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National trust buys Battle Hill

Battle Hill

A Battle Hill plaque marks the site off of Route 4 where the Battle of Fort Anne was fought during the Revolutionary War. The Fort Ann Battle Hill trail project will receive nearly $50,000 to acquire 40 acres of land.

FORT ANN — After 239 years, the fight for Battle Hill is over.

The Civil War Trust, as part of its “Campaign 1776,” will acquire the 165-acre site, partly through purchasing land and partly through a donation by owner Gino Vona.

The Civil War Trust, a national organization based in Washington, D.C., has expanded its focus to also preserve American battlefields from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

Vona has 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, he contacted town officials and said he was interested in selling the site to the town if he could not open a mine there.

“We are absolutely pleased we are going to be able to do this,” said town Supervisor Richard Moore, who announced the sale at the Town Board meeting Monday.

The closing is scheduled for May 1, 2017.

“There is still a lot of work to do, but we are really pleased to have a signed agreement,” Moore said.

Eventually, Moore said, ownership of the land will go to the town, and while there are no immediate plans, the long-range goal is to develop it as a tourist site. That would fit with other historic sites in the area, including Fort Ticonderoga, Fort William Henry in Lake George and Rogers Island in Fort Edward.

Moore said the fair market value of the land was listed at $320,000 and the deal will include $210,000 from the trust. Vona is donating the rest of the land.

Meg Martin, communications manager for the Civil War Trust, confirmed Wednesday that the trust has a contract to buy 106 acres at the site. She said she did not have any additional details at this time.

Fort Ann American Legion, under the leadership of Christine Milligan, has been leading the charge to protect the battlefield, which is along Route 4 and was the site of The Battle of Fort Anne, between Continental Army and British forces, on July 7, 1777.

“On behalf of the Fort Ann Post 703 and the Washington County American Legion, we want to say thank you to Supervisor Moore and the Civil War Trust for their hard work and determination to protect this historic site and to recognize those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom at the beginning of this great nation,” Milligan said.

Supervisor Moore credited Kathy Robertson, deputy director of real estate for the Civil War Trust, for accomplishing the acquisition.

“She was an absolute pleasure to work with,” Moore said. “She really put in a lot of work.”

In late June, American Battlefield Protection Program awarded the Fort Ann post an $80,000 grant to determine the borders of the battle through an archaeological study.

The funding will also allow for development of a preservation plan. The plan will include public input and present a history of the battle for visitors and researchers.

A survey of the property, done by a team from the Public Archaeology Facility at Binghamton University, through another grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Parks Service, found that the battlefield is larger than first thought.The survey also determined the battle was more important than previously thought and called the mine proposal a threat to the historical nature of the site.

In a report last year, Michael Jacobson, who led the team from Binghamton University, said research into primary source materials from the time indicates most of the fighting took place closer to Battle Hill than initially thought.Big Boy Construction Inc. of Fairfield, Connecticut, had applied to build a mine at the site. But Vona, who owns the land and the company, chose to wait for the survey before moving forward.

Vona bought the 165 acres on the hill from Marilyn Bray in 2007 for $55,000, according to county records.

You can read Bill Toscano’s blog at or his updates on Twitter, @billtoscano_ps.


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