Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What do the Alamo and Oriskany Have In Common?

When I was in San Antonio recently I could not help but wonder as I looked around at the hundreds of visitors and rooted around the gift stores, how different this historic battle site was from the Battle of Oriskany site I wrote about not too long ago in this blog. The difference was quite striking because at the Oriskany site there was no one there. Here thousands visited daily from all over the world, spending millions of dollars a year in the local economy. Nearby, the riverwalk hosted several conventions at the hotels there and thousands of tourists and locals enjoyed dining along the canal at dozens of small restaurants and shopping the little boutique stores, while others walked, jogged or rode small boats on the canal.

Not to downplay what happened at the Alamo as a few hundred men fought heroically and died here. It seems most of us know something about the history of the Alamo, yet ask even locals here about the Battle of Oriskany, and few can give any details. Ask someone say from San Antonio about Oriskany, and they will give you the most quizzical look you ever saw. One older man I spoke with who was a WW2 veteran, asked if that was what the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany was named after. He was the only one of a dozen people I spoke with that was even

close. I was able to get them on the right trackonly by mentioning the movie "Drums Along the Mohawk".

I won't go into the details of the battle only that the Americans and Oneidas suffered over 450 casualties and this was one of the bloodiest battles in the American Revolution and an important and significant battle in the Saratoga Campaign. Yet, very few Americans even know about the battle much less any details.

I went to school in Texas for four years, and there is a pride and community spirit there you don't find around here. They teach Texas history first and foremost, and the Alamo is the symbolic "brand" of Texas. When a Texan has to leave, they most always think that they are leaving temporarily, and will return as soon as possible. And when they talk about the the heroic exploits of Texans, including the fallen at the Alamo, they talk with pride and enthusiasm about the importance of what happened at the Alamo and it's impact on shaping Texas.

I guess what it comes down to is Texans are just better marketers than we are here in Upstate New York. They love their state and love to talk about the exploits of their heroes. New Yorkers need to learn to start doing the same. It's that simple. We have much to love and be proud of, and much to share with not only other Americans, but the whole world. So, learn and love local history, and then advertise and help brand the Mohawk Valley.
The Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of Oriskany were both horrific and terrible battles that were symbolic and important turning points in American history, and that much we have in common with our Texas counterparts. Last week I visited Oriskany and there was one car there.
I reflected on the striking contrast with the bustling Alamo and I decided like our forefathers did, that here lied the fate of our community, our state and our country.


ms.teachr.jdl said...

I'm a teacher and we took our class there, it was good that we could get in and out quick but I see your point that it really seems played down when you compare it to other comparable historic sites. They talk about it at Ft Stanwix and the tour there and suggest going there. Even Ft Stanwix seemed to have few visitors which is a shame especially with the period actors there milling around waiting to share their knowledge.

Strikeslip said...

New York State history and geography was pretty much a staple of 8th grade studies 50 years ago. We learned how the state and all its major cities (including Utica) developed and even had a separate textbook for it. Nowadays what students learn on NY is pretty much hit or miss, depending on what the teacher feels is important. I really think that this may have something to do with Upstate's poor economy: People in leadership positions do not seem to understand what made NY the Empire State, and why we are now in decline.