Benedict Arnold, Independence, & Independent Companies

A French Engraving of Benedict Arnold from 1780

Both famous and infamous, Benedict Arnold first made his name leading the Green Mountain Boys through the gates of Ticonderogaalong side Ethan Allen. That is easy enough to picture, but it begs the question, “What was he wearing in the early hours of May 10 1775?”

Most New England militia units were un-uniformed in the spring of 1775, bringing their civilian clothes from home, or like soldiers, paid a bounty for their personal clothing. However, some militia companies prior to the war had uniforms. Among these were independent companies which were partly social organizations, composed of wealthier businessmen and gentlemen capable of purchasing uniforms. They were also educational organizations where the membership could train and learn about the military arts. Voluntary and social, these independent companies were an important source of military expertise in the early years of the American Revolution, as their membership provided a cadre of officers for a new army.

Typically, these independent companies held meetings to discuss and vote on their uniforms, just like any other aspect of religious and secular life in New England. In 1774, units like the New London Independent Company of Connecticut voted:

That each Member of the Company shall appear at all Times of public Training in the following livery Regt. A dark blue broadcloth coat with yellow metal Buttons, Buff Cuffs & Lapells, buff jacket & blue Breeches & white stockings, also each man shall appear with a black cockade in his Hat, nor shall any member at any time be suffer’d to appear under Arms unless he has on a handsome Wig or powder his Hair.

This original coat shows many neat details typical of independent company uniforms

However, very quickly they realized their uniform was a bit old fashioned and rectified their dress as recorded in the diary of Nathan Hale, the company’s most famous member. He noted, “The Independent Company then met & Voted that the Breeches be altered from Blue to white with black straps also white jackets & the coat to be cut short & turned up behind, wear half-Boots or black leggings-“ This gave them a new fashionable silhouette befitting modern gentlemen.

In 1774 Benedict Arnold, a ship captain in New Haven, Connecticut, was also a wealthy, military enthusiast. He personally financed the creation of his own independent company dubbed the ‘Second Company Connecticut Governor’s Foot Guards’. The First Company of Governor’s Foot Guards was already a long standing institution. In December 1774 Arnold’s company agreed to, “choose officers, and agree on some uniform of dress, such as red coats, white vests, white breeches and stockings, black half leggins or any other dress that may then thought to be proper.” Subsequently through the winter of 1775 the company further agreed to, “ A scarlet coat of common length, the lapels, cuffs and collars of buff and trimmed with plain silver wash buttons, white linen vest, breeches and stockings, black half leggins and small, fashionable and narrow ruffled shirt.”

From over 200 years of distance this scarlet coat sounds awfully similar to those hated redcoats with their officer’s in scarlet finery, but Arnold’s company wasn’t alone in this uniform color. Even in Boston, with its ardent patriots, featured an ‘Independent Company of Cadets’, clad in scarlet. The company held series of meetings in 1772 to discuss their uniform at the “Bunch of Grapes” a favorite tavern of the company’s memberships. They resolved initially that:

The closed work buttons holes and other construction details are copied in the reproduction of this coat for No Quarter

the Coat to be of Scarlet broad Cloth with a narrow Round Cuff and a narrow Lapell of white Cloth, the Lapell to be the length of the waist of the Coat and a fall down Cape the Colour of the Lapell, the Buttons to be plain white Mettle wash’d with silver, the Waistcoat and Breeches to be white with the same Buttons
They quickly decided that white would not do. They held an emergency meeting at their favorite tavern to change everything white to a more fashionable buff, the same off-white hue that Arnold’s company chose two years later.
Ticonderoga’s collections proudly feature an original coat from the Boston Independent Company of Cadets. The coat is an enlisted coat, but like many volunteer independent company uniforms it was made from officer’s grade materials, befitting the wealth of the company membership. This coat features very similar distinctions to Arnold’s uniform for his Second Company of Governor’s Foot Guards, right down to the silver washed buttons mentioned in both companies’ regulations. Accordingly, we are building a copy of the original Boston Cadet’s coat to clothe Benedict Arnold for the upcoming, “No Quarter” event.

As on the original, the whole back is built and lined, before the coat is assembled

Benedict Arnold and his company assembled to march to Boston on April, 22 1775 soon after the alarm from Lexington and Concord reached New Haven, Connecticut.By May Third Benedict Arnold was commissioned a Colonel in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay to raise a regiment for the capture of Ticonderoga. By the night of May 9 he was crossing Lake Champlain along with Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys. With the mere matter of days between the Lexington alarm and the capture of Ticonderoga, as well as the sheer distance Benedict Arnold travelled, it is unlikely that he purchased a new uniform. Besides, his independent company uniform with the military expertise, discipline and social status that it embodied, probably made an important statement for Arnold. Even with all these important reasons, something still feels ironic 237 years later about a hero of America’s first victory clad in British military scarlet. Maybe it makes our vision of American patriots in 1775 that much more complex than we imagined.

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In Search of Historic Plants

An excerpt from Marian Coffin's "Draft Plan #4" for the King's Garden

Creating a garden or recreating an historic garden is a constantly evolving process. Since restoration of the King’s Garden began in 1995, careful research has guided the garden’s curators to restore it as closely as possible to designer Marian Coffin’s Colonial revival-era scheme. Over 100 annuals and perennials are listed on Coffin’s plan which is housed in the Fort’s archives. You can view the 1921 planting plan list here.

Locating specific cultivated varieties that were popular in the earlly 1920s can be challenging.  The King’s Garden has successfully located numerous heirloom plants to add to the living collection over the years.  The garden’s first curator, Delight Gartlein, relied on networking with historic plant growers, collectors, and researchers to identify and locate sources for plants and seeds. Today the wealth of information available online has made it easier to seek out cultivars missing from the historic garden.

Iris 'Mrs. George Darwin' dates from 1895

 

 

 

Several elusive bearded iris cultivars were located and planted in August 2011. The bearded iris is featured in sixteen beds throughout the garden. Two of the eight types listed on the 1921 planting plan existed in the King’s Garden at the onset of restoration, ‘Iris King’ and the species iris Pallida dalmatica. Acquisitions of ‘Mrs. Horace Darwin’, ‘Mrs. George Darwin’, and ‘Juniata’ are celebrated additions.

It is interesting to note that Coffin’s planting plan names one of the irises “Mrs. Darwin”, yet does not list which Mrs. Darwin, as two distinct cultivars are known to exist from the period. They date to the 1895 and 1888 and would have been readily available for use in Sarah Pell’s garden. Growing both cultivars in the King’s Garden assures that the Darwin that Marian Coffin intended is represented.

Unraveling the historic planting plan is complicated by plant names that have changed since the plan was made. As botanists learned more about specific plants and how they are related to each other, changes in classification and nomenclature have taken place. Clarkia, an early blooming dainty annual was listed in the genus Godetia and known commonly as farewell-to-spring. It is now classified as Clarkia amoena. It is directly sown in several beds in the King’s Garden. Clarkia is considered an underused annual that is worth adding to your flower repertoire.

Siberian meadowsweet grows nearly three feet and acts like a shrub in perennial borders

Two plants formerly considered related to Spirea that Coffin used in the King’s Garden are now known as Aruncus dioicus (formerly Spiraea aruncus) – Goatsbeard, and Filipendula palmata (formerly Spiraea palmata) – Siberian meadowsweet. Look for the meadowsweet or “false spirea” to be reintroduced this season in its white form.

Where the map doesn’t specify a particular variety or type leaves the plan open to interpretation and allows some liberty when making plant selections. One case in particular is the simple designation of “ferns” used in the shadiest corner of the garden. Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamonea) and Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) will join the Ostrich ferns and Japanese Painted ferns already established there. The complete 2012 Plant List for the King’s Garden can be accessed here.

The King’s Garden is open June 1 – Columbus Day from 9:30 to 5:00. Learn more about the historic gardens by following this link.

Heidi Karkoski
Curator of Landscape

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Scouting Programs at Fort Ticonderoga

Since 2001, Fort Ticonderoga has hosted four Boy Scout Camporees with the Twin Rivers Council of eastern/northern New York. The first, in the fall of 2001, brought more individuals in uniform to the site than at any other time since the end of the American Revolution.

Fort Ticonderoga has a long history of working with scouting groups. As a Boy Scout in June 1976, I remember taking part in a Camporee at Fort Ticonderoga as part of the United States Bicentennial. We were encamped on the lower field beneath the south walls of the Fort, where cows grazed to keep down the brush.

Cub Scouts at Fort Ticonderoga during a recent camporee.

This year, Fort Ticonderoga has unveiled new programs geared specifically for visiting scout groups. In “Planting the Tree of Liberty: The Beginnings of the Continental Army at Fort Ticonderoga,” scouts are immersed in the daily routine of the Continental soldiers garrisoning Fort Ticonderoga in the weeks after the capture of the Fort by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold in 1775. The scouts form a platoon of soldiers, learning teamwork and discipline as they undergo a typical day in the life of soldiers. They learn about the training used to prepare soldiers to meet a powerful enemy, what soldiers ate, where they slept, and experience the confusion of battle.

The program includes a musket demonstration, practicing formation tactics, working on fatigue duty alongside the Fort’s Interpretive staff, and working with tools under supervision to construct a brush shelter.

Fort Ticonderoga is also about to announce a new scout “fun patch” program. Scout groups can take a self-guided “Boy Scout Discovery Tour.” The tour makes connections between elements of the Scout Law and Fort Ticonderoga’s history, using various museum exhibits and clues on the historic landscape to help scouts answer a series of questions. Successfully completed forms can be submitted to Fort Ticonderoga for a specially-designed “fun patch” available only to Scouts participating in this program. A “fun patch” is not an official scout-issued patch; these patches are collected by scouts.

Scouting groups are an important component for our education programs, and we will continue to expand our offerings. In the coming months we will focus on creating a program geared for Girl Scouts.

If you have a child involved in scouting, or know of someone who is, please let them know about these new programs available at Fort Ticonderoga.  You can learn more by visiting the Scouting page on our website.

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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Portraying a Citizen Army: Clothing Rabble in Arms

 

The mix of civilian clothing, that was the ‘uniform’ for many soldiers in 1775.

The April 26, 1775 Connecticut Assembly Resolves that raised an army for war required that every man bring their own clothing and equipment from home stating:

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That a premium of Fifty-Two Shillings per man shall be advanced and paid to each non-commissioned Officer and inhabitant upon their enlistment, they supplying themselves with a blanket, knapsack, clothing, &c., to the acceptance of their respective Captains, and that one month’s pay shall be advanced and paid to each of said Officers and enlisted inhabitants. And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the establishment of pay and wages shall be as follows, viz: the pay for their whole services:

Thus the Connecticut soldiers of Colonel Hinman’s and other regiments that garrisoned Fort Ticonderoga in 1775 were not in any kind of military uniform, but their own civilian dress impressed for war. The idea of 18th century civilian clothing can conjure up a variety of images as diverse as macaronis in silk stockings and powdered wigs, to impoverished rabble in tattered rags, and even mountain men, steeped in frontier lore. However, that picture of farmers, mechanics, and shop-keepers taking up arms is perhaps the closest to the truth, but we can delve deeper. There were a variety of clothing options available in 1775 just like today. Tailors and merchants offered winter and summer weight clothing; dress clothing and work clothing; sleep wear and outerwear. Luckily newspapers from the period give us an excellent tool to navigate this world of civilian clothing. If a soldier deserted from a company, his commanding officer would generally put an advertisement in a local newspaper describing this soldier in both his physical appearance and his dress. A typical deserter advertisement from Connecticut in 1775 reads:

Deserted from Ensign John Sumner, of Ashford, belonging to Capt. Daniel Lyon’s Company, of Woodstock, in Colonel Huntington’s Regiment, in Norwich, in Connecticut, one who calls himself by the Name of William Daby, a transient Person, about 5 Feet 10 Inches high, 27 Years of Age, a slim Fellow, with brown Hair, and dark Eyes – Had on when he went away a blue Coat, Leather Breeches something old, a Pair coarse white Tow Stockings, or a Pair of mix’d coloured Worsted ditto which he stole, is a Fiddler by Trade, and looks something wild with his Eyes. Whoever shall apprehend said Deserter, and return him to me the Subscriber, shall have Three Dollars Reward paid by John Sumner, Ensign.
Norwich Packet, 28 August 1775

 

3 Complete Suits, Coat, Waistcoat, & Breeches: Typical of New England Clothing in 1775.

Beyond valuable information about the appearance and character of these deserted soldiers, we get invaluable information about the clothing actually brought from home by these Connecticut soldiers. In this case the soldier wore what was probably a full length coat, ending by his knee. He wore leather breeches which were a heavy duty work and outdoor garment. Based on the weight of his breeches his coat may well have been stout durable woolen broadcloth. His thin white tow stockings were coarse and unrefined, but light-weight for the hot, dry summer of 1775. It looks like he wanted another pair of stockings too before he left the company. In another deserter description from Colonel Hinman’s regiment at Ticonderoga we find:

Deserted from the 4th Regiment of Foot, raised for the defence of the colony of Connecticut, commanded by Col. Benjamin Hinman, and of my company, on the 24th of May, one Benjamin Buffington, about 5 feet 5 inches high, light complection, high forehead, thin foretop, brown hair, black eyes, a handsome sett of teeth, tall shoulders, and tolerably well proportioned; when he talks, stands stooping, and tells much of his honesty. Had on when he went away, a grey outside jacket, lappelled, green plush breeches and streaked trowsers, two hats, a new beaver or castor, and an old beaver, two or three pair of stockings, and two pair shoes. Whoever will take and secure said fellow, and return him to my company, or in any of the prisons in this colony, so as he may be in the service again, shall have five dollars reward, and all reasonable charges paid by Samuel Elmer, Major of the 4th Regiment.
Connecticut Courant, 19 June 1775

 

“a dark brown Coat, with black Cuffs and Cape, Deerskin breeches with a white Linnen Shirt and seemed Worsted Stockings”

Thanks to this slouching liar leaving the regiment, we know that he brought with him to service several changes of clothes in terms of both shoes and stockings. He had a heavy-duty pair of breeches, made of plush, a very thick woolen velvet, and a pair of durable striped canvas trousers for a cooler summer wear or to keep his breeches clean on a cool day of work. His grey outside jacket would have been a short wool jacket with lapels that could button over in cool weather or be buttoned back on a hot day. It also appears that this man liked hats; carrying two expensive beaver felt hats with him. All in all he mustered ready to serve, even if he didn’t stick around long enough to defend Ticonderoga.

 

A mariner’s cuff on a short coat or sailor’s jacket of drab or light colored broadcloth.

Deserter advertisements like these, plus many more, serve both as valuable evidence in understanding the civilian clothing that soldiers wore in 1775, but they also give us complete suits to copy. With a little interpretation of the types of clothing described in these advertisements, the Interpretation Department is building complete suits of clothing for those staff members who will be portraying these citizen soldiers of 1775. This season as you walk the hallowed grounds of Ticonderoga, you’ll be able to see soldiers that walked right out of the newspaper in 1775.

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Notes from the Landscape: New Garden Plants and Programs

Spring arrived this week on our calendars, but the signs of spring have been around us for weeks!  Plants in the King’s Garden are starting to wake up and plans are underway for an exciting season ahead.

Snowdrops - One of the earliest spring flowers.

Visiting public gardens is a great way to expand your knowledge of horticulture and find inspiration for your own garden or landscape.  Fort Ticonderoga has numerous opportunities in the coming months to learn and grow with us.  To kick off the growing season, the first annual Garden and Landscape Symposium will be held April 14th.  Entitled “Planting the Seeds of Knowledge for Home Gardeners”, this day-long seminar features speakers from around the region who are experts in North Country gardening.  For more information or to register by the April 6 deadline, please visit this webpage.

Sign up online or visit the garden to learn about volunteer opportunities in the King's Garden.

For a sneak peek of the King’s Garden, our pre-season Spring Plant Sale takes place on May 19th, when perennials will be dug and divided from 10 am to 2 pm.  We have added vendors offering annuals, vegetables and a large selection of herbs to help round out your garden.  Volunteering in the garden is a great way to learn more about the garden’s history, its plants, and how they are cared for.  Information on how to become a King’s Garden volunteer will be available at the plant sale.

Digitalis ferruginea: This interesting foxglove was found at Swallowtail Seeds. The Rusty foxglove will bloom in our gardens in 2013.

The garden staff begins installing the 5000 or so plants that make up our seasonal display in late May.  New introductions include Portulaca ‘Happy Hour Red’ and the stunning foliage of ‘Mahogany Splendor’ Hibiscus, along with many heirloom vegetables for the Discovery Gardens.

In all, 273 unique flowers, vegetables and herbs are transplanted or sown during the growing season.

The information and inspiration continue throughout the summer with programs on raised bed vegetable gardening, culinary herbs, demonstrations by our staff gardeners, horticultural tours and a coach bus excursion to the Berkshire region of Massachusetts.  A complete listing of King’s Garden programs and events is available here.

The King’s Garden is open June 1 – Columbus Day from 9:30 am– 5:00 pm.  I hope to see you here soon!

Heidi teRiele Karkoski
Curator of Landscape

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Construction Details of a Small Sword

View of the completely disassembled hilt.

While cleaning weapons in preparation for the new upcoming exhibit Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial War and Revolution, we had the rare opportunity to completely disassemble an American small sword; a sword made by the Boston, Massachusetts silversmith William Cowell, Jr. (1713-1761), ca. 1740-1760. (The pommel of the sword was loose and easily slipped off the tang with little additional assistance.)

With the sword disassembled and cleaned, several interesting construction details are visible. 

 

Note the vertical line where the two halves of the pommel were soldered together.

The Pommel.                                The pommel is composed of two cast halves silver soldered together along its center. Note the clear solder joint line extending downward from the top of the pommel. The ring at the bottom of the pommel is a second formed piece of silver soldered together into a ring then soldered to the bottom of the pommel.

The grip.
The sword’s grip is formed from a single carved wooden core covered in twisted silver wire. The silver wire forms what appears to be a braided texture to the grip, but the wire is not actually braided. The braided effect is formed by laying pairs of oppositely twisted wire next to each other. Each pair of twisted wire is secured to the grip by passing the ends of the wires through small holes in the upper and lower ends of the wooden grip.

Note how the oppositely twisted wires for a braided effect. The ends of the wires are crimped over the top of the grip to hold them in place.

The wire at the bottom of the grip is held securely in place by friction when the blade tang is pushed through the hole in the grip. The wire on the top end of the grip is clearly shown to have been forced upwards out of the upper hole of the grip and folded over the top of the grip.

The knuckle bow – quillon block.
The knuckle bow, quillon block, pas d’ane rings and quillon are formed from one casting of silver. However, the bottom of the quillon block has a decorative rectangular spacer that provides an attractive joint between the knuckle bow casting and the counter guard.

A rectangular spacer provides an attractive transition from the knuckle bow assembly to the counter guard.

The hilt assembly.
As is seen in the photo below, the assembly of the hilt is a fairly straight forward process. The counter guard and knuckle bow is fit over the blade tang along with the wire-covered grip. The pommel is then fit over the end of the tang holding the grip securely in place and locking a post at the top the end of the knuckle bow in place. The blade tang is lightly worked with a hammer to slightly mushroom the end locking the entire hilt assembly securely onto the blade.

View of the hilt during final assembly.

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

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