Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Beautiful Day on the Battlefield

Another beautiful autumn day, almost as warm as summer.  I was able to coax my husband to come for a walk with me, promising that I wouldn't stop every five minutes to take photographs.   But where should we go on this blue-sky day?  How about the Saratoga Battlefield (officially: the Saratoga National Historical Site)?  Its broad open fields over rolling hills leading down to the Hudson River offer majestic views of forest and meadow, as well as of the mountains rising beyond the river.

The park people keep these meadows mowed to resemble the farmland existing here in 1777, when American fighters for independence met and defeated a major British army force in the Battle of Saratoga, now considered a turning point in the Revolutionary War.  According to historians, the American victory here renewed patriots' hopes for independence and secured essential foreign recognition and support, leading to the ultimate vanquishing of British forces and the founding of a new independent nation.

 It's hard to believe, on such calm and beautiful days as this, that these fields once resounded with the roar of cannons and the screams of wounded and dying men.  Today, the only sounds we could hear were occasional trills of tree crickets and the sighing sound of wind as it set the poplars' leaves atremble.

I couldn't figure out what shrubs these were that colored this meadow dark red.  They set me thinking of all the blood that was shed in this war and in all the subsequent wars that never seem to end.  Sometimes I think that our nation was cursed to have been born out of war, since we seem to have acquired an insatiable thirst for blood, as well as a trust in the power of weaponry to address the problems of the world.

Thoughts too dark for such a glorious day!  Our trail was just as splendid as we made our return to the park's visitors' center.

Back at the visitors' center we met and talked with two men, dressed in period attire, who were cleaning the weapons they'd fired today in a demonstration for school children.   This gentleman, Kevin Morrow, is a volunteer with the park and the husband of one of the park rangers.  He is wearing the uniform of the Second Albany County Militia, an outfit that his wife helped sew for him.

Andrew DeMartino, a seasonal ranger at the park, is wearing part of the uniform of Cook's Connecticut Militia.  He had shed the uniform's jacket while cleaning his weapon, the barrel of which was blackened inside with gunpowder.


Raining Iguanas said...

I laughed when I read about you promising not to stop every five minutes to take photographs. I have to make the same promise to my wife. I'm glad you broke your promise today, your photographs are wonderful.

June said...

I haven't been to that battlefield since I was very young and my class went there on a field trip. I have no memory of it, but still it was nice to see these pictures.
Does the place have the same tragic, ghostly feel of Gettysburg?

Scotty - The BBQ Master said...

what tour stop is that runner picture taken at ? or where in the battlefield is that path?

Carolyn H said...

So how did you do with not stopping every 5 minutes for a photo? Did you make it to 10 minutes before stopping? I live near Gettysburg and visited Saratoga once as a young child. I don't remember much about the battlefield, so thanks for taking me along on your walk.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, Raining Iguanas. I knew you would understand!

June, I have not been to Gettysburg, but I imagine the sense of tragedy that surrounds that place has to do with the fact that all who died there were Americans, in a war that is more steeped in sorrow than in glory. Unfortunately, the American Revolution evokes a more pride-filled, chest-thumping response among most Americans, who see it as a glorious moment in history, rather than as the failure of humans to solve their differences without resorting to full-scale slaughter. What if there had been no war for American independence? Would we have ended up like Canada? What would have been so terrible about that?

Scotty, that scene is not accessed by a tour stop, but rather by the Wilkinson foot trail that starts near the Visitor Center and makes a 4.2-mile loop through the battlefield and back again. My husband and I shortened the loop by about half by taking the Liaison trail that cuts through the woods to rejoin the Wilkinson on the return path. I took that photo as we neared the end of the trail. You can see the Visitor Center up on the hill.

Well, Carolyn, it helped that the fields were all recently mowed, so I wasn't constantly tempted by trailside plants or insects demanding to be photographed, subjects that require lots of time to get focus and exposure right. The landscape photos I did manage to get were those I could take while mostly keeping pace with my husband, who likes to walk more for exercise than for nature immersion.

catharus said...

Yeh, interesting irony, isn't it, with the reminder of the lives lost in battle in the red leaves of the field shrubs, and yet this day, it was a place of repose, with the warm autumn sun, and nary a sound, but the crickets and leave rustle in the breeze!