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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Valcour Island and the Lessons of History

It is easy to see Valcour Island from the boat launch at Peru, New York, and from the campus of Clinton County Community College at Bluff's Point, but not from the vicinity of the New York State Marker along Route 9 that purports to identify the area of the action.  There is a conference center there (private property).  One wold think that such an important battle would not only not be so generally ignored in discussions of the war for the lay person, but would also have a small dedicated parking and viewing area by the roadside.

Anyway, here's a view of the strait near the sign that shows the vicinity of the battle.


There are those who credit Benedict Arnold with creating and commanding America's first navy.  It was here, in the straight between the New York mainland (shown in foreground) and Valcour Island (showing the island to its southern tip) that, on October 11, 1776, Arnold stopped the pursuit of Guy Carleton, commander-in-chief of the British forces in Canada, following Arnold's withdrawal from the siege of Quebec in spring 1776.

The only other plaque I found apart from the one by Route 9 was at Bluff's Point.  We should always recall the words of George Santayana that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," although Edmund Burke far more contemporaneous to the Revolution, also reportedly said, “Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.” The war might well have been crushed before it began but for Arnold's determined and heroic stand in these waters, yet you could not tell it from the minimal coverage here. 

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