The Oswego River (Fulton/Battle Island) - June 9th, 1994


Late in the morning of June 9th "Discovery" left its slip and, under tow, began to ascend the Oswego River. The plan was to run past Fulton, Phoenix, Three Rivers and then up the Seneca River into Onondaga Lake, near Syracuse.

Two hundred years earlier, this stretch of river was riddled with rapids, and often batteau crews had to join forces in passing each crew's boat up, one at a time. Today the river is controlled by a series of locks, and ascent is easy, if time consuming.

In planning for the maximum educational benefit from this navigation to Onondaga, the project staff had worked with local historians, civic groups, and teachers to arrange for stops at Fulton, Battle Island State Park, and Phoenix - the latter to coincide with a city-wide waterfront festival.

Fulton was the site of a falls that had to be portaged in the 18th century, so it was a spot at which the crew wanted to spend a little time. A local elementary school let out classes to walk down to the river bank to wait for our arrival.

Click on any image to enlarge
Passing Oswego Harbor under tow Taking the Thruway Authority's donated tow, we turned the point into Oswego harbor, with Fort Ontario and the old batteau landing in the background, and started our ascent of the river.
Ascending the locks Ascending the Oswego River requires passing through several locks, which have converted a string of 18th century rapids into a passable waterway.
Talking to students in Fulton By pre-arrangement, a large group of school children lined the river bank just above Fulton, and we spent an hour talking to them and answering questions about batteau navigation.
School children line the bank This group of students will always carry the image of this visit by "Discovery"in their memories - a visualization of the past.

That evening, "Discovery" tied up at a private landing opposite Battle Island. It was at this bend of the river, in 1756, that a fleet of batteaux heading back to Schenectady from a supply mission to the British troops at Fort Ontario was ambushed by French and Indian forces firing from the woods. The British batteauxmen fought back from the island, and a masterful maneuver by the commanders saved the fleet from capture. Among the officers present at that battle was Philip Schuyler, later to become a general in the American Revolution, and even later to become the President of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company in 1792.

Battle island maps Although the island created by excavation of the Champlain Canal is designated on maps as Battle Island, our research indicated the small bar to the south is, in fact, the actual site.

In an ongoing attempt to re-connect communities with their waterfront heritage, the crew of "Discovery" made an overnight stop and an evening navigation at this site. Phil Lord's Durham Project research had shown that the landform presently labelled "Battle Island" is not in fact the original island, which is today a small bar of land to the south.

The landing near Battle Island Our landing for the evening was graciously donated by the residents of the house directly opposite Battle Island, who we met during field survey with the County Historian the year before.
Historic Battle Island from 1756 From our camping site at the landing, we could see the historic Battle Island directly across from us. There was no better vantage point on the entire river.
The spot where Philip Schuyler fought Here was that very island (at center/right) where Philip Schuyler fought for his life, later to become the President of the navigation company were we celebrating..
The boat crew's camp On luxurious surroundings we pitched our boatmen's camp, but will admit that we spent more time on the deck of our host's home than in our tents.

 


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