Each year since 1895, the Saranac Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution commemorate the October 11th, 1776, Battle of Valcour. Each year’s event features a speaker and a ceremonial reverence given to honor the patriots who fought in the first naval battle of the American Revolution at Valcour Island on Lake Champlain.
The battle, while lost by the small American fleet, went down in history as the battle that delayed British forces for the year, buying the Americans the time they needed to reinforce their navy for the Saratoga victory in 1777.
While not as significant as the battle itself, of course, the historical monument commemorating the battle has a fascinating history all its own.
On October 11th, 1928, the DAR celebration, attended by approximately 200 people, was held on the shores of Lake Champlain across the street from the Platt houses on Route 9 in Peru, Clinton County, NY. Former New York State Appeals Court Justice Henry T. Kellogg, the son-in-law of the prominent local industrialist and politician Smith Weed, had donated the small piece of property to hold a monument designed to commemorate the Battle of Valcour.
The monument consisted of two parts, the upper with the dedication “Commemorating the Valor of American Forces led by Benedict Arnold at the Battle of Valcour, October 11th, 1776” and the lower acknowledging the partnership between the Saranac Chapter of the DAR and the State of New York, which made the monument possible. Ruth Alice Ladue and John Clay Agnew, members of the Children of the American Revolution (CAR), Saranac Chapter, unveiled the monument.
The ceremony opened with a bugle call played by Fuller Allen, another CAR member, who as an adult became one of the original organizers of the Clinton County Historical Association. The Honorable Charles M. Harrington, after whom SUNY Plattsburgh’s Harrington Hall was named, read the commemoration speech, and the 26th Infantry Band played the “Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.” And so sat the six-foot-tall Monument for 92 years.
Over the years the road widened, and the shoreline eroded. The monument was once knocked from its pedestal by a truck, resulting in the installation of a guard rail for protection. The guard rail helped save the monument from further destruction but caused it to be easily overlooked. Through the years the bottom portion of the monument became buried in dirt and, additionally, the narrowing ribbon of land made it increasingly dangerous for visitors to stop and visit the monument.
For years, the Saranac Chapter of the DAR worried about the changing conditions surrounding the monument. In recent years, an offer came from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to provide a new location for the monument at the Peru Dock.
The DEC Lake Champlain Management Unit Management Plan included plans to build an interpretive center at Peru Dock and to include the Battle of Valcour Monument and the Valcour Bay monument, which acknowledges the bay as a national historic designation.
In November 2020, the monument was moved. To the delight and amazement of all concerned the buried portion of the monument was undamaged. In the Spring of 2021, the monument was reinstalled and rededicated October 11th, 2021 at the Saranac Chapter, NSDAR’s 126th Battle of Valcour commemoration service.
Photo of Ruth Alice Ladue and John Clay Agnew unveil the monument on October 11th, 1928.