PLATTSBURGH — Over the next 22 months, readers will have a chance to read, in real time, the events of the War of 1812 leading up to the Battle of Plattsburgh in a series of articles by Colin Read.
The series will run monthly in the Press-Republican thanks to a partnership with Glens Falls National Bank and Trust Co., culminating in September 2014, to coincide with the bicentennial celebration of the Battle of Plattsburgh.
To write the articles, Read is researching the Plattsburgh Republican newspapers from the time period between 1812 and 1814, summarizing the battle information reported and also looking into its impact on our region. Due to the different style of language typical to the time period, Read is translating the information and paraphrasing it into articles for Press-Republican readers.
Read hopes the series will heighten awareness about the Battle of Plattsburgh, show the impact of the war on the local community and its importance in American History.
“The goal of the series is to educate people on how significant this battle was,” Read said. “Our battle was the pivotal battle — if the British had won, the U.S. wouldn’t be what it is today.”
During the time of the battle, the nation was very young — just 36 years old — and it was still fledgling, making it very vulnerable to attack, according to Read. With so many American defeats at the beginning of the battle, the nation could very easily have fallen back to British rule.
Yet, despite its importance in the U.S., the War of 1812 has become a “forgotten war,” skipped over for the most part in many a history curriculum. According to Read, in Canada the War of 1812 is “an event that defined a nation.”
He believes it should be as well in the U.S. — especially our region.
“Understanding our history is so important,” Read said. “We should be very proud of our role in maintaining our nation.”
For this reason, Read believes that the heroes of the Battle of Plattsburgh should be recognized in American history — much like the heroes from the Revolutionary War are — as the men who saved the nation.
While he has only just begun his research, Read has already stumbled on quite a few surprises, such as the conflict the war was causing within the community.
With the area so close to the Canadian border, there were many loyalists to the British crown living in the region. With the outbreak of the war, many sold their property and moved back across the border. Others stayed in the area, but smuggled goods and supplies to the British Army. Vermont, it appears, tried to stay neutral so that it could sell goods to both sides.
Read was also surprised by the negative attitude toward Native Americans in the region, such as the St. Regis Tribe, which lived near present-day Akwasasne. There was also much speculation as to which side American Indians would align themselves with — the American or the British. The answer to that question, and the opinions of the editor of the Plattsburgh Republican, are yet to come in the series.
Read is the chair of the Economics Department at SUNY Plattsburgh with a Ph.D. in regional economics. To Read, the Battle of Plattsburgh ought to play a major role in economic development for the Plattsburgh region.
The War of 1812 series is being sponsored by Glens Falls National Bank and Trust Co., founded in 1851, with Plattsburgh branches located on Margaret Street, Cornelia Street and U.S. Avenue.