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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
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Beyond the Races at Saratoga

Several weeks ago, my wife Phoebe, her sister, Suzie and I visited Phoebe’s brother, Bert and his wife, Anita in Saratoga Springs, New York. It was during the racing seasons — so off we went to the track. The Saratoga Race Track is an historic setting, and we were fortunate to have Club House seating with a fine luncheon. I will not list the wins or even how much was lost!

Beyond the track, I would be remiss if I did not mention the wonderful meals prepared by my brother-in-law and his wife. Their hospitality made the visit even more memorable.

In addition to a fun afternoon at the races, we also went to the track for an early morning breakfast which included a tour of the barns and training areas. It was a very interesting couple of hours, and I would strongly recommend the breakfast and tour if you ever go up to the races.

But, there is much more in Saratoga than just horse racing. The Saratoga Battlefield was fascinating. Going back in history, the battles there, in the Fall of 1777, were actually the turning point in the Revolutionary War.

The Battlefields are extremely well laid out with a wonderful starting point at the Visitor Center. While I will not describe all ten of the stops for the tour, each one was historic from the American River Fortifications to the headquarters of General Gates, the head of Revolutionary forces in the area. There was so much history to absorb. If you would like to explore the Battlefields before going to Saratoga, the website is great www.nps.gov/sara.

Next, we visited the country home of American Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler. He was a member of the Continental Congress and an influential New Yorker. For a period, he was number three in command of the Army.

His original country home goes back to the late 1600s. Indians destroyed the home in 1745. A second replacement home was built in the 1760s. Then on October 10, 1777, the British destroyed the home to prevent it from being used by the Revolutionaries. After the Battles of Saratoga, Schuyler rebuilt the home, and it still stands as a very interesting piece of history.

Our final historic stop was at the Cottage of former President Ulysses S. Grant. President Grant had actually led the Union Army to victory in the Civil War. He became President in 1869 and served until 1877. Suffering from and eventually dying from throat cancer, Grant took up residency in the Cottage in June of 1885. Then on July 23, 1885 he died at the cottage, surrounded by his wife, Julia, and his entire family.

While there is much more history to his days at the Cottage than I can write in this column, it is interesting to note that he completed his memoirs at the Cottage, and they were then published by his good friend, Mark Twain who also visited him at the Cottage.

The tour of the Cottage was fascinating. It was left exactly as it was when Grant died, including floral decorations at the time of his death. To get a closer look at the Cottage and much more of its history, go to www.grantcottage.org.

Robert McMillan Website: www.bobmcmillan.net