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 Historic Cities, Villages and Towns...
Historic Plattsburgh, New York- Scene of the Battle of Plattsburg, Sept. 11, 1814

By James P. Millard

What is now the City of Plattsburgh, New York was once part of New France. Louis XV, in an effort to "place under cultivation and to locate settlers on them," the wilds of North America decreed in 1711 the establishment of seigniories or grants along Lake Champlain. From 1733-1741, the region was under the control of Sieur Henri-Albert de St. Vincent, a French ensign of marines. The French were not very successful in populating the region, their main settlements were in the Pointe a la Chevelure or Crown Point, region. Plattsburgh's Cumberland Bay has often been the scene of naval engagements- in 1759 several French sloops and a schooner were sunk or run aground in the bay after an attack by pursuing English forces.

Macdonough Victory Monument

















Above left: Macdonough Victory Monument erected in 1926 near the mouth of the Saranac River.

Above right: Map showing the Plattsburgh region in 1914.

The Cumberland Head-Saranac River region was ceded to the British Crown with the rest of New France after the conclusion of the French and Indian, or Seven Years War. In 1766 the first real settlement occurred here when Count Charles de Fredenburgh received a grant of some 30,000 acres near the mouth of the Saranac. Here, he built a sawmill and lived peacefully until the outbreak of the American Revolution forced de Fredenburgh to flee to Canada with his family. Supposedly, he returned to protect his property, only to find his home and mill had been destroyed- a common fate for Loyalist or Tory landowners.

With the onset of the American Revolution the region was to see one significant military campaign after another. The storied Battle of Lake Champlain at Valcour Island took place just south of Plattsburgh. In June 1777 General John Burgoyne encamped his army on Cumberland Head as he moved south down the lakes to Crown Point, Ticonderoga and ultimate defeat at Saratoga. 

With the end of the Revolution settlement progressed rapidly in the region. In 1784 Zepheniah Platt and several others came to the region and purchased the rights to the old Fredenburgh grant. Plattsburgh was organized as a town in 1785, and by 1810 the population had increased to 3,112 individuals.

With the outbreak of the War of 1812, Plattsburgh took on strategic military importance. Large numbers of troops were stationed here as the town became a staging area for the campaigns in Canada. The prosperity that came with having a military presence was not without cost. A number of British raids were conducted against the town and its environs during the war. Plattsburgh's main claim to fame, however, was being the location of the battle that changed the course of the war- The Battle of Plattsburgh. The series of land and naval engagements that rocked the Plattsburgh region finally came to their dramatic conclusion on September 11, 1814 with Macdonough's victory in Cumberland Bay.

Map of historic Plattsburgh, New York. Click on the icons to learn more about the featured historic site.

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