November 2004: Saratoga National Historic Park


Saratoga, New York

Saratoga National Historic Park preserves 3200 acres of battlefield where American revolutionaries, behind General Horatio Gates, prevented British control of the Hudson River in the Fall of 1777. In two battles, three weeks apart, the British suffered 1,000 casualties and General John Burgoyne, awaiting reinforcements that never arrived, was forced to surrender an army of 6,000 men. By thwarting the British initiative to split the Colonies in half, the Americans went a long way towards gaining their independence.Saratoga is one of the most famous and influential battlefields in the world and the National park Service maintains the ground much as it looked 227 years ago.

The WILKINSON-NATIONAL RECREATION TRAIL is a 4.2-mile loop across the property, much of which was farmland during the Revolution. The trail is named for the lieutenant who drew maps of the Saratoga Battlefield in 1777. Save for a single dip into the Great Ravine, this is easy canine hiking across rolling grasslands with islands of airy deciduous woods. The trail uses part of the roads British troops took to and from the two battles. Interpretive stops include British and German redoubts (outlined in red and white posts). The .6-mile FREEMAN LOOP visits the site of some of the fiercest fighting on John Freeman's farm. If you drive the auto tour road you will find additional short explorations, including a one-mile loop trail that passes the gravesite of Brigadier General Simon Fraser, the spirited core of the British troops. There is no water along the park trails so on hot days a canine canteen will certainly be in order.

Behind the Breymann Redoubt, Station C, on the Wilkinson Trail, is the unique Boot Monument. The boot in question belonged to American battle hero Benedict Arnold (before he switched sides to the British). Arnold rode through a cross-fire in front of the defensive position to secure victory and recieved a second wound in his leg. The marble boot monument does not mention the eventual traitor's name.

Exit the Northway (I-87) at Exit 14 (from the North) or Exit 12 (from the South) and follow signs for Route 29 East to Schuylerville. Turn south on Route 4 and you will find the main entrance to the battlefield in eight miles.