Category Archives: History

Fort Ste. Anne

Fort Ste. Anne, Isle La Motte, Vermont

In 1665, the French sought to protect their colony in New France (now Canada) along the Saint Lawrence River from attacks by the Iroquois. Their defensive plan was to built a string of five forts stretching along the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain. Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy had the forts built by four companies of the Carignan-Salières Regiment. The first three forts were built in 1665, and the other two in 1666. Fort Richelieu, Fort Chambly, Fort Sainte Thérèse and Fort Saint-Jean protected the Richelieu itself.

 

Fort Ste. Anne, the southernmost fort was built on a sandy point on Isle La Motte in Lake Champlain – about six miles from where the Lake empties into the Richelieu River. The fort was dedicated to Saint Anne. Fort Ste. Anne was the most vulnerable to attacks by the Iroquois, because it was the last of five forts stretching along the Richelieu River route going south. It was completed in July 1666 by French troops under the command of Captain Pierre de La Motte, and was quite small; only measuring about 144′ x 96′. It was a double log palisade about 15′ high – with four bastions.

Though occupied for only six years, Fort Ste. Anne was the scene of many important events. Because of numerous deadly Mohawk attacks on French settlements to the north, the decision was made to take the offensive and attack the Iroquois villages, far south on the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers. The sandy point (and the area across the lake at the mouth of the Chazy River) became the staging grounds for several major attacks on Iroquois villages. French attacks on British settlements and Iroquois villages would continue from Fort St. Frédéric (Crown Point) and Carillon (Ticonderoga) long after Fort Ste. Anne was abandoned.

Fort Ste. Anne was undoubtedly a desolate  and fearsome place to be stationed. Deep in an impenetrable wilderness, accessible only by water, subject to fierce winds and deep snows, the few hardy souls who resided here suffered terribly from both the elements and disease. Scurvy was rampant. Isolation and loneliness took a terrible toll.

All traces of the wooden fort were gone by the mid-1800-s, but you can still determine where the fort stood. The sandy point where the structure was located now is now the site of the ‘Way of Calvary’ at Saint Anne’s Shrine; a tree-shaded place where Catholics can visit the Stations of the Cross.

 

 

 

That sandy point of Isle La Motte has been significant in the  history of the lake.

  • Before the first French missionaries visited the region the point was a gathering place for Native Americans.
  • Samuel de Champlain stopped here when he first visited the lake in 1604.
  • Father (now Saint) Isaac Jogues most likely stopped off at the point during his numerous and ill-fated journeys up and down the lakes.
  • French troops and their allies staged here for attacks against the Iroquois and British.

 

In a 1937 travel guide to Vermont the description of the site of Fort Ste. Anne in Isle la Motte offers an interesting, but romanticized, description of a lovely, sacred, and historic location.

“Here in the calm of shaded lakeside beauty, French soldiers under Capt. de La Motte built a fort in 1666 for protection against the Mohawks, and here in the essence of Champlain island loveliness was the scene of Vermont’s first, though impermanent, white settlement. The beauty of Ste. Anne is deepened by history— the pictures brought to mind of swashbuckling French gallants casting off uniform-coats to swing axes and ply spades; the solemn-faced Jesuits in their dark garb; and a garrison of 300 men celebrating mass on this wilderness isle in the chapel of Fort Ste. Anne, the first mass to be held in the State.”

 

Saint Anne’s Shrine

In the late 1800’s, Bishop Louis de Goesbriand, of the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont acquired the property where the fort was located. A shrine, dedicated to Saint Anne de Beaupre, as was the French fort, was opened by the Bishop on July 26, 1893. In 1904, the Shrine was entrusted to the care of the Edmundite Fathers, founders of Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont.

Fort Ste Anne site , Isle La Motte, Vermont

Samuel de Champlain statue

 

Over the years the Shrine has grown in both size and popularity. In addition to a large, open-air chapel, there are now several other buildings on site, including one that houses a small museum with a number of artifacts excavated from the site of the French fortress. In addition to the Chapel and the  ‘Way of Calvary’ a 15′ gilded statue of the Virgin Mary serves the devotional needs of visitors. This impressive statue used to adorn the bell tower of Burlington’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The Cathedral was destroyed by fire in March, 1972. The Diocese of Burlington donated the statue in 1991 to the Shrine.3

 

In 1968, the State of Vermont donated a statue of the French explorer, Samuel de Champlain. This impressive monument was sculpted by F.L. Weber in Montreal during Expo ’67.

The Battle of Carillon, or the 1758 Battle of Ticonderoga

The Battle of Carillon, or the 1758 Battle of Ticonderoga

July 8, 1758

 

Fort Ticonderoga or Carillon

Fort Ticonderoga or Carillon

The Battle of Carillon, also known as the 1758 Battle of Ticonderoga, was fought July 8, 1758, during the French and Indian War (which was part of the global Seven Years’ War). It was fought near Fort Carillon (now known as Fort Ticonderoga) on the shore of Lake Champlain in the frontier area between the British colony of New York and the French colony of New France.

The British and their colonists in New England had long been troubled by French and their native allies attacking the ever-expanding frontier settlements. Many of these attacks generated from the French stronghold of Fort St. Frederic (now Crown Point) on the western shore of Lake Champlain. That fort secured French control of the lake.

In 1755 the French began construction of Fort Carillon to protect the portage along the LaChute River between Lakes George and Champlain. It was from Fort Carillon that the French , under General Montcalm, staged their successful attack and siege of Fort William Henry in 1757. The fall of William Henry, and the later massacre of its surrendered defenders and civilians, left both lakes in the hands of the French.

 

A Massive British Army Attacks

British troops preparing to sail north before the Battle of Carillon

British troops preparing to sail north before the Battle of Carillon

On July 5, 1758 a massive British army sailed north down Lake George to attack Carillon and Fort St. Frederic.The force consisted of 6,000 British regulars and 12,000 provincial troops, including militia, rangers and native allies. It is said that the fleet transporting the army was three columns wide and three miles long as they rowed up Lake George.

The army made landfall at the north end of Lake George on July 6 with minimal casualties, except for the loss of General Howe, who was beloved by his troops and probably the best field commander in the British army.

 

The Battle of Carillon

Troops of The Black Watch storming the breastworks at the Battle of Carillon

Troops of The Black Watch storming the breastworks at the Battle of Carillon

The battle mostly took place on a rise about 3/4 mile from the fort. The French army of about 3,600 men under General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm and the Chevalier de Levis decisively defeated the overwhelmingly numerically superior force of 18,000 British troops under General James Abercrombie.

The British frontal assault of an entrenched French position without using field artillery left the British and their allies vulnerable and allowed the French to win a decisive victory. It was the bloodiest battle in the American theater of this war, with about 400 French and more than 2,500 British casualties.

Many military historians have cited the Battle of Carillon as a classic example of tactical military incompetence. Abercrombie, confident of a quick victory, ignored several military options, such as: flanking the French breastworks, waiting for his artillery, or laying siege to the fort. Instead, he decided instead on a direct frontal assault of the entrenched French position without the benefit of artillery.

 

 

The Importance of the Battle of Carillon

French troops cheering General Montcalm after the Battle of Carillon

French troops cheering General Montcalm after the Battle of Carillon

British forces, expecting an easy victory, thought the capture of Carillon would lead in turn to the capture of the more strategic and important Fort St. Frederic (Fort Crown Point), and ultimately mastery of Lake Champlain. The staggering defeat forced them to retreat back up Lake George to the ruins of Fort William Henry and ultimately to Fort Edward.

The battle ended the military career of General Abercromby, and bolstered the status of General Montcalm, who was to die next year on the Plains of Abraham, defending Quebec from British assault.

The fort was abandoned by the French the following year, and it has since been known as Fort Ticonderoga (after its location). This battle gave the fort a reputation for impregnability that had an effect on future military operations in the area. Despite several large-scale military movements through the area, in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War, this was the only major battle fought near the fort’s location.

 


Fort Ticonderoga Captured by Ethan Allen & Benedict Arnold

Fort Ticonderoga Captured by Ethan Allen & Benedict Arnold: May 10, 1775

 

Fort Ticonderoga Captured by Ethan Allen & Benedict Arnold

Because of its location on Lake Champlain, Fort Ticonderoga was the key to access of both Canada and the Hudson River Valley. During the French and Indian War, thousands of soldiers had died fighting to gain or maintain control of the water highway between Canada and New York. Fort Ticonderoga, the Gibraltar of North America, was the key to Lake Champlain and, in turn, Lake George and the Hudson River.

It was May of 1775; just three weeks after Lexington and Concord. The American Revolution was just beginning. Both Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold realized that not only would Fort Ticonderoga be a relatively easy target for the patriots, but that it would prevent British control of the waterways and the access they provided.


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Independently, both Allen and Arnold set out to capture Ticonderoga. Arnold, of Connecticut, led small force of Massachusetts militiamen, while Allen, also originally from Connecticut, led the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont. After some heated negotiations (both leaders had big egos), the two agreed to a joint command.

On May 10, 1775  Arnold  and Allen led 168 Green Mountain Boys and New England militia in a dawn attack on the fort, surprising and capturing the sleeping British garrison. The rebels sneaked into the fort and demanded its surrender. Captain William DeLaPlace, the garrison commander, surrendered his sword and the fort; no-one was killed in the daring dawn raid.

 

Fort Ticonderoga Captured by Ethan Allen & Benedict Arnold

Fort Ticonderoga 

Although this was a small-scale conflict, the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga was the first American victory of the Revolution, and later supplied the Continental Army with needed artillery to force the British from Boston and to use in future battles.

Following the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, Colonel Henry Knox transported more than 60 tons of military supplies including 59 artillery pieces from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. Ticonderoga’s cannon were placed on Dorchester Heights which had a commanding view of Boston. The threat of the cannon forced the British to evacuate Boston on March 17, 1776 and the Continental Army entered Boston the next day.

The Importance of the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga

The significance of the battle was the captured cannons, munitions and other armaments from Fort Ticonderoga which were transported to Boston and used to fortify Dorchester Heights and break the standoff at the Siege of Boston. The location of the fort itself was also very important as it protected New York and New England from British invasion from Canada.

Lake Champlain

This 128-page softcover book features stunning historical images from the archives of Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and other regional collections, and includes chapters on Patriotic Sites and Celebrations; Commerce in the Canal Era; The Age of Steam; Crossing Lake Champlain; Recreational Boating; Summer and Summer Folk; Hunting and Fishing; and Winter. ‘Lake Champlain’ tells the story of this historic, busy commercial corridor and recreational destination.

Buy Here

More About Lake Champlain History:

The Rush-Bagot Treaty

April 28, 1818: The Rush-Bagot Treaty

The Rush-Bagot Treaty demilitarized Lake Champlain

The Rush-Bagot Treaty demilitarized Lake Champlain and the Great Lakes

On April 28, 1817, Acting United States Secretary of State Richard Rush and the British Minister to Washington Sir Charles Bagot signed and exchanged letters that became the Rush-Bagot Agreement or Treaty, which demilitarized Lake Champlain and the Great Lakes.

 

Rush-Bagot Treaty plaque

Rush-Bagot Treaty plaque

 

The agreement  provided for demilitarization of the lakes along the international boundary, where many British naval arrangements and forts remained. The treaty stipulated that the United States and British North America could each keep one military vessel (of no more than 100 tons) as well as one cannon (no more than eighteen pounds) on Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain. It later extended this to the other Great Lakes and to the entire Canadian border.

The USA and Canada have worked well together at cleaning up the lakes and keeping them demilitarized. The US Coast Guard now has bigger guns, but Canada looks the other way. According to Wikipedia, “The Canadian government decided that the armament did not violate the treaty, as the guns were to be used for law enforcement rather than military activities. Canada reserved the right to arm its law enforcement vessels with similar weapons.”

Click here to learn more about The Rush-Bagot Treaty

Lake Champlain

This 128-page softcover book features stunning historical images from the archives of Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and other regional collections, and includes chapters on Patriotic Sites and Celebrations; Commerce in the Canal Era; The Age of Steam; Crossing Lake Champlain; Recreational Boating; Summer and Summer Folk; Hunting and Fishing; and Winter. ‘Lake Champlain’ tells the story of this historic, busy commercial corridor and recreational destination.

Buy Here

More About Lake Champlain History:

Lake Champlain Historic Events

Lake Champlain Historic Events

 

 

 

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