Category Archives: Central New York

Benedict Arnold’s Boot (Part 2)

BENEDICT ARNOLD’S BOOT:  The rise and fall of a New York hero (continued, part 2)

By Susan Ingalls Lewis

Last week, we took Arnold through the fall of 1776, and the Battle at Valcour Island.  In the winter of 1776/77, despite support from George Washington and General Horatio Gates, Arnold was passed over for promotion to major general and threatened to resign.  Enemies—he seems to have made many—had turned Congress against him.  However, on his way to Philadelphia to discuss the matter that April, Arnold learned that the British were about to attack Ridgefield, Connecticut, and he joined the defense, led the militia, and was wounded again in the left leg—the very leg represented in the boot monument on  the field at Saratoga.

An artist's view of Arnold in the thick of the battle at Saratoga

An artist’s view of Arnold in the thick of the battle at Saratoga

In 1777, Arnold’s military career reached its zenith. He was finally promoted after his action and wounding in Connecticut, although he continued to resent that his seniority was less than others who had been promoted in the interim between when he felt the promotion was deserved and when it actually took place.  In addition, he had to defend himself against charges of corruption brought by an enemy officer.  Although Arnold threatened to retire, Washington insisted that he was needed for the defense against the British invasion of New York from the north and west.  Coming down from Canada, General Burgoyne’s army recaptured Ticonderoga in July, and Barry St. Leger’s smaller band of British soldiers, Hessians, Canadians, loyalists, and Native Americans (including New York’s Mohawk leader Joseph Brant) had set out from Niagara in the west.  If these forces could meet with an expected expedition up the Hudson from New York City, it was hoped by the British, and feared by the Americans, that New England would be cut off from the rest of the states.

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Matilda Joslyn Gage

Matilda Joslyn Gage:  New York’s Neglected Suffragist

By Susan Ingalls Lewis

Most New Yorkers probably recognize the names of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, though we may not realize that these advocates for women’s rights spent most of their lives in New York State.  But few have ever heard of a third leader from New York:  Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898).  Like Anthony and Stanton, Gage began her activism in the abolition movement, but devoted most of her life to fighting gender inequality.  With them, she was a founding member of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and a co-author and co-editor of the first three volumes of History of Woman Suffrage, published 1881-1886.  Gage also became an advocate for Native American rights.  Yet even historians of women, like myself, know little about Gage’s beliefs and accomplishments.

Matilda Joslyn GageMatilda Joslyn was born in the town of Cicero, in Onondaga County, north of Syracuse and south of Oneida Lake, where her family was active in the Underground Railroad.  As a married woman and mother, Gage lived in Fayetteville, a village east of Syracuse, where her home also became a refuge for enslaved people attempting to escape their bondage.  New York’s strategic position on the way to Canada made the state a prime location for “stops” on the route from slavery to freedom beyond U.S. borders.  Gage’s antislavery sentiments were shared by her husband, a merchant, her Baptist Church, and many in her Fayetteville community, who became strong supporters of the new Republican Party and the Union cause in the Civil War.

Although Gage did not attend the famous 1848 women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls (neither did Anthony), she was a speaker at the 1852 National Convention for Women’s Rights held in Syracuse, New York.  Her speech included these words:

Although our country makes great professions in regard to general liberty, yet the right to particular liberty, natural equality, and personal independence, of two great portions of this country, is treated, from custom, with the greatest contempt; and color in the one instance, and sex in the other, are brought as reasons why they should be so derided; and the mere mention of such, natural rights is frowned upon, as tending to promote sedition and anarchy.[1]

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