J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

More to See at Saratoga and Camden

Two important Revolutionary War battlefields have recently been augmented with more land, according to news reports.

However, in both cases that land was already owned by an organization devoted to environmental and/or historical preservation. So these additional acres don’t appear to have been in danger of being built or paved on.

The New York History Blog reported:
Saratoga National Historical Park finalized the acquisition of 170 acres of historically significant land in April, after 10 years of collaboration with the Open Space Institute (OSI). After a minor administrative boundary adjustment to the park in 2016, Saratoga successfully secured funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to provide for the transfer of the property from OSI.

The property, located in the Town of Stillwater at the northeast end of the park on State Route 4, is a key portion of the historic site of the Battles of Saratoga, considered by many to be the turning point of the American Revolution. In September of 1777, this parcel was surrounded by the British Army to the north and the American Army to the south. When the British broke camp and advanced upon the American positions, General [John] Burgoyne and his troops occupied the high ground on this property, making it the “high water mark” of the British Army’s advance southward from Canada toward Albany. A road cut diagonally across this parcel and a fortification was built on the hilltop to block the road.

The land, purchased by OSI in 2005, also included a segment of the historic Champlain Canal, along which a region-wide effort is underway to construct a trail, known as the Champlain Canalway Trail, which runs for 62 miles between Whitehall and Waterford. In 2014 the town of Stillwater received a Consolidated Funding Application grant to complete the segment of the path that runs through the property, and in 2016 OSI donated that portion of the property to the Town of Stillwater. Navigating the administrative logistics of funding, boundary revisions, and coordinating environmental analysis and appraisals was finally complete to ensure the protection of this treasured landscape.
The Battle(s) of Saratoga was of course a major American victory, and that area has been preserved and celebrated for a long time.

It’s harder to find support to preserve the sites of major American defeats. In Camden, South Carolina, the local Chronicle-Independent newspaper reported on a portion of the battlefield where Gen. Horatio Gates lost big-time to Gen. Cornwallis:
The Palmetto Conservation Foundation recently transferred ownership of the 476-acre core battlefield to the Historic Camden Foundation. The battlefield is recognized as a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. . . .

Historic Camden Foundation also owns and manages the related Revolutionary War site, “Historic Camden,” south of the modern downtown. Historic Camden, which includes the original colonial village site, is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is recognized as a National Park Service affiliate. . . .

Plans for the property transfer began in earnest last fall. Historic Camden reviewed documents and reports from PCF, including “Battle of Camden Development Report, 2016,” compiled by the Olde English District tourism agency. Historic Camden provided legal and financial documents for PCF review. Both PCF’s and Historic Camden’s boards of directors gave final approval in late winter for the real estate transaction. . . .

PCF acquired the battlefield in 2002 when Katawba Valley Land Trust and Historic Camden asked for help to protect the battlefield from private sale and development. The organizations first negotiated a conservation easement with property owner Bowater Inc., a pulp and paper corporation. The easement protected 310 acres of the battlefield’s core. . . . Because Bowater wanted to sell rather than own property with a conservation easement, PCF purchased the 310 acres. Five years later in 2007, PCF purchased 161 adjoining acres owned by Crescent Resources, which was a subsidiary of Duke Energy. Both acquisitions were funded through the South Carolina Conservation Bank. The Daughters of the American Revolution also transferred to PCF the 6 acres they had protected since 1907. Katawba Valley Land Trust continues to hold the property under permanent conservation protection.

After assuming ownership, PCF conducted archaeological research to locate and protect graves and cultural resources, curated artifacts for public display in the Camden Archives and Museum, and replanted longleaf pine to help restore the battlefield landscape. As a trail-builder, PCF also constructed three miles of walking trails with interpretive signage, a podcast of battle history, and a digital topographic map.

Historic Camden plans to continue PCF’s work, and strengthen the connection between Camden’s history and the larger Southern Campaign that won the War for Independence.
People can see that “core battlefield” land by driving on Flat Rock Road 2.2 miles off U.S. Highway 521. The newspaper adds, “The remaining 824 acres where the Battle of Camden was fought are privately owned.”

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