Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

August 27, 2020

Dan Keefe | Brian Nearing
(518) 486-1868 |

State Parks to Investigate Lake Ontario Island’s Role in War of 1812 Battle

Archaeology Project at Horse Island near Sackets Harbor to be done by Binghamton University

Study Funded by National Park Service

State Parks has received a $50,000 federal grant to investigate the role that an island near Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario played in an amphibious battle between Great Britain and the U.S. during the War of 1812.

Under a grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Parks Service, investigators will conduct an archaeological survey of Horse Island, located about a mile west of Sackets Harbor in Jefferson County.

The 24-acre island was the scene of an amphibious landing by British forces in the predawn hours of May 29, 1813, as the spearhead of an attack aimed at U.S. naval facilities in Sackets Harbor. The island's initial defenders, which included a unit of volunteers from Albany, made first contact before retreating to the mainland to continue a three-hour battle.

British forces, after crossing the causeway as well as landing on the mainland shore, were eventually unable to press their attack amid stiffening resistance and withdrew later that morning back to their base in Kingston, Upper Canada.

The battle involved hundreds of troops on both sides, and resulted in significant casualties.

The federal grant will support an investigation of the island by the Research Foundation for the State University of New York Public Archaeology Facility at Binghamton University. Plans call for the island ultimately to be made part of the nearby Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site.

"This island was the scene of a short, but fierce battle, and an investigation may help uncover some of the remains that were left behind. Any aspects of that will be preserved as part of our state's historical legacy," said Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid.

In July 2017, the Civil War Trust (the predecessor of not-for-profit American Battlefield Trust) purchased Horse Island with financial support from the National Park Service. State Parks then acquired the island from the Trust in 2019, using about $135,000 from the state Environmental Protection Fund.

Much of the island has remained undeveloped since the battle. A lighthouse was added there in the 1831, and replaced in 1870. The island has primarily been used by waterfowl hunters.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails and boat launches, which were visited by a record 77 million people in 2019. A recent university study found that spending by State Parks and its visitors supports $5 billion in output and sales, 54,000 private-sector jobs and more than $2.8 billion in additional state GDP. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit, connect on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. The free New York State Parks Explorer mobile app is available for iOS and Android devices. To download, visit: Google Play Store, NY State Parks Explorer App or Apple Store, NY State Parks Explorer App.