After working as a member of the Teacher Collaborative Council for the New York State Social Studies Toolkit Project, I was inspired to become actively involved with the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot. This organization is dedicated to saving a vital supply depot in the American Revolution from commercial development and preserving the site for future archaeological study. The historic site is located in Fishkill, NY approximately 65 miles north of New York City and about 5 miles east of the Hudson River at the intersection of Interstate 84 and Route 9.
Although no battle was fought in Fishkill, NY, the supply depot was a vital resource operating from 1776 – 1783 in support of George Washington’s Continental Army. The depot provided local militia and French soldiers with critical supplies of uniforms, weapons, food, and other material. The supply depot consisted of 70 acres with a hospital, prison, barracks for soldiers, powder magazines, and a military burial ground. Approximately 2,000 soldiers encamped here at one time during the war making this armed camp larger than those at Valley Forge and Morristown.
The area of most significance today is the military burial ground where men who died of battle wounds and diseases were buried in unmarked graves. Identifying these Patriots is a priority of the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot. As of 2016, through the efforts of volunteer researchers, 88 soldiers have been identified as dying at the Fishkill Supply Depot. The goal of the organization is to create a respectful site to commemorate and recognize patriotic sacrifices and to protect it from the threat of commercial development.
The last remaining 10 acres of the Fishkill Supply Depot, along with the military burial ground remain undeveloped but that could change. The owner of the property is considering a project called Continental Commons. On July 11, 2015 plans were submitted, which calls for the commercial development of a 10.47 acres. The developer acknowledges the lot as a Revolutionary War site, but intends to only preserve .25 acres where a Continental Army cemetery containing multiple bodies is located. The site plan includes an I Hop restaurant, small hotel, boutique shops, and a petting zoo with live animals. Building the development will result in the destruction of over 95% of the historic site.
In the past year, my colleague,Rob Buccheri and I became trustees for the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot. We made presentations at various social studies conferences; taught classes to teachers in the Hudson Valley; and created an inquiry for students to learn about the issue. We developed the inquiry using the C3 Teachers Inquiry Generator. The final inquiry asks the compelling question, Why does George Washington love New York? The inquiry includes sources related to the history of the area and culminate utilizes with an opportunity for students to take informed action related to the preservation the Fishkill Supply Depot.
This effort to save the Fishkill Supply Depot has strengthened my knowledge of local history and has provided me with opportunities to make new connections to the community. As teachers, we live in a fast pace world with numerous distractions. By getting involved in this important cause, I was able to deepen my understanding of American History and do something that I think can improve my community. The Inquiry Design Model offers a instructional approach that can help students enhance critical thinking and take informed action. As the struggle to preserve the Fishkill Supply Depot continues, I will continue to raise awareness and offer ways for teachers and students to get involved. It is my hope that through outreach programs and activities, students, teachers, and the community alike, we will be able to preserve this overlooked place of sacrifice and honor in American History.
Please visit the website at http://fishkillsupplydepot.org/ for more information about the goal of the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot. At the site will be information about how people can get more involved. Thank you.