Category Archives: History

Rare French and Indian War Era Musket Donated to Fort Ticonderoga

(Ticonderoga, NY)  Through the keen eye of a museum supporter and generosity of an important donor, a rare British musket that may have seen use at Fort Ticonderoga has recently joined the museum’s collection enabling Fort Ticonderoga to more completely interpret the site’s remarkable history.

Wilson-Musket donated to Fort Ticonderoga

Wilson-Musket

Fort Ticonderoga’s Curator of Collections, Christopher Fox said “The donation of this Wilson musket fills an important and long-standing gap in the collection.  It is a type we know was used by troops who served at the Fort.  It is also an important reminder of the struggles armies sometimes faced in arming their troops in wartime and the great diversity of arms that found their way into military service as a result.”

The Wilson musket will be placed on exhibit this season in the museum’s highly acclaimed exhibit Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial Wars and Revolution. The exhibit, featuring over 150 weapons, tells the story of the use of military and civilian weapons in America during the 17th and 18th centuries. Fort Ticonderoga’s collection of 18th-century military objects is celebrated as one of the best of its type in the world.

During the French & Indian War, the London gun maker Richard Wilson produced muskets to arm the militias of several American colonies including New York, New Jersey, probably Massachusetts.  Though they bear similarities to muskets produced for the British army, the weapons produced by Richard Wilson are not “army” muskets, they are “commercial” or “contract” muskets.”  Their brass parts, stocks, and barrels resemble British army guns, but are simpler and lighter overall.  Of the estimated 4,000 contract weapons that may have been produced by Wilson, only a handful has survived through today.

The potential connection with Fort Ticonderoga’s history stretches back to the British army’s planned invasion of Canada and the disastrous attack on the French lines on July 8, 1758.  As British General James Abercromby was preparing his 17,000-man army, he had considerable difficulty obtaining enough weapons to arm his troops.  Among the weapons he was eventually able to acquire were 1,000 muskets owned by the City of New York.  These weapons had originally been purchased by the city from Richard Wilson in 1755.  While it is not known with absolute certainty, it is thought that at least some of those weapons were issued to New York Provincial troops.  Many of those troops took part in the battle before the French lines on July 8.  It is known, however, that many of Wilson’s muskets were used at Ticonderoga as numerous brass pieces of these guns have been recovered on the site during various periods of reconstruction.

About FORT TICONDEROGA:  America’s Fort ™

Located on Lake Champlain in the beautiful 6 million acre Adirondack Park, Fort Ticonderoga is a not-for-profit historic site and museum that ensures that present and future generations learn from the struggles, sacrifices, and victories that shaped the nations of North America and changed world history. Serving the public since 1909, Fort Ticonderoga engages more than 70,000 visitors annually and is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of Fort Ticonderoga’s history.  Accredited by the American Association of Museums, Fort Ticonderoga offers programs, historic interpretation, tours, demonstrations, and exhibits throughout the year and is open for daily visitation May 17 through October 20, 2013. The 2013 season features the Fort’s newest exhibit “It would make a heart of stone melt” Sickness, Injury, and Medicine at Fort Ticonderoga  which explores early medical theory, practice, and experience as each relates to the armies that served at Fort Ticonderoga in the 18th century.  Visit www.FortTiconderoga.org for a full list of ongoing programs or call 518-585-2821. Fort Ticonderoga is located at 100 Fort Ti Road, Ticonderoga, New York.

America’s Fort is a registered trademark of the Fort Ticonderoga Association.

Photo:  Wilson Musket, Fort Ticonderoga Museum Collection.

Evacuation Day 1776: Fort Ticonderoga

Fort Fever Series Program at Fort Ticonderoga: March 17th

Fort Ticonderoga’s Fort Fever Series continues on Sunday, March 17, at 2 pm with “Evacuation Day 1776” presented by Director of Education Rich Strum. The cost is $10 per person and will be collected at the door; free for members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga.

Evacuation Day 1776: Fort Ticonderoga

Fort Ticonderoga boasts one of North America’s largest 18th century artillery collections including 2 cannons from Fort Ticonderoga that were hauled by Henry Knox to Boston in the winter of 1776

While March 17 is widely celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day, it is officially known as “Evacuation Day” in Boston. On March 17, 1776, the British evacuated Boston after a months-long siege by the Continental Army under the command of General George Washington. Evacuation Day commemorates that pivotal turning point in the early years of the Revolution.

“The presentation traces the growing confrontation between colonists and the British government through the 1760s and early 1770s, including the Stamp Act Crisis, the Boston “Massacre,” and the Boston Tea Party,” said Rich Strum, Director of Education. “Even before fighting erupted in Lexington and Concord in 1775, Boston was in essence an occupied city, with British troops patrolling the streets.”

Shortly after the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, the rebels under General Artemas Ward and then General George Washington surrounded the city of Boston, bottling up the British on the Boston peninsula. The siege was not broken until Washington had artillery placed on Dorchester heights—artillery that had come from Ticonderoga through the herculean efforts of Henry Knox earlier in the winter. Finally, on March 17, 1776, the Royal Navy evacuated British troops and loyal subjects. Boston was in Patriot hands.

This program takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center. The doors open at 1:30 pm, with the program commencing at 2 pm and lasting approximately an hour.

A final program in the Fort Fever Series, entitled “Very Well Prepared for the British Army,” is scheduled for April 21 and includes a site walk with Fort Ticonderoga’s Director of Interpretation, Stuart Lilie. Visit www.fortticonderoga.org and select the “Explore and Learn” tab to learn more.

FORT TICONDEROGA America’s Fort ™

Located on Lake Champlain in the beautiful 6 million acre Adirondack Park, Fort Ticonderoga is a not-for-profit historic site and museum that ensures that present and future generations learn from the struggles, sacrifices, and victories that shaped the nations of North America and changed world history. Serving the public since 1909, Fort Ticonderoga engages more than 70,000 visitors annually and is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of Fort Ticonderoga’s history. Accredited by the American Association of Museums, Fort Ticonderoga offers programs, historic interpretation, tours, demonstrations, and exhibits throughout the year and is open for daily visitation May 17 through October 20, 2013. The 2013 season features the Fort’s newest exhibit “It would make a heart of stone melt” Sickness, Injury, and Medicine at Fort Ticonderoga which explores early medical theory, practice, and experience as each relates to the armies that served at Fort Ticonderoga in the 18th century. Visit www.FortTiconderoga.org for a full list of ongoing programs or call 518-585-2821. Fort Ticonderoga is located at 100 Fort Ti Road, Ticonderoga, New York.

America’s Fort is a registered trademark of the Fort Ticonderoga Association.

Amanda Medina
Communication Specialist
Work 518.472.0060
BrawnMediaNY.com / WSIBrawnMedia.com

Raising Montcalm’s Cross at Fort Ticonderoga

Raising Montcalm’s Cross at Fort Ticonderoga

Originally posted on January 2, 2013  by Fort Ticonderoga

Young and old are fascinated by great battles in history.  In addition to these generic themes of the roar of cannons, musketry, and grim statistics, every battle has a unique story. It is these unique stories that have filled the imaginations of armchair generals and casual history buffs alike for centuries.  Fort Ticonderoga has been remembered, preserved, and restored because its grounds hosted five great battles in the course of two wars. In the process of planning a living history event to recreate these battles and wars, our goal is to bring the unique story of each encounter to life.

Fort Ticonderoga

Fort Ticonderoga

This summer’s upcoming ‘Montcalm’s Cross’ event is going to tell the story of the July, 8th 1758 Battle of Carillon. Unprecedented in military casualties in North America to that time, this battle made Ticonderoga a household name. The recreation of this battle is nothing new. Less than three months later it was re-enacted back in France in front of the Paris city hall. Two hundred and fifty-five years later, when bringing this story to life, there are a lot of factors to consider for the visitors of Fort Ticonderoga. The history of the battle and the unique narrative of its events and characters is a basic starting point. But to ensure that participants and visitors alike have an enjoyable and engaging experience, we have to broaden our planning. The battle will be recreated predominantly by re-enactors, dedicated historians who volunteer to recreate historic events. We have to take into account what is feasible to ask of these valuable volunteers. In addition, there are the various safety, comfort, and educational considerations for visitors coming to enjoy and engage in the living history event. The history of the battle and timeline of the event only tell a part of the story. In order to make the experience for visitors and participant as enjoyable and engaging as possible, we seek to recreate not only the basic facts, but the visceral details of the battle. To this end, one of the key considerations in re-enactment will be the setting of this important battle.

By July of 1758, Fort Carillon sat on a cleared tip of the Ticonderoga peninsula that was otherwise surrounded by virgin forest. These trees were tremendously old, so tall and large that they blocked most the light that could filter down to the forest floor. This prevented the usual growth of dense underbrush as with many secondary growth forests in the Northeast today. Most of the woods around this isolated Fort were surprisingly open inside, though the trees themselves were dense enough to obscure one’s view beyond thirty to fifty yards. In fact, French engineer Michele Chartier de Lotbineire described the density of these old growth trees as the cause of placing the Fort west of its initial design. The immediate area of the Fort had been cleared for almost three years by 1758, with the foundation of the fort itself blasted flat by French soldiers beginning in 1756. Therefore, the mown grass surrounding the present day Fort is not too far off the historical reality for 1758.

The Saturday of this two-day living history event will feature the skirmish that erupted as the British advanced from Lake George landing through the LeChute valley towards Ticonderoga. For our visitors attending the entire weekend of events, this will create two distinct days, both telling essential pieces of the story of the Battle of Carillon. Portraying the story of this skirmish is important to understanding the assault on the heights of Carillon. It was in this encounter that Brigadier General Lord Howe, darling of the British Army, was killed undermining British morale and command. This skirmish took place in the heavily forested landscape that dominated the LeChute Valley. To recreate this skirmish we are searching for a location on the site that has that same setting of dense forest. While trying to find a place on the landscape that has that same look, we have to take in to consideration that our visitors have the ability to get there and see what’s going on. They need to be comfortable and not in any actual danger while watching this recreation. Ideally, we are hoping to locate our visitors under the cover of the forest canopy. In this July event, the shade will be a welcome comfort and the perfect place to be immersed in this ancient forest landscape. Standing in amongst tree trunks, visitors can imagine taking shelter from buckshot and bullets, only to rush forward or retreat to the next.

For Sunday, our goal is to recreate the July 8th  direct assault on the heights of Carillon. The real battle of Carillon took place on the rise one mile to the west of the Fort. That hilltop, until a matter of hours before the battle, was still the old growth, virgin forest. The Marquis de Montcalm ordered his soldiers to entrench on that hillside, clearing off the forest for about a 100 yard radius around the top of the high ground. They used the trees they cut down to build the breastwork, their defensive position. Logs were stacked eight feet high, and one half mile long, zigzagging around the heights of Carillon to give intersecting fire against their British assailants. The tops of the trees were arrayed out thirty yards in front with the sharpened branches facing outwards, acting almost like barbed wire. Given the size and age of the trees used, this abatis hid the log breastwork from view.

Though we have the advantage of recreating the Battle of Carillon at the original location, using the actual battlefield itself is not an option. It is an archaeologically sensitive location and we hold our mission of preservation of these historic grounds equal to our mission of education about them. We have to find a place on the landscape where we can create the overall appearance of the Heights of Carillon on that day in July, 1758. Since the French lines were constructed rapidly right before the battle, the area around it was an open landscape of pine needles and leaves dotted by rocks and the remaining stumps from the cleared forest. The grounds for the re-created battle should capture the feel of the real setting. We cannot recreate the full half-mile of the French lines; it would take an army to do so. What we can do is recreate a representative section of the French lines, but have them be as visually faithful to our best understanding of the historic battlefield.

The Abatis of Fort Ticonderoga

The Abatis of Fort Ticonderoga by Rob Shenk

In so doing, we will reuse segments of the eight-foot high log breastwork that were recreated for the 250th anniversary of the battle. These were put together with the effort of many volunteers and have weathered the five years since then in surprisingly good shape. We will restore those segments to recreate a part of the French lines, but we want to move them up to the crest of the hill, which better matches the natural rise of the placement of the actual historic French lines.

Another key aspect of these recreated French lines is the abatis : the tree tops intertwined together, with sharpened branches pointed out in front of the breastwork. Historically, they served as a barbed-wire like barrier to that log breastwork, but they also visually screened the breastwork from the opposing forces. Overall, in recreating the French lines, visitors and participants alike should be able to see a log breastwork, screened by sharpened tree tops, overlooking about 100 yards of dead, barren, no-man’s land. In this way we can, in terms of setting, capture the real drama of that 1758 battle.

As with the skirmish that caused the death of Lord Howe, to portray the actual assault on the French lines, we have to consider where visitors will be. And this question certainly has the same considerations of comfort, safety, and accessibility. In addition, the location for viewing the battle is important in what part of the story we’re trying to tell. Placing visitors looking down from the French lines, just by the nature of where they are, tells the story from a very French perspective. Visitors would see wave after wave of British and provincial soldiers rushing up towards the French soldiers protected by the breastwork. They would feel the immediacy of the French firing as fast as they can to maintain their position and their lives. Conversely, placing visitors down far below the French lines outside this dead, no-man’s land space, lends itself to a more British or provincial perspective. Visitors would see in close detail the restless moments for British and provincial soldiers before they rush out into this open killing field. Visitors would look up at the worried faces of American provincials pinned down by fire from the French soldiers, huddling behind the stumps and rocks, anxiously awaiting nightfall. Still another option is to place viewing along a line perpendicular to the recreated French lines. In this way we would create a cross-sectional view to see the anatomy and the mechanics of the French victory and British defeat.

All these considerations go into telling the story of the 1758 Battle of Carillon at this summer’s, “Montcalm’s Cross,” event. As we figure out the best way to capture the visceral details of this great piece of history, we could not be more excited to have the opportunity to bring the stories of struggle and sacrifice of the individual soldiers to life.

The Raising Montcalm’s Cross at Fort Ticonderoga event will take place July 20-21, 2013

Fort Crown Point

1759, Essex County, Crown Point, New York

Barracks at Fort Crown Point

Barracks at Fort Crown Point

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General Jeffrey Amherst began building the fortress in 1759. This impressive fort, when completed and garrisoned, was seven times the size of the old French fort on the site (Fort St. Frederic), and was the largest British fortress in colonial America. The main fort was pentagon shaped with bastions situated at each point.  Located inside the fortress were a number of stone barracks and officer’s quarters.

Earthen ramparts faced with logs, ditches and cleared fields of fire covered about seven acres and mounted 105 cannons. The entire fortification complex, including redoubts, blockhouses and redans, covered over 3.5 square miles. Located to the East was Grenadiers Redoubt, to the South East was the Light Infantry of Regiment’s Redoubt, and to the South West was General Gages’ Redoubt.

A major fire destroyed much of the fort in April 1773. During the Revolutionary War, General Benedict Arnold made repairs and used some of the barracks. American troops occupied the Grenadier’s Redoubt and constructed another small fortification in that area.

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Fort St. Frederic:

Strategic location of Fort Crown Point

Strategic location of Fort Crown Point

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In 1734 France began construction of a fort at Crown Point; this was the first substantial fortification in the Champlain Valley.

From 1734-1755 France maintained complete control of the Champlain Valley. Fort St. Frederic controlled the narrows between Crown Point on what is now the New York side of Lake Champlain and Chimney Point in what is now Addison, Vermont.

Charles de Beauhamois, Governor of New France (Canada), actively encouraged settlement around Fort St. Frederic, and created a French community around the fort. This combined military and civilian presence blocked British expansion. In 1759 about 12,000  British regulars and provincial troops captured the fort. Following the French retreat from Crown Point in 1759, General Amherst embarked upon an ambitions plan to secure the area for Britain.

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Fort Crown Point:

Fort Crown Point

Fort Crown Point

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The British immediately began construction of “His Majesty’s Fort of Crown Point,” as well as three redoubts and a series of blockhouses and redans, all interconnected by a network of roads. The fortification complex covered over three and one-half square miles, making it one of the most ambitious military engineering projects undertaken by the British in colonial North America.

An elaborate system of fortifications was begun on the point. At times, as many as 3000 soldiers and artisans were engaged in the construction of Fort Crown Point, three smaller forts, called redoubts, several block houses, store houses, gardens and military roads. A village grew up close to the Fort wall with a tavern, store, apothecary shop, and the home of soldiers families and retired officers.

When control of Canada passed to Britain, at the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, construction ceased leaving one barracks building unfinished. Lake Champlain became a vital highway linking two diverse regions of British North America. Crown Point, located midway between Albany and Montreal, became the center of communication between New York and Canada.

In April 1773, a chimney fire spread from the soldier’s barracks on the log walls of the fort and resulted in the explosion of the powder magazine and the virtual destruction of the main fort.

Troop strength at Crown Point was gradually reduced until only a small garrison remained to surrender the fort to American rebel troops commanded by Seth Warner in May of 1775.

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Fort Crown Point during the American Revolution:

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At the outbreak of the American Revolution, the rebellious colonists looked to Crown Point to aid their cause.

The surrender of Fort Crown Point to American rebel troops commanded by Seth Warner in May of 1775 yielded 114 pieces of cannon and heavy ordnance sorely needed by the Americans. Colonel Henry Knox carried twenty-nine of these to Boston during that winter to force the British out of the city.

On May 23, 1775, Fort Crown Point was the meeting place for Ethan Allen, the Green Mountain Boys, Benedict Arnold and his small American Navy. Ethan Allen was returning from an attempted penetration of Canada, but was driven out by British troops. A month later, the British would take Allen prisoner in another unsuccessful attempt. Benedict Arnold and his navy would assume control of Crown Point and Lake Champlain. A month later, he would relinquish it to General Philip Schuyler’s Northern Department of the Continental Army in a dispute over control.

In the fall of 1775, Schuyler and his army embarked from Crown Point with 1,700 troops for another attempt to conquer Canada. Beaten, they returned from Quebec in June 1776, to lie in makeshift hospitals at Crown Point.

In May 1775, Seth Warner’s American Forces captured the fort and Crown Point became a springboard for an invasion of Canada. General Richard Montgomery’s force sailed down the lake in August 1775. Despite initial success in Montreal, the combined forces of Montgomery and Benedict Arnold were defeated at Quebec in December 1775. They retreated in disarray, riddled with smallpox, to Crown Point. Men died by the hundreds in makeshift field hospitals and were buried in mass graves.

In the fall of 1776, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Hartley and the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment heard the sounds of the naval engagement at Valcour Island from their entrenchments at Crown Point. The American Navy , once again led by Benedict Arnold, ambushed the British Naval Force, but was eventually forced to retreat down Lake Champlain. The regiment at Crown Point also retreated southward to Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence.

While Arnold directed the construction of a Naval Squadron in the summer of 1776. Tripps fortified Crown Point in preparation of an expected British attack. Not until Arnold’s squadron was badly beaten at the battle of Valcour Island in October did the last American troops abandon Crown Point to occupy Mount Independence overlooking Fort Ticonderoga.

Crown Point was a staging area for the British in both 1776 and 1777. After the Americans abandoned Crown Point, the British assembled their troops here. Delayed by the American Navy, Sir Guy Carleton arrived here with his troops in October of 1776, but retreated north for the winter shortly thereafter. British General John Burgoyne’s army arrived here in June of 1777. Crown Point remained under British control until the end of the war.

The last major action to involve Crown Point was Burgoyne’s expedition in 1777. As support for his advancing army, a hospital was erected, a garrison of 200 men, was left at Crown Point that summer. Despite Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga, the British retained absolute control of Lake Champlain with the garrison at Crown Point for the remainder of the war. Their ships cruised regularly between Crown Point and the naval shipyard at St. Jean. Crown Point did not return to American control until after the Peace Treaty in 1783.

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Fort Ticonderoga Launches Teacher Institute

Fort Ticonderoga Launches Teacher Institute

Fort Ticonderoga Launches Teacher Institute

The Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute is a significant and new educational initiative underway in 2013 as Fort Ticonderoga extends its reach and educational impact through a variety of new programs this year.
The focus of the 2013 Institute is “Benedict Arnold” and will accommodate 24 teachers for a week-long exploration of Arnold’s career during the early years of the American Revolution and how it connects to Fort Ticonderoga and the Revolution on the Northern Frontier.
Applications are now being accepted from educators to participate in the week-long program and are due on March 1. The Teacher Institute will be held July 7-12 at Fort Ticonderoga.