Fort Ticonderoga’s Art Collections and Exhibition

Fort Ticonderoga is well known for its 18th-century military collections and vast library and archival collections, but few people realize that it preserves an important art collection as well.  From the very beginning of the museum’s collecting endeavors, obtaining art in the form of portraits of people associated with the site’s history, depictions of events from the Fort’s past, and prints and photographs of the Ticonderoga peninsula’s landscape has been an important focus of its collecting activities.  Today, as a result of more than a century of collecting, Fort Ticonderoga’s art collections are viewed by many scholars as one of the Fort’s most important historical resources.

The highlights of the art collection were assembled into a special exhibit The Art of War: Ticonderoga as Experienced through the Eyes of America’s Great ArtistsThe Art of War, though, is not just an exhibition of Fort Ticonderoga’s collection of art; it is an interpretation of the Fort’s long history through the eyes of the artists who visited the site or painted people associated with its history.  The exhibit, opened in May 2011, brought together over 50 of the museum’s most important works in a single exhibition to highlight the significance of the collection and present as visual narrative of the site’s history from the earliest French occupation of the site to the beginning of the restoration of the Fort in 1909.

Thomas Davies’ “View of the Lines at Lake George” is the earliest-known painted depiction of the Lake George landscape.

Included in the exhibition are several important “firsts.”  Significant in the history of the Lake George region, the exhibit includes both the earliest-known painted and printed views of the Lake George landscape dating to 1759.  The first published view of Fort Ticonderoga’s ruins from 1819 illustrates the Fort’s importance in 19th-century tourism.  The star of the show is arguably Thomas Cole’s epic painting Gelyna, or A View Near Ticonderoga which holds the distinction of being Cole’s earliest-known signed and dated work.

The exhibit also includes works by many other important artists spanning more than 150 years of American history.  18th-century military portraiture represented in the exhibit features the work of several important artists such as Allan Ramsay with his portrait of Major General James Abercromby, Charles Wilson Peale who painted Pennsylvania militia officer, Captain John Knox, and Charles Peale Polk with his wonderful portrait of General George Washington.  The Ticonderoga landscape was skillfully rendered on paper by Hugh Reinagle as can be seen in the earliest-printed view of the Fort’s ruins, and prolific Adirondack photographer, Seneca Ray Stoddard’s work is well represented by his remarkable stereo photography of the Fort and its landscape in the 1870s and 1880s.

For the time that this exhibit has been presented to the public, it has served an important purpose in helping to visually introduce the Fort’s guests to the complexities of the site’s history.  Like all special exhibits, however, this exhibit must eventually end.  At the end of October The Art of War will be taken down.  Some of the art will be incorporated into new exhibitions, others will return to storage.  But the exhibit will enjoy a new life by being reorganized and relocated in reproduction form to the lobby spaces inside the Mars Education Center where it will continue to provide windows into the Fort’s past and insight into the site’s long and remarkable history.

Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator, Fort Ticonderoga

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3 Details for a Perfect New England Militia Portrayal at Ticonderoga

Reinforced by Continental and Vermont regulars, militia from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont provided the bulk of the soldiers in raids like Colonel John Brown’s raid on Ticonderoga in 1777.

When General Horatio Gates tasked General Lincoln to, “divide and distract,” General Burgoyne’s British and German army with a series of raids along his supply route to Canada, he called upon the Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont militia to provide the majority of his 2000 man force amassed in Pawlet, Vermont. Most of these militiamen were drafted or volunteered, pending being drafted. In Massachusetts one-sixth of the county militia of Berkshire, Hampshire, Worchester, Middlesex, Suffolk, Essex & York counties were called up for three months service by the General Court as of August 9th 1777. With York county being in the Maine district of Massachusetts, many of these militiamen travelled an incredible distance to be part of General Lincoln’s raids. As Fort Ticonderoga looks to reenact John Brown’s attack among these many raids, here are some easy details to recreate the militia men who took part in these daring attacks.

1) Keep it Simple: Pouch, Bayonet Belt, Horn & Knapsack

Militia laws and inventories repeatedly list cartridge pouches, powder horns, bayonets, belts, and knapsacks indicating the typical equipment of militia men.

Militia laws and regulations were nothing new by 1777. These rules for each citizen’s contribution to the defense of their community go well back into the 17th century. They provide a remarkable window into what each man eligible for service was supposed to carry. Colonel Timothy Pickering in his 1775 An Easy Plan of Discipline for the Militia stated that every militia man provides their own, “firelock, bayonet, waistbelt, a cartridge box, cartridges, and a knapsack.” An advertisement in the Boston Gazette, in 1777 informed militia men to be prepared with, “a powder horn, a bullet pouch to contain 40 leaden balls, a knapsack, a canteen, a firearm of good worth, a haversack, a belt, a good pair of overalls.” By 1778 the Third Bristol County Militia Regiment required men to muster with following.

…a good firearm with steel or iron ramrod, and spring to retain the same, a worm, priming wire and brush, and a bayonet fitted to his gun, a tomahawk or hatchet, a pouch containing a cartridge box that will hold fifteen rounds of cartridges at least, a hundred of buckshot, a jack knife, and tow for wadding, six flints, one pound of powder, forty leaden balls fitted to his gun, a knapsack and blanket, a canteen or wooden bottle sufficient to hold one quart.

Cartridge pouches with good provenance to use by New England militia and regulars during the Revolutionary war show some variety in the exact details of their construction, but a surprising level of overall uniformity between examples.

Shoemakers and saddlers, like Reuben Brown of Concord Massachusetts built cartridge boxes, holsters, and belts for the town’s militia. Numerous examples of cartridge pouches with excellent provenance to New England Militia service survive. Collectively they demonstrate quality craftsmanship with a surprising level of uniformity, despite no regulation pattern. Cartridge blocks, buckles and even whole pouches matching extent examples have been recovered from Valcour Island, indicating that these were indeed carried north to the Lake Champlain corridor.

Accounts of New England militia and soldiers in the 1777 campaign confirm this general scheme of armaments. July 17th,& 18th arms and Equipment returns for the 2nd and 3rd New Hampshire regiments at Ticonderoga, both of which included militia drafts and volunteers, list “Arms, Bayonets, Cartridge-Boxes, Priming Wires and Brushes, Horns and Pouches.” These regulars received a complete issue of French muskets with bayonets is clear in these returns, however their returns show that they were working to complete each man with a cartridge box, horn and pouch. Surgeon J. F Wasmus, of Brunswick described the arms of the New England militia and regulars succinctly, “a powder horn, bullet bag, a flask of rum and a gun – that was all they had on them.”

2) Trousers Welcome

With a strong nautical connection, it’s not terribly surprising that many New Englanders appear in accounts wearing trousers in militia service.

Among the litany of food and clothing articles carried north to Ticonderoga by Massachusetts Private Ezra Tylden in 1776 was, “ a pair of long trowsers,” Given that he willingly sold off his leather breeches and buckles, clearly trousers were acceptable wear. Indeed, trousers commonly show up among deserters from New England regular and militia units. As advertized in the Providence Gazette, Feburary 8, 1777, Private Samuel Smith of Capt. Tew’s Company, in Col. Angell’s Regiment, deserted wearing, ”a black Broadcloth Jacket, with Sleeves, and a Pair of long Trowsers.” Likewise, William Horton, of Capt. Thomas Cole’s company in Col. Crary’s Massachusetts Regiment deserted wearing, “a blue outside Jacket, Striped Trowsers, and a round Hat.” At the Battle of Bennington, Surgeon J. F Wasmus recalled that the New Englanders facing him, “had nothing [to cover] their bodies but shirts, vests and long linen trousers, which reached down to their shoes; no stockings;”

3) Coats, Waistcoats, and Jackets

Counter to respectable fashion, at least two accounts of New England soldiers describe them with merely waistcoats and shirtsleeves.

The ubiquitous farmer’s smock of pastoral New England life, doesn’t seem to have been as frequently worn by militia and soldiers in the 1777 campaign as commonly supposed. This is not to say they did not exist. Private Ezra Tylden, among his heap of belongings carried, “a frock”. However, the list of his other garments is really typical.

A woolen Shirt…a new cotton and linen a pair of white stockings, a pair of blue stockings.. a pair of knee buckles… and under-jacket, a short coat, a great coat, a pair of grey yarn stockings, two pair shoes, a striped shirt, a pair of long trowsers, a hat, two handkerchiefs, a pair of shoes buckles.. a pair of leather breeches, a pair of cloth breeches… a frock…

Private Anthony Mash who was drafted into Colonel Phiney’s Massachusetts regiment in 1776 had when he died, “1 pair of leather breeches, 3 shirts, 3 pair of stockings, 1 pair of shoe buckles, 2 coats, 1 pair of shoes, jacket, hat spaterdashers, 1 black handkerchief, 1 pair of knee buckles.” Perhaps the greatest New England soldier in the Northern Theater, Captain of rangers, Benjamin Whitcomb, epitomizes the practical attire worn in summer. British descriptions of this ranger during his daring 1776 raids stated:

He wears a kind of under-jacket without sleeves, slash pockets, leather breeches, grey woolen or yarn stockings, and shoes. Hat flapped, a gold cord tied around it. He had a firelock, blanket, pouch and powder horn.

His quintessential attire is corroborated by Surgeon J F Wasmus, who described New Englanders, stating, “they were all in their shirt-sleeves”. Rather than any frontier dress, practical and pragmatic New England militia generally wore their civilian suits of clothing; coats, waistcoats, and jackets. If it got too hot, they simply omitted their coats. With the arms they carried for militia duty, and a pair of trousers for a hot day, these militia men from New England were able to execute a daring series of raids in September of 1777 which helped seal the fate of General Burgoyne’s army.

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Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute and More

Wow! What a great month of July we’ve had at Fort Ticonderoga, especially when it comes to the Fort’s efforts in teacher education.

Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute participants pose atop Mount Defiance at the beginning of their week at Fort Ticonderoga.

 Fourteen teachers from as far away as California and Florida participated in our first Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute July 7-12. These teachers brought energy and enthusiasm as they spent a week with visiting scholar James Kirby Martin learning about the career of Benedict Arnold. “I never thought I’d see the day when an institution would devote a whole week to Benedict Arnold” commented Martin at the end of the week. The teachers left Ticonderoga at the end of the week with a new appreciation for history and the fact that history is not black and white—there’s a lot of gray.

We spent a week discussing Arnold’s career, utilizing the vast array of manuscripts, artifacts, and artworks in the Fort’s collection to examine elements of Arnold’s career at Ticonderoga and elsewhere. Teachers used an actual muster roll from 1775 and a Benedict Arnold letter from the same time period to practice analyzing documents and learning about engaging ways to connect their students with the real stuff of history.

Teacher Institute participants rowing the Fort’s bateau.

Three immersive experiences with the Fort’s interpretation staff provided teachers with unique opportunity to learn, and experience, aspects of life at Ticonderoga during the American Revolution. Whether pulling on an oar in the Fort’s bateau, erecting a brush shelter common in the Continental camps at Ticonderoga, or preparing a modest meal at the field kitchen, teachers gained an understanding about life in the Continental Army that can’t be duplicated in a book.

In addition to James Kirby Martin, author James L. Nelson focused on the Battle of Valcour and Arnold’s role in creating and maintaining American naval superiority on Lake Champlain through 1775 and much of 1776. During a field trip to Saratoga National Historical Park, Park

 Ranger and Historian Eric Schnitzer gave a presentation on 18th-century portraits of Benedict Arnold and then spent an afternoon out on the Saratoga Battlefield with the teachers focused on this turning point in the American Revolution.

Thanks to a new collaboration with the College of St. Joseph in Vermont, five of the teachers earned graduate credit through their participation in the Institute.

This is the type of well-rounded educational programming for teachers that marks Fort Ticonderoga’s approach to teaching teachers. And there’s more to come!

We’ve just learned that our application to the National Endowment for the Humanities to host two week-long Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers in July 2014 has been successful. Eighty teachers will be able to spend a week at Fort Ticonderoga learning about “The American Revolution on the Northern Frontier: Fort Ticonderoga and the Road to Saratoga.” Visiting scholars for these workshops include:

• Carol Berkin, City University of New York
• Tom Chambers, Niagara University
• Douglas Egerton, LeMoyne College
• William Fowler, Northeastern University
• James Kirby Martin, University of Houston
• Holly Mayer, Duquesne University
• John Parmenter, Cornell University
• Judith Van Buskirk, State University of New York at Cortland

Teacher Institute participants posing at the Arnold Monument at Saratoga National Historical Park.

Participants will attend workshop sessions with these visiting scholars, discussing a number of topics that include: the French & Indian War as a precursor to the Revolution; the roles of African-Americans, Native Americans, Loyalists, and women in the Revolution; Benedict Arnold and the Battle of Valcour; the Saratoga Campaign; and the lasting legacies of the Revolutionary War on the Northern Frontier.

July 2014 promises to be a very busy month. We will be offering two sessions of the NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers in addition to a week-long Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute:

• NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop for School Teachers—“The American Revolution on the Northern Frontier: Fort Ticonderoga and the Road to Saratoga” July 6-11, 2014 (Session One) and July 27-August 1, 2014 (Session Two)

• Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute: “1776 on the Northern Frontier” July 13-18, 2014

Both programs are open by application only. There are 40 slots for teachers in each of the NEH Landmarks workshops and 16 slots for teachers in the Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute. Application information will be posted on our website later in the fall. I look forward to your help in spreading the word about these unique opportunities for teachers coming in July 2014!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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King’s Garden Perennial Favorites

I am often asked, “What is your favorite flower in the King’s Garden?”, and usually the answer is different every time. It is difficult to pick just one favorite when there are so many to choose from! The twelve plants listed below are the perennials that I enjoy most and recommend to many gardeners.

The blue of anchusa combines nicely with most any flower.

Anchusa ‘Dropmore’ is a dramatic plant with vivid, deep blue flowers and hairy stems. This 1905 selection is still widely available today and is best suited for the back of the border. While it can be challenging to grow, the reward is worth the effort.
Anchusa azurea ‘Dropmore’

Bearded iris ‘Iris King’ remains in the King’s Garden from the 1920s.  While there are several varieties here, the history behind this one pushes it to the top of my list.  I could not live without bearded irises in my garden.  The sword-shaped foliage is attractive and the vibrant blooms atop long, slender stems make them a garden stand out.  It is easy to share varieties with gardening friends by dividing the clump of rhizomes every few years.
Iris hybrid ‘Iris King’

Dahlia tubers are unassuming when you plant them in spring.  It is amazing how much flower power is in that small root!  Our dinner plate dahlias steal the show in late summer and early fall when their large, colorful flowers are displayed against the garden’s brick walls.  There is a size and color dahlia that will suit any garden.  As with all tropical natives, lift and store your dahlia tubers in autumn.
Dahlia hybrid ‘Otto’s thrill’

Delphinium is a well-known flower of cottage gardens with its tall, stately spikes of color.  Many hybrids are available in shades of white, violet, blue and pink.  This garden classic mixes well with both soft and bold colors.  This plant is fussy, so give it lots of attention to keep the oohs and aahs coming.
Delphinium x elatum

This relative of Joe-Pye weed is a magnet for pollinators!

Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’ is a plant that once you discover it, you will always want it! It blooms in late summer and autumn when many other plants have finished flowering. Also known as White snakeroot, the fuzzy white flower clusters attract butterflies with their vanilla scent, while the deep colored foliage makes a statement of its own. Use it at the back of the border or as a specimen plant where its tall and wide habit can enhance your display.
Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’

 

Globe thistle is a plant I grew up with and have admired for a long time.  My grandmother grew it at her farmhouse.  The texture is fantastic; spiky steel-blue flowers appear over several weeks in summer on sturdy four-foot plants.  This adaptable, deer resistant, easy to grow plant is as tough as it is interesting.
Echinops ritro

Hollyhocks are an old fashioned flower whose popularity has not waned.  Many people get a feeling of nostalgia remembering a garden in their past that contained hollyhocks.  This tall, colorful, and showy biennial, used at one time to screen outhouses, comes in a rainbow of colors in single and double forms.  I leave some seed heads to mature and find new plants happily growing where they have self-seeded.
Alcea rosea

Lady’s Mantle makes the list because it is attractive throughout the seasons and easy to grow.  The mounded foliage is clean and coarse, while the chartreuse flowers are light and airy.  After a rain or on dewy mornings, beads of water remain on the foliage, glittering like diamonds.  I love this plant in the front of the border in combination with bold colors.
Alchemilla mollis

Lavender cannot be ignored as an outstanding addition to any perennial border.  While fussy about soil and location, once established you will enjoy this woody perennial for years.  The aromatic leaves and flowers can be dried for use in sachets or potpourri.  The foliage fades from gray-green to silver-gray in our cold climate where it adds winter interest to the garden setting.
Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’

Lupine exhibits interesting flowers and foliage.

Lupine shines in the late spring garden with its spires of purple flowers in robust clusters.  This member of the pea family actually improves your soil by fixing nitrogen.  The compound foliage is attractive all season and lupine will bloom later on if faded flowers are removed.  Someday I will get to the Lupine Festival in New Hampshire where the wild form blooms in meadows and along roadsides in June.
Lupinus polyphyllus ‘Russell series Governor’

Peony plants act like shrubs in the perennial border.  After the large, heavily scented flowers have passed by in June, the deep green, glossy foliage remains.  Peonies survive for decades with little care but cutting them back in late fall.  This classic favorite will add beauty to your sunny or partly shaded garden.
Paeonia lactiflora

Sneezeweed does not cause allergies, so don’t worry about adding it to your perennial display.  The rich, warm-colored blooms brighten the autumn garden and continue until frost.  The perfect compliment to asters, their stems tower to five feet on well-branched plants.  Many cultivars are available, including shorter varieties for smaller garden spaces.  This is an indispensible plant for late season interest.
Helenium autumnale

Top 12 Perennials Slideshow – click here!

Happy gardening!

Heidi teRiele Karkoski
Director of Horticulture

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“The accommodations are first class but limited” Fort Ticonderoga’s Little-Known 19th-Century Hotel

Fort Ticonderoga is best known for its military structures and associated history, but what many people do not realize is that the site played a very important role in the history of 19th-century American tourism.  Once steamboat travel became the principle mode of transport on New York’s northern lakes, Fort Ticonderoga became the location where travelers made the connection from the steamers plying Lake George to the steamers waiting to take passengers to on the next leg of their journey over Lake Champlain.  As a result, multitudes of people passed by the Fort’s ruins virtually every day.

The Pavilion was constructed in 1826 and served as a summer home for William Ferris Pell and his family through 1840. From the early 1840s through the end of the 19th century, the building was used as a hotel.

In 1820 the Fort’s grounds were purchased by William Ferris Pell.  Nearly a century later his great-grandson Stephen Pell and his wife Sarah undertook the project to restore the Fort and open it as a museum.  In 1826 William constructed The Pavilion on the flat plain to the east of the Fort.  He and his family occupied the building as a summer home until his death in 1840.  From the early 1840s through the end of the 19th century the building was rented to a variety of people who operated the building as a hotel, while one part, the north wing, was retained by one of Pell’s daughters, Mary, who lived there until her death in 1884.

Over the nearly sixty years that The Pavilion served as a hotel, it was visited by thousands of travelers including such notable people as Robert Todd Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln; the prominent French & Indian War historian, Francis Parkman; and prolific Adirondack photographer, Seneca Ray Stoddard.

This handbill, printed in 1868, briefly describes the hotel’s accomodations and ammenities.

The hotel was named at various times, The Pavilion Hotel and The Fort Ticonderoga Hotel.  One visitor in 1872 describes the building: “The central portion is two stories high, with a double piazza; the front supported by massive columns on which vines climb to the roof above; on either side extend long, low wings with glass enclosed verandas, and rooms en suite at the extreme ends.  The house faces the east, and is fronted by an extensive lawn covered by locusts and Lombardy poplars through which a plank walk leads down to the steamboat dock…  The accommodations are first-class, but limited, the chief business being the dinner provided for excursionists, and for which the house has become celebrated.”  In addition, an advertising handbill from 1868 notes that the hotel “has been newly furnished” and that the rooms are “airy, large, and it [has] suites, or Private parlors, as may be desired.”  Meals served at the hotel that year included “Fine trout, bass, pike and pickerel, which are served up daily” and “Game Dinners served up at the Fort Ticonderoga Hotel at short notice.”  It seems that the hotel was, in the words of one traveler, “Altogether it is a very enjoyable place.”

During the 20th century the house underwent major renovation and again served as summer residence for the Pell family.  The Pavilion has not been occupied since 1987 and today Fort Ticonderoga is developing plans for its future use.  In the meantime, the museum is offering, for the first time ever, special tours of the inside of the building where visitors will be guided by the museum’s curator on an exploration of the building’s past looking at evidence that survives from its 19th century use as an summer home and hotel, and the critical role it played in the restoration of Fort Ticonderoga.

For more information on tours of the Pavilion follow this link.

Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator, Fort Ticonderoga

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Summertime Reading

“A book worth reading is a book worth owning.” So said my dad. That mantra seems to have rubbed off on me, as the stacks of books at home and in my office can attest. While my historical tastes span from the Middle Ages to the present and in both Europe and America, the vast majority of my books focus on 18th-century American history.

Summer always seems to be a time when many of us focus on our reading. Whether it’s at the beach or poolside, or in the hammock in the backyard, for many of us reading is an important part of summer.

My reading the past few months has focused on Benedict Arnold, the subject of the first Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute that runs from July 7-12. Fourteen teachers will spend a week learning about the military career of Benedict Arnold, working with James Kirby Martin from the University of Houston, master teacher Tim Potts, and me.

I’ve been reading Martin’s Benedict Arnold: Revolutionary Hero. Martin, while not apologetic for Arnold’s treason in 1780, does trace the trail of enemies that Arnold seems to collect through the Revolution. While Arnold’s clash with Ethan Allen here at Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775 is well-known, it’s the conflict with James Easton and John Brown that is to have a longer lasting impact on Arnold, dogging him over the years. At every turn, Arnold seems to create new enemies—here at Ticonderoga in the summer of 1776, a number of junior officers presiding over the court-martial of Moses Hazen become combative with Arnold. General Horatio Gates finally disbands the court-martial, momentarily freeing Arnold from the tangle, but resulting in a number of new antagonists for Arnold.

I also recently completed Arthur Lefkowitz’s book Benedict Arnold’s Army: The 1775 American Invasion of Canada during the Revolutionary War. If you aren’t familiar with this aspect of Arnold’s military career, I highly recommend this book. Arnold’s amazing trek through the Maine wilderness as he led the eastern prong of the American invasion into Canada in the fall of 1775 is a story of persistence against overwhelming odds and challenges. Despite torrential autumn rains (some think it may well have been a hurricane), early snows, and sparse food supplies, Arnold leads a force of nearly 1,000 men through the wilderness to the south shores of the St. Lawrence River across from Quebec City. This feat earned Arnold his promotion to Brigadier General in the Continental Army.

If you prefer historical fiction, Kenneth Roberts wrote two novels revolving around Arnold’s contributions to the American cause during the American Revolution. Arundel follows Arnold’s trek through Maine and ultimately to the failed attack on Quebec City on New Year’s Eve 1775. Rabble in Arms continues the story, covering the retreat from Canada in the spring of 1776, the Army’s arrival at Ticonderoga, the construction of the fleet on Lake Champlain and the Battle of Valcour, and the 1777 Saratoga Campaign.

Several opportunities to meet authors are coming up at Fort Ticonderoga. The Fort Ticonderoga Author Series gets underway later this month, with programs running through late September. Authors include Donald Hagist, Tom Chambers, Mark Bowie, and Ted Corbett. These programs take place on Sundays and are each followed by a book signing in the Museum Store. Each program is included in the cost of admission.

Keith Herkalo, author of The Battles at Plattsburgh: September 11, 1814, is one of nine presenters at the Second Conference on Lake George and Lake Champlain August 10 & 11, 2013. Pre-registration is required to attend the conference; you can learn more here.

Several authors are on the docket at our Tenth Annual Fort Ticonderoga Seminar on the American Revolution. Mark Jacob and Stephen Case are co-authors of Treacherous Beauty: Peggy Shippen, the Woman behind Benedict Arnold’s Plot to Betray America. Douglas Cubbison is the author of several books; most recently Burgoyne and the Saratoga Campaign: His Papers. Speakers with forthcoming books include Phil Mead, Melancholy Landscapes: Writing Warfare in Revolutionary America and Benjamin Smith, Following Knox’s Trail. The Seminar is held September 20-22, 2013, and pre-registration is required. Learn more here.

It’s summertime! I look forward to seeing you at one or more of these upcoming events. In the meantime, happy reading!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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Robert Fairchild and His Powder Horn

Powder horns are unique artifacts in that they have the ability to speak to a single person’s 18th-century military service unlike most other objects.  Muskets, swords, and other similar items, though important, are rarely able to connect people today nearly face-to-face with an individual person from the past.  What makes powder horns so interesting, and important, is that most have the owner’s name carved into it along with the date the horn was made (actually it’s the date the horn was carved or engraved) and the place the where the work was done.  With this basic information it is often possible to track the owner’s military service and, with further research, understand something about the person’s greater family life.

Overview of Robert Fairchild’s powder horn.

Recently, a rare French & Indian War powder horn was donated to Fort Ticonderoga.  It is inscribed “ROBERT FAIRCHILD HIS POWDER HORN MADE ATT LAKE GEORGE AUGUST THE 27 AD 1756.”  Apart from clearly identifying the horn’s owner, place, and date of carving, the horn is embellished with other interesting decorative and military motifs.  Bordering the cartouche containing Fairchild’s name is a simple floral and geometrically carved design.

Scroll and geometric designs embellish the border of the name cartouche.

The back of the horn features a detailed image of one of the British sloops that sailed on Lake George during the war.  A simple depiction of a four-bastion fort carved near the horn’s base may represent Fort William Henry under construction while Fairchild was at Lake George.

An image of a sloop adorns the back of the horn.

Around the narrow end of the horn are carved rectangular panels, two of which depict showing cannon mounted on large-wheeled field carriages being fired with smoke billowing out their muzzles and cannonballs flying through the air.

Cannon firing complete with billowing smoke and shot flying through the air.

Curiously, the powder horn’s spout has been cut off and there appears to be evidence that at one time a replacement (now missing) may have been attached.  The back of the horn has also been trimmed, probably removing about an inch of its base.  Exactly when or why this was done is not known.

Because of the date and place indicated on the horn, the most likely regiments that Robert Fairchild was serving with are those from Massachusetts, Connecticut, or New York.  A quick check of the available muster rolls for these colonies reveals that the only soldier with that name was from Connecticut.  Robert Fairchild was born January 16, 1737 and was living in Middletown, Connecticutin 1756.  He began his military service at the age of 19.  Muster rolls reveal that on April 3, 1756 Fairchild enlisted in Major Jehosaphat Starr’s Company of Colonel David Wooster’s 2nd Connecticut Provincial Regiment.  In 1756 many of the troops posted at the camps at south end of Lake George were involved in the construction of Fort William Henry.

The fort may be a very simplified representation of Fort William Henry which was under construction in 1756.

At other times these men were engaged in hauling supplies between the Lake George camp and Fort Edward, building boats, and going on scouts to spy on the enemy and capture prisoners.  Fairchild served at Lake George through December 3 when he was discharged from his duties for that campaign.

According to muster rolls, Fairchild remained home in Middletown, Connecticutin 1757 serving as a soldier in his local militia commanded by Captain Jacob Whitmore.  He served a total of 16 days that year, probably in August when many New England militia units were called to action to respond to the alarm raised with the siege of Fort William Henry early that month.

In 1758 Robert Fairchild returned to provincial service serving as a private soldier in Captain Timothy Hierlehey’s Company of Major-General Phineas Lyman’s 1st Connecticut Provincial Regiment.  He enlisted on March 28 and served through November 28.  Major-General Phineas Lyman’s Regiment was one of the many provincial regiments that took part in the ill-fated attack on Fort Ticonderoga on July 8th that resulted in nearly 2,000 British and American Provincial soldiers being killed and wounded.  While the battle was a devastating defeat for the British, it was for the French army its greatest victory of the entire French & Indian War.  As far as can be determined, Fairchild survived the battle unscathed.

Fairchild’s final year of military service was during the 1759 campaign where he enlisted on March 31 as a sergeant again in Captain Timothy Hierlehey’s Company of Major-General Phineas Lyman’s 1st Connecticut Provincial Regiment.  In that campaign, Lyman’s regiment again ventured to Ticonderoga with the British army and took part in its successful capture of the Fort and may have worked to repair it afterwards.  Fairchild served through December 16 when he was discharged and return to Middletown.

The spout was removed from the horn, but there is evidence of a now missing repair or replacement that was apparently secured to the horn through a series of four holes near the point where the spout once was. One hole is visible in the hatched decorative band near the opening.

A few years after returning home, Robert married Ruth Starr on May 13, 1762, and over the next 22 years they had nine children.  Robert died in New Haven, Connecticut at the age of 57 on November 15, 1794.  His wife, Ruth, outlived him by 23 years dying in 1817.  For the time being, this is what we know about Robert Fairchild.  Like so many New Englanders, however, further research will likely reveal more about his life.  Every new acquisition opens new opportunities to learn about the past and undoubtedly this powder horn will continue to “speak” to us for many years to come.

This powder horn came to the museum as a result of the Fort’s curator’s appearance on the highly-rated PBS television series History Detectives in January of this year that featured the investigation of an unrelated powder horn.  The donor of the Fairchild horn, Ms. Tonyia Baldwin, contacted Fort Ticonderoga after the show aired to discuss a powder horn that had belonged to her father.  Feeling that the powder horn needed to be preserved for future generations and made accessible to the public, she proceeded to donate it to Fort Ticonderoga.  Regarding the powder horn Ms. Baldwin said “I felt that it was time for it to go to a museum where it could be preserved and enjoyed by everyone, not just sitting on a shelf in our home.”

Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator, Fort Ticonderoga

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Lake George, Lake Champlain, and Their Importance Today

Memorial Day Weekend typically kicks-off the summer season in the Lake George/Lake Champlain region. This past Memorial Day Weekend was more winter-like for many of us, with a cold rain and day-time temperatures in the low to mid-forties. Up north, Whiteface Mountain received nearly three feet of snow over the weekend. Such miserable late May weather put a damper on the number of tourists coming to the region for the weekend, which in turn had an economic impact on businesses throughout the region.

A cold, rainy Memorial Day Weekend serves as a reminder of how dependent the region is on tourists and how important Lake George and Lake Champlain are as economic generators.

This August, Fort Ticonderoga hosts the Second Conference on Lake George and Lake Champlain. On August 10 & 11, nine speakers give presentations related to the history, geography, culture, ecology, and current issues of these two lakes so important to both our history and our present-day life. The target audience for this conference is anyone with a general interest in the history and culture of the two lakes and their continued well-being.

The conference presents three strands: history, arts & culture, and ecology and current issues. Presenters come from as far away as Virginia and as close as our own backyard.

The history presentations include Dr. Bruce Venter on “Hulled Between Wind and Water”: The Attack on Diamond Island, Lake George’s only Naval Battle. Bruce is president of America’s History and summers on Lake George where his home faces Diamond Island. Morris Glenn, from the Board of the Essex County Historical Society, will provide A Short History of the Lake Champlain Bluestone Quarry (1823-1894). Stone from this quarry was especially suitable for public works projects including the footings for the Brooklyn Bridge. Keith Herkalo, president of the Battle of Plattsburgh Association shares In Search of Pike’s Cantonment: A Case Study of Historic Archaeological Research.

Presentations related to arts and culture in the region focus on Seneca Ray Stoddard’s focus on Fort Ticonderoga, the early 20th-century summers spent on Lake George by Alfred Steiglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, and the history and restoration of Sound Inter Club sailboats on Lake George.

Ecology and Current Issues topics include a report on the State of Lake Champlain, sustainable forestry in the Champlain Basin, and the long-term impact of the historic floods of 2011 on Lake Champlain. Rebecca Pelchar, an Instructor of Art History at SUNY Adirondack, will discuss Farmhouse Summers—O’Keeffe and Stieglitz on Lake George. Wooden boatbuilder Reuben Smith tells the story of the painstaking, careful restoration of the Sound Inter Club sailboats in Re-making History: The Sound Inter Club Restorations and Reintroduction to Lake George.

Presentation related to the ecology and current issues include The State of Lake Champlain: Current Science, Human Challenges, and Future Possibilities by Colleen Hickey, Education Outreach Coordinator with the Lake Champlain Basin Program. Greg Mayes, Fiber Supply Manager at International Paper’s Ticonderoga Mill discusses Sustainable Forestry…Managing Today for the Future. Mike Winslow, Staff Scientist for the Lake Champlain Committee, looks back at The Floods of 2011: Impacts and Long-Term Implications for Lake Champlain.

We are grateful to the South Lake Champlain Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation and the Ticonderoga Federal Credit Union for their generous support of this conference. Their support, along with the support of conference patrons, enables us to offer two teacher scholarships for the conference. The scholarships include covering the registration fee and provide teachers with an opportunity to mingle with the speakers at a dinner Saturday evening of the conference. The deadline for applications is July 1st. Applications can be downloaded here.

Registration for the Second Conference on Lake George and Lake Champlain is now open [download the conference brochure here] and I encourage you to participate in this weekend exploring the lakes in an interdisciplinary, holistic approach. Whether your primary interest in the lakes is historical, cultural, or ecological, there’s something for you in this unique conference.

I look forward to seeing you at Fort Ticonderoga this August at the Second Conference on Lake George and Lake Champlain!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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Building the Giberne, Part 2

This distinctive red-colored leather has had Birch tar rubbed into the flesh or inside of the leather to recreate the insect repellent quality of Russia leather.

The red leather that gives the giberne its notable color in the 1757 watercolors is Russia leather, a hard-wearing upholstery leather. This leather was extremely popular through the 18th and 19th century due the preservative effects of the Russian birch tar used in its processing. A German treatise from 1807 advocated for the domestic German production of this leather, describing its processing.

Juchten (Russia) or also Juften leather is a fine cow’s leather, tanned with willow bark and saturated with birch oil. It is waterproof, supple, and strong smelling. It is used for shoe uppers leather, purses, etc.

The initial tanning process of this leather was not altogether different from the tanning of any leather, with willow or similar bark, ground down to make a tan liquor which chemically changed the rawhide flayed from the animal to leather.  In various brick-lined tanning vats dug into the ground tanners first removed the hair with a lime solution. Draping the skins over logs, tanners scraped off the hair and rinsed out the lime solution. Skins went to a second set of tan vats where the bark and water solution worked on the leather for five weeks.

After rinsing and scraping again, Russia leather received its two distinct treatments.

The preparation of skins thus far differs little from the customary tanning of calfskin. Now begins a process, however, which is the essential part of making leather into Russia leather. This is the saturation or impregnation with birch oil. This oil gives the leather the particular smell which repels all worms and insects, suppleness, strength and durability in water, in short all properties whereby leather becomes Russia leather.

Russia leather had a particular finish to the surface, described in this same 1807 treatise.

Tooling is a work that contributes nothing to the quality, but is undertaken purely to give the leather, in the accustomed Russian manner, a refined appearance. The best Russia leather, were this property lacking, would not be taken for it. The tooling is performed with a brass serrated roller with two movable hand grips that looks like a small wheel. With it one cuts the lines on the grain side of the skin, first just parallel, then obliquely criss-crossed, as is seen on Russia leather.

With our visitor season begun, much of producing these French gibernes occurs inside our historic trades shop.

This leather was almost exclusively dyed red, using red sandalwood. Using similar tools and Scandinavian made birch tar we have closely reproduced this leather for our Languedoc soldier’s giberne reproductions, matching the color, texture, tooling, and distinctive birch aroma.

The 1754 De La Porterie, Institutions Miiltaire includes diagrams of the cavalry and the dragoon patterns of giberne, showing the internal construction of these cartouches rather than merely their external appearance. The diagrams show flap shapes similar to the 1757 watercolors, and a soft leather pouch to hold the cartridge block, and a pocket for tools and flint in front of that. However, while these diagrams show excellent detail of the dragoon pattern, it was similar but not identical to the infantry pattern.  La Porterie’s diagrams clearly do not show the two buckles on the giberne securing the shoulder strap to it as the 1757 watercolors indicate for the infantry gibernes. La Porterie’s diagrams show an extra stabilizing strap on the shoulder strap with small straps to carry a fatigue cap. Likewise, these engraved diagrams leave details like linings to the imagination.

These buckles, so visible in the 1757 watercolors and verified by archaeological evidence, are a key part of our interpretation of this cartridge pouch.

Luckily, many officer’s and sergeant’s gibernes built based on the December 1758 Ordannances survive. While many of these surviving examples often have some fancier details, such as gilded or embroidered coats of arms or ciphers, they fill in many gaps. These original pouches have flaps lined in some thin soft leather. They have flaps which are separate pieces seamed onto the pouch bodies, which on these originals appear to have been made out of the same Russia leather as the flaps. A surviving thirty-hole cartridge block from the 1759 wreck of the Juste in the Loire River, whose dimensions allow the giberne to be patterned based on the proportions shown in visual sources and diagrams. This recovered cartridge block confirms the 1747 regulations which stated that the gibernes were to be made without nails. The artifact block retains the small stitching holes around the outer rim that allowed the wood block to be stitched into the pouch.

The wooden cartridge block was actually sewn into the rest of the pouch, a surprisingly efficient way to secure it in place. The Russia leather folds up to create a pocket in front of the wooden block for tools and flints.

Pulling all these parts, patterns, and construction details together allows us to have, to the best of our current understanding, gibernes not too different than those carried by the Languedoc soldiers to Carillon in 1755. While we have constructed several gibernes based on our current interpretation, this detective work is never truly done. New evidence, use in the field, or new insights may cause a trip back to the drafting board to create a new and improved interpretation of the Languedoc soldier’s giberne.

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Wild French Food in 1755

The romance of living off the land aside, there is evidence that French soldiers supplemented their rations with game birds.

The past two years visitors often asked, “Did they hunt for their food?” in reference to the historical soldiers we portrayed at Fort Ticonderoga. For the men of Colonel Williard’s 1759Massachusettsprovincial regiment who we portrayed in 2011, the answer was a pretty definitive no. The one comical exception came from the diary of Private Lemuel Wood, who spent a day of service hunting cattle that had escaped from the army’s drovers. During 2012, documentary references to food and supply at Fort Ticonderoga in 1775 indicated that Colonel Hinman’s Connecticut regiment ate rations shipped up from Albany or even from Connecticut itself. Only the orderly book of Sergeant Bayze Wells recorded orders for fishing details and distribution of the catch as rations. He also recorded a lone moose shot by one of the officers in a patrol leagues down Lake Champlain. In this 2013 visitor season, indications are that the French soldiers of the Languedoc regiment did indeed hunt for at least some of their food. Visitors this season who ask, “Did they hunt for their food?” will not only get a cheerful, “Yes!” but some of the interesting historical evidence for this conclusion.

Looking at the verdant, wooded hills that surround Fort Ticonderoga today, it’s difficult to imagine how developed this military post became as the French & Indian War and subsequent Revolutionary war played out. These campaigns which killed and maimed soldiers likewise stripped and scarred the landscape of this wilderness peninsula, chasing wild game off to quieter valleys. However, in 1755 the Ticonderoga peninsula was a pristine landscape teeming with life, untouched by the clearing, blasting, and construction that would build this frontier fort in the future. Except for seasonal native hunting and fishing camps, the peninsula’s game was as virgin as the dense forest that covered it.

It would be incorrect to say the French soldiers at Ticonderoga in 1755 lived off of hunted game.  Even as early as February of 1755, the French minister of the navy had ordered commissaries in New France to prepare rations for the six battalions of preparing to leave France. Commissaries were to immediately grind the previous fall’s harvest of wheat into flour, storing it in barrels for shipping. The minister of the navy ordered “three thousand quintals of salt pork,” or 300,000 pounds, for the 1755 campaign season. The diary of Chevalier de la Pause of the Bearn regiment records issues of rations in 1755. His regiment disembarked from ships in Quebec, marching on to Montreal, and subsequently out into frontier posts just like the Languedoc regiment. Rations in settled areas were quite similar to their British and American counterparts. De la Pause noted “On the route from Quebec to Montreal each sergeant and soldier was given 2 pounds of bread, one pound of beef, 1 miserable (approximately a pint) of brandy.” Leaving Montreal for western posts, de la Pause’s men received more durable, “lard, biscuit, and tobacco and pots (of brandy) for fifteen days.”   The soldiers of the Languedoc regiment encamped at Ticonderoga in the fall of 1755 were administratively part of Fort Saint Frederick at Crown Point. Accordingly, Languedoc soldier’s digging a fortified camp on the Ticonderoga peninsula received fresh vegetables from the nearby Fort’s gardens, bread or flour from their ovens, and fresh beef from the Fort’s herd of cattle.

Canadian’s attached to Baron Dieskau’s Force at Carillon in 1755 were used to hunting in civilian life. How much these skills carried over to French regulars is unclear.

Yet these soldiers’ ration staples run into prevailing French cuisine at the time, which embraced a wide diversity of foods. Many of the popular delicacies in France were wild in the Champlain Valley. Lieutenant Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac, in his diary, noted not only “strawberries, raspberries, wild black berries,” but also “capillaries and ginsings,” stating both were harvested in Canada and shipped back to France. “Capillaries,” or fiddle-head ferns, were a fashionable part of a meal in France and commonly found in the forests around Lake Champlain. Equally common as fiddle-head ferns in the kitchens of France were small game birds. Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac noted while sailing to New France that “There is also a large amount of waterfowl called, ‘hapefoys’ which were fun to shoot at as we passed.” He also made careful note of the variety of pigeons available and the preferred preparations.

The quantity of turtledoves, pigeon, or rock doves is so large that we are obliged to destroy them because they are very destructive to wheat. These animals are very good dining and in any case, but particularly roasted and in soup they are a very agreeable bouillon. The Canadians seem to be very attached to all the ways.

Extinct since 1914, the passenger pigeons migrated in flocks so numerous as to darken the sky. Much as migratory birds today, mass migrations seem to have followed major waterways, such as the Lake Champlain corridor. Just as Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac noted the Canadian culinary customs, French soldiers quite likely noted the frenzy of hunting with which Canadians survived for the winter.

They make a surprising consumption. There are no inhabitant who, with a wife and two or three children, never killed in winter, one steer, one calf, two pigs, two sheep, chickens, geese, turkeys, chickens, without counting game and fish that they take in quantity throughout the winter.

Not surprisingly, a whole flock of passenger pigeon bones were recovered in the site of Fort Ticonderoga, as were deer bones and other game. While these archaeological remnants could represent the refuse of many campaign seasons, it seems likely that French culinary customs ensured that French soldiers in 1755 left some unknown portion of these remains.

Religious fast days made fish an essential source of protein. French cuisine had an equal love of fish, shellfish, and game birds.

French gastronomic interest in game meat was matched by religious concerns. For loyal soldiers in the Royal army of His Catholic Majesty Louis XV, adherence to church food restrictions was not a matter of personal conviction, it was part of army life. Within each week both Friday and Saturday were religious fast or lean days, for which meat other than fish was prohibited. Add to this days for a plethora of saints’ days and lent, and there were nearly 150 fast days in the 365 day year. In France, much of the protein during these fast days came from fish, generally fresh in coastal areas, or salted inland. Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac happily joined other soldiers and sailors fishing for fresh cod sailing to New France.  Inland areas of New France made access to fish more difficult and the diocese of Quebec successfully applied to the church for special dispensation to consume eggs and dairy products on fast days in the late 17th century. With the possible exception of officers’ “wheels of gruyere cheese,” the diary of Chevalier de la Pause records no issues of salted fish or other protein based rations to fill this void on fast days. It appears likely that French soldiers fished to flesh out their fast day dinners.  This supposition is backed up by archaeological remains of the diverse species of fish found in Lake Champlain as well as a plethora of freshwater mussels.

The French soldiers of the Languedoc regiment, who first fortified the Ticonderoga peninsula, were first and foremost soldiers not hunters. It is appealing to imagine living off the land, especially given the pristine landscape in which they encamped in 1755.  While these French soldiers, like their British and American counterparts, ate mostly preserved rations, wild food filled both culinary fashions and religions constraints.

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