My brother the history teacher/photographer and I the poet/all around geek set out on another tour of almost-edge-of-central New York. This time, it was all about artillery. The plan didn’t specify “see as many cannons as possible in one day,” but our touring led us to do just that. In addition to cannons, we also saw creepy things, maps, sweeping landscapes, and torrential downpours followed by walls of humidity that we felt and breathed in as well. Basically, it was your typical summer day of I Love NY frolicking.
We first stopped at Knox something or other. It’s not very memorable because we couldn’t go inside. It was a building. There was a sign covered in bugs I’d never seen before. There was a guy with a parks shirt on who disappeared. So then we left. Fun times.
We made our way to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor which is on the grounds of Washington’s final cantonment. Here is a word I cannot pronounce no matter how many times I hear it. It’s like a fancy word for camp. The Hall of Honor is one of the saddest places I’ve ever visited–and I’ve visited Dachau. The museum shows the history of the Purple Heart and houses the only known original patch from when Washington first created the honor. The entire history of its development is on display. Many veterans were quoted as saying it’s the honor you don’t want to get (because you have to be injured in battle to earn it) but it’s the one that makes them most proud. We watched a film that documents veterans sharing stories of how they earned their Purple Heart, and some of them earned more than one. I sat there feeling pretty pathetic and sad. Anything I can do for a veteran, Purple Heart or not, I’m always up for because I know I couldn’t possibly be in the military ever.
We checked for our uncle in the roll call. He’s not listed so we got the information on how to get him on there. If you know someone who’s earned a Purple Heart, have them fill out this information and get listed. They deserve it.
The cantonment was a whole other kind of place but in the same place. I think it’s set up for kids because there were things to touch and lift and poke at. There was a whole lower level of artillery. Quite a few cannons. You think you’ve seen one and you’ve seen em all, but nope! The French decorated their cannons like dolphins!
The grounds sprawl more than they seem from the entrance. We found all kinds of structures, some that had original pieces like doors and battens. There was a hole in the floor in one building and we found out it was because of groundhogs. We didn’t see any animals, but after that, I was on high alert.
Keeping with the theme of Washington, we headed towards his headquarters. Which was under construction with a new roof and some other things happening across the grounds. It didn’t exactly scream authentic from the outside with all the pick up trucks and equipment, but the inside was preserved as if Washington were still there. We got a personal tour because no one else was taking the tour at the time we arrived. We learned that people from that time period slept sitting up or grown men had to share beds that seemed to be children’s sized. All these beds folded for travel.
Also, at that time, if you wore glasses, you were thought to be disabled and weak and shunned. Washington wrote in really big handwriting, and only once did he put on his glasses in front of his men. They saw it as a sign that the war was taking its toll even on the great Washington. This is why I wear contacts.
Onto Fort Montgomery! Where the skies opened and rain basically plopped down all at once. This kind of rain was the kind that didn’t cool anything off and made the outdoors seem like invisible soup. From fog comes cool photos, though. Plus, my brother and I found the Appalachian trail, a trail we once tried to hike together several years ago but wound up on different mountains and never met up. We finally made it together at Fort Montgomery. We didn’t go very far, though, because mud.
After overhearing a very confusing conversation between my brother and me about geography and my lack of spatial understanding, a woman behind the counter offered to show a film to us. We watched and learned a bit more about the attacks during the war. Out in the lobby, there were more firearms plus mannequin-like men in positions of being in battle that was off-putting for my tastes. See? This is why I can’t be in the military. I can’t even hack it with fake soldiers.
After that, we arrived at Stony Point State Park. We had an animal encounter but it was okay because we were in the car and it was in the woods. They have a lighthouse and a small museum. They also have an outdoor set up of what a military camp might look like. Plus, all the way at the top of the hill, there’s a lookout point. Plus plus, another cannon.
We traced many wins and losses that day. Spoiler alert: We won the war.
To celebrate, we found a diner and ate while the second round of torrential downpour spouted out of the skies. By the time we were done, the sun was shining again and we walked out into a wall of thick heat that made my brother’s glasses fog up. And that’s why I wear contacts.