FORT ANN — The final victory in the town’s fight to preserve a Revolutionary War battlefield ended not with a surrender but with a celebration.
On Friday, Gino Vona of Big Boy Construction signed the documents allowing the Civil War Trust to take ownership of the 165-acre site where the Battle of Fort Anne took place in 1777.
After the trust qualifies for an exemption from the Agricultural Stewardship Association, it will turn the land over to the town, which will develop it into a historical site.
“It was great to see so many people there making it official,” said Supervisor Richard Moore, who has played a major role in preserving the land. “We had representatives there from the Civil War Trust, the American Battlefield Protection Program, the state Historic Preservation Office and Binghamton University.”
Moore was especially excited by the displays the university archaeology representatives brought.
“You had to see it to believe it,” he said. “There was a small key, and you knew it was 240 years old. There were bullets and other items. It was amazing to see things that came right from the battle.”
Moore said the town is already seeking a grant from the Greenway Conservancy for the Hudson River Valley for a survey of the site and will seek other grant opportunities as well.
“I think our end game, as I see it, is to have trails, two or three benches and some kiosks that show the timeline and history of the battle,” Moore said. “We want to make it so people can visit.”
Moore said the one aspect that makes that planning difficult is Battle Hill itself.
“The topography of the land is challenging, so we are not sure what we are going to do there,” Moore said.
The Battle Hill site will join several other key historic sites in the region, including Fort Ticonderoga, Fort William Henry in Lake George and Rogers Island in Fort Edward.
Wanted a mine
Vona, who bought the land from from Marilyn Bray in 2007 for $55,000, had been fighting for the better part of a decade to get state permission to build a mine on part of the site. But in March 2016, he contacted town officials and said he was interested in selling the site to the town.
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Moore said the value of the land was listed at $320,000 and the deal will include $210,000 from the trust. Vona donated the rest of the land.
Moore said Vona was at Fort Ann Town Hall on Friday to sign the deeds but had work commitments that kept him from attending the ceremony.
The Battle of Fort Anne was fought on July 8, 1777, when the outcome of the war and the country’s future were still in doubt, according to research done by the Civil War Trust.
British troops under Gen. John Burgoyne were trying to slice the new nation in two. He wanted to cut off New England from the other colonies.
According to the Civil War Trust, Burgoyne planned to march down the Hudson River, capture Albany, and build a chain of outposts from New York City to Montreal.
After a number of successes, Burgoyne’s forces made their way to Fort Anne, where Colonial forces made a stand at Fort Anne, attacking a detachment of 200 redcoats on a wooded hill.
The combatants fought until they exhausted their ammunition and the Colonials withdrew, anticipating British reinforcements. The Battle of Fort Anne was a precursor to the destruction of Burgoyne’s army three months later at Saratoga.
At the time of the battle, the town was spelled Fort Anne and later changed to Fort Ann.
According to the Civil War Trust, almost 70 percent of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields are in urban areas. Of the 243 Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields identified by the National Park Service, 141 are either lost or so extremely fragmented that only commemorative, rather than land acquisition, opportunities remain.
Of those that do still retain their historic integrity, 18 currently have no legal protection whatsoever.
The Civil War Trust also preserved its first War of 1812 battlefield as part of this year’s Campaign 1776 acquisition process.
The trust purchased the 24-acre Horse Island in Lake Ontario near the upstate village of Sackets Harbor, where America’s Great Lakes fleet was saved during the nation’s “Second War of Independence” against Great Britain.