By John B. SnyderApril 3, 2013
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (April 3, 2013) -- Oh, 1813 was such a good year … at least looking back with 20-20 hindsight. "Uncle Sam" was first used to refer to the U.S., pineapples were introduced to Hawaii, Congress authorized use of steamboats to transport mail, the first federal vaccination legislation was enacted, and rubber was patented.
But among all that bit of good news was something more troubling to the common New Yorker -- the United States was fighting for its very existence in its second war with Britain. With a standing army numbering little more than 7,000 and the city of Buffalo burned to the ground, New Yorkers were rightfully concerned not only for what food they could put on the table at night, but also whether or not they would have a place to come home to the next day.
Just north of Albany, along the Hudson River, the Village of Troy became a hub of militia activity. Although Troy was not a large community having only about 550 dwellings, it was rich in manufacturing artisans who worked in the village's cotton factory, paper mill, fire-arms factory, and popular for that time period, a distillery.
It would be these skilled artisans who in 1813 crossed the Hudson and began to put in place the brick and mortar of a military arsenal on just 12 acres of land. Skilled factory workers from Troy would soon work side-by-side with ordnance soldiers to manufacture such critical war items as ammunition cartridges and powder horns, all for about $9 a month.
Who would have thought that out of urgency and necessity to blunt the British invasion that a small arsenal of highly skilled labor would still be standing 200 years later? In conversations with the local community, no one has been able to name any other business in New York's Capital District that has been in continuous operation as long at the Watervliet Arsenal.
In July, the Arsenal will formally honor its 200th anniversary. But before July, the Arsenal will participate in a few events in which to tell its story to the local community. Albeit, somewhat downsized due to the affects of Sequestration or what the Department of Defense calls "fiscal uncertainty."
In May, the Arsenal commander plans to address the New York Senate on the 21st, as well as have the Arsenal participate in the Village of Green Island and City of Watervliet Memorial Day Parades, on the 23rd and 27th, respectively. The Arsenal's support to the parades is at risk of being canceled due Sequestration
In June, the Arsenal plans to conduct a Community Covenant Signing Ceremony in its Historic Big Gun Shop that will involve the mayors of Albany, Schenectady, Troy, and Watervliet, as well as New York State Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy. Also in June, the Arsenal had coordinated for two Army Reserve Bands to perform a concert for the City of Albany to help promote the Army's Birthday and the Arsenal's 200th anniversary. The concert is also at risk of being canceled due to Sequestration.
In July, during the anniversary week, the Arsenal's Gala at the Troy Hilton Gardens on the 13th and a golf outing at the Clifton Park Eagle Crest Golf Course on the 14th have been canceled due to Sequestration. A change of command on July 19 has been rescheduled to the 18th due to furloughs. And an Arsenal Appreciation Night with the Tri-City ValleyCats, a minor league baseball team associated with the Houston Astros, is still on tap for July 20.
Although the Watervliet Arsenal's buildings and machinery have dramatically changed, the one thing that hasn't changed through every American military conflict since the War of 1812 is the Arsenal's ability to recruit and train a highly skilled and professional workforce. Primarily for that reason, the Arsenal remains in operation today … 200 years after the first brick and mortar were set on the banks of the Hudson River.
The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the U.S. having begun operations during the War of 1812. It will celebrate its 200th anniversary this July.
Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $100 million.