Book traces region's Revolutionary War history with Rte. 20 road trip

By Debbie Gardner

PRIME Editor



If you're like me, you've probably driven Route 20 between Westfield and Springfield hundreds of times.

Not once in all those trips however, did I ever think about Revolutionary War General Henry Knox, and the 59 cannon he transported overland from New York's Fort Ticonderoga to Boston.

Not until Raymond Houghton's book "A Revolutionary War Road Trip on US Route 20" refreshed my memory about Knox and his herculean task.

It seems the General and I and all of us who drive that road have travelled the same route.

Who knew?



Reminding us of our history

It's precisely my experience that of walking blindly in the footsteps of history without knowing you're on the path that Houghton said prompted him to create his series of road-trip history books.

"10 years ago when I was teaching at Skidmore College I went out for a ride to some of the great places my dad had taken me ... the Battle of Saratoga, Fort Ticonderoga ... and they were unusually quiet," Houghton said in a telephone interview from his Delmar, N.Y. home. "I thought, 'here's a war fought right here in our own country, and people are unaware of it.' That's why I started putting these road trips together."

The Route 20 book is his ninth about important routes and events of the American Revolutionary War.

"I've had several people encourage me to do Civil War road trips, or French & Indian War road trips, but my goal is to have books cover all of the major Revolutionary War road trips before I get into something else," Houghton said.



The continuation of a trip

"I had done a book earlier ... a Route 4 road trip that shadows Henry Knox's train of artillery [and] I wanted to connect the rest of the the Knox Trail from New York to Boston," Houghton said, explaining the motivation behind the Route 20 book.

But where Knox took the better part of a month to haul his 60 tons of artillery from the New York border to Boston by oxen, Houghton's Route 20 trip Pittsfield to Bunker Hill can be made by car in about a day.

That is, unless you get side-tracked looking for the historic markers Houghton points out along the route such as the one on the West Springfield town green commemorating the Oct. 30, 1777, encampment of German General Frederich Adolph Riedesel and his Hessian troops, who were on their way to imprisonment in Boston.

Or distracted by one of the many attractions, eateries or other interesting historic side-lights such as the Dr. Seuss memorial at the Springfield Quadrangle or the gun museum at the Springfield Armory that rounds out this thought-provoking guidebook.



A guide to our local history

"Most of my research I do in books," Houghton said, explaining how he unearthed all the nuggets of knowledge that fill the Route 20 book. "The most recent book on Shay's Rebellion helped me to bring [that historic event] into the book."

But Houghton also personally drives each route, stopping to check facts with the people who take care of historic buildings such as the Revolutionary War-Era homes at Storrowton Village in West Springfield and snapping most of the mile marker, historic building and interesting sights photos himself.

"I always find I have to do the trip forward and backwards," he said. 'always, there's some markers that you can't see [from one direction.]"



And a labor of love

"My goal is to get people out on the highway, not to make money on this project," admitted Houghton, an avowed history buff.

He said the books take about a year to complete; the time shared among the handful of routes he works on simultaneously.

"I've just finished one that cuts across South Carolina," he said. "And I've got five more in the research stage"

Local history buffs wishing to travel Houghton's route can pick up a copy of "A Revolutionary War Road Trip on US Route 20" at Edward's Books, Tower Square in downtown Springfield.

The book is also available online from Amazon.com, and information on the historic sights excluding the specific driving directions is available for download from Houghton's web site, www.revolutionaryday.com.

















 
 
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