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New trail connects Battle of Saratoga sites

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Victory Woods trail
Derek Pruitt - dpruitt@poststar.com The new Victory Woods trail leads through what was once a battle encampment in Victory on Sunday, May 30, 2010. The newly developed interpretive trail provides four miles of boardwalk and graveled trails exploring an area where 6,000 British soldiers were surrounded and forced to surrender on October 17, 1777. The trail is part of a larger plan to connect the historically significant areas of the battle for Saratoga.

VICTORY - Here, one of the world's great armies stopped to rest.

They were wounded, weary and battle-scarred as they occupied the mud-soaked fields of a cold October rain, all the while trying to avoid the deadly musket shots being fired upon them by young American soldiers.

"This whole area was fortified," said Joe Finan, superintendent of the National Parks Service, gesturing to the historic, 22-acre site known as Victory Woods.

The trail through which visitors access the historic battlefield is the newest addition of a total of four sites that comprise the Saratoga National Historical Park. It will celebrate its public opening Saturday.

The new trail is part of an effort to tie a number of historical trails and sites together, Finan said.

The Victory Woods tour, a one-mile round-trip trail, begins at the Saratoga Monument -- the 155-foot granite obelisk that towers over Burgoyne Street in the village of Victory.

The trail winds through the Prospect Hill Cemetery and continues in a southeast direction adjacent to Monument Drive, before ending at Herkimer Street near Route 32, where the Victory Mill looms over Fish Creek.

The Victory Woods loop sits west of the "surrender site" where British Gen. John Burgoyne surrendered his sword to American commander Gen. Horatio Gates, and south of Forth Hardy Park, where in 1777 British troops surrendered their arms in what historians have called the turning point of the American Revolution.

British forces set up their camp in Victory Woods just prior to their defeat at the Battle at Saratoga and returned to the site just before surrendering at Fort Hardy.

"They staged a hasty retreat and came back to this area," Finan said.

In 1974, the property was donated to the National Parks Service. Twenty years later, the Parks Service completed a management plan that initiated an archaeological survey and provided planning and funding for the site. Construction began in 2007.

The total cost of the project was about $700,000, Finan said.

Remains from the 1777 British occupation were lost to archeological looting over the years. A series of exhibit panels alongside the site describe the historical events that occurred in the wooded area that overlooks Fish Creek and the Hudson River.

 

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