Following the outbreak of war between the United States and Great Britain in June 1812, Sackets Harbor became the center of American naval and military activity for the upper St. Lawrence Valley and Lake Ontario. The brig Oneida, with a company of marines, was already at the harbor to suppress smuggling between northern New York and Canada. Local woodlands provided ample timber, and a large fleet was constructed at the harbors extensive shipyard. Barracks were also built for the thousands of soldiers, sailors, and mechanics who soon arrived to provide the manpower for the invasion and conquest of Canada.
Today the Sackets Harbor Battlefield is interpreted to the public by exhibits, outdoor signs, guided and self-guided tours, and a restored 1850's Navy Yard and Commandant's House. During the summer months, guides dressed in military clothing of 1813 reenact the camp life of the common soldier.
Open May 21 - Close after Labor Day (Sept 5)
May 21 - June 25
Wed-Sat 10am - 5pm
Sunday 1pm - 5pm
June 26 - August 1:
Sunday 1pm - 5pm
August 22 - September 5
Wed-Sat 10am - 5pm
Sunday 1pm - 5pm
Open Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day
Historic sites charge a vehicle use fee and/or admittance fee at various times and locations throughout the year. A list of fees is available below. For program fees or to verify information, please contact the site directly.
The Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site annually offers "The Commandant's Christmas," a curriculum-based learning experience for second grades that features period appropriate stories, music, a craft, food, and toys & games. Call for details.
Following the outbreak of war between the United States and Great Britain in June 1812, Sackets Harbor became the center of American naval and military activity for the upper St. Lawrence Valley and Lake Ontario. The brig Oneida, with a company of marines, was already at the harbor to suppress smuggling between northern New York and Canada. Local woodlands provided ample timber, and a large fleet was constructed at the harbor's extensive shipyard. Barracks were also built for the thousands of soldiers, sailors, and mechanics who soon arrived to provide the manpower for the invasion and conquest of Canada.
In an attempt to destroy the American shipyard, a British-Canadian force launched an attack on May 29, 1813. At that time the majority of the American forces were across Lake Ontario attacking Fort George. The remaining Americans drove off the enemy, but their narrow victory was marred by a fire that destroyed their military stores. During the remainder of the war, Sackets Harbor was an active station where naval ships were constructed and supplied. In December 1814, the Treaty of Ghent officially ended the War of 1812, and the Lake Ontario fleet was placed in storage at Shiphouse Point.
After the war, the massive earthen fortifications protecting the harbor were graded off and the battlefield reverted to farmland. Several blockhouses were converted to barns and another became an office for the commandant of the Navy Yard.
The shipyard remained under Navy control because of the presence of an unfinished first-rate ship-of-the-line, the New Orleans. It was designed to carry a crew of 900 and was enclosed in a huge wooden ship house to protect it for future use. In 1817, the Rush-Bagot Agreement between the United States and Great Britain limited all naval forces on the Great Lakes. During the 1840s, old naval buildings were removed and new quarters were constructed for the naval commandant and sailing master (lieutenant), to meet the needs of a continuing naval presence.
The navy decided to scrap the New Orleans in 1883. The demolition of the vessel, together with improved Canadian-American relations, ended the need for a naval base in Sackets Harbor. The navy maintained the facility until 1955, although it was seldom used except for training by the state's naval militia.
The 1913 Centennial Park portion of the battlefield was recognized as early as 1866 as a special plot of land to be set aside to honor all the military personnel who had fought and died in the War of 1812. In 1878 the land was called the Old Battle Ground and was used for patriotic meetings, political rallies, church picnics, and other events.
New York State took control of the Navy Yard in 1967 and began acquiring more of the historic battlegrounds, including the most recent forty acres in 2006.
African American History Month
Across this nation and throughout the Empire State, African Americans have helped to shape American history, fight for independence, and secure freedom. The efforts of these individuals stand as a testament to their courage and an inspiration to us all.
In observance of African American History Month, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation gives special recognition to some of the many stories associated with the African American experience at state historic sites.
At Sackets Harbor Battlefield, there is a unique connection between African American history and maritime history. African Americans made up nearly 15% of the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812, which took place mainly in waterways and port sites. The sea was not a place of full equality, but it was a place of far greater tolerance. Many African Americans found a level of freedom at sea that was unavailable on land.
Historic Sackets Harbor observes Memorial Day on Monday May 30 as the Harold W. Townsend American Legion Post 1757 members make stops at cemeteries around the village and town. At 8:15am they conduct a wreath laying ceremony at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site's War of 1812 monument in the Memorial Tree Grove. The centennial monument was dedicated in 1913 by the Daughters of 1812 on the 100th anniversary of the 29 May 1813 battle. In 2013 it was rededicated on the 200th anniversary.
Tour the Navy Yard buildings from 10am to 5pm, especially the Commandant's House, featuring the life of the Commandant and his family in 1860. See the War of 1812 galleries with authentic weapons. Discover the military story of this special North Country site.
The local "War of 1812 Marine Guard" living history group appears at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site on Memorial Day, Monday May 30 through the day from 10am to 4pm (weather permitting).
Stop by their camp at the end of Main Street to learn how the Marines supported the US war effort on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812. Hear them fire their muskets. Pick up a wooden musket to march and drill alongside the Marines.
On National Trails Day, Saturday June 4th, join the celebration as the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site's "History Trail" is dedicated at 1pm in the site's picnic pavilion off Hill Street. The U.S. Department of the Interior designated the Sackets Site's trail in June 2015 as one of the 10 newly added National Recreation Trails that year. Partnering at this event are the Adirondack Mountain Club Black River Chapter and the Indian River Lakes Conservancy.
Free presentation open to the public. Event made possible through the New York Council for the Humanities Public Scholars program with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
7:30pm, picnic pavilion.
Living history demonstrations and military tacticals Saturday all day including English Country Dancers 3pm-4pm and 7pm-9pm; Sunday 9am till 1pm. Free
The Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site and the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance, Inc. announce the twelfth annual War of 1812 Weekend.
The living history weekend activities fill Saturday 9am to 5pm, plus an evening English Country Dance. Living history demonstrations continue Sunday, 9am to 1pm. High points are tacticals Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.
Visitors experience military formations and drills, hear artillery, shop for period merchandise, and watch battle tactics.
An environment of safety and authenticity is essential, with participants adhering to the ‘Guidelines for Black Powder & Edged Weapons Use.' All participants register upon arrival as NYS Parks "volunteers."
Sutlers are welcome. Tents, signs, goods, displays, and personal appearance must be appropriate for the War of 1812 period.