Lauren R. Stevens: Honor our veterans at historic sites

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WILLIAMSTOWN — Armistice Day, celebrated 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, marked the end of fighting for World War I in 1919. In 1954 Congress changed the name to honor veterans of all wars. Berkshire communities host parades, suppers and other ceremonies on Veterans Day to honor service men and women and their service to their country. Other nearby locations are also fit places to consider the sacrifices soldiers have made, what they fought for and the hope of ending wars.

Witenagemot Oak

The Knickerbockers, who lived in Schaghticoke, New York, built their mansion there in the 1780s. (The mansion isn't open regularly after October.) That family tells us more about the European history of the Hoosac Valley than any other. Behind the mansion are the remains — including a heavy dose of concrete and rebar patching — of a witness tree (or its immediate successor) planted on Knickerbocker land in 1676 to commemorate a remarkable peace treaty among refuge tribes and colonial powers, orchestrated by the English Colonial Governor of New York, Edmund Andros. "Witenagemot" is an English word meaning "council of the wise." Unfortunately the peace the wise council brought was short lived, although the tree remained upright until the Hurricane of 1948.

Fort Massachusetts

Although not as lovely a site as the Knickerbocker Mansion, one could stand in the old Price Chopper parking lot, North Adams, to consider the fort the English and colonists built there in 1745 to stave off French and Indian attacks from the north and to warn the New Yorkers not to encroach from the west. The next year, however, 900 French and Canadian Indians captured it, flew the French flag over it briefly and then burned the structure. The stone chimney there today is all that's left of a 1930s reproduction of the fort.

Bennington Battlefield

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Boy Scouts will hold a flag raising and musket firing ceremony at 11 a.m. on the 11th (Monday), with light refreshments served. British General John Burgoyne sent a detachment of mostly German mercenaries to capture rebel supplies stashed at Bennington. General John Stark swooped down from New Hampshire to intercept and defeat the raid, in a battle fought in Hoosic, New York, August 16, 1777. It was the beginning of the end of Burgoyne's Northern Campaign. He surrendered at Saratoga that October.

Peace Party House

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Lucretia Williams, who had distinguished herself by preventing the demise of an elm tree in Park Square, Pittsfield, distinguished herself again, with her husband John, by throwing a remarkable party with rum, wine, ale and roasted ox, geese and turkey on the occasion of the end of the Revolutionary War, September 1783. Tradition has it that her husband was a Tory, while she was a Patriot, but they overcame their differences to celebrate peace together. The house was torn down in 1957. A plaque stands in front of the Berkshire County Courthouse

The Final Battle of Shays' Rebellion

Currency shortages after the Revolutionary War squeezed farmers who, under Daniel Shay's leadership, attacked the Springfield Armory in February1787. Routed by General Benjamin Lincoln, the rebels scattered. Brigadier John Ashley of Sheffield defeated the remnants at the end of the month at the last battle. A plaque on Egremont Road in Sheffield marks the spot.

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War Memorial Tower

Massachusetts' War Memorial, and one of the nation's World War I memorials, is the tower on the 3,491-foot summit of Mount Greylock, dedicated originally in 1933 with the fervent hope there would be no more wars.

Unfortunately, like the end of hostilities signified by the Witenagemot Oak, other wars have followed. The road up Greylock is closed but a trip is in order. It would be quite appropriate to hike to the summit to honor the men and women who served in the military in all wars, in the hope that peace might be their reward and ours.

At least, that's how it looks from the White Oaks.

A writer and environmentalist, Lauren R. Stevens is a regular Eagle contributor.


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