Students, Creativity, and History

It’s that time of year again—North Country History Day is fast approaching. Over fifty students from seven different schools in five northern New York counties will come to Fort Ticonderoga later this month to compete for the opportunity to represent the North Country at New York State History Day in Cooperstown at the end of April.

For those new to the History Day concept, think “Science Fair,” except with a focus on history. History Day is a year-long national program that teaches students the components of practicing good historical techniques. With an emphasis on primary sources, History Day requires students to research a topic related to an annual theme. Students present their findings in a final project that demonstrates not just good research, but the students’ ability to interpret their findings and draw conclusions—skills essential not just in history, but in life.

This year’s theme is “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events.” I’m sure that for many of you the Battle of Saratoga jumps out as a likely topic that fits in with the theme. Or maybe Gettysburg if the Civil War is more your thing. While there are projects on both Saratoga and Gettysburg at this year’s North Country History Day competition, students have come up with dozens of other topics related to “Turning Points in History”:

• “Kristallnacht”
• “Valley Forge: From Farms to Arms”
• “History Repeats Itself”
• “Walt Disney”
• “Cold War Comes to the North Country”
• “Ronald Reagan and the Rise of Conservativism in America”
• “On the Road to Freedom”
• “Racial Segregation”
• “Carnegie and Frick”
• “Yes We Can: Women’s Work World War II”
• “The New Deal”
• “Irish Potato Famine”
• “Martin Luther King, Jr.”
• “Nellie Bly: A Madhouse Exposé”
• “The Growth of a Nation on the Back of a Horse”
• “Smallpox: The First Vaccine”
• “D-Day Deception”
• “The Discovery of Penicillin”
• “You Say You Want a Revolution”
• “The Automobile”
• “The Red Cross: Clara Barton”
• “Roe v. Wade: How it Changed America”
• “How Airplanes Changed Warfare”
• “The Fall of the Roman Empire”
• “The Birth of the Electric Age”

Students compete at two levels: Junior Division (grades 6-8) and Senior Division (grades 9-12). They can enter Individuals projects or be part of a Group project. Students can choose to enter a Historical Paper, an Exhibit, a Documentary, a Website, or a Performance. The choice of entries enables a student to match their historical interest with a method of presentation best suited for their skills and abilities.

New York State is divided into fourteen regions stretching from eastern Long Island to western New York and from New York City to the Canadian border. Competitions often begin at the school district level and advance to the regional competitions. The top entries in each category earn the right to advance to the state contest, where winners advance to the national competition, held in College Park, Maryland, each year.

History Day provides students with an opportunity to explore a topic of interest in-depth, learning historical techniques of research and analysis. Each project must have a thesis that is supported by the content of the project. Helping students learn the techniques of a good historian helps make them not just better history students, but better students in general. A 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal by Norm Augustine noted that while Americans continue to believe students are falling behind in math and science, it’s actually history that’s most neglected in our schools today. “Why is history important?” asks the article. Because history is:

Not primarily the memorized facts that have current and former CEOs concerned. It’s the other things that subjects like history impact: critical thinking, research skills, and the ability to communicate clearly and cogently. Such skills are certainly important for those at the top, but in today’s economy they are fundamental to performance at nearly every level. A failing grade in history suggests that students are not only failing to comprehend our nation’s story and that of our world, but also failing to develop skills that are crucial to employment across sectors.

Augustine goes on to praise the National History Day program. “Students who participate in National History Day—actually a year-long program that gets students in grades 6-12 doing historical research—consistently outperform their peers on state standardized tests, not only in social studies but in science and math as well.”

Having just returned from the New York State Council for the Social Studies Conference, held in Westchester County last week, I’m well-aware of the buzz in the social studies community about the adoption of the Common Core. The study of history is an essential part of making today’s students successful tomorrow. Programs like National History Day help students along that path to becoming critical thinkers that our nation needs tomorrow!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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Children’s Garden Offers Something For Everyone


An Adirondack chair for the younger set rests beside a bumble bee topiary

A plot that was once part of the vegetable and cutting gardens for the Pell summer home, and before that a soldier’s garden that helped feed 18th-century troops, is now utilized as our Children’s Garden. This 50×50 garden includes flowing internal pathways, topiaries, kid-sized chairs and thematic plantings to help children and adults learn more about plants and nature. Initially the garden consisted of strictly annuals and vegetables, but over time, perennials have been incorporated into the scheme to create focal points and structure. I really enjoy planning and planting this garden each season.


Rudbeckia nitida or cutleaf coneflower grows to eight feet in the Children’s Garden

This year’s theme areas include the popular Sunflower House and Salsa Spot, along with the Flying Friends Area, row crops of everlasting flowers suitable for drying, a White Night display, and a collection of plants with interesting green flowers or foliage. I like to use large, showy specimens to visually separate areas of the garden such as broom corn, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), spider flower (Cleome), sunflowers, and the huge Rudbeckia nitida or cutleaf coneflower. Texture and color play important roles in each garden area. Some of my favorites in the texture department include Lacinato “dinosaur” kale, dill and fennel, cannas, slender grasses, borage and various amaranths. Vegetables are so easy to incorporate into flower plantings (or flowers into vegetable plantings!) and the results are beautiful and fruitful!

Ornaments and accessories add visual appeal and are great because they can be moved around the garden year to year. Sometimes a fun garden accent can be found among things already on hand. Here are some ideas from our gardens. For climbing beans, peas, and flowering vines consider an old wooden ladder, 3-pole teepees made of saplings, or old wooden or wire fence sections. Pathways can be constructed of mulch or bark chips, stepping stones, pavers (they don’t have to all match) or grass clippings. We have a stack of old slate slabs that make a great walkway. At planting time, fill a few containers of different sizes and use them to fill in spaces between your plantings. As the garden matures these containers can be shifted to a new location where a pop of color is needed. Old rakes and tool handles may be fashioned into scarecrows with the addition of burlap or old clothing. At home, these are all projects where the kids can help out and share in creating your garden.


Rustic bean teepees frame a view of the Three Sisters scarecrows in the garden beyond

This season a new tour explores each themed area in the Children’s Garden with a garden guide. Helpful information and fun facts will be shared on the 20-minute tour, appropriate for children and adults. Our gardens are a learning laboratory for other programs including Growing Up with Gardening: Sow, Grow & Know, and Hands-on Horticulture programs all scheduled for July and August. Nature walks for kids are also planned, exploring the trees, fields, gardens and grounds of the King’s Garden area. A complete list of King’s Garden programs can be found at

The King’s Garden opens for the season on May 25, 2013.  Join us!

Heidi Karkoski
Director of Horticulture

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Maurice de Saxe and Canadian Clothing

Maurice de Saxe secured his reputation as a skilled general with his brilliant success in campaigns during the War of Austrian Succession, 1740-1748.

While General Montcalm is the most famous and influential French officer in North America, on the continent of Europe, Marshall-General Maurice de Saxe was France’s most famous and successful officer during the middle of the 18th century. Like many officers in the French Army, he was of foreign birth, a son of the Elector of Saxony. He actually fought against the French army as a teenager in the Netherlands, and served with the Austrian, or Imperial, Army fighting the Turks in Hungary in the 1710’s. At the conclusion of that war, he moved to France and rose steadily to the rank of General. His military achievements culminated in his highly successful campaigns through Belgium and the Netherlands in the War of Austrian Succession, known in British North America as King George’s War. Maurice de Saxe was known personally for being kind and irreverent, but he was also a military innovator, and blunt critic of all matters military in his time. He did not enjoy his military success for long. Merely two years after peace by the Treaty of Aix-Chappelle in 1748, Maurice de Saxe succumbed to a fever. However, his posthumously published, Reveries or Memoires Concerning the Art of War encapsulated his half-century of military experience and his vision for a new reformed military system.

An English translation of his memoires was first published in 1759 in London, and remains an important text for students of military history. Saxe’s extensive discussions of military organization, tactics, and the concept of the combined arms, “legion,” make this a very important work. He also critiqued French clothing and its utility on campaign, designing a new plan for clothing soldiers. It is fascinating for those studying the French Army in North American during the subsequent war, that clothing issued in New France closely mirrors his recommendations. Maurice de Saxe prefaces his discussion of clothing bluntly.

Our dress is not only very expensive, but most inconvenient; the soldier is neither shod nor clad. The love of appearance prevails over the regard due to health, which is one of the grand points demanding our attention.

Hardly a Roman helmet, these simple knit wool hats answered the practical concerns that Saxe raised about the felt hats commonly used.

Saxe has nothing good to say about soldiers’ hats. Of these black felt cocked hats, he states, “The hat soon loses its agreeable shape; is not strong enough to resist the rain and hard usage of a campaign, but presently wears out.” He complains that the men try to sleep in their hats, whereupon they fall off leaving a soldier’s head exposed during the dewy night. Given an extensive classical education and abiding love of the topic, Maurice de Saxe recommended a Roman or Greek styled helmet as the solution to these problems. While this idea did catch on in the French army, especially among the dragoons, service in Canadaprompted an interesting solution to headwear. The diary of Chevalier de la Pause of the Guyenne regiment records that each soldier and sergeant received, “1 bonnet,” upon arriving in Quebecon June 27th, 1755. Based on subsequent issues of clothing to French soldiers in New France, this bonnet appears to be the ubiquitous Canadian knit wool toque. While hardly a glittering bronze helmet this thick boiled wool hat answered the needs for a durable, warm, uniform headwear that remained on soldiers head at all times.

Maurice de Saxe envisioned long Turkish robes made in wool as the perfect outer garment. With an additional hood this would provide great protection for French soldiers.

While a soldiers’ coat or justacorps was an essentials part of a soldiers’ uniform, Saxe had little good to say about it. The coat was attractive and potentially warm but, “when wet, the soldier not only feels it to the skin, but is reduced to the disagreeable necessity of drying it upon his back. It is therefore no longer surprising to see so many diseases in an army.” In place of the coat Saxe recommended a, “Turkish cloak, with a hood to it.” Contemporary images of Turks show a loose fitting sleeved robe overlapping and closed by a sash. Saxe promotes this garment stating:

These cloaks cover a man completely, and do not contain above two ells and a half of cloth; consequently are both light and cheap; the head and neck will be effectually secured from the rain and wind; and the body, when laid down, kept dry; because they are not made to fit tight, and when wet, are dried again the first moment of fair weather.

It is almost as if Saxe perfectly imagined the Canadian capot, which Chevalier de la Pause records issued to every man in the Guyenne regiment on the 4th of October in 1755. Perhaps if Maurice de Saxe travelled to Canada, he would have seen more value in the capot than Lieutentant Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac who had no love for the garment.

The average Canadian hardly wears French clothing, but one species of, “capots” crossed in front with lapels. The buttons and collars are of another color. A sash around the capot: simple and impractical clothing.

With both a long outer waistcoat and an additional under waistcoat, French soldiers in Canada nearly had Maurice de Saxe’s ideal uniform.

In Saxe’s ideal uniform the primary garment was to be a long sleeved-waistcoat, or veste. This veste would have been worn in conjunction with a short under-waistcoat. He describes this garment as akin to a, “short doublet.” Along with the knit bonnets, French soldiers arriving in Canada received exactly this, a gilet or simple under-waistcoat to wear with their uniform sleeved-waistcoat. He imagined with this uniform, that this Turkish cloak could be rolled up on the back when not in use, in a manner eerily similar to the tumplines described in Canadian and Native use. Saxe described this scheme and advantages in detail.

But to return to the cloaks: As the quantity of cloth required is small; and they are light, they can be rolled up, and fastened along the knapsack upon the back; in which position they will be very far from having a bad effect, at the same time that the men under arms, and in fair weather, will find themselves easy, and unencumbered by them;

Most of all Maurice de Saxe detested the leg wear and footwear commonly worn in the French army. Of the poor soldier he said, “in regard to his feet, they, with stockings and shoes rot in a manner together.” Of the gaiters commonly worn by soldiers he said, “White gaiters are only fit for a review, and spoil in washing; they are also very inconvenient, hurtful, of no real use, and very expensive.” In the ideal uniform Saxe envisioned, “shoes made of thin leather, with low heels; which will fit extremely well.”  The low heel was important for the posture and comfort of the men, “because low heels oblige men to turn out their toes, to stretch their joints, and consequently to draw in their shoulders.” Across the Atlantic Ocean, the Canadian soulier de beouf  issued to French soldiers in summer clothing issues bears striking similarity to this ideal shoe. Lieutenant d’Aleyrac was quite favorable in his assessment.

The souliers de boeuf are made entirely different than those in France, they have a sole as thin as the uppers that surrounds the entire foot, to the height of the quarters; then, we sew another smaller a strip of leather upon them which covers the top of the foot; this fashion allows marching more conveniently in the woods and mountains.

Perhaps not exaclty what Saxe envisioned, the combination of wool leggings and mocassins parallels his idea of leather bottomed stockings for winter dress.

In place of the tall canvas gaiters Saxe recommended a knee high leather gaiter, supported by the breeches buttons, instead of an additional leather garter. However, for winter dress Saxe envisioned a heavy woolen stocking to be issued every November first. This woolen stocking was to be large enough to pull on over the shoes and gaiters and, “soled with a slender leather; and the sole to be brought a little over the sides and toes of the feet.” In overall effect this garment is similar to the combination of wool Native American leggings and moccasins.  Lieutenant d’Aleyrac described these leggings or mittasse as follows:

The leggings are a type of very broad gaiters whose two sides are sewn together, about four fingers from the edge without buttons or buttonholes. This is another native invention.

In the diary of Chevalier de la Pause wool mitasse were issued to officers starting in the summer of 1755, and to enlisted soldiers by the spring of 1757. New England diaries, like Sergeant Aaron Barlow, even called native leggings, “Indian stockings.” Inventories from Fort Carillon in October of 1757 list stores of leggings as made of, “molton,” or very thickly fulled wool, not unlike Saxe’s winter stockings. The, “slender leather sole,” pictured by Saxe is similar both to native moccasins, or soulier savage and the Canadian made soulier de beouf.

There is no evidence to show any causation between the recommendations of Maurice de Saxe, and Canadian issued clothing in the French Army. Whatever similarity that existed appears to be merely correlation. One can look at later French uniforms and perceive the influence of Maurice de Saxe, but his overall uniform scheme was not adopted. It is interesting none less that one of France’s most experienced and successful officers of the first half of the 18th century envisioned an ideal uniform that had such parallels to that dictated by the culture and climate extremes ofNew France in the Seven Years War.

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“In sight of the ruins, a quarter mile distant…” Part 4


The story of a visit to Fort Ticonderoga in 1872.

Part 4, Conclusion; there is always something new to discover!

Seneca Ray Stoddard’s narrative of his visit to Ticonderoga and related stereo photographs provide unique documentation regarding how people traveled to the site and what could be seen as visitors explored the ruins. 

This image captures evidence of 19th-century occupation of Fort Ticonderoga’s grounds.

Occasionally, however, his photographs capture details about the Fort’s landscape, which, although were likely meaningless to Stoddard, provide important clues to how use of the grounds evolved during the 19th century. 

 One photograph, for example, was intended to show a portion of the interior of the officers’ barracks and a view of the landscape towards the French lines to the west.  The group of structures in the background, however, are the real points of interest.  This is the only image known that clearly shows this group of 19th-century farm buildings.  Exactly when where they built, who lived in them, or how long they existed is currently unknown.

The railroad trestle and roof of a barn can be seen in the background of this photograph.

Similarly, another photograph illustrates construction details of the original railroad trestle spanning the La Chute River to the south of the Fort in the early 1870s.  In addition, a roof of another structure, possibly a barn, is clearly shown on the slope just to the right of the cluster of trees.  Again, when it was built, who used it, and how long it existed is currently unknown.

 A third photograph taken by Stoddard on October 7, 1910 documents the New York State Historical Association’s visit to Fort Ticonderoga in connection with its annual meeting that was held aboard the Steamer Vermonton Lake Champlain.  During their visit, the members were given a tour of the Fort and museum by the museum’s founders Stephen and Sarah Pell.

This rare 1910 photograph shows the reconstruction of the Fort still in progress.

Like the previous two photographs, this image provides documentation for aspects of the site that Stoddard was probably not intending to specifically document.  Notice that the roof of the barracks building is not yet completely tiled and a ladder can be seen through the widow at the end of the building.  Also note the construction sheds and workshops still standing on the parade ground.  While by the time this photograph was taken, the museum had been open to the public for several months, it is clear that the Fort is still very much a construction site.  This photograph is one of only a handful of images know that documents the earliest phases of the reconstruction of the Fort actually in progress.

Seneca Ray Stoddard’s legacy for Fort Ticonderoga lies in his photography and writings.  His book Ticonderoga and dozens of photographs documenting nearly all aspects of Fort Ticonderoga and its historic landscape are vivid reminders that historic sites are ever-changing places and that the interpretation of history evolves over time.  The Fort that Stoddard saw through his camera lenses is gone forever, but through his work, Stoddard has preserved many brief moments in the Fort’s history.  And because of his work it is possible to experience, in some small way, what visitors to the ruins experienced almost a century and a half ago.  Today Fort Ticonderoga’s 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.  In some ways this mission is really just an extension of Stoddard’s efforts to preserve Fort Ticonderoga’s history through his writings and photography so many generations ago.

Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator

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William Ferris Pell, Horticulturalist

When William Ferris Pell purchased the 546-acre Garrison Grounds encompassing the ruins of Fort Ticonderoga in 1820, he preserved the remaining stonework of the Fort and began shaping the landscape surrounding the summer home he built nearby.  Set in a pastoral landscape, the site was described as reminiscent of “park scenery of England; and the view of the ruins from those meadows is strikingly beautiful: the clumps of trees, the circuitous route [to the ferry dock], the view of Lake Champlain on the right, and an amphitheatre of wood on the left, make this a most beautiful and interesting route.”

A large collection of gooseberries was included in William Ferris Pell’s garden.

Pell worked in the family business, Pells and Company, an auction house and import/export firm that later evolved into a financing company.  The early 1800s ushered in significant changes as New York City became a center for landscape gardeners and nurserymen.  Horticultural societies were formed and proper country estates with picturesque landscapes were created by industrialists north along the Hudson River. Frequent trips by Pell through the Champlain Valley to Burlington, Vermont, and Canada brought him past the ruined Fort and spacious grounds where he decided to erect his summer home on the shores of Lake Champlain.

William Ferris Pell had a keen interest in botany, purportedly studying at Columbia College under Dr. David Hosick, a well-known and respected botanist and horticulturalist who founded Elgin Garden, a botanic garden, herbarium, and library three and a half miles outside of New York’s city limits where Rockefeller Center stands today.  Pell’s sketch made for the layout of his Ticonderoga property included a plum nursery and a fenced and gated yard or garden with internal pathways.  His passion for trees is apparent in the number and variety of species he planted around the home he named the Pavilion (1826).  An early visitor remarked that Pell “has been at pains to bring varieties of trees, shrubs, and fruits” to his gardens.  Ornamental and fruit-bearing trees are mentioned in an 1841 edition of Theodore Dwight’s Northern Traveller, including “the choicest fruits imported from Europe”, thousands of flourishing locust trees, horse chestnut, catalpa, and “upwards of 70 varieties of the gooseberry from Europe.”

Stereoview photo from c. 1875 showing a tall, narrow ornamental tree behind the Pavilion.

Early photographs in the Fort’s collection depict some of the specimens planted around the Pavilion.  Three black locust trees dating from this era still remain on the front lawn.  A notable tree whose species has not been identified appears in numerous images from 1875 – 1917.  Its unique columnar effect suggests that William Ferris Pell may have planted it as part of his collection.  Some sentiment may have been attached to the venerable old tree.  After it died around 1911, the branches were trimmed back and the main truck left to allow vines to grow up it for perhaps a decade; a somewhat disorderly arrangement compared to the finely kept gardens nearby.  The last record of the tree is a family photo of the resident foreman and his son taken next to its lifeless trunk.

This 1884 lithograph depicts representations, but not all the trees on the landscape. The artist chose to include the unique specimen near the Pavilion.

Landscape trees added by the Pell family in the early 1900s are the next generation of legacy trees to be planted on the Pavilion grounds.   Images and documents from the Fort’s collection are used to help date changes made to the landscape and learn the age of the trees.  These historic trees are the subject of the Fort Fever Series program entitled “A Timeline of Trees on the Pavilion Landscape” presented on Sunday, February 10th, 2013.  Learn more about this snowshoe walk/hike here.

Exploring our site on foot and walking beneath towering ash, maples, oaks, and many others, is a way to step into the past and imagine yourself visiting in 1845 and experiencing “drops of sunshine which steal from beneath the sloping eaves of the verdant grove.”

Heidi teRiele Karkoksi
Director of Horticulture





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New Opportunities for Scouts

Over the last year, Fort Ticonderoga’s Education and Interpretive staffs have been working together to develop new program opportunities for scouting groups. Just last week we unveiled our latest program—an Overnight Scouting Experience!

This fall, a limited number of slots are available for scout groups to book an overnight experience at Fort Ticonderoga. This scouts will have the chance to stay in the Soldiers’ Barracks, working closely with our Interpretive staff to learn about life as a Continental soldier in a way most of our visitors can’t—by living it.

Scouts from Troop 818 in Enfield, Connectitcut, take part in “Planting the Tree of Liberty” in September 2012.

Scouts and their leaders will establish their base in the barracks room, gather wood, start a fire using flint and steel, prepare and eat their evening meal over an open fire, participate in other fatigue duties, and go on a night-time hike before settling in for the night. In the morning, there’s more wood to gather, a fire to kindle, and breakfast to fix before cleaning up.

Space is extremely limited and this unique experience is limited to 16 scouts and leaders. Larger scout groups of up to 30 scouts and leaders can participate, but will have to bring their own tents rather than sleeping in the barracks.

Once we have a season under our belt, we anticipate that the program will expand in 2014 to accommodate more groups throughout the season. You can learn more about this and other programs for scouts here.

During the 2012 season we introduced two new programs for scout groups. In “Planting the Tree of Liberty,” scout groups spend a couple of hours with the Fort’s interpretive staff. They learn about the life of a Continental soldier as they watch a musket demonstration and practice formation tactics as they form a platoon. They work alongside an Interpreter as they construct a brush shelter like those used in 18th-century military camps. Seven troops with a total of 156 scouts and leaders participated in this program in the fall of 2012.

We also introduced the Boy Scout Discovery Tour in 2012. This self-guided tour uses elements of the Boy Scout Law to help make connections to historic events and personalities at Fort Ticonderoga. Scouts use the tour to locate specific exhibits and locations and then answer a question. As an example: A Scout is Clean. A scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. In 1776, Colonel Anthony Wayne insisted that his men make themselves presentable by shaving and caring for their hair regularly. This could be a challenge in camp. Find the case about American garrison life at Fort Ticonderoga. What item(s) in this case might help soldiers follow Colonel Wayne’s orders?

Scout Fun Patch scouts can earn while participating in the “Boy Scout Discovery Tour” or in “Planting the Tree of Liberty.”

Scouts successfully completing the Discovery Tour are eligible to receive an exclusive Scout Fun Patch available only at Fort Ticonderoga (pictured to the left). The Boy Scout Discovery Tour is available for individual scouts visiting the Fort with their families or as a group activity while visiting with their troop or pack. The Boy Scout Discovery Tour is available to download on our website as a PDF in advance of a visit to Fort Ticonderoga. A limited number are also available at Guest Services on the day of your visit. We distributed 86 fun patches in the fall of 2012.

You can learn about all our programs for scout groups on our website. During 2013, we will also be working with the Girl Scouts to develop additional programs for this growing audience.

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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A Very Old, New Look at New France

The memoirs of Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac provide a window into the Champlain Valley in 1755.

For the 2013 visitor season we are really excited to portray Fort Ticonderoga in its naissance back in 1755. Looking at the transformation of a French army camp at Carillon into a fortified outpost is a great opportunity to talk about the origins and early days of the French & Indian war. Focusing on 1755 also presents a great chance to look around and explore New France and the Champlain valley with all its natural beauty and peoples at that time. This season Fort Ticonderoga’s costumed staff of interpreters will be portraying soldiers from the Languedoc infantry regiment of the French army. We chose this particular unit partly because it was one of the first military units to garrison Carillon, and partly because of a wonderful diary from the regiment.

Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac was a very young second Lieutenant when he arrived in Quebec. His wide eyed enthusiasm and sense of adventure is apparent even in his terse diary entry:

June 27th 1755, 2:30 in the afternoon, we disembarked at Quebec very eager to put our feet on solid ground and look at the settlers of the new world.

By the time he actually set foot in the New World he had already had a chance to see some of the exotic sites and wild life of the North Atlantic. On the 28th of May he saw his first icebergs, which he described as, “mountains covered in snow: they appeared twice as large as a Ship of the Line.” He noted with glee as the naval gunners on board his ship, the Lys, fired cannon shots at these icebergs to no effect.  While sailing across the Atlantic Ocean he also first experienced some of the wildlife in the New World. D’Aleyrac grew up in the town of Saint-Pierreville, in the foothills of the Alps, eating salted codfish on Catholic fast days. He proudly ate his first fresh codfish pulled from the waters Grand Banks on June 7th, 1755. Waterfowl, which he called, “hapefoys,” received a similar treatment as the icebergs dodging barrages of buckshot as they flew over from the ship’s deck.

Once in Canada, Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac carefully noted the geography and landscape around him. He summed up Canada as, “a vast forest interspersed by an infinite number of strong wide rivers, filed with rapids. “ Traversing this vast country by river appears to have been a large part of his experience defending New France as he described in some detail the difficulties in moving by bateau:

These flat bottomed wooden boats were the primary means of transportation on both sides during the French & Indian War.

These rapids are very dangerous to descend, whether by the presence of vortexes, or rocks that strike the bottom or overturn the bateaux. In addition, ordinarily the shock means one loads the boats lighter and use three to four additional men to steer. The rest followed along the river while the rapids’ height exceeded what you could pass. Ascending these rivers is no less difficult: not only do you unload the bateaux, but sometimes you must pull it with ropes, what is called pulling, “a la cordelle.” To pull a bateaux, you ordinarily have twenty to thirty people; to climb little rapids one simply needs to stand and pole the river bottom with a large pole. We were still obliged to carry the boats when climbing or descending rapids, because the least rock was enough to pierce the boat.

Hundreds of soldiers in the Languedoc regiment faced these exact difficulties as they ascended the rapids on the Richeleau River on their trip to Carillon in 1755.

The experiences and impressions of soldiers like Lieutenant d’Aleyrac in this wild landscape are critical as we imagine the rocky peninsula of Carillon when it too was a wild place. Coming from France, d’Aleyrac had the same outside perspective that we too would have if we travelled back in time to 1755. It’s easy to imagine the wild beauty of Carillon in 1755, reading about, “pine trees and others one hundred feet tall,” with an understory filled with, “strawberries, raspberries, and wild blackberries,” Likewise d’Aleyrac encountered, beavers, black bears, brown bears, polar bears, elk caribous, muskrats, and ground hogs, among a whole menagerie of wildlife. He was particularly perturbed by the, “very long and very big” rattlesnakes he encountered. British and American accounts of Carillon and rattlesnake hill across the lake corroborate his concern over these serpents.

Beyond the wild landscape, Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac’s impressions of the people he encountered are perhaps the best part of his memoirs. With Canadian milice and native warriors encamped at Carillon in 1755 along with the French regulars, his perceptions are fascinating as we imagine encountering these people over 250 years ago. He described Canadians as, “well-made, big, robust, adroit in the use of the gun and ax,” and, “used to hunting and making war.” While d’Aleyrac appreciated the Canadians’ strength and skills for living in the Canadian wilderness he was concerned about their personal habits. He stated, “the Canadians have an extreme passion for brandy and smoking tobacco,” noting that these habits extended to children and even smoking in bed. Differences in clothing also perturbed this French Lieutenant:

The average Canadian hardly wears French clothing, but one species of, “capots” crossed in front with lapels. The buttons and collars are of another color. A sash around the capot closes it: simple and impractical clothing.

With a hood and buttons of a contrasting color, this represents one interpretation of the ‘capot.’

D’Aleyrac encountered several unique garments worn by Canadians including breechcloths, leggings, and soulier de beouf, a Canadian version of the moccasin worn in the summer. Ironically despite his critique, this French Lieutenant probably had to wear this clothing in his service. Another French officer, newly arrived in Canada like d’Aleyrac, received their own officers’ versions of Canadian clothing by the 22nd of July 1755.

Like Canadians, Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac encountered Native Americans for the first time in his service in New France. While his vivid account of their customs and dress is interesting, he begins his account with the admission that Native Americans were different than he had been told:

The Indians of Canada are very different than that idea one commonly has in France. Far from being all hairy as we believe, they are much less hairy than us, they have no beard, they pluck the eyebrows with a type of brass gun-worm. Even more, they cut and pluck the hairs from the top of their heads to the fronts, along the temples and above the neck, leaving only that on the back of the head only 2-3 inches long. They attach from here grand white, red or blue feathers with little silver or porcelain ornaments. They rub the top of their heads, the temples and the neck with vermillion, they finally paint their faces with vermillion, of blue, black and white, and they pierce the nose through the septum with a silver ring, they cut the earlobe and attach 3 to 4 bullets to stretch it in order to enlarge the opening. When they are about half a foot lower, they wiggle on a brass wire in the shape of a gun-worm and attach silver pendants. The kind of this country are tall, brown colored, almost olive, erect, well made, black hair and teeth as white as ivory. In any nation no one stands as straight as these Indians who always march with their heads very high. They are of a robust complexion, enduring the cold, heat, hunger and thirst.  They are very agile in a race or swimming because they are always in exercise hunting, fishing, dancing, playing lacrosse, or especially the game of, “paume ou de mail.” They play whichever of these games, nation versus nation, and the prizes are sometimes worth 12 to 15 pounds. They are excellent shots with the firelock and the bow and arrow, they do many exercises to use these advantageously and with sure shots.

As a traveler from France he too had his idea of Native Americans challenged by actually meeting them, much as happens to us as we delve back into the history of this Fort in 1755.

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“In sight of the ruins, a quarter mile distant…” Part 3


The story of a visit to Fort Ticonderoga in 1872.

Part 3, The ruins.

This photograph records where Stoddard believed Ethan Allen entered the Fort on May 10, 1775.

After a short visit to the Fort Ticonderoga Hotel, Stoddard begins his tour of the Fort retracing the route, as he understood it to be, that Ethan Allen followed when capturing the Fort in 1775.  In setting out on his tour Stoddard writes “From the south end of the hotel a path leads across the field, where, at its outskirts, we climb over the stone wall, and, following along under the locusts, a little way to the south… crossing the road we follow along up the stone fence over the very road pursued by Allen on that May morning nearly a century ago.”  As Stoddard approached the Fort he noted “A great pile of stones mark the spot where once existed the entrance to the covered way where the sentry snapped his fusee at Allen.  The walls are thirty-three inches apart, and can be easily traced to where they seem to enter the fort.” 

Next after exploring the southeast corner of the Fort, Stoddard ventures out to the end of the Ticonderoga peninsula to view one of the site’s earliest fortifications.  “Half way down the point of the promontory a rocky ledge crops out.  Extending beyond is the remains of an old battery or covered way.  On the brow of the promontory, commanding the lake for quite a distance, as it circles around, is the grenadier battery, a substantial looking, stone and earth fort, designed for heavy guns, having seven angles, the side fronting the water curved inward.  It is said to have been the one commanded by Baron Dieskau in 1755.”  Stoddard is indeed describing what is today referred to as the Lotbinière Battery, named for the French engineer who designed the Fort.  It may have been the first real fortification at Ticonderoga constructed just prior to the construction of the main fortification that is the subject of Stoddard’s further explorations.  The battery remains today a ruin, not terribly different from what Stoddard observed 140 years ago.

The French ovens located inside the northeast bastion were regularly misidentified by 19th-century visitors as the powder magazine.

Upon returning to the Fort Stoddard remarks that the bastions each held underground rooms two of which have long since collapsed.  Of one, however, Stoddard notes “to the north-east corner, you stand over the third, which is one of the best preserved portions of the ruins.  To enter you climb down into the cellar, now nearly filled with broken stones and overrun with vines, and, stooping low, make your way through the opening before you.  At one time a man could enter erect, but now stones stop the way, and earth and stones half fill the room beneath. It is a bomb-proof, about twelve feet wide by thirty long, with arched roof; the entrance at the south-west corner; at the south is a large sky-light; at the east end a small, chimney-like aperture; at each corner of this end are small circular rooms, with arched roof, one about seven the other ten, feet in diameter.”  In his photographs and drawings, Stoddard usually titles this space as a magazine though he admits in his book that it is generally thought to be a bakery.  Indeed this space, largely intact today, contains bake ovens constructed by the French in 1755.

Standing on the top of the northeast bastion after having climbed out of the ovens Stoddard remarks “At our feet is a deep ditch; in the center, on the north and west, are two high bastions commanding the approach from these directions; around them also flows the trench in which troops could be marched and massed at any desired point within the circuit.  Outside the ditch, following its various angles, is the outer wall, once breast high, but now almost level with the plain, and the glacis slopes off toward Champlain on the north, and upward toward the old French lines at the north-west.

The “two high bastions” Stoddard refers to are the north and west demi-lunes constructed by the French in 1756.  These structures provided additional protection and greater fields of fire for the Fort in the event of a siege.

Stoddard’s view of the officers’ barrakcs in the distance and soldiers’ barracks on the left was one of his most popular views of Fort Ticonderoga.

Before leaving the outside of the Fort, Stoddard gives us a remarkable view of the Fort’s walls and officers’ barracks inside.  This image not only provides a wonderfully-detailed view of a seldom seen part of the ruins, italso highlights Stoddard’s keen artistic eye in positioning his camera in a way to capture maximum depth and visual appeal for his stereoviewing audience.  In approaching the barracks inside the Fort, Stoddard remarks “The walls of the barrack, on the west, where the commandant slept, are still standing.

After having examined the inside of the Fort, Stoddard ventures to the southern exterior side of the walls.  He exits the Fort “out over the fallen bomb-proof room [in the south-west corner], down into the ditch, and, crossing at the left of the west bastion.”  He proceeds around to the south side of the Fort where the land slopes dramatically down to the lake.

The “great, wavy elm” is pictured in this stereoview looking towards Mount Defiance from the walls of Fort Ticonderoga.

Pausing to note the sloping expanse and ruins below, Stoddard offers a final observation on what lays before him “Toward the west the surface of the promontory breaks suddenly away, descending nearly a hundred feet in its slope to the water’s edge.  That ditch, in which stands the great, wavy elm, is said to have been a covered way to the lake.  Alders and thorn-trees grow on the hillside; the red-plumed sumachs press up the steep, and clinging ivy, mounting upwards, where an enemy could not hope to climb, covers the gray rocks with a robe of living green.  Across the valley is Mount Defiance, sloping gently to the north, up which, many years ago, Burgoyne’s men went, dragging the heavy cannon which greeted St. Clair, as he looked toward its summit, the morning after.”  Even today the sumac and ivy can be seen in all the same colors observed by Stoddard.

In the distance can faintly be seen the railroad bridge described by Stoddard. This bridge was used until about 1910.

With Stoddard’s visit toFort Ticonderoga’s ruins nearing its end, he takes a moment to reflect on the day’s adventure.  “Seated here, on the western wall, of a summer afternoon the mind is entranced, and the spirit held captive, by the exquisite beauty of the scene.  What harmonious combinations of strength and delicacy in the brilliant, rocky foreground, and dreamy, tender distance; what sparkling bits of light, of broad, sweet shadow, down in the depths of that radiant sea of haze, out of which gleams glittering gems, and bits of fallen sky.  A long bridge stretches away across the lake, and a huge, white floating draw swings open and shut as the steamers come and go.”  The bridge Stoddard mentions is the railroad bridge that spanned the lake between Ticonderoga and Shoreham, Vermont.  The center of the bridge swung open to allow steamboats to pass.  The bridge is visible in the distance and was in the open position when this photographed was taken.

To be continued…

Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator

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A New Year’s Resolution that Will be Fun to Keep

Many of us make New Year’s Resolution this time of year, only to discover by the end of January that most (or all) of them have fallen by the wayside. I’d like to encourage you to make a resolution that will be a pleasure to keep—why not try participating in one educational program at Fort Ticonderoga this year that you’ve never tried before!

The number and variety of programs available throughout the year at Fort Ticonderoga continues to grow. Whether you spend a weekend attending one of our five seminar programs or just set aside an hour for one of our Fort Fever Series programs, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people with similar interests and a passion for Fort Ticonderoga!

In January alone we offer a number of educational opportunities. Our annual Fort Fever Series! program gets underway on Sunday, January 13th, when Curator of Collections Chris Fox talks about “The Realities of War.” Using petitions filed by Massachusetts Provincials following their service in the French & Indian War, Chris talks about the experiences of those soldiers during the 1758 campaign against French-held Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga). The Fort Fever Series! features Fort Ticonderoga staff one Sunday afternoon a month January through April. Programs begin at 2:00 p.m. These programs cost $10/person and are free for members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga. Additional programs are scheduled February 10th, March 17th, and April 21st.

The Interpretation Department is running four clothing and accoutrement workshops this winter/spring. The first, “Basic Sewing Skills and Breeches Construction” takes place January 19th & 20th. These workshops, led by Artificer Supervisor Joel Anderson, make available Fort Ticonderoga’s outstanding collections, resources, and expertise to facilitate higher standards of authenticity in living history. These workshops draw upon both staff and guest experts to lead detailed sessions in the construction of historically accurate clothing and accouterments. Workshops cover mechanical issues like patterning, cutting, and stitching, and provide, whenever possible, opportunities to view and discuss original artifact examples associated with these projects. Additional workshops take place in February, March, and April.

The Third Annual Material Matters: It’s in the Details seminar takes place January 26th & 27th. This weekend seminar focuses on the material culture of the 18th century and provides attendees with an opportunity to learn more about the “stuff” of history. This seminar, smaller than our others later in the year, provides an intimate setting and enables presenters to share elements of their work in an up-close environment. There are still openings available and you can download a registration form here.

Throughout the remainder of the winter and early spring you will find a couple of programs each month as we approach opening day of the 2013 season on May 17th. On April 13th, we hold the Second Annual Garden & Landscape Symposium, highlighting the King’s Garden while sharing tips from experienced gardeners and landscapers that you can implement at home.

Never been to the War College of the Seven Years’ War? The oldest of our seminar programs, dating back to 1996, celebrates its eighteenth edition May 17th-19th with a program featuring presenters from across the country. Over 150 people come together each May to share their enthusiasm for the French & Indian War in North America. Likewise, the Fort Ticonderoga Seminar on the American Revolution September 20th-22nd, entering its tenth year, focuses on aspects of the American War for Independence.

New last summer, the Conference on Lake George and Lake Champlain takes an interdisciplinary look at the history, geography, culture, ecology and current issues related to these magnificent lakes that are so integral to Fort Ticonderoga and the region. Topics in 2013 include “Hulled between Wind and Water: The Attack on Diamond Island, Lake George’s only Naval Battle,” “Farmhouse Summers: O’Keefe and Stieglitz on Lake George,” and “The Floods of 2011: Impacts and Long-Term Implications for Lake Champlain.”

The Fort Ticonderoga Author Series returns in 2013, featuring the authors of recent books related to the region and the Fort Ticonderoga story. Most programs take place on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m., followed by a book signing in the Museum Store at 3:00 p.m. These programs are included in the cost of admission and are free for members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga and Ticonderoga Ambassador Pass holders. The schedule for 2013 is still evolving, so be sure to check the above link later in the spring for the most up-to-date list of authors.

Other programs are also in the works, so check out Life Long Learning on our website to keep updated with all our programs for adult learners. I look forward to seeing you at one or more of these programs in the coming year!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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Raising Montcalm’s Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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