What was Saratoga like 270 years ago?

Author Andrew Alberti will talk about the visit of Swedish naturalist Peter Kalm to this are on Thursday (5/18) at 7 pm at the the Saratoga National Historical Park visitor center at a joint meeting of the Old Saratoga Historical Association and the Stillwater, NY Historical Society.

Thirty-three year old Professor Peter Kalm—an apostle of Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy—was sent by the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences on a mission to the New World to make observations and collect seeds and plants, which would improve Swedish husbandry, gardening, manufacturers, arts and sciences. It was 1749 and Saratoga was little more than an outpost on the northern frontier of the British colonies of North America.

This is Kalm’s description of Saratoga

Near Saratoga the river becomes shallow and rapid again. The ground is here turned into corn-fields and meadows, but on account of the war, it was not made use of.

Saratoga has been a fort built of wood by the English, to stop the attacks of the French Indians upon the English inhabitants in these parts, and to serve as a rampart to Albany. It is situated on a hill, on the east side of the river Hudson, and is built of thick posts driven into the ground, close to each other, in the manner of palisades, forming a square, the length of whose sides was within the reach of a musketshot. At each corner are the houses of the officers, and within the palisades are the barracks, all of timber. This fort has been kept in order and was garrisoned till the last war, when the English themselves in 1747 set fire to it, not being able to defend themselves in it against the attacks of the French and their Indians; for as soon as a party of them went out of the fort, some of these enemies lay concealed, and either took them all prisoners, or shot them.

I shall only mention one, out of many artful tricks which were played here, and which both the English and French who were present here at that time told me repeatedly. A party of French, with their Indians, as they had previously resolved, went to have a nearer view of the fort. The English fired upon them, as soon as they saw them at a distance; the Indians pretended to be wounded, fell down, got up again, ran a little way, and dropped again. Above half of the garrison rushed out to take them prisoners; but as soon as they were come up with them, the French and the remaining Indians came out of the bushes, betwixt the fortress and the English, surrounded them, and took them prisoners. Those who remained in the fort had hardly time to shut the gates, nor could they fire upon the enemy, because they equally exposed their countrymen to danger, and they were vexed to see their enemies take and carry them off in their fight, and under their cannon. Such French artifices as these made the English weary of their ill-planned fort. We saw some of the palisades still in the ground. There was an island in the river, near Saratoga, much better situated for a fortification. The country is flat on both sides of the river near Saratoga, and its soil good. The wood round about was generally cut down. The shores of the river are high, steep and consist of earth. We saw some hills in the north, beyond the distant forest. The inhabitants are Dutch, and bear an inveterate hatred to all Englishmen.

We lay over night in a little hut of boards erected by the people who were come to live here.

The Speaker will be Andrew Alberti, Program Manager of Lakes to Locks Passage, a nonprofit organization with the mission and vision to stimulate community revitalization and build a commitment to the stewardship of the region’s rich historic, cultural, recreational and natural resources. The presentation will serve as an introduction to a Peter Kalm interpretive trail centered at Hudson Crossing Park, Schuylerville, NY that will explore the physical, natural, and cultural landscape as observed by Peter Kalm and how the landscape has changed over time.

For more information contact Deb Peck Kelleher, 698-3211.

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