Three of Three in a Series on Saratoga Springs, New York
So today I’m 364 days closer to age 30. In other words, I celebrated my 29th birthday yesterday. Between cards and calls, emails and presents (no Bounty Hunter; but highlights included a new backpack for both myself and Rufus), I thought about where I am today – and how I got here. Get your mind out of the gutter; I’m talking about turning points!
If you think about it, your life can be summed up in turning points: pivotal places in time where your path shifted in a new direction. A key turning point in my history was pulling out of my driveway in Ann Arbor, Michigan and heading for Syracuse, New York. I had lived most of my life in Ann Arbor, then went to University of Michigan, which was so close I could hear Big House football games from my bedroom window. Then, I moved to Syracuse, where I knew no one, with one goal in mind: independence. Seven years later, I’m still here. And while I miss Michigan family and friends, looking back with that fancy 20/20 hindsight vision – I can see I took the right path.
A few weekends ago, I visited Saratoga National Historical Park , the site of a key turning point in a much more notable struggle for independence: The Revolutionary War. It was there that I asked the National Park Service’s Ray Miller a loaded question: So why, exactly, is this place known as the turning point of the Revolutionary War?Soon, I found myself and a dozen strangers peering into a glass-covered diorama of the Saratoga Battlefield, captivated by Ray’s account of the turning point. Behind Ray was the actual Saratoga Battlefield where I had just walked the four-mile Wilkinson Trail loop.
I had been so eager to hit the trail when I arrived at the Saratoga Battlefield on the first spring-like day in New York, I walked through the visitor’s center, only pausing to grab the interpretive map. Looking back, walking first then getting the history lesson second was a fortunate accident. As I progressed along the same trail that doomed British soldiers walked, I followed the sequential order of what happened there. This is more like real life, we don’t know what’s next – or what move will prove advantageous – or a mistake.
The trail starts on the grassy hill at Station A. This is the same place British soldiers stood, looking out at the Hudson River bluffs wondering how many rebels were encamped there. At Station E, I walked through a dense forest along the same path that British General Burgoyne marched, the forest floor hushing each step. Within the forest at Station H, the British troops set up camp for two weeks, waiting for reinforcements that never came. I could feel the desperation in the air. Moving on to Station I, I envisioned the German troops hired by King George struggling to pull cannons across the muddy creek then up the steep hill. I paused at Station L, discovering that the British built a small fort here, not knowing what they were up against. Finally, the trail brought me Station M where hundreds of soldiers on both sides died in battle. Now that I understood the causes leading up to the turning point, I wanted to learn their effects, that’s when I approached Ray.
If you’ve ever spoken with a true history buff, you know they’re fascinated with cause and effect. Ray explained that the two patriot victories on both September 19th and October 7th, 1777 had tremendous after-effects. The British formally surrendered, laying down their weapons. News of this humiliating defeat spread throughout Europe, establishing the Americans as a force to be reckoned with. Impressed by the two victories, France finally decided to help fund the revolution, patriot morale improved and, as they say, the rest is history.
As the World Turns…Watch Ray Miller Explain the Turning Point at YouTube
Proud to Be an American
As readers of my blog know, I try to make a personal connection to each place I visit. By reflecting on the turning points within my own life, this post was not meant to minimize the importance of each soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War – and those who fight today. Standing at Station M, a large field where hundreds of soldiers lost their lives, I noticed this painting and felt gratitude for the soldiers who fought – and continue to fight – for American freedom. While each of us have our own battles to wage, a visit to the Saratoga Battlefield is an opportunity to honor soldiers; those who fight battles of life and death.
Learn more about the Saratoga National Historic Park at the official site.