Macdonough Monument: History Of Plattsburgh’s Famous Monument

Macdonough Monument

Macdonough Monument – Photo: Brian Kachejian ©2019

The Macdonough Monument majestically stands proudly overlooking the Saranac River in the historic city of Plattsburgh, New York. The Macdonough Monument was erected in tribute to United States Naval Officer Thomas Macdonough. The brilliant Naval Officer had begun his military career in the United States Navy in the year 1800. Born on New Year’s Eve in 1783, Thomas Macdonough had become an orphan by the age of twelve. His father had served in the American Revolution.

Thomas Macdonough began his Navy career at a young age. When he was sixteen he served as a Junior Officer in the Navy. Thomas Macdonough’s career would lead him to serve during the Barbary War. It was a war that pitted the United States beginning with the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson against pirates supported by the nations of Algiers, Morocco, Tunis and Tripoli. Thomas Macdonough would actually become captain of the merchanship Gullivar transporting goods between England, New York and India. Upon hearing of the breakout of war between the United States and Britain in 1812, Thomas Macdonough would return to New York to become one of the most important figures in United States History.

When Thomas Macdonough returned to New York he was placed in charge of Naval Forces stationed at Lake Champlain, New York. While the War of 1812 between The British and United Stated raged on, Thomas Macdonough oversaw the building of new United States Naval vessels. The capture and surrender of many United States vessels to the British during the War of 1812 fueled the need to build new vessels and convert other shipping boats into warships.

During The Battle Of Plattsburgh in 1814, Thomas Macdonough commanded his Naval fleet to take on the British who had set sail from Canada. British soldiers commanded by George Prevost were ready to attack on land marching from the Canadian border into the city of Plattsburgh. At the time the United States only had about 2000 soldiers under the command of General Macomb in Plattsburgh. Thomas Macdonough understood that it was vital to protect the city because a loss on land and sea would have a devastating impact on the War of 1812.

Commanding the British Fleet that set sail from Canada was Captain George Downie. The Captain was a heavily experienced military man who had great success at sea in Britain’s war with France. Heading into the Battle Of Plattsburgh Captain George Downie commanded Britain’s flagship battle ship the HMS Confiance.

Thomas Macdonough’s fleet met head on with Downie’s fleet on September 11th 1814. In a moment that changed the course of history, a cannon ball fired from Macdonough’s fleet took out a mounted cannon on the HMS Confiance.The cannon landed on Downie. The legendary British Captain was killed instantly. Thomas Macdonough smelled blood and went in for the kill. Utilizing brilliant seamanship and leadership, Macdonough maneuvered his vessel to broadside the HMS Confiance resulting in the ship’s surrender.

With the British flagship HMS Confiance out of the picture, the remaining British ships were pounded by the American fleet resulting in total victory for Thomas Macdonough’s fleet. The result was an American victory at The Battle of Plattsburgh. The British withdrew to Canada and London would extend its hand asking for peace and an end to the war.(Eisenstadt)

In honor of Thomas Macdonough’s heroic victory during the Battle Of Plattsburgh, a monument was erected in his name in 1926. Seven thousand people attended the dedication of the Macdonough Monument in 1926. The proposals for the monument was first initiated in 1896. The Macdonough Monument was designed by John Russell Pope. The architect would become a legend in his own right. John Russell Pope is also famous for designing the Jefferson Memorial In Washington D.C. Pope also designed the National Archives and Records Administration building in Washington D.C.

The Macdonough Monument stands in the park directly across from Plattsburgh City Hall. The Macdonough Monument overlooks the Saranac River which flows into Cumberland Bay which is connected to Lake Champlain.

Macdonough Monument

Macdonough Monument – Photo: Brian Kachejian ©2019

The Macdonough Monument stands at 135 feet. Inscribed at the base of the Macdonough Monument are the names of the ships under Macdonough’s command entitled, Saratoga, Ticonderoga, Eagle and Preble. Pope used Indiana Limestone in the building of the Macdonough Monument. The top of the Macdonough Monument features a bronze eagle with a wing span of twenty feet. The Macdonough Monument is situated in a beautiful park that offers many gorgeous views of the statue and the Saranac River. Standing in front of this incredible monument, it is breathtaking to think of the battle that took place here in Plattsburgh over two hundred years ago to ensure the freedom of all citizens of the United States.

Macdonough Monument

Macdonough Monument – Photo: Brian Kachejian ©2019

Macdonough Monument

Macdonough Monument – Photo: Brian Kachejian ©2019

Sources:

Eisenstadt, P. E. (2005). The encyclopedia of New York State/ editor in chief, Peter Eisenstadt ; managing editor, Laura-Eve Moss ; foreword by Carole F. Huxley. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. p.939

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