'Bout a revolution
Legendary mineral waters put Saratoga on high society’s circuit in the late nineteenth century,
but it was 1777 that put it in America’s history books.
The Saratoga Battlefield, site of pivotal battles in the American Revolution, is southeast of town, between State Route 32 and US 4, near Stillwater. The visitor center (open year-round) features
a fiber-optic light map of troop movements, a timeline with battlefield artifacts, and a film describing British General John Burgoyne’s fateful advance toward the American stronghold
of Major General Horatio Gates. A nine-mile road through woods and fields, open to cars and bicycles from April to November, offers peaceful vistas that invite quiet reflection. The park hosts “living history” programs but does not allow re-enactors to contend. This is hallowed ground:
the soldiers who died in battle were buried where they fell.
Wooden posts painted blue and red outline the American and British fortifications, and ten stops along the road give a sobering account of the fighting at Freeman Farm on September 19 and in
the Barber Wheatfield on October 7. At stop 7, the nameless “Boot Monument” commemorates
the heroism of Benedict Arnold (before he turned traitor).
Exiting the park onto Route 4, you can head north toward Schuylerville (aka Old Saratoga), where Burgoyne retreated with his exhausted troops on October 8 and was besieged by American forces until he surrendered to Gates on October 17. The historic sign marking that event, at Route 4 and Schuyler St., has inexplicably been allowed to disappear behind a tangle of bushes, though there are plans to clear it. Just south of Schuylerville you can tour the country home of American General Philip Schuyler, which was built in just eighteen days after his earlier manor was torched by retreating British troops. So gracious was Schuyler that following the surrender he housed Burgoyne in his Albany mansion.
In Schuylerville, turn east on State Route 29 and pull into Fort Hardy Park. A sign near the visitor center marks the site of the tree under which the surrender was signed, and at the park’s edge is
the understated marker “On these fields, the British Army grounded
arms at the surrender.” With the “honors of war” accorded them by the Convention of Saratoga, the British marched back down Route 4 toward Albany. American troops lining the road averted their eyes so as not to further humiliate their defeated foes—a gentlemanly end to a decisive victory that inspired the French to join the American cause.
A century later, the cornerstone was laid on the Saratoga Monument, a 155-foot rock-faced
granite obelisk just west of Schuylerville on Burgoyne Rd. in the village of Victory. Along with
Saratoga Battlefield and the Schuyler House, it is part of the Saratoga National Historic Park (www.nps.gov/sara/). In summer months you can climb the monument’s 188 steps to a viewing platform. The exterior features life-sized sculptures of Schuyler, Gates, and Colonel Daniel Morgan, along with an empty niche for—guess who?—Benedict Arnold.
After touring the Saratoga Battlefield in 1783, George Washington visited High Rock Spring in Saratoga. You can follow in his footsteps to the popular tavern that overlooks that spring: the Federal-style Olde Bryan Inn, which dates to the 1820s. There, as you raise a glass to Washington and his fellow patriots, you might also toast the inn’s own Alexander Bryan, who infiltrated British lines and then tipped off Gates about their advance toward Stillwater. The rest, as they say, is history. —KG