ships were constructed and supplied. With easy access to timber the area developed into an extensive shipyard. The major battle occurred on May 29, 1813 when the British attempted to destroy the American shipyard. At that time the majority of the American forces were across Lake Ontario attacking Fort George. The remaining Americans drove off the enemy, but a fire that destroyed their military stores marred their narrow victory. In 1814, the 9,600-pound Great Rope, made famous in the book of the same name by the esteemed Rosemary Nesbitt, was transported by lake and then overland on the shoulders of local volunteers from Oswego to Sackets Harbor. It was necessary as an anchor cable for the newly launched frigate, The Superior. In the Ice House a video, “The Lion and Eagle,” depicts the conflict.

The Commandant’s House shows the lifestyle of the 1860s. Interestingly, few of the artifacts actually belonged to the occupants, Josiah Tattnall and his family. Tattnall sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War. Considered a traitor his possessions were auctioned off to buy uniforms for local soldiers. Regardless there are many period things to see from the horsehair chairs to the tin-lined pantry. Living history programs, costumed interpreters, and the colonial garden help add to the understanding of the 1800s. Sackets Harbor Battlefield is designated as one the top ten War of 1812 historic sites.

Next to the battle site is the Pickering-Beach Museum. The long rambling 1817 house was home to families that were important in the development of the area. It offers more insight to the era.

The first stop in Sackets Harbor should be the Seaway Trail Discovery Center which provide detailed information on Sackets Harbor along with all the other sites along the 504 miles of the Seaway Trail. Housed in what was once a hotel, visitors learn about coastal recreation along with local wildlife. The hotel was a gathering place during its heyday. Chat with the animatronic Ulysses S. Grant who was stationed in Sackets Harbor at Madison Barracks before his Presidency. Another animatronic display is the ladylike cow comfy in her alcove stall adjoining the kitchen room. She explains life on a dairy farm and how important she is to the local economy.

Today Sackets Harbor is a beautiful resort town with many attractions. There is boating, places to eat, art galleries, and wonderful shopping experiences that span from unique crafts to artwork to antiques. It is also home to the Sacket Harbor Brewing Company. Just a few minutes away visit Old McDonald’s Farm with fun and learning for the whole family. For more information check and