SCHUYLERVILLE, N.Y. — New York Army National Guard Soldiers memorialized a Revolutionary War soldier killed during the Battle of Saratoga and buried on the battlefield 245 years ago, on Wednesday October 19 at the Veterans Administration cemetery near the battlefield.
A nine-Soldier detail provided military honors -to include a firing party- during a ceremony marking the placement of a memorial marker commemorating Continental Army Private Oliver Barrett.
Barrett, a member of the 10th Massachusetts Regiment, died at age 51 on Oct. 7, 177, during one of two major clashes during the Battle of Saratoga.
“It is historic,” said the New York Army National Guard state senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. David Piwowarski. “It really made me think about our American history at the time of the Revolution, and what Soldiers like Oliver Barrett had to endure and sacrifice for their country and their cause.”
Although Barrett’s remains are lost, the Veterans Administration allows markers honoring those whose remains are lost to be placed at national cemeteries.
Barrett’s fifth time over great granddaughter Ann Lord, and her husband Steve, who live in Peterborough, New Hampshire, arranged to have a marker honoring Barrett placed at Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery, just about three miles from the battlefield site at Saratoga National Historic Park.
“It doesn’t matter if somebody gave up their life 245 years ago or yesterday. That’s a valuable thing to remember,” Ann said.
Nine other Revolutionary War Soldiers are memorialized at the cemetery, but Barrett is the first who fought and died at the historic battle which took place nearby.
“This is a very significant event,” said Cemetery Director W. Scott Lamb. “It’s a very notable service with connection to the turning point of the Revolutionary War.”
Barrett, a resident of Westford, Massachusetts served as a Minuteman early in the Revolutionary War —he turned out as part of the militia callup to the British march on Concord and Lexington— and then enlisted in the Continental Army in January 1777.
He was killed during the battle at the Breymann Redoubt, when American forces overran a key British defensive position.
“This is also close to home for me too, as the Battle of Saratoga was fought a few miles from my home,” Piwowarski said. “I’ve walked the ground at Breymann Redoubt many times. I will think Private Barrett’s sacrifice again the next time I am there.”
The Lord’s said they both had an interest in researching their families. When they learned about Barrett, they visited Saratoga National Historical Park to see where he died, Steve Lord explained.
They also visited the national cemetery and learned of the opportunity to place a memorial marker there from Lamb.
The Lords spent about 100 hours doing the necessary research to document Oliver Barrett’s service, order a marker from the Veterans Administration and organize the October 19 ceremony.
Since Oliver Barrett’s remains are still on the battlefield where he fought, it was appropriate to allow him to rest there, but commemorate his service, according to the Lords.
“Being interested in history for much of our lives, we feel that it is important that future generations know where we, as a country, have come from, so that they, thoughtfully, can decide where it is best for us to go,” Steve said.
Lamb suggested they ask the New York National Guard to provide an honor guard.
“Private Oliver Barrett was a volunteer, a Minuteman, essentially today’s National Guardsmen and women. He is one of us,” Piwowarski said.
The memorial service included descendants of Oliver Barrett; representatives of the 10th Massachusetts Regiment and Westford Colonial Minutemen reenactors; Eric Schnitzer, the Saratoga National Battlefield historian; and the Sons of the American Revolution.
“In today’s ceremony, as we grasp hands, we reach back 245 years and grasp hands with Oliver Barrett and the soldiers at Saratoga, remembering and honoring them,” said the Reverend Jamie Hamilton, the rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in the Lord’s hometown.
After a solemn firing party salute and folding of the flag, Capt. Eric Sampson, leader of the honor guard detachment, presented the flag to Ann Lord.
Taps were not played as a final tribute since the bugle call, used at military funerals, was not written until the Civil War. Instead, reenactors from the Sons of the American Revolution fired a cannon salute to Barrett’s service.
“This event is significant to me,” said Sgt. Ryan Gosse, a member of the Honor Guard. “This is the first veteran I’ve honored who died during the birth of the nation.”
Oliver Barrett was born January 9, 1726, in Chelmsford, Mass. He made casks and barrels from timber. In 1754 he married Anna Fiske of Lexington, Mass., and together they had seven children.
By 1770, Barrett lived in Westford and joined his fellow townsmen as a Minuteman. He mustered for the Lexington Alarm on April 19,1775, as a member of Col. William Prescott’s regiment.
The capture of the Breymann Redoubt at Saratoga marked the final defeat of the British effort to capture Albany, secure the Hudson River valley to New York City and choke off the rebellion in New England.
The action was the first surrender of British forces in history to that time, Schnitzer said.
The success at Saratoga is widely considered the turning point of the American Revolutionary War.
Barrett was most likely buried on the battlefield near where he fell. Being a private, he would not have had a headstone.
Gosse said his presence means as much to the Soldiers as the families they turn out for.
“I love doing Honor Guard missions because I get to give something back to veterans who gave everything for their country,” Gosse said. “Honoring them at their funeral seems like the least that we can do.”