Newtown Battlefield State Park

Location: Elmira, New York

Webpage: New York State Park

General Description: Newtown Battlefield State park commemorates the largest offensive campaign of the American Revolution in August, 1779.  Through the first two years of the Revolutionary War, the British loyalists and Iroquois allies had been ravaging the wilderness settlements all along the northwest frontier.  To answer the demand of the settlers and to answer the British threat in the frontier, General Washington ordered General Sullivan to destroy the towns and crops of the Six Nations in western New York.  On August 26, General Sullivan left Fort Sullivan with 5000 soldiers of the Continental Army to begin the operation.  Moving slowly burning Indian villages and crops along the way, they had advanced only 10 miles upriver from Fort Sullivan by August 29, 1779.  Expecting an ambush they halted the advanced column to scout the area.  The scouts found the breastworks created by the loyalists and Iroquois to initiate just such an ambush.  Being forewarned, General Sullivan sent the 1st New Jersey Regiment under the command of Colonel Ogden to execute a flanking maneuver around the breastworks with the hope of cutting off their line of retreat.  Two other brigades under the command of Brigadier General Clinton and Poor made their way to the east with plans to turn and attack the flank beyond the breastwork.  After an hour the main force of General Sullivan fired cannons at the breastwork and made a feint to attack the front of the position.  The ultimate result was a resounding defeat of the British loyalists and Iroquois forces, however, a delay by Clinton allowed them to escape encirclement and retreat from their position.  Thus ended the most significant engagement of Sullivan’s campaign which went on to successfully end the threat of the Iroquois Six Nations and British loyalists in the area for the rest of the war.  While it is debated whether the location of the monument to the battle was actually within the area of the battle, it is certainly in the correct area with respect to the known location of Newtown of the Iroquois Indians.

Brochure

Impressions:

1) Especially they are attempting to have the battlefield designated as a National Memorial, we were surprised there was not more to the state park.  Part of the reason is they are not even certain that this hilltop position even played a role in the battle, since the breastwork above the road at the time would have been in the valley, near the river.  They do know the location of the Iroquois town, Newtown, which was along the Chemung River.  Consequently, the “Visitor Center” is a small wooden building that serves more as an office for the small campground.

2) They have constructed a nice observation platform giving a nice view of the valley along with a couple of interpretive signs about the battle itself.

ObservationPlatform

3) There is an obelisk that serves as the memorial at the top of the hill, which replaced the stone tower that was dedicated on the centennial on August 29, 1879.  However, this tower fell into disrepair and was actually damaged by kids setting off some dynamite, so it was removed and replaced by the obelisk in 1912.

4) A little distance from the monument they have constructed some log homes to exemplify the living conditions of the Iroquois Indians at the time.  While this makes for some nice pictures, the structures are all empty and falling apart from neglect.

IndianVilliage

5) In general, we were disappointed with the state park, which as it stands, takes less than an hour to visit.