New NEH Grant Supports On-Going Teacher Education

We are delighted to announce that the National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a grant of $169,232 to Fort Ticonderoga to host two week-long Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers in the summer of 2015. The workshops will focus on “The American Revolution on the Northern Frontier: Fort Ticonderoga and the Road to Saratoga.” Fort Ticonderoga was one of five institutions in New York State to receive grant funding for NEH Landmarks Workshops in 2015.

Smaller Web Version 2014 NEH Teachers

Participants in the 2014 NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers on “The American Revolution on the Northern Frontier: Fort Ticonderoga and the Road to Saratoga.”

This prestigious grant allows Fort Ticonderoga an unparalleled opportunity to play a vital part in educating and inspiring America’s youth through their teachers’ participation in this program. Fort Ticonderoga is a national leader in teacher education and this program helps add to our diverse offerings and increased reach.
I’m really excited to welcome 72 teachers to Fort Ticonderoga next summer as part of the NEH Landmarks Workshops as the NEH Project Director for the workshops in 2015. Providing these NEH Summer Scholars with a unique learning experience combining a top-notch slate of visiting scholars and the talented staff and amazing resources at Fort Ticonderoga makes for a very memorable experience. It’s gratifying to think of the long-term impact a week like this has on teachers and their future students for years to come.

This NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop for School Teachers will be offered twice: July 12-17, 2015 and July 26-31, 2015. There is no fee for this program and all participants receive a $1,200 stipend to help defray expenses. Teachers wishing to earn three graduate credits during the workshop can do so through an arrangement with Castleton State College in Vermont.

Visiting scholars for the workshops include some of the most prominent historians in their fields and include James Kirby Martin (University of Houston), Holly Mayer (Duquesne University), Douglas Egerton (LeMoyne College), Carol Berkin (City University of New York), William Fowler (Northeastern University), and Jon Parmenter (Cornell University). Participating teachers have the opportunity to discuss issues related to the Revolution with these scholars as well as utilize the inexhaustible resources of Fort Ticonderoga.

Fort Ticonderoga played a crucial role in the early years of the American Revolution on the northern frontier. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold captured the Fort and its valuable artillery in May 1775 for the colonial cause. It was a hive of activity in 1776, fending off an aborted British invasion from Canada. In 1777, when news reached London that the Fort fell to the British in July, King George III reportedly shouted to the Queen “I’ve beaten them! I’ve beaten them!” These week-long workshops explore Fort Ticonderoga and the first three years of the Revolution on the northern frontier.

“The American Revolution on the Northern Frontier: Fort Ticonderoga and the Road to Saratoga” is open to all teachers nationwide through a competitive application process open now. Full-time and part-time classroom teachers and librarians in public, charter, independent, and religiously-affiliated schools, as well as home-schooling parents, are eligible to participate. Other K-12 school personnel, including administrators, substitute teachers, and classroom professionals, are also eligible to participate, subject to available space.

Fort Ticonderoga hosted NEH Landmarks Workshops for School Teachers in 2011 and 2014 and also offers the annual Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute each summer. To learn more about programs for educators follow this link.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this workshop do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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“by Taylors of their respective Companies”

Within the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion of 1776, Captain Lacey's Company had a particularly sharp, custom uniform, but one which did not hold up for the entire campaign.

Within the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion of 1776, Captain Lacey’s Company had a particularly sharp, custom uniform, but one which did not hold up for the entire campaign.

Many of the documents from 4th Pennsylvania Battalion Quartermaster John Harper reside in the collection of Fort Ticonderoga today. These papers document many aspects of the supply of this regiment, including its resupply with clothing and materials while encamped at Ticonderoga in 1776. These papers include receipts for large amounts of cloth for the regiment which have been puzzling for many years. However, a careful study of the regiment in 1776 may indicate how this cloth was used.

The 4th Pennsylvania Battalion was supplied by merchants and tailors in and around Philadelphia. Many captains of this regiment relied on the regiment to supply their companies with clothing and equipment, leaving a wonderful paper trail in the files of Quartermaster John Harper. These papers even include the purchases of blue and white cloth for the regiment’s distinctive uniform, signed by the regiment’s Colonel, Anthony Wayne. Conspicuously absent from these regimental clothing purchases is Captain John Lacey’s company, an absence explained in Lacey’s memoires.

I had used more industry to clothe my men than any of the other Captains, their regimentals were made in Philadelphia, by the taylors there, mine at Darby by my own men, and others at that place, under my own direction and of cloth that I had procured myself. Our regimental coats were deep blew faced with white, white vests and overalls edged with blew cloth. A very beautiful uniform, but on experience was found much better adopted for parade than utility in the hardships of a camp, as they too easily became soiled and hard to keep clean.

With tailoring being one of the most common trades, captains could count on finding tailors within their companies who could repair or even make clothing for their men.

With tailoring being one of the most common trades, captains could count on finding tailors within their companies who could repair or even make clothing for their men.

Three companies of the regiment were fully raised, equipped, and encamped on Long Island by May of 1776, just in time to go north to join the American army teetering near disaster in Canada. These three companies, including Captain John Lacey’s company, retreated with the American Army in Canada all the way back to Ticonderoga, where the rest of the companies finally completed the regiment. After briefly encamping below the walls of Fort Ticonderoga The 4th Pennsylvania Battalion moved up to the west of the Fort onto the French Lines in order to fortify them beginning July 16th. The work of building fascines, digging ditches, raising parapet walls, and cannon batteries continued up through September 18th. Then the regiment set to work building huts to replace their wet and worn tents.

Constructing earthworks and soldiers' huts was hard work, work which likely wore out breeches, waistcoats, and shirts faster than other uniform garments.

Constructing earthworks and soldiers’ huts was hard work, work which likely wore out breeches, waistcoats, and shirts faster than other uniform garments.

This constant fatigue work must have put a great strain on clothing as it coincides with regimental purchases of cloth. By August 27th, regimental Quartermaster John Harper purchased from Continental Army stores, 60 shirts and 191 ¾ yards of wool cloth. This cloth included, “29 yds narrow brown knap, 31 yds ditto, 14 yds coarse broadcloth, 6yds green knap, 15 yds Red ditto, 24 ¾ yds Green Broadcloth, 16 yds purple motheaten cloth, 11 ½ yds drab cloth ditto, 15 ½ yds Green Knap, 29 yds brown Broadcloth” While the regiment’s official uniform of blue coats faced in white and white vests, the majority of this cloth was brown, green, red, drab or purple. Two days later, the papers of Quartermaster Harper show an additional draft of cloth from Army stores of 181 ¾ yards of various types and colors of woolen cloth.

August 29, 1776 received of Major Hay 12 ½ yds narrow brown knap, 8 yds ditto red knap, 31 yds narrow red knap, 7 ¼ yds black bearskin, 15 yds fine knap sarge, 2 ¼ yds wide knap light coloured (purple crossed out), 29 yds narrow red knap, 30 yds narrow brown knap, 32 yds drab cloth, 7 ½ yds clarrett coloured wide cloth, 4 ¼ yds black wide cloth, 13 yds Brown wide cloth much motheaten, 181 ¾ yds——

By September 2nd, the regiment purchased an additional,” 7 yds camblet cloth, striped,” a stout worsted upholstery cloth along with 32 pairs of leather breeches.  In only seven days the regiment procured 380 ½ yards of woolen cloth of various types and colors. These summer receipts of cloth for clothing were just the beginning.

By October, remaining clothing must have needed to be replaced en masse, especially with temperatures dropping and rain falling. Between October 9th and 11th, the Regiment drew 334 pairs of leather breeches. With 502 enlisted soldiers (excluding those, “sick & absent,” in the regiment by November 17th) this total of 366 leather breeches would have clothed a majority of the regiment .By October 25th the papers of Quartermaster John Harper list the clothing purchases for individual companies. Captain John Lacey procured for his men.

Capt Lacy- 3 yd. Light Coulored wide knap, 26 ½ yd narrow brown knap, 4 ½ yds wide black cloth, 11 ¾ yd light coulored wide cloth

By the end of October, 1776 most men in Captain Lacey's company likely had leather breeches and waistcoats made from the brown, black, or light colored cloth procured by Captain Lacey.

By the end of October, 1776 most men in Captain Lacey’s company likely had leather breeches and waistcoats made from the brown, black, or light colored cloth procured by Captain Lacey.

These company purchases of cloth total to 333 ¾ yards of enlisted grade woolen cloths, similarly in various colors and finishes.  In total, between August 27th and October 25th, the regiment drew a total of 714 ¼ yards of various woolen cloths. Compared with the November 17th muster roll this equals a little less than 1 ¼ yards per man, assuming these various cloths were distributed equally through the regiment. Taking Captain Lacey’s Company as an example, he procured for his company 45 ¾ yards of wool cloth. In mid-July Captain Lacey was disappointed to find his company had lost twenty-eight privates since it left Long Island back in May. In his memoires he recalled, “I ordered my Orderly sergant to make me a return of the Company, which to my inexpressable mortification I found to stand as follows, viz. one Cap*, 1 Lieutenant, 1 Ensine, 2 Sergants, 2 Corparals, no Drum or Fifer, and but 48 privates-“ With approximately one yard of cloth needed for  the front, back, and other pieces of a waistcoat, 45 ¾ yards of cloth would produce nearly enough waistcoats to cloth every enlisted man.

By itself there is no evidence that these woolen cloths were distributed equally, but the yardage procured coincides roughly with the amount needed for unlined waistcoats. This is an intriguing possibility given that so many pairs of leather breeches were issued out during the same time period. Together this would constitute a new set of small clothes, or a pair of breeches and a new waistcoat, for the majority of the regiment. With much of the regiment issued leather breeches prior to marching, it’s quite possible that the rest of the men still had their initial issue breeches, but need a new waistcoat. The need to replace breeches and waistcoats coincides very nicely with the fatigue work carried out by the regiment. It was a common practice for soldiers to work wearing merely their small clothes or shirt, waistcoat, and breeches, preserving their coat from being soiled. With Colonel Anthony Wayne’s attention to the dress and appearance of his regiment he may well have made this common practice for his men. Working every day in breeches and waistcoats would have worn out small clothes very rapidly, quickly creating the need for replacement clothing, but not new regimental coats..

It appears quite likely that this cloth was turned into clothing by tailors within the regiment or even each company. This practice is evident even during the raising of Captain John Lacey’s company. He noted his attention to his men’s dress in his memoires stating, “their regimentals were made in Philadelphia, by the taylors there, mine at Darby by my own men, and others at that place, under my own direction and of cloth that I had procured myself.” However, this practice was ordered for the whole Northern Continental Army while it regrouped at Crown Point in early July. Colonel Anthony Wayne’s orderly books do not include the chaotic days of early July. However, the orderly book of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment includes the general orders from the army. On July 6th, General Horatio Gates ordered all the tailors in the regiments to be accounted for, stating, “A Return to be Immeditaly to be maide by the Adjuants of the Sever Regt. of the Taylors of the Several Corps.” This order was in preparation for replacing clothing lost or worn out while in service in Canada. By July 8th General Gates ordered, “The Cloathing may be wanted by their Respective Corps, that each may have a Proportionable Share of what is now Here.”

Regimental orders during the period when the 4th Pennsylvanai Battalion drew large amounts of woolen cloth do not directly refer to the use of the cloth. Instead regimental orders repeated encourage the men to maintain their clean and neat appearance. However, Colonel Wayne did specifically mention waistcoats in his regimental orders from December 5th, 1776.

Capns and Commanding Officers of Companies in the 4th P. Regt. will immediately settle with and pay their Men, stopping out of their Wages the weekly Allowance for the Barber. They will with all possible Expedition cause the Cloathing of the Men to be repair’d in the neatest Manner by Taylors of their respective Companies, and as white Waistcoats and Stockings are now to be had they will draw sufficient for the Men, as also Leggings and Shirts.

Complete button bone cores and partially made button corps still set into cattle ribs provide further evidence of clothing production at Ticonderoga. These round cores were made to be covered with cloth to make cloth buttons. Production of these button cores may explain the lack of button purchases with cloth from Continental Stores in 1776.

Complete button bone cores and partially made button corps still set into cattle ribs provide further evidence of clothing production at Ticonderoga. These round cores were made to be covered with cloth to make cloth covered buttons. Production of these button cores may explain the lack of button purchases along with cloth purchases from Continental Stores in 1776.

Wayne’s orders state that the, “Taylors of the respective Companies,” are to carry out repairs to the clothing. This is consistent with the practice indicated by General Orders in the army in July as well as the initial clothing of Captain Lacey’s company. Further, the order would indicate that it was regimental practice to have replacement clothing made by the tailors within the regiment or each company. This practice could explain how the cloth procured by the regiment was made into clothing. More importantly within the order Colonel Wayne specifically noted that, “as white Waistcoats and Stockings are now to be had they [Captains and Company Commanders] will draw sufficient for the Men.” If Colonel Wayne had merely mentioned waistcoats it would just indicate more replacement clothing, but he noted that white waistcoats were then available. Such a specific detail quickly conjures the image of men of the regiment in a myriad of waistcoats, which Colonel Wayne was eager to replace for the sake of uniformity. Such an interpretation certainly would match his constant attention to the appearance of his men. These white waistcoats must not have clothed every soldier, as that same day the regiment drew only 150 waistcoats from Continental stores inside Fort Ticonderoga. That same day the regiment drew another 16 ¼ yards of broadcloth and 32 pairs of breeches, along with 97 pairs of leggings* and 104 mittens. All of this coincides with regimental orders from two days later. Colonel Wayne in his December 7th orders mentions all these clothing items, stating:

The Officers commanding Comps will give in the Returns of Waistcoats, Mittins, and Leggins, wanted for their Comp[an]y immediately.

When available, buckskin breeches were ideal leg wear for 4th PA soldiers. Today Fort Ticonderoga shoemakers are experimenting with building leather breeches based on some period boot maker's advertizements offering them. The majority of leather breeches came from specialist leather breeches makers.

When available, buckskin breeches were ideal leg wear for 4th PA soldiers. Today Fort Ticonderoga shoemakers are experimenting with building leather breeches based on some period boot maker’s advertizements offering them. The majority of leather breeches came from specialist leather breeches makers who used merely needle and thread to sew the breeches’ seams.

All this evidence together is circumstantial, but it’s the current interpretation of the usage of all the cloth drawn by the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion. It is possible that some of the cloth was made into breeches. Regimental orders and the papers of Quartermaster John Harper are equally silent on building breeches as about building waistcoats. However, accounting by the state of Pennsylvania for their 4th Battalion carried out after 1776 counted 444 pairs of leather breeches issued to the battalion, though it is unclear if this number reflects any breeches drawn Continental stores in 1776.  The large number of ready made leather breeches indicates that the majority of this cloth was not needed for breeches, leaving waistcoats as the most likely explanation.  Perhaps more important than whether or not the regiment’s purchases of cloth were used specifically for waistcoats, is the amount of effort they represent to keep the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion clothed in the late summer and fall of 1776. The sheer quantity of clothing worn out by these soldiers is a testament to the massive fatigues they undertook. Despite all this effort to keep the regiment clothed, by December 4th Colonel Wayne sent Captain Persifor Frasier off to Philadelphia to procure complete new uniforms for every man in the regiment. All the cloth and clothing delivered to the regiment still was not enough to clothe them into the winter.


*The leggings mentioned in Colonel Wayne’s December 7th regimental orders, appear to be made of Russia drilling. Reports from Pennsylvania Committee of Safety member Owen Biddle, from the fall of 1776 for supplying their battalions include hundreds of, “Drilling leggings”, which were occasionally alternately labeled, “Drilling Spatterdashers.” This indicates that leggings that arrived for the regiment were similar short, or calf-length leggings.



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Author Series Program October 5th

Fort Ticonderoga’s 2014 Author Series concludes on Sunday, October 5, with Gary Shattuck, author of Artful and Designing Men: The Trials of Job Shattuck and the Regulation of 1786-1787. The program takes place at 2 pm. in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is followed by a book signing in the Museum Store at 3 pm. Artful and Designing MenThe program is included in the cost of admission; members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga and Ticonderoga Ambassador Pass holders are admitted at no cost.

It is not often that descriptions of historical events can be rewritten absent compelling evidence that those past accounts were somehow in error. But that is precisely the result when new-found court documents, presumed to not even exist, shed surprising new light on the involvement of Capt. Job Shattuck, one of the principal leaders in the event history has come to call “Shays’s Rebellion.” In Artful and Designing Men: The Trials of Job Shattuck and the Regulation of 1786-1787, Gary Shattuck (half-nephew, seven generations removed) delves deeply into the significant contributions made by this charismatic and well-respected veteran of the Seven Years’ War, the Revolutionary War, and community member as he transitioned from peaceful town father to protest leader. Tried and sentenced to death for high treason, shocking new information provided during his trial now forces a reassessment of this honorable man’s actions, resulting in the deserved rehabilitation of a reputation that history has denied until now.

Author Gary Shattuck

Author Gary Shattuck

Gary Shattuck is a native of Nashua, New Hampshire, grew up on the west coast, and graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Anthropology. He is a magna cum laude graduate of the Vermont Law School, and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Military History, concentrating on the Revolutionary War.

He served thirty-five years in the law enforcement community as a supervisor with the Vermont State Police, an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Vermont prosecuting cases for the Drug Task Force, and then with the United States Department of Justice as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Vermont working on guns, drugs, and organized crime matters. Following the events of 9/11, he was named anti-terrorism coordinator for the district. He has also served in Kosovo and Iraq working to re-establish their court systems following those particular conflicts, retiring from the department in 2006.

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Seeing Red

exhibitionist, red

Visitors to our Founding Fashions exhibit in the Mars Educations Center are often confused by seeing three scarlet uniforms lined up in the gallery. Nowhere else in North America can you see so many 18th-century uniforms in one place, but you might ask, why only redcoats? What about the Americans?  In fact, only one of the uniforms on display is actually that of a regular British soldier. The two others are both American, although on opposing sides. This is where the story becomes a little more complicated.


A different kind of Redcoat. Just one of many examples of red uniforms worn by troops across Europe in the 18th century. This Swiss soldier appears in a manuscript volume of uniforms of the Kingdom of Sardinia from around the middle of the 18th century. (Collections of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

Red is well known as the color of the uniforms of the British army, perhaps best known from Paul Revere’s erroneous cry of “The redcoats are coming!” Red coats had been worn by the English military as early as the New Model Army during the Civil Wars of the 1640s. By the 1770s it was very recognizable. However, red was not unique to the British. The Danish army wore red uniforms throughout the 18th century. Both the French and Spanish armies had multiple regiments of Irish troops that wore red uniforms. Red-coated Irish soldiers even fought red-coated British soldiers during the American Revolution. Red was also the color traditionally worn by Swiss soldiers. Red-coated Swiss served notably in the French, Sardinian, and Neapolitan armies throughout the 18th century.

Lieutenant Jacob Schieffelin, an American loyalist, wore the scarlet uniform, faced with black velvet and trimmed with gold lace currently on display in the Mars Education Center. Red seems an appropriate color for a loyalist but it was not a foregone conclusion. Schieffelin himself may have worn rather different dress in the field as a Lieutenant of the Detroit Volunteers. In 1779 he and his company was captured along with the rest of the British garrison of Fort Sackville, in present-day Vincennes, Indiana by Colonel George Rogers Clark. A vivid account of his travails was published in a New York newspaper after his escape from captivity in 1780. In it he described the ordeal of two, “Frenchmen in his Majesty’s service,” sergeants in the Detroit Volunteers, who had been serving with an Indian party when they were captured. The men witnessed the execution of the Indians they had been captured with, and were themselves saved only when one of them was recognized by an onlooker. As Schieffelin described: “his father who was an officer with the rebels did not know his son until they informed him that he was in the circle in Indian dress.” It is unclear if wearing Indian dress, likely a pair of woolen leggings, moccasins, a breechcloth, and a shirt was typical for the rest of the Detroit Volunteers, but at least some wore this clothing when operating with Native Americans. Regardless, once back in British lines Schieffelin clearly chose to procure the red coat so identifiable with Britain and her empire, even if he may have worn different clothing on the frontier.


It seems obvious that Loyalists like Lieutenant Jacob Schieffelin would have worn red uniforms like the British, but that was not always the case. (Collections of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

During the New York Campaign in 1776, many loyalists had no uniforms at all and wore red ribbons in their hats to distinguish them from the Americans. The first uniforms many of these “Provincial” regiments received later that year were green, procured directly by the British Treasury department. Loyalists that fled to Canada from parts of New York and New England were also initially clothed in green uniforms, which had been intended for Canadian militiamen. It was clear though, that red was preferred. A report to General Guy Carleton in January of 1777, indicated the preference of loyalists for red uniforms. Ebenezer Jessup’s men were provided uniform coats described as, “…the cheapest that could be got at Montreal, very common Red Stuff turn’d up with Green; as Red seemed to be their favorite colour…” They wore these uniforms as part of John Burgoyne’s expedition along the Champlain valley in 1777.

In 1778, the survivors of Burgoyne’s loyalists and new recruits were issued blue coats with collars, cuffs and lapels of white. The officers lobbied against these coats, pleading to the Governor of Quebec Frederick Haldimand that, “our wishes only are that Your Excellency will Order us, Red Clothing, as along [sic] as any remains in Store, and that the Blue may be made use of the last.” Their justification was that they might be confused for Continentals, especially by Native Americans. One has to suspect that their preference for red was as much cultural as practical. These various colored uniforms may not have been intended as a snub, but it is not hard to image that these and other Provincial troops felt like they were being treated as second class soldiers when not clothed in the vaunted scarlet of the redcoats. But that was not necessarily the reason these other colors were used. Thousands of new suits of clothes were needed on short notice, especially in 1776, and green cloth may have simply been affordable or available at the time. Red uniforms started to appear as early as 1777, and although some green uniforms continued to be issued by the end of the war red became the standard uniform for most Provincials.

Red uniforms visually linked the loyalists to the cause they were fighting for, but red had no negative connotations for Americans prior to the Revolution. During the French and Indian War colonial troops from Connecticut, Maryland, and Virginia all wore red uniforms at some point or another. Even during the crises of the 1760s and 70s Americans volunteer companies and militia from Boston to Charleston continued to wear red uniforms. It is most likely that Benedict Arnold wore the scarlet faced buff uniform of a member of the 2nd Company of the Governor’s footguards when he and Ethan Allen captured Fort Ticonderoga in 1775.

Baldwin Coat, three quarters

Cyrus Baldwin wore this coat as a member of the Governor’s Independent Company of Cadets, 1772-1774. (Collections of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

The most important uniform in our collection and the oldest surviving American military coat could be somewhat misleading due to its color. The uniform is that of the Governor’s Independent Company of Cadets of Boston, Massachusetts and it is bright red. Formed in 1741 the company acted as a guard for the colonial governors. John Hancock (yes the John Hancock) became the company’s commander in 1772. In April of that year the company met at the Bunch of Grapes tavern to hear a report from the committee of the company tasked with designing a new uniform. Their choice of scarlet for the body of the coat was never in question. What was debated was the color of the lapels, cuffs and collar, as well as the breeches and waistcoat. Ultimately buff was chosen. Despite the active role of many members against British taxation and colonial interference, the company wore their red uniforms until they disbanded in 1774, just eight months before hostilities erupted at Lexington and Concord.

American troops though, continued to wear red uniforms. Some of these were made in the colonies and later states. The dire need for suitable clothing though, made captured garments extremely valuable, despite the danger of wearing the enemy’s colors.  the Continental army benefited from as many as 15,000 uniforms captured from the British over the course of the war. Although some were dyed brown, most of these captured uniforms were issued to Americans unaltered, and as red as the redcoats they were intended for.

General Washington admitted, “the impolicy of any part of our Troops being Clothed in Red and that many injurious and fatal consequences are to be apprehended from it.” Even so there were times when it was advantageous. For generations one of the most storied objects in Fort Ticonderoga’s collection has been the “silver bullet” that a British spy tried to swallow to conceal a message being sent from General Clinton to General Burgoyne. The spy was apprehended by a guard of Colonel Samuel B. Webb’s Additional Regiment, which was dressed in captured uniforms which had been intended for the British army in Canada. Somewhat later the Americans hatched a plot to abduct General Clinton from New York. Although the plan was never executed Washington suggested that, “if the Scheme is practicable at all may add not a little to the success namely to let the Officers & Soldiers imployed in the enterprize be dressed in red and much in the taste of the British Soldiery—Webbs Regiment will afford these dresses.” As late as 1780 Washington was still suggesting Webb’s men might be used as decoys for clandestine operations.

Evidence of some of these captured uniforms can be found in Fort Ticonderoga’s collections. Amongst the hundreds of buttons recovered from the site are a number that we can directly attribute to uniforms that were once red. Among these are the buttons of the 7th and 26th regiments of the British army. These two corps garrisoned Canada when the Revolution began. When St John’s (Saint Jean, QC) fell to the Americans in November of 1775, the clothing taken in the fort caused something of stir in the American lines. The American commander General Richard Montgomery explained to General Philip Schuyler:

“The officers of the First Regiment of Yorkers, and Artillery Company, were very near a mutiny the other day, because I would not stop the clothing of the garrison of St. John’ s. I would not have sullied my own reputation, nor disgraced the Continental arms, by such a breach of capitulation, for the universe; there was no driving it into their noddles, that the clothing was really the property of the soldier, that he had paid for it, and that every Regiment, in this country especially, saved a year’ s clothing, to have decent clothes to wear on particular occasions.”

General Richard Montgomery, a former British officer, understood that the uniforms in the possession of the captured soldiers were their own property, having technically paid for them from stoppages taken out of their wages. He remained obstinate over the right of the British soldiers to their clothing even as the army was in dire need of warm clothes as winter was setting in, believing it important for the American cause to wage war in a civilized and lawful fashion.

The capture of additional stores of clothing from Montreal was more clear cut and provided relief for the survivors of Colonel Benedict Arnold’s heroic march across the Maine wilderness to the gates of Quebec City. Montgomery acknowledged the distinction between what was a lawful seizure and what was personal property:

“With a year’ s clothing of the 7th and 26th, I have relieved the distresses of Arnold’ s corps, and forwarded the clothing of some other corps. The greatest part of that clothing is a fair prize, except such as immediately belonged to the prisoners taken on board; they must be paid for theirs, as it was their own property.”

Buttons recovered archaeologically from the 26th regiment are to be expected as they garrisoned Ticonderoga itself in 1775. Buttons from the 7th have been found here as well, suggesting the presence of some of Arnold’s men at Ticonderoga as the army withdrew from Canada.


These British buttons found in the early 20th century during the reconstruction of Fort Ticonderoga are all from from uniforms known to have been captured by American forces, (Collections of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

Buttons from the 22nd regiment of the British army have also been found on site. The 22nd never served at Ticonderoga and was not in Canada after numbered buttons were adopted by the British army in 1768. In 1775 however, a British vessel carrying clothing for the 22nd and 40th regiments was captured in Philadelphia and the clothing was immediately put to use by the Americans. Arriving in the Continental army’s camp in Cambridge, Massachusetts in August of 1775, some of the clothing may have been dyed brown. Recoveries of buttons from the 22nd regiment at Fort Ticonderoga indicate that at least some of the troops to whom this clothing was issued joined the garrison here, probably later in 1776.

Examples of all these captured buttons are currently on display in the Founding Fashions exhibit in the Mars Education Center. Loyalists in blue and green and Continentals in red don’t fit the traditional narratives of the Revolution, but truth is often stranger than fiction. The evidence on display at Fort Ticonderoga provides a deeper picture of the complex story of the American Revolution. History is rarely black and white, or in this case red versus blue.

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A Sword with Three Centuries of History


Edmund Freeman's sword.

Edmund Freeman’s sword.

Fort Ticonderoga preserves an extensive collection of swords spanning more than two centuries encompassing an encyclopedic array of styles and types.  While the memory of who used most swords faded away long before they became part of the museum’s collection, a few notable examples have important provenances.  One such sword is that owned by Edmund Freeman.

Edmund Freeman was born in June 1657 in Eastham, Massachusetts.  While very little is know of his personal life, records indicated that Freeman served in the military as early as 1690 as a private or possibly non-commissioned officer.  As with many people during that era, he likely served in local militias throughout is life, but is probably around the time that he joined the 1707 expedition to Port Royal that he acquired this sword.

During the early 18th-century conflict known as Queen Anne’s War, French ships based in Port Royal, Acadia (Nova Scotia) regularly harassed New England’s colonial fishing, trade, and navigation industries.  In 1707 the 1st [Massachusetts] Regiment sailed to Port Royal, Acadia to capture the port town and end French hostilities with New England.  Edmund Freeman enlisted as a captain in the regiment on April 23, 1707, and set sail on the expedition led by Colonel John March on May 13.  The expedition was fraught with hardship from the beginning.  By early September, after two failed attacks on Port Royal, the expedition returned to Boston and Captain Freeman returned to private life until his death in 1717.

The sword is an exceptionally fine example of an English infantry small sword popular ca. 1700-1740.  The Freeman family has lovingly cared for Edmund Freeman’s sword since his death in 1717.  After passing through eight generations of Freeman family ownership Freeman’s descendants, Harvey Freeman, Caroline Jacobson Freeman, and Hope Freeman Schultz presented the sword to the museum in 2006 so that it will be preserved and Edmund Freeman’s role in America’s history will always be remembered by future generations.  The sword and its history is presently exhibited in the museum’s weapons exhibit Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial Wars and Revolution.

Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator Fort Ticonderoga

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Girl Scout Day at Fort Ticonderoga October 4th

Fort Ticonderoga joins forces with the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York to host Girl Scout Day on Saturday, October 4, from 9:30am-5:00pm. Girl Scout troops will have an opportunity to take part in a series of programs while learning about life at Fort Ticonderoga during the American Revolution.

1016050_10151645390019033_1890167924_nDuring the day scouts will discover a remarkable story that defined America in the first year of the American Revolution, learning specifically about the Pennsylvania troops at Ticonderoga during the year 1776. Interacting with these American soldiers, students explore what daily life was like for an 18th-century American soldier defending liberty on the northern frontier.

Throughout the day scouts will explore the Fort and museum exhibitions. They can take guided tours, learning about Ticonderoga’s history, and observe musket demonstrations. Scouts will visit the historic trades shops where shoes and clothing are produced by the Fort Ticonderoga museum staff, and learn about the global economy of the 1700s.

10592920_10152356442169033_6868519686863529802_nIn addition, special programs for Girl Scouts take place in the historic trades shops at 10:30am, 12:30pm, and 2:30pm. Programs at 12:00pm and 1:00pm illustrate the process of feeding the troops as the mid-day meal is prepared.

A visit to the King’s Garden will expand the Girl Scout experience by delving into additional stories about Ticonderoga’s rich 19th and 20th history and how the story of horticulture at Ticonderoga continues to thrive today! Scouts will participate in the “Lady Bug Investigators” program exploring the importance of lady bugs as garden ecosystem helpers at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm, and take part in the self-guided activity “Watercolors in the Garden” from 10 am – 4 pm. In addition, Fort Ticonderoga’s Heroic Corn Maze will be open for scouts from 10 am – 4 pm.

To register your Girl Scout troop to participate, please email Nancy LaVallie, Group Tour Coordinator at Fort Ticonderoga at The cost is $7 per scout; $12 for adult leaders and chaperones.

To learn more about programs for scout groups at Fort Ticonderoga click here.

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Ensuring that Present and Future Generations Learn From History

Fort Ticonderoga states that our mission is to “ensure that present and future generations learn from the struggles, sacrifices, and victories that shaped the nations of North America and changed world history.” While many museums and historic sites have some version of “preservation and education” in their missions, Fort Ticonderoga steps out on a limb—not only do we want our visitors to “learn about” our history, we want them to “learn from” that history.

We all know the saying about “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” but how often do we take that mantra to heart? For many of us, our idea of relaxation is a nice comfortable chair and a good history book. But I’ll be truthful—when I’m reading a history book, I’m usually looking to learn about rather than learn from what I’m reading.

But at Fort Ticonderoga, we are learning from history everyday. And that learning starts with the staff. Whether it’s the tailor trying to replicate a uniform for the first time or our carpentry interpreters constructing a soldiers’ hut based on written descriptions, “getting there is half the fun.” It’s one thing to read about how something was done, it’s quite a different experience to try to do it.

Experiencing history is what Fort Ticonderoga is all about. Everyone who sets foot on the Ticonderoga peninsula walks away learning something. Our challenge is taking it to the next step—how do we get them to apply what they’ve learned in their daily lives?

That’s a tall order, but we see examples of success everyday.

My own experience this past summer dealt mostly with working with a great group of teachers from New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Montana, California—33 states in all. Over the course of three weeks in July 80 teachers took part in week-long workshops at Fort Ticonderoga. These workshops focused on the American Revolution at Ticonderoga and on the northern frontier. Teachers took part in lecture-discussions with a great line up of visiting scholars, experts in their areas. They examined documents and artifacts, analyzing them and developing lessons and activities based on them to use with their students back in the classroom. Teachers had the opportunity to experience what it was like to pull on the oars of a bateau as they crossed Lake Champlain to Mount Independence. They worked in the carpentry yard, hefting axes to help square posts for our new pit saw area.

Educators hammer home that the more involved a learner is and the more senses they use, the more likely he/she is to walk away with a memorable experience. We continue to endeavor to give every teacher that experience to then take home to all parts of the United States to share with their students for years to come. We estimate that the teachers that each spent a week at Fort Ticonderoga this past summer will impact over 65,000 students over the next ten years. And that’s just the 80+ teachers who were here in 2014. We’ll have another 80+ teachers coming to Ticonderoga in July 2015 to take part in our NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers and our Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute.

Working with teachers is one of the rewarding parts of my job. I could go on telling you about our great programs for teachers, but let me conclude with some words from participating teachers:

“Much appreciation for a fantastic week of learning that will be passed on to 100s of students in California! A great experience!”—California teacher

“Thanks so much for a reinvigorating content experience! I am excited to teach the Revolution again thanks to your program.”—Maryland teacher

It’s been a rewarding summer, but there’s still much work to be done.

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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“Too Opposite Characters”

Despite great examples of their military prowess, New England soldiers by manners and customs could appear unmilitary to the soldiers of other colonies early in the Revolutionary War.

Despite great examples of their military prowess, New England soldiers by manners and customs could appear unmilitary to the soldiers of other colonies early in the Revolutionary War.

Today in the United States broad regional differences are part of the national character, but in the early years of the Revolutionary War regional differences were far more acute. As thirteen unique colonies allied together for their mutual independence, soldiers from these colonies, and eventually states, were often like foreigners brought together in the same army. Perhaps no greater divide existed than between soldiers from New England states and soldiers of other states. Even for officers considered today regionally part of the northeast, their diaries and correspondence are filled with concerns and complaints about New England soldiers. Many complained of the unmilitary appearance, character, and quality of New England soldiers. For gentlemen officers from elsewhere, the lack of a social distinction between officers and men from New England was a grave concern, one worthy of contempt and even violence.

Alexander Graydon, a captain with the 3rd Pennsylvania Battalion mustered with the rest of the Pennsylvania troops in New York City in the spring of 1776. He was dismayed by his first encounters with New England soldiers, but willing to give them the benefit of the doubt as he wrote in his memoires.

We surveyed these men with all the respect that was due to the great military reputation of their country; but, we were obliged to confess, that they did not entirely come up to the ideas we had formed of the heroes of Lexington and Bunker’s hill. This, we took to be a militia corps, from the circumstance of its not being a whit superior, in any visible respect, to the worst of ours. However, thought we, these may nevertheless have some knack at fighting, which only discloses itself in the moment of action.

Many Pennsylvania officers were not all that socially different from their men in civilian life, but many considered social distance between officers and men in the army part of order and discipline.

Many Pennsylvania officers were not all that socially different from their men in civilian life, but many considered social distance between officers and men in the army part of order and discipline.

Fellow Pennsylvania officer, Captain Persifor Frasier of the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion was much less open-minded in his impressions of New Englanders while encamped below the walls of Fort Ticonderoga. In a letter to his wife back home on July 15, 1776 wrote, “There is not that dependence on New England men that I expected. They make a most wretched appearance away from home as they are not able to endure hardships equal to other American troops. Above three fourths of them are no unfit for service by what I can learn.” Ten days later, he had not yet found any love for his New England neighbors at the Ticonderoga camp. He elaborated on his dislike of his New England, or ‘Yankee’ soldiers in a subsequent letter to his wife on July 25th.

The miserable appearance and whit is worse the miserable behavior of the Yankees is sufficient enough to make one sick of the service. They are by no means fit to endure hardships; among them there is the strangest mixture of Negroes, Indians and Whites with old men and children which together with a nasty lousy appearance makes a most shocking spectacle. No man was ever more disappointed than I have been in respect to them.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Varrick, aide to General Phillip Schuyler echoed Frasier’s criticism in his testimony defending General Arthur Saint Clair in his 1778 court martial. Varrick would say of the New England soldiers defending Ticonderoga under the command of General Saint Clair in 1777, “There was a number of boys, old men and negroes. I dismissed at the muster 50, as positively unfit for any kind of service, and would have more, had you not desired me to be very tender as you had so few troops in the garrison.”

Pennsylvanians were not without critique. Simeon Bloodgood, first ran into Pennsylvania soldiers while serving as a teamster with the Northern Department commissary on his way to Canada. He was not impressed.

They were the most quarrelsome, and I regret to say, profligate set of men I had ever seen together. They had plenty of money with them and spent it profusely. The vices of insubordination, gambling and rioting, marked their battalia, and we our selves had great trouble with them, not withstanding our pacific character.

Yet as much as this New Yorker did not care for Pennsylvania soldiers, they might well have agreed on their assessment of New Englanders. When New Yorkers joined Connecticut solders for the invasion Canada in 1775 there was an immediate culture shock. Upon arriving at Ticonderoga, Colonel Rudolphus Ritzema of the 1st New York regiment wrote of his disdain for the Connecticut troops.

–Embarked at South Bay & arrived safe in the Evening at Ticonderoga—here everything bore an unmilitary Appearance—the Fortifications in Ruins & not repairing—the N.E soldiers without order or discipline—Milites Rustici indeed!

Despite a long campaign season primarily of dangerous sieges in miserable weather, Colonel Ritzema’s concerns over these New England farmers-turned-soldiers or, “Milites Rustici,” remained.  On February 14th, 1776 Colonel Ritzema arrived in Philadelphia to deliver dispatches and a report from General Schuyler to the Continental Congress. His report detailed the dire state of the Army in Canada, and Schuyler’s recommendations rectify problems. Schuyler expressed deep concerns about a proposal to merge remaining soldiers and recruits into two battalions.

–that I conceived it impracticable to form these Men into two Battalions, agreeable to a late Resolution of the Congress, as they are composed of the Remnant of the different Troops of New York, Jersey, Connecticut & the Bay, & of too opposite Characters to ever form a useful Corps.

Schuyler maintained his disdain for New England soldiers through 1776, making his displeasure with them evident. In his memoires, Alexander Graydon recalled an incident he witnessed between General Schuyler and a New England officer in the spring of 1776. Having delivered pay for the Northern Department, then Captain Graydon of the 3rd Pennsylvania Battalion dined in the quarters of General Schuyler at FortGeorge. Captain Graydon recalled:

But that he should have been displeasing to the Yankees I am not at all surprised: he certainly was at no pains to conceal the extreme contempt he felt for a set of officers, who were both a disgrace to their stations and the cause in which they acted! Being yet a stranger to the character of these men, and the constitution of that part of our military force which in Pennsylvania was considered as the bulwark of the nation, I must confess my surprise at an incident which took place while at dinner. Besides the General, the members of this family and ourselves, there were at a table a lady and gentleman from Montreal. A New England Captain came in upon some business, with that abject servility of manner, which belongs to persons of the meanest rank: he was neither asked to sit or take a glass of wine, and after announcing his wants, was dismissed with that peevishness of tone we apply to a low and vexatious intruder. This man, in his proper sphere, might have been entitled to better treatment; but when presuming to thrust himself into a situation, in which, far other qualifications than his were required, and upon an occasion too which involved some of the most important human interests, I am scarcely prepared to say, it was unmerited.

The lack of social distinction between officers and men among New England soldiers seems to have concerned Pennsylvania officers like Graydon, as it threatened military discipline. This is not to say that there had to be huge class distinction between officers and men. Indeed, within Graydon’s own company his 2nd lieutenant, “served his apprenticeship to an Apothecary in Philadelphia,” making him a tradesmen, albeit a somewhat genteel one.  Alexander Graydon in his memoires, points to gentility of manner and bearing rather than birth as essential. To him, acting with the polish of an officer was as essential to leadership as the rank or any uniform distinctions.

The materials which the eastern battalions were composed were apparently the same as those of which I had seen so unpromising a specimen at Lake George. I speak particularly of the officers, who were in no respect distinguishable from their men, other than in the coloured cockades, which, for this very purpose, had been prescribed in general orders; a different colour being assigned to the officers of each grade. So far from aiming at a deportment which might raise them above their privates, and thence prompt them to due respect and obedience to their commands, the object was, by humility, to preserve the existing blessings of equality:

Looking back from 2014 it  can be difficult to imagine its utility, but separate, private quarters and private meals, were part of keeping the respect of enlisted soldiers.

Looking back from 2014 it can be difficult to imagine its utility, but separate, private quarters and private meals, were part of keeping the respect of enlisted soldiers.

New England soldiers were hardly oblivious to this critique. James Thatcher, a private soldier in Colonel Asa Whitcomb’s Massachusetts regiment served at Ticonderoga in the summer of 1776. His regiment was brigaded with the Pennsylvania regiments posted to guard and fortify the French Lines. In his military journal from September 20, 1776, Thatcher lamented the inability to Pennsylvanians, who were considered southerners, to understand and appreciate the New England custom of equality.

There is another evil of a very serious complexion which has manifested itself in our camp. Since the troops from the Southern states have been incorporated and associated in military duty with those from New England, a strong prejudice has assumed its unhappy influence, and drawn a line of distinction between them. Many of the officers from the South are gentlemen of education, and unaccustomed to the equality which prevails in New England: and however desirable, it could scarcely be expected that people from distant colonies, differing in manners and prejudices, could at once harmonize in friendly intercourse. Hence we too frequently hear the burlesque epithet of Yankee from one party, and that of Buckskin, by way of retort, from the other.

It is difficult to imagine today, just how close enlisted quarters could be. Everything, from cooking pots, to tents, bunks, and even blankets were shared within messes of 5-6 soldiers.

It is difficult to imagine today, just how close enlisted quarters could be. Everything, from cooking pots, to tents, bunks, and even blankets were shared within messes of 5-6 soldiers.

The lack of a social distinction between New England officers and soldiers wasn’t simply about leadership and discipline. Pennsylvania officers like Alexander Graydon may have perceived that the common nature of New England officers potentially undermined their commitment to the cause for which the army served. To Graydon a gentleman, by education and by financial security, could focus his efforts on the idealistic cause at hand with devotion purely to military duty. An officer who was a common working man would still have his own financial interests ahead of his patriotic goals and military occupation. In his memoirs, Gradyon elaborated on an encounter where he saw a New England Colonel told to carry his own rations from the commissary, by Connecticut General, Israel Putnam.

But if any aristocratic tendencies had been really discovered by the Colonel among his countrymen, requiring this wholesome example, they must have been of recent origin, and the effect of southern contamination, since I have been credibly informed, that it was no unusual thing in the army before Boston, for a Colonel to make drummers and fifers of his sons, thereby, not only enabled to form a very snug, economical mess, but to aid also considerably the revenue of the family chest. In short, it appeared that the sordid sprit of gain was the vital principle of the greater part of the army.

This suspicion about the motivations of New England officers perceived by Pennsylvanians clarifies, though does not excuse a violent incident inside Fort Ticonderoga in December of 1776.  By December of 1776, the threat of British invasion from Canada had lifted and most of the American northern army had departed to reinforce Washington’s army or to be disbanded back home. A handful of regiments remained at the Ticonderoga camp, among them the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion and Asa Whitcomb’s Massachusetts regiment. Consolidated from huts all over the Ticonderoga camp down to the Fort and adjacent area, these two regiments were in close proximity. Lieutenant Colonel Church served as commander of the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion. Previously, he had the honor and distinction of commanding the rifle company of the regiment, a distinction that required a financial commitment to be the first company recruited as well as the esteem of his superior Pennsylvanian officers. Colonel Asa Whitcomb was a consummate Massachusetts officer who had served with the Massachusetts grand army in 1775. James Thatcher of his regiment recorded in his journal the riot between the two regiments on December 26, 1776.

A singular kind of riot took place in our barracks last evening, attended by some unpleasant consequences. Colonel A. W. of Massachusetts, made choice of his two sons, who were soldiers in his regiment, to discharge the menial duties of waiters, and one of them having been brought up a shoe maker, the Colonel was so inconsiderate as to allow him to work on his bench in the same room with himself. This ridiculous conduct has for some time drawn on the good old man the contemptuous sneers of the gentlemen officers, especially those from Pennsylvania. Lieutenant Colonel C. of Wayne’s regiment, being warmed with wine, took on himself the task of reprehending the “Yankee” Colonel for thus degrading his rank. With this view he rushed into the room in the evening and soon dispatched the shoe makers’s bench, after which, he made an assault on the Colonel’s person, and bruised him severely. The noise and confusion soon collected a number of officers and soldiers, and it was a considerable time before the rioters could be quelled. Some of the soldiers of Colonel Wayne’s regiment actually took to their arms and dared the Yankees, and then proceeded to the extremity of firing their guns. About thirty or forty rounds were aimed at the soldiers of our regiment, who were driven from their huts and barracks, and several were severely wounded.

A shoe makers bench run by colonel's son may seem innocent. Imagine someone running a side business at their 9-5 job. This simple act tapped into many misgivings about the motivations of some New England officers.

A shoe makers bench run by colonel’s son may seem innocent. Imagine someone running a side business at their 9-5 job. This simple act tapped into many misgivings about the motivations of some New England officers.

A simple shoe bench in use by Colonel Whitcomb’s son inside his quarters was more than just a means to repair shoes. This bench served as clear tangible evidence not only that the Colonel and his family were common men just like the enlisted soldiers of the regiment, but also as a reminder that Colonel Whitcomb had his own financial interests in mind while serving as an officer. He messed with his sons, using his colonel’s rations, which included portions for extra servants to feed his sons, allowing potentially for the sale of the extra rations. Whitcomb’s son’s shoemaking tools and bench had to be transported with his baggage, baggage intended to meet the military needs of his duty as a senior officer and gentlemen. This shoe bench was an obvious symbol of business competing with military duty. Perhaps fueled by wine, ColonelChurch saw himself casting out the money changers from his own temple of military service. The December 26, 1776 riot is interesting not simply because of attitudes and differences that lead up to it. It is interesting that the cultural gulf between New Englanders and others was generally overcome in the service of their united cause. Benedict Arnold’s fleet was crewed largely by a draft of soldiers from all four brigades of the Army at Ticonderoga. As brigades mixed together soldiers from different states so too the close quarters of these boats brought them even closer. On October 29, 1776, the day after the whole Ticonderoga camp was alarmed by the approach of British scouts, General Horatio Gates congratulated his army for their vigorous response. In particular he noted:

The Gen. returns his Thanks to the Officers and Soldiers of the whole Army for the Alert and spirited manner with which they Propos’d to face the Enemy Yesterday, and particularly to the Regts of Reeds, Poors, and Greatons, for the Despatch they made in Crossing the Lake immediately upon being Order’d to reinforce the Redoubts and French Lines.

Indeed, these three regiments, two from Massachusetts and one from New Hampshire, rushed to their boats to help out their fellow Pennsylvanians up at the French Lines. In that alarm, the division between Yankees and Buckskins was set aside as they prepared to defend Ticonderoga together. Deep seated regional differences among soldiers in the army at Ticonderoga only serve to make their cooperation together all the more impressive.

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Getting the Point


spear copy

With all the excitement over our new exhibition Founding Fashions, which opened in May, it can be easy to forget about the other phenomenal exhibits at the Fort and all the rich stories they contain. Although easily overlooked amongst the much more elaborate weapons on display in the Bullets & Blades exhibit in the South Barracks are two simply forged spear points. In fact, these artifacts represent an important part of the American struggle for independence and relate quite specifically to this year’s interpretation of 1776. In addition to muskets and cannon American soldiers at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence were occasionally armed with long spears or pikes. Amongst the oldest weapons known to man they found a new life in North America during the Revolutionary War as they had in many previous, and subsequent, revolutions.


Mallet, Pikeman

A typical European pikeman of the 17th century. He wears a helmet and armor over the chest and upper thighs, and carries a sword in addition to his pike. Allain Mallet, “Les Travaux de Mars,” 1671 (Collections of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

As a battlefield weapon the pike had been obsolete almost since the beginning of the 18th century. By the 17th century pikes consisted of a wooden shaft 10 to 20 feet in length, sometimes longer, with a pointed iron head. Long pole arms were important weapons for keeping horsemen and other enemies at a safe distance. Even after firearms were introduced to the battlefield pikemen in compact formations were necessary to protect the musketeers, who were defenseless after firing their muskets.

Also on display in the Bullets & Blades exhibit is one of the first solutions to this problem the plug bayonet. Developed towards the end of the 17th century the plug bayonet was a long blade inserted directly into the musket’s barrel. This provided an effective defensive weapon, however, by plugging the barrel it rendered the musket useless as a firearm. The development of effective flintlock firearms and the socket bayonet, that turned the musketeer’s own weapon into a pole arm while retaining its function as a firearm, signaled the end of the pikeman in Europe. Pikes continued to be used on ships were a long weapon that did not require reloading was valuable when boarding an enemy vessel, or preventing against being boarded.

Although obsolete, by the 18th century pikes and spears were among the most common weapons associated with incidents of armed resistance. Throughout the century pikes were secretly made for slave revolts, wielded in peasant uprisings, carried by Scots rebels, and ultimately manufactured by French revolutionaries. Perhaps the simplest weapon to produce they were ideally suited for rebels and revolutionaries that had numbers and courage, but lacked manufacturing capacity.

Mallet, pikeblock

In a compact block with pikes presented outward and block of pikemen were an almost impenetrable obstacle for cavalry. Allain Mallet, “Les Travaux de Mars,” 1671 (Collections of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

So what were pikes doing at Ticonderoga? As in many uprisings, procuring enough firearms for the Continental army was a significant challenge throughout the American Revolution. Unarmed recruits, however eager, were not much good. Bounties for private weapons, small scale manufacturing, civilian arms pressed into service, the importation of European weapons, and captured arms all helped to meet the demand for firearms. As the Continental army fell back to Ticonderoga in the summer of 1776, pikes reappeared in the hands of American soldiers.

Like other revolutionaries, pikes and spears were an early tool of the Americans. Even before hostilities commenced in 1775, spears were proposed to compensate for a shortage of firearms amongst militia in Virginia. Just four months after Lexington and Concord General George Washington issued instructions to the army outside Boston detailing the production of “spears” and over 300 were in use by February of 1776. After driving the British out of Boston the army again prepared pikes to meet the deficiencies of firearms while preparing the defenses of New York.

Polermo, 1808

Although later, this image vividly shows how a soldier armed with a long spear could defend against attackers armed only with bayonets and negotiating a variety of other obstacles such as an abatis. Sig. De Gaudi, ”Atlante dell ‘istruzionc dirette All ‘Uffiziali de Fanteria,” Palermo, 1808.(Collections of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

The army at Ticonderoga faced similar problems with regards to manpower and weaponry. Pikes or spears were not just economical they were an important last line of defense in case of assault. If an enemy penetrated far enough to reach the American entrenchments, men armed with long spears had an advantage over a fixed bayonet. Although published in 1808, an engraved plate from an Italian military manual in the Museum’s collection vividly depicts how soldiers armed with pikes, and protected by strong fortifications, could repel an attacker lucky enough to make it to the parapet.

In October of 1776, the British landed and encamped at Crown Point compelling General Gates to prepare every means of defense available for what appeared like an imminent attack. Surgeon’s mate James Thacher in the 6th Continental Regiment recalled the tension in the American camp:

“All our troops are ordered to repair to their alarm posts, and man the lines and works; every morning, our continental colors are advantageously displayed on the ramparts, and out cannon and spears are in readiness for action.”

Orders went out on October 19th and were repeated throughout the army that, “All the Spears that can be spar’d from the Vessells to be deliver’d to the Defence of the Frensh [sic] Lines and Redoubts.” Some spears had evidently been supplied to General Benedict Arnold’s fleet, natural for a naval force, but now they were needed on land. Simultaneously Colonel Jeduthan Baldwin recommended long spears be made up to bolster the defenses of the Jersey Redoubt on the flat plain near the lake.

For some soldiers pikes or spears would have been familiar weapons. New Hampshire troops in 1775 had carried small pikes in their camps outside Boston and many of those men were now stationed on Mount Independence. Similarly the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion had five companies that served in New York until July. There those five companies had received orders with the rest of Washington’s army to prepare spears in their fortifications. Once the battalion re-formed at Ticonderoga, they received similar orders again as the British approached.

Although the British never attacked in 1776, these simple weapons continued to form part of the armament of the soldiers that guarded Ticonderoga. In April of 1777, General Anthony Wayne ordered “one fourth part” of the Ticonderoga garrison to be armed with 13 foot long spears. These were to be the, “Stoutest and best men” in their respective regiments capable of the physical strength and discipline to use these archaic weapons effectively. Pikes remained part of the defenses of Ticonderoga until the end. After the Americans evacuated the fort in July of 1777, Adjutant August Wilhelm Du Roi, of the Brunswick regiment Prinz Friedrich, noted that the former garrison had been well supplied with ammunition, artillery and food, but that they, “lacked bayonets to defend the lines in case of attack. This want they thought to correct by using long pikes instead.” The reality of this statement was borne out in the court martial of General Arthur St. Clair where returns for most of the American army show that bayonets were lacking for many American soldiers even if they had muskets.

Evidence of the use of spears at Ticonderoga also survives outside of the documentary record.  On display in the Bullets & Blades exhibition in the South Barracks are two spear points recovered during the restoration of the fort in the early 20th century. These are two of nearly a half a dozen such points found on the site, most likely some of those made or employed in 1776 or 1777. There is another artifact in the collection that appears to be a bayonet with the shank purposely straightened, possibly to be attached to a shaft and pressed into service as a spear. Bayonets mounted on poles are known to have been employed during the American Revolution on occasion. The pike heads recovered at Ticonderoga are simple diamond shaped blades with short sockets where the pole was attached. This suggests an economy of materials, as well as the predicted combat usage. Pikes carried by 17th century pikemen were generally fitted out with steel heads attached to their poles by three feet long iron straps. Defending against cavalrymen armed with swords these iron straps prevented the horsemen from cutting off the pointed heads of the pikes. At Ticonderoga the spears were designed to outreach an enemy armed only with fixed bayonets, where the danger of the pike heads being severed was limited.

bayonet spear 2

This bayonet, perhaps damaged to begin with, appears to have been purposefully straightened and the blade reshaped to allow it to be mounted on a pole as a spear point. (Collections of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

The spears Wayne had made in 1777, were ordered to have iron tips but in times of need even simple sharpened wooden poles were pressed into service. Colonel Jeduthan Baldwin wrote to General Horatio Gates on October 19, 1776 about a variety of issues, but added: “I would also recommend the getting eighteen dozen poles twelve feet long, to be sharpened and placed in the Jersey redoubt for the present as spears.” So great was the need for defensive weapons that they did not wait for iron heads to be attached. During General Arthur St. Clair’s court martial he testified that when the fort was evacuated in 1777, the lines were again, “furnished with some spears and sharp pointed poles.”

So it was that an ancient weapon found new life in the American War of Independence, a weapon shared by Revolutionaries across the Atlantic world.

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New Blog Series


The Exhibitionist will be an occasional series of blog posts from the office of the Director of Exhibitions. Historical artifacts are loaded with layers of meaning and stories about makers, artists, users, and collectors across generations. Physical exhibits can only tell a part of these stories, here we will try to go further.

This series seeks to tell these other stories, and to draw connections between artifacts currently on exhibition to help our visitors to think about all of our collections in new and different ways. We will flesh out themes in our current exhibits as well as exploring unique topics and compelling narratives. Ultimately we want to draw connections between things, people, places, and times that will make the history of Ticonderoga and our collections richer and more meaningful to present and future generations, the way it has been for past ones. Look for more posts soon. Hope you will find them compelling!


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