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On the morning of September 11, 2001, while the world watched in horror the events unfolding in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, a group of men made their way up the western shore of Crab Island. They knew of the anguish the nation was experiencing at that moment, doubtless most would have liked to have been at home with their families at that difficult time, yet they had come for a very special purpose. These men, many of them veterans of other American wars, had come to honor the seamen who perished at the Battle of Plattsburg and are buried at Crab Island. (These veterans were able to stand in a small clearing around the badly deteriorated monument solely due to the efforts of private individuals).

 

Crab Island needs your help. On July 30, 2003 the State of New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation held what is known as a Unit Management Hearing (UMP) at Clinton County Community College's Stafford Building in Plattsburgh, New York. This meeting, the first in a series, was planned to solicit input from concerned citizens (particularly New Yorkers) about the management of several New York State Islands in Lake Champlain.

Click the image above to view the Official DEC Hearing Notice with specifics about the UMP Meeting.

America's Historic Lakes has created a special Crab Island Update Page.
We will post updated information as we learn about it in order to keep you 'in the know' about this historic place.
Click here to learn the latest information about Crab Island.

It is crucial that the public insist that historic Crab Island, and those interred there, be afforded the respect and dignity long overdue them. We are asking that concerned citizens write or call NYS officials expressing their views that Crab Island should be cared for properly.

Do these images fit your picture of what a military cemetery should look like? At least 150 men were buried together in long trenches on the island. It is possible there could be many more graves. Could this be the site? The answer has yet to be determined.

For too long, since the 1980's when another group of dedicated individuals saw to it the island was purchased by the State, this special place has been the victim of a complicated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between these two State agencies. The result has been been severe neglect and deterioration of the small 40-acre island and the two monuments on its soil. The only attention Crab Island received came from private individuals.

The photo above shows the monument when new, shortly after completion in 1908. There were 4 bronze plaques mounted, one on each face. These plaques no longer educate visitors as to the reason this monument stands (right). Nothing on the island refers to the war dead interred there.

The Crab Island Monument, erected 1908

           
More images of the damage to the historic monument on Crab Island. Left to right- Headless eagles, water damage to the base, gaping holes in between the sections (this damage continues right up the obelisk), four missing bronze plaques, the iron fence (the gate was restored to its place by Roger Harwood), is rusting badly and in need of sandblasting and repainting.

Please understand that we realize these are difficult economic times. We acknowledge the reality and impact of budget cuts on State Government spending. It is our belief that it would not cost much to see to it that Crab Island is properly cared for. It is only a short distance from the New York shore (just outside of the City of Plattsburgh)- this is NOT an inaccessible, isolated place. The State of New York already provides for the maintenance and care of Valcour Island (and, we might add, a large number of other islands in the NYS Park System).

We are not asking significant amounts of money be spent on Crab Island. We are asking that the State maintain its property and shoulder the small burden of proper stewardship it took on when it purchased the island. We need your help to make things right...

Please familiarize yourself with the plight of this historic place. We believe that once you know the story of Crab Island and all that happened there you will want to help. There is much information within the pages of America's Historic Lakes regarding the island and the Battle of Plattsburgh. You can go directly to 'Secrets of Crab Island' by clicking the links near the bottom of this page. For additional information we recommend you go to the AHL Table of Contents page located here. You might also want to read Dr. James Mann's account of what conditions were like on the island- you can find that account referenced here. Another excellent source of information is James Bailey's 'Forgotten Graves of Crab Island'. You can read the work in its entirety here.

These officials will pay particular attention to New York State residents. However, our heritage belongs to ALL of us. These are American, Canadian, and British boys buried here. They came from many places, not just New York State. Do not hesitate to lend your voice to this debate just because you are not a New York State resident!

Here's what you can do. Any of these things can make a difference:

  1. Attend upcoming hearings as they are announced by NYS officials. The July 30th Meeting was the first of several important meetings to come. Tell the DEC and OPRHP officials there you want Crab Island properly maintained by the State of New York.
     

  2. Write DEC officials expressing your views regarding the need for better maintenance and interpretation of Crab Island. The official DEC/OPRHP press release (shown above) provides this contact information for providing input:

    DEC OPRHP
    Mr. Daniel Levy
    New York State DEC
    P.O. Box 296
    Ray Brook, NY 12977

    518-897-1276
    r5ump@gw.dec.state.ny.us
     
    Mr. Kevin Kieff
    Director OPRHP Thousand Islands Region

    P.O. Box 247
    Alexandria Bay, NY 13607

    315-482-2593

    (It is our understanding that written remarks might prove particularly effective).
     
  3. NYS officials have much on their agenda and are understaffed, under funded and overworked. That said, they do respond to political pressure. Contact your elected representatives and insist they take a stand on this important issue. You may need to enlighten them about this matter. Do not hesitate to point them to this website for further information.

Contact information for New York State's Congressional Representatives:

Clinton, Hillary - (D - NY)

 

476 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510

(202) 224-4451

Web Form: http://clinton.senate.gov/email_form.html

 

Schumer, Charles - (D - NY)

 

313 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510

(202) 224-6542

Web Form: http://schumer.senate.gov/webform.html

Contact your Representative in the House by using this site:
http://www.house.gov/writerep/

Contact New York Governor George Pataki:

To Write To The Governor:
Governor George E. Pataki
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

To Email The Governor:
Click here to email the Governor.
PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR MAILING ADDRESS.
Responses may be sent via the U.S. Mail.

 

  1. Call, write or email New York State officials expressing your concerns about Crab Island. State that you expect the Island to be properly maintained and that problems on the Island be corrected immediately. Contact information is provided within the UMP letter provided above. If you believe the Gravesite should be located, properly identified and cared for, tell them so.

Thank you for taking the time to read this material, and for your concern and action on behalf of Crab Island and those whose final resting place the island became.

         Jim Millard
         America's Historic Lakes
         South Hero, Vermont
 

The Secrets of Crab Island
by James P. Millard

-Table of Contents-


 


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The historical information on this web site is provided as a public service by James P. Millard. I  have attempted to be as accurate as possible in my presentation of this historical material. However, I make no claims, guarantees or promises about the accuracy, currency, or completeness of the information provided. In no event shall the publisher; James P. Millard, be liable for any errors or omissions with respect to any information on this site. Material submitted by guest contributors and published on the site is the property of the contributor and may be removed at any time at my discretion or upon request of the contributor. This website occasionally provides links to sites of other organizations maintained by third parties. These links do not constitute an endorsement of the content, viewpoint, accuracy, opinions, policies, products, services, or accessibility of that website. Links to third-party websites are provided as a public service and convenience to users of our site; James P. Millard/America’s Historic Lakes does not control, endorse or recommend the content on sites we may link to. Once connected to another website, you are subject to the terms and conditions of that website.