Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

February 05, 2019

Randy Simons | Dan Keefe
(518) 486-1868 |

New York State Parks Protects War of 1812 Battlefield Site

Acquisition of 24 Acres of Horse Island Expands Protection of Sackets Harbor Battlefield

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) today announced it acquired a historically significant site of a War of 1812 battle between British and American forces. The 24-acre property on Horse Island will become part of Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site in Jefferson County.

"The site is crucial to telling the full story of the Battle of Sackets Harbor," Acting State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said. "Acquiring the island will forever protect the viewshed of the existing historic site from development, bolster Governor Cuomo's efforts to enhance heritage tourism, and offer new public recreational access to Horse Island. I'm grateful to the American Battlefield Trust and Thousand Island Regional Park Commissioner Chair Harold Johnson for helping to make the acquisition a reality."

The property encompasses nearly the entire area of Horse Island, an island off the shore from Sacket's Harbor. 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. In an attempt to destroy its shipyard, a British-Canadian force launched an attack on May 29, 1813. The attack began with an early-morning amphibious assault against American forces at Horse Island. Americans encamped on the island initially prevented the British from landing, but later were forced to retreat across a causeway to the mainland. The Americans eventually drove off the invasion in a narrow but costly victory.

The property also includes a lighthouse built during the 1870s that had been used as a summer residence for the island's previous owners. State Parks is evaluating potential uses for the lighthouse as well as other steps to provide public access.

New York State Parks partnered with the American Battlefield Trust to purchase the property. The American Battlefield Trust procured a $683,798 federal grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program, and State Parks provided $135,684 through the Environmental Protection Fund.

"Preserving Horse Island is a critical step in ensuring that the significance of the Battle of Sackets Harbor is both better appreciated and better understood by Americans, today and in the future," said James Lighthizer, President of the American Battlefield Trust. "We are eager to build upon this effort as we continue to partner with the state of New York to honor those early citizen soldiers who fought to defend our infant nation."

"The acquisition of Horse Island and the associated mainland tract is tremendously important for not only the Thousand Islands State park region but the entire New York State Parks system," State Parks Thousand Island Regional Park Commission Chair Harold B. Johnson said. "This addition to the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Historic Site helps us complete the story of the war of 1812 attack by the British. I look forward to seeing the plans unfold as we move forward in the process."

"Horse Island represents a unique and critical chapter in the history of the War of 1812, Sackets Harbor and the North Country," State Senator Patty Ritchie said. "I am hopeful this new addition to the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site will not only introduce more people to the sacrifices so many made to help our nation become what it is today, but also help draw more visitors to our region to enjoy our state park system and in turn, boost the local economy."

"The North Country is home to so many scenic gems that are scattered across this beautiful region, many of which have a story to tell," Assemblyman Mark Walczyk said. "I'm thrilled to see the Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Perseveration take this initiative to preserve this piece of property along Horse Island. This will not only help protect this beautiful landscape, but will also allow our region's rich history to be told for generations to come."

Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site attracts approximately 80,000 visitors a year, who enjoy indoor and outdoor historic interpretation, guided and self-guided tours, a restored 1850's Navy Yard and Commandant's House and outstanding views of Lake Ontario. During the summer months, guides dressed in military clothing of 1813 reenact the camp life of the common soldier.

The additional park acreage underscores Governor Cuomo's commitment to improving and expanding access to outdoor recreation and heritage tourism. The Governor's NY Parks 2020 initiative is a multi-year commitment to invest approximately $900 million in public and private funds in State Parks through 2020. Since 2011, State Parks has acquired more than 16,000 acres to improve access and provide buffers to state parks, trails and historic sites.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual state parks, historic sites, golf courses, boat launches and recreational trails, which are visited by 71 million people annually. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit connect on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.