Horse Island plays a role in the story of Sackets Harbor, both past an present. From its part in the War of 1812, to its lighthouse and water fowl habitat, the island is a key component of the community.
During the War of 1812, the Albany Volunteers established Camp Volunteer on strategically positioned Horse Island, connected to the mainland by a natural causeway. During the May 29, 1813 battle, the first sting of attack and defense happened around the island. At battle's end, it was the place of retreat.
As the sounds of war receded, Horse Island became a pastoral setting for the brick lighthouse built in 1831, which was later destroyed by fire. The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1870, with additions in 1914. By 1926 it was converted into an automatic light. In 1959, the federal General Services Administration sold the island to Carl martin, the present owner.
From 1793 to 1812, the United States struggled to maintain its neutrality as Great Britain and France fought a major war, worldwide, on land and sea. Many Americans were outraged by the british practice of searching and seizing U.S. merchant ships and impressing American sailors into service aboard British warships. Some Americans saw war as a way to drive the british out of North America. These Americans believed that once the british were gone, the United States could deal more effectively with the Indians, whom they saw as an obstacle to westward expansion. Ultimately, the United States declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812.
Control of the Great Lakes, the gateway to the interior of North America, was of critical strategic importance to both sides. As the only harbor on the American side of Lake Ontario that could easily accommodate warships, Sackets Harbor became the headquarters of the U.S. military for the northern frontier. By the spring of 1813, the American shipbuilding effort at Sackets Harbor had produced enough of a squadron to challenge the British warships on the lake.
The American squadron and most of the army set sail to attack Fort George at the northern end of the niagara River. The British, taking advantage of the American' absence, attempted an assault on Sackets Harbor. Their goal was to destroy the American facilities and most importantly, a new warship then under construction. This vessel, later named the General Perry, would be the mightiest warship yet built on the Great Lakes and would give the Americans naval dominance on Lake Ontario.
On May 28, 1813, British warships from Kingston loaded with soldiers were seen approaching Sackets Harbor. Diverted by barges of American reinforcements, a contrary wind, and official indecision, the British delayed their actual landing until the following morning. At Horse Island, and the shore opposite, began 'A Fair Stand Up Fight' [battle] that continued throughout the morning, wavering toward the village and U.S. military hub.