The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Cortland Republican Banner (Cortland, NY), Wed., Aug. 24, 1859

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The Excursion to Oswego

With some hundreds of others, we participated in the enjoyment of an excursion to the city of Oswego on Thursday last. The day was all that could be desired for such an excursion, and nothing occurred to mar the enjoyment of the trip. Starting punctually at the hour advertised, we proceeded to Homer, where we were joined by a large number from that place, but not so many as went from here.

Homer is rather behind in such matters to what she used to be. When about three miles north of Homer the train came nearly to a stop on account of the driving wheels of the locomotive slipping on the track, which was wet with dew. A number got off and "worked their passage: for a mile or so by putting sand and gravel on the track to overcome the effect of the wet upon the rails.

However, we were only detained long enough to make it interesting, before the sun had so dried the track that we gained the usual headway. We were reinforced at the several stations along the route, by a large number, who were all, like ourselves, bet on a day of recreation and pleasure.

Arriving at Syracuse in due time, we walked to the New York Central Railroad station, and took the cars for Oswego. That railroad being of a narrower gauge, the cars were not so commodious and roomy as those upon the road through this valley, and are therefore not quite so pleasant to travel in, but thanks to the liberality of the Messrs. Stearns we had plenty of room upon the train, so that all could get seats.

Proceeding northward through a newish and as it appear to us rather rough country, the crops looking rather stinted and the soil barren. Passing Baldwinsville, the residence of the veritable "Jeems" of the Baldwinsville Gazette, and near Fulton, we arrived in Oswego, less than half an hour behind the time advertised, a circumstance almost unequaled in the annals of railroad excursions.

Of Oswego as a city we can say but little, as we had but little time to examine it, but we passed some fine buildings, some fine residences, but it contains too many of the poorer class of buildings to be ranked among the first cities in the state in regard to appearance.

The manufacturing of flour is carried on to a greater extent, probably than in any other place in the state. the large flouring mills are among the curiosities of Oswego. The lumber trade is also very extensive. The lighthouse at the entrance of the harbor is rather a curiosity to people from inland towns, but we did not get time to visit it, merely seeing it as we passed on the steamer.

The Steamer "Bay State" one of the best boats on the lake was chartered for an excursion upon the water, and such as chose to go took a lake ride of about two hours in duration, passing over a distance of from 15 to 20 miles. The surface of the lake ws nearly smooth, the wind not being high enough to disturb the water, yet with the motion of the boat, made a breeze exceedingly refreshing. We are sure more pleasant trip ws never made upon the bosom of Lake Ontario.

While upon the lake we counted 14 vessels within sight at one time, pursuing their course, either in the pursuit of pleasure for their living freight, or in pursuit of profit in the various channels of commerce and trade, for their owners.

Returning to shore we visited Fort Ontario, which is situated upon a commanding eminence, near the shore of the lake, upon the right side of the harbor, and in the north easterly part of the town. having never before particularly noticed a fortification of this kind, it was an object of great interest to us.

It is built with its principle sides forming a pentagon, with a smaller pentagon extending out from each of the angles of the sides, one side of the smaller pentagons opening into the enclosure, the other four sides being walled with embankments the same as the main sides of the fort and they forming the strongest portions of the works.

Outside of this embankment is a ditch carrying in width from 25 to 40 feet, the bottom of which must be as much as 20 or 25 feet from the top of the inner wall. Outside of the ditch is another embankment about one half the height of the inner one and is so arranged that it serves as an excellent breastwork, commanded by the guns of the fort above, and protected by them.

The entrance to the inner fort is through the ditch and closed at the outer bank with strong gates, and at the inner by strong doors of oak plank firmly bolted together, and when shut to be firmly locked, bolted and barred on the inside. The embankments are held in their place by heavy plank and timbers placed one end in the ground at the bottom of the ditch, the other end held in its place by cups of timber, the outer embankment being composed of one, and the inner of two tier of planks. The higher embankment is about 60 feet thick at the bottom, and about 10 feet at the top.

In the smaller pentagons at the angles of their sides with the main pentagon are apertures from which guns can be directed which will sweep the whole length of the ditch. In each of the smaller pentagons there are arrangements for mounting seven guns, beside those which have command of the ditch. We found but one gun mounted, that of a field piece, pointing in a southeasterly direction. some 10 or more other guns lay there upon blocks of wood, but none of them are now in a position or condition for use. There are three buildings inside the fort, besides the magazines, in order one of which we saw a quantity of warlike stores, cannon balls &c.

The magazine is in a protected spot on the south east side, and nearly overhung on two sides by the high embankment and entirely out of the way from shots from an enemy.

With a strong force thoroughly armed and provisioned, it seems that this fort must be able to hold out a long time before it could be brought to surrender, and having, as it does the command of the harbor and lake in that vicinity, it serves the double purpose of protecting the commerce of the port, and also the surrounding country.

But the time for returning having arrived our company gradually gathered at the train and were soon on our way home, where we arrived a few moments past 9 o'clock in the evening, very much fatigued, but having highly enjoyed the trip. Almost every one who went seemed pleased with their day's journey, and we hope that the excursion proved as much a source of profit to Messrs. Stearns, as it did of pleasure to us.

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Wed., Aug. 24, 1859
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Cortland Republican Banner (Cortland, NY), Wed., Aug. 24, 1859