Understanding French Army Uniforms

At a distance the Guyenne Regiment looked quite similar to the Bearn Regiment, but differences in the construction of the coat would have been clearly understood back in 1757. Collection of the Musée de l’Armée 

This year Ticonderoga is very excited to be bringing to life 1757 and the French cannon crews that prepared to defend the walls of Fort Carillon, later named Ticonderoga. Looking at French uniforms in 1757 can be confusing. If you are used to modern military uniforms with patches and badges sewn onto a camouflage fabric suit, the array of colors is dizzying. Even if one is used to the uniforms of the Revolutionary War or War of 1812, the lack of regimental numbers or insignia on the metal buttons makes these 1750s French uniforms equally vague. Be assured, there was a method to regimental distinctions in the French army. At the time, these would have read as clearly as the number on a badge today.

It may be subtle, but the collars of the Royal-Roussillon Regiment weren’t attached for the final inch at either end, created an open or hanging appearance to the collar. Collection of Fort Ticonderoga.

In general, French army uniforms were white; that is regular French Infantry regiments wore white uniforms. Foreign regiments were often distinguished by different colors. German regiments often wore blue coats, Swiss and Irish regiments wore red, and Maison du Roi or household regiments had their own distinctive colors. A French infantry uniform could be plain white. In fact, the Bourgogne Regiment, which served at Fortress Louisburg, wore habits or regimental coats which were completely white. While it may not seem like it, unbleached white wool cloth, often described as gris-blanc, cost less than dyed cloth, especially on the  vast scale of the French army. There was expense inherent in dying wool to make the distinctive colors of a regiment. The 1747, Royal Ordonnances for clothing mentions this cost stating, “The expense of the dye, as well as that for the facings, will be in the future part of the regimental fund.”  French regiments were distinguished by the colors of the collar and cuffs or the facings of their habits, as well as the color of their vestes, the sleeved jackets worn under the habit. The French infantry regiments that served at Carillon had red or blue regulation facings. Only the Volontaires Étrangers, or foreign volunteers which sent a few hundred men to Carillon in the summer of 1757, broke the mold with green coat facings and vestes.

Regiment Habit

Cuffs and Collar

Veste Button Color
La Reine Red Blue White Metal
Languedoc Blue Blue Brass
Royal Roussillon Blue Blue Brass
Bearn Red Red Brass
Guyenne Red Red Brass
La Sarre Red Blue Brass
Berry Red Red Brass


The Bearn Regiments’ two vertical pockets didn’t function, they served to identify the regiment. The actual pockets were set into the pleats of the coat.  Collection of the Musée de l’Armée 

A quick glance at the repetition of these colors creates the impression that these regiments’ uniforms were barely distinguishable. However, more than these colors were subtle details in the construction of uniform garments. The cut of the collars, pocket flaps, cuffs, vestes, and the placement of buttons on these, were just as important to a regiment’s uniform as the color of their facings. By regulation, the Bearn Regiment and Guyenne Regiment both had red vestes, cuffs, and collars, Bearn had two vertical pocket flaps on each front of the coat, with three buttons each. Guyenne had simply one horizontal pocket flap with three buttons upon it.  When the French navy supplied uniforms to French army regiments arriving in 1755, these facing colors were negotiable, but regiments’ distinctions were adhered too.  In fact, the Bearn received blue vestes and blue cuffs, though no mention was made about there regulation vertical pocket flaps. These pocket flaps served only for identification, the actual coat pocket openings were in the pleats at the side of the coats. A few generations earlier, these diverse styles of pocket flap were high fashion. These details incorporated into the uniforms of these regiments in the 1670s through 1710s, but remained long after.

The cut of the vestes was also part of a uniform’s distinctions. Arriving to Carillon in 1758, the Berry Regiment had red facings and two vertical pocket flaps like Bearn, but appeared very different with a double-breasted veste. In addition to two rows of small brass buttons closing the veste down the front, the coat cuffs of the Berry Regiment featured six buttons on each cuff as a further distinction. Albeit with blue facings, this detail was shared with the Royal-Roussillon Regiment, which arrived at Carillon in the summer of 1756. More obvious details like the shape of pocket flaps and buttons on the cuff were complimented by even more subtle distinctions. While the 1747 Royal Ordonnances ordered a collar for the habit, the shape of it was left as a regimental distinction. Careful examination of images of the Royal Roussillon Regiment reveals a hanging collar, with an inch to either end left unattached to the neckline. The La Reine Regiment, with its red collar and cuffs, but a blue veste, shared this odd collar detail.

While the Royal-Roussillon Regiment was to have 6 buttons on the cuff, Sergeants in the French army were to have three loops as a distinction. Their rank superseded the regimental cuff distinction. Collection of Fort Ticonderoga.

Wool and metallic tape or galon was used for regimental and rank distinctions. Most of the French army regiments at Carillon had brass buttons which was matched in the faux gold binding of their hats. La Reine, the only army regiment with white metal buttons, had its hats bound in faux silver tape. This was true of the ranks of soldat, corporal, and anspessades (roughly equivalent to a modern private first class or lance corporal). When a soldier reached the rank of Sergeant, their hat was instead be bound in fin or real gold or silver tape. Beyond their hat and a special sword, Sergeants were distinguished by their coat’s cuff being “trimmed on the facing with three loops or a wide gilded or silver border, & only one of the two…” by the 1747 Ordonnances.  By regulation, a Colonel had to choose either a band of this gold or silver lace at the top of the cuff or three loops of that trim. However, a painting of the Royal Roussillon Regiment in 1748 shows one of their Sergeants with both. Corporals were distinguished by three loops of woolen tape on the cuffs, like a lower quality version of the Sergeants’ distinction. Interestingly, the three loops–and buttons to go with them– superseded the regiments’ arrangement of buttons on the cuffs. Though Royal-Roussillon’s coats had six buttons on their cuffs, their Sergeants had only three as per their rank’s distinction.

Were it not for their double-breasted vestes and 6-button cuffs, Berry Regiment soldiers looked very similar to Bearn soldiers. Collection of the Musée de l’Armée

The French army, as with many armies at the time, set apart artillerymen in blue coats with red distinctions. For the fourteen artillerymen and four officers of the Regiment of Royal-Artillery who arrived at Carillon in the summer of 1757, their uniforms with red breeches and red vestes were further set apart with unique details. Their double-breasted vestes featured pocket flaps closing with four buttons and buttonholes. Their habit featured many details unique to the artillery corps, including a, ‘bande,’ a separate strip containing the buttonholes to close the coat down the left side of the front.

As fascinating and intricate as the French Army artillery uniform was, most of the artillerymen at Carillon were from the Colony of Canada’s Cannoniers-Bombardiers, completely separate from the French army and with their own uniform. The April 10, 1750 “Ordonnances Concerning the Establishment of a Company of Cannoniers-Bombardiers in Canada” explained their uniform.

…Et à chacun des Canonniers un habit de drap bleu commun avec des parements rouges, boutons blancs de métal d’allemagne argenté veste, culotte et bas rouges, un chapeau bordé d’argent faux… …And to each of the Artillerymen a coat of common blue wool with red facings, white German-silver buttons, red veste, breeches and stockings, a hat bordered in faux silver…

The 1758 Code Militaire includes descriptions of each French regiments’ uniform, including the Royal Artillery. In addition to blue coats and red distinctions, the artillery had many subtle details on the coat and veste. Collection of Fort Ticonderoga.

Blue and red was a common distinction of the artilleryman across many armies. For this recreated uniform of a Cannoniers-Bombardiers the rank of Corporal is signified by the band of white worsted tape around the cuff.

Within this company, sergeants received higher-grade cloth, real silver buttons, and fine silver lace for their hats and cuffs. Oddly like anspessades in the infantry, for this company Corporals had a band of plain lace at the top of their cuffs.  As complete as these uniform regulations seem, knowing the wide array of shapes and finishes to so many details on the cuffs, pockets, and all, the exact uniform is open to interpretation. As Fort Ticonderoga portrays the Cannoniers-Bombardiers as part of our recreated year of 1757, we have opted for the simplest arrangements of facings, pockets & other details.

All of this attention to subtle differences in buttons, trimmings, and the finish of pieces of a uniform may seem silly, but at the time they were important regimental traditions. Just as we understand a unit’s patch or badge today, the meaning of uniform details in the French army were well understood by soldiers. Relative to civilian clothing at the time, many of these cuff and pocket shapes were old-fashioned or odd, serving to set apart military dress while tapping into a regiments’ heritage over generations of soldiers. Some regiments tenaciously hung onto distinctions like their old pocket flap shapes even as reforms of the French army in the 1760s prohibited them.  As our staff wears these fascinating uniforms every day in 2017, guests will have the opportunity to look through 18th century eyes and read these distinctions for themselves, and appreciate the significance they carried at the time.

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Fort Ticonderoga Museum Acquires Rare Journal Manuscripts from the American Revolution

The Fort Ticonderoga Museum has recently acquired exceptionally rare Revolutionary War era manuscript journals. The two journals of John Lacey, a Pennsylvania officer of the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion, served in the defense of Ticonderoga in 1776.  The acquisition was made possible by a major donor to the museum.

Lacey was a Quaker from Bucks County who was appointed a Captain in Colonel Anthony Wayne’s 4th Pennsylvania Battalion early in 1776.  Despite his enthusiasm, a bitter animosity with Wayne marred his service from fitting the regiment out in Pennsylvania to operations in Canada during the retreat from Quebec, and the remainder of the year digging in at Ticonderoga. Throughout the journals, he details the travails of a young American officer on campaign, the various methods of travel, the work preparing defenses at Ticonderoga, and the life of an officer in the field.

“Lacey’s journals are the first personal account in the museum’s collection from the pivotal year 1776, making this acquisition a significant addition to an already rich collection of Revolutionary War documents held by the museum,” said Matthew Keagle, Fort Ticonderoga Museum Curator. “Fort Ticonderoga currently holds one of the largest collections of material related to the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion. This regiment, with the notable and important Anthony Wayne as its commander, is amongst the best documented units of the American Revolution, especially for the pivotal year of 1776.”

“Historians, scholars, and students in addition to anyone interested in the colonial period and Revolutionary War will find this acquisition and the entire collection at Fort Ticonderoga a must-see resource,” said Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga President and CEO. “The acquisition of the Lacey Journals further cements the Fort Ticonderoga Museum’s status as the premier destination for the study of warfare in the long 18th century and its role founding of America.

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

Photo: An entry out of the Lacey Journal by John Lacey describing the food eaten by soldiers at Fort Ticonderoga in the fall of 1776. Copyright Fort Ticonderoga Museum. 2016.25.1-2. Photo Credit Gavin Ashworth.

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Celebrate the Scot in You! Fort Ticonderoga Presents Lively Scots Day Event June 17


 Fort Ticonderoga will present the Tenth Annual Scots Day on Saturday, June 17th. The celebration of Scottish history, heritage and culture runs from 9:30 am to 5 pm. Tour the Scottish Clan tents to discover more about your own Scottish connection and explore centuries of stories, based on Scottish soldiers in the British Army, through a military timeline offered throughout the day. Also, be sure to check out Border Collie demonstrations, special tours, pipe band performances, and march to the Carillon Battlefield for a remembrance service. To learn more about the event, participating vendors and clans, and the full schedule, visit www.fortticonderoga.org or call 518-585-2821.

“The 42nd Highland Regiment, also known as the Black Watch, played a crucial role at Ticonderoga during the Battle of Carillon on July 8, 1758” said Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga’s President and CEO. “The regiment suffered over 50% casualties during the failed British assault on the French Lines at Ticonderoga during the French & Indian War. Ticonderoga continued to be an important part of the regiment’s history. During its involvement in the Iraq War, the Black Watch Regiment’s base near Basra was called ‘Ticonderoga.’”

Bagpipe Performances

Hear the sounds of Scottish bagpipe music throughout the day as the Leatherstocking District Pipe Band perform lively concerts on the fort’s historic Parade Ground.

Black Watch Military Living History Programs Through the Day!

Discover the history of the Black Watch Regiment through living history programs presented throughout the day. Highlighted programs include a living history time-line of the Regiment. The re-enacting group depicts its history from the 18th century through the early 21st century, with various members representing different significant points in the unit’s history. Learn about the incredible bravery and discipline of the Black Watch against insurmountable odds at the 1758 Battle of Carillon.

Special Memorial Ceremony

A special memorial ceremony honoring the 42nd Highland Regiment, also known as the Black Watch, will take place at the Scottish Cairn on the Carillon Battlefield located at Fort Ticonderoga. The procession to the Cairn will begin at 11:15 am. The Memorial Ceremony will take place at 11:30 am and will remember the incredible bravery and discipline of the Black Watch against insurmountable odds at the 1758 Battle of Carillon.

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

Photo: Celebrate the Scot in you Saturday, June 17, 2017 at Fort Ticonderoga.

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What Lies Beneath: Lake Champlain Boat Tours Highlight Dozens of Archaeological Sites

A boat tour aboard Fort Ticonderoga’s 60-foot Carillon not only provides visitors with breathtaking lake views of commanding mountains and the majestic fort, it also crosses some of the most archaeologically rich waters in North America. This latest attraction at Fort Ticonderoga, a major cultural destination, museum, and National Historic Landmark located in New York’s 6-million-acre Adirondack Park, offers passengers a unique travel experience. The 90-minute tour available daily Tuesday through Sunday features Ticonderoga’s epic story of one of North America’s most strategic strongholds and places the iconic fort into a larger context as part of the imperial struggle for the continent in the 18th century.

“From shipwrecks to a massive bridge that the Americans built in 1776, Lake Champlain holds defining stories of America’s past,” said Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga President and CEO.  “Fort Ticonderoga’s layers of history carry right from the land onto the water. The Carillon boat tours help ignite visitors’ imaginations as they explore this internationally strategic stretch of water and has quickly become one of the most popular attractions as part of the Fort Ticonderoga experience.”

Boat tours aboard the Carillon began the 2017 season on Memorial Day Weekend and will run through October. The 60-foot, 35-passenger boat is available for daily tours, field trips, sunset cruises, and charters. Tickets for the boat cruise are available at Fort Ticonderoga or in advance by calling 518-585-2821.  For more information visit www.fortticonderoga.org. Boat tours are available rain or shine.

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

Photo: Fort Ticonderoga’s Vessel Carillon offers daily tours, sunset cruises, and charters through October.

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Join Fort Ticonderoga on Memorial Day weekend, May 27-29, to remember the service of the armed forces of the United States on the very grounds where so many American soldiers fought and sacrificed. Discover the story of the American Army in 1776, rebuilding itself and digging in at Ticonderoga to defend liberty during living history programs throughout the weekend.

A full line-up of activities and programs offered throughout the weekend include daily tours in the fort, King’s Garden, and museum exhibition spaces; historic trades programs; ongoing soldiers’ life programs; weapons demonstrations; the Mount Defiance experience; and the Battlefield hiking trail.

On Saturday and Sunday, enjoy boat tours aboard M/V Carillon and sail the same shores of Lake Champlain that American sailors did in 1776. Join Fort Ticonderoga on Monday to remember the sacrifices of American Soldiers during a patriotic ceremony at 11:00 AM. For the full schedule, visit http://www.fortticonderoga.org/events/fort-events/memorial-day-weekend/detail.

“Spend the day at Fort Ticonderoga this Memorial Day weekend,” said Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga President and CEO. “See Fort Ticonderoga at the beginning of the American Revolution in 1776; a hive of activity as citizens turned soldiers as they build extensive lines of defenses across the Ticonderoga peninsula and beyond to try to secure to secure this vital stronghold from the British. Throughout the weekend, visitors will witness the labor of liberty as soldiers from the Continental Army bring to life this defining story through military drill, historic trades, and fatigue duties such as carpentry.”

A 10% general admissions discount will be given to active duty military members with proof of service for this special weekend event. For more information, visit our calendar at www.fortticonderoga.org or call 518-585-2821.

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

Photo: Photo Credit: Fort Ticonderoga.

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Let Slip the Dogs of War: Carillon’s Canines

A veteran of the 1758 Battle at Carillon, Charles Lee was so fond of dogs that he preferred them to most people. Major Genl Charles Lee Alexander Hay Ritchie after B. Rushbrooke, c.1840-1895 (Collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum, 2002.0153)

In 2016, Fort Ticonderoga invited guests to bring their leashed dogs onto our campus to enjoy the remarkable scenic beauty and historic significance of the grounds. In recent years, more and more animals have been finding their way back to Ticonderoga with the beginning of our own historic breeds program in 2015.

Animals have formed a part of the Ticonderoga landscape from the beginning of its military occupation in the eighteenth century. Horses and oxen were used by the French military to haul timber and artillery. Captain Charles Osbone of the 44th Regiment of Foot kept cattle at the fort during his tenure here in 1764, and hired the wife of a soldier to tend to them. William Delaplace, the Captain of the 26th Regiment of Foot who commanded the fort when it was taken by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen in May of 1775, kept a considerable quantity of livestock around the fort. These included a horse, an ox, a heifer, six cows, and forty-four sheep. These animals were here for draught purposes, riding, milk, or meat, not as pets. But, what of man’s best friend? Dogs are known to have accompanied some officers and soldiers during the wars of the 18th century. During his service as a General in the Continental Service, the Englishman Charles Lee (a veteran of the July 8, 1758 Battle of Carillon as a Captain in the 44th Regiment of Foot) was known to have a pack of his dogs with him. Dogs had been kept and used by Native Americans in Canada for centuries. During the French and Indian War, French officers were actually provided with dogs for use in towing toboggans loaded with provisions in winter, although these were clearly more for work than companionship.

Found in the ruins of Fort Ticonderoga, the dog’s owner was only recently identified as Lieutenant John de Birniere of the 44th Regiment of Foot, which garrisoned the fort from January of 1764 to June of 1765. The collar is pierced with a series of holes where leather would have been sewn over the rim. Lieutenant John de Birniere’s Dog Collar, c.1764-65(Collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

There is, however, at least one dog that may not have been a working animal that can be documented at Fort Ticonderoga. Early in the 20th century, workers recovered fragments of a broken dog collar in the ruins of the fort. Made of brass, the collar has an iron loop that passed through a corresponding slot on the opposite side of the collar to close it against the animal’s throat. The collar bears an engraving indicating the dog’s owner, although the fragment does not include the entire name, which left the owner’s identity and affiliation in question for over a century. New research into the peacetime garrisons of Ticonderoga conducted in the winter of 2017 has finally revealed his identity. The engraving “DzLieut Jno De Bdz” is all that is legible on the collar, but when searched against the British Army Lists held in Ticonderoga’s archives a match was found in Lieutenant John de Birniere. De Birniere served in the 44th Regiment of Foot, receiving his Lieutenant’s commission on August 9, 1760. The collar must have been lost at the fort between January of 1764 and June of 1765. During that time, a detachment of the 44th Regiment garrisoned Ticonderoga as well as Fort William Augustus and Oswegatchie on the Saint Lawrence River in Northern New York and Crown Point. We do not know how Lieutenant de Birniere’s dog lost its collar, nor what kind of breed it was, although given the size of the collar, it was likely a rather large dog. Its presence suggests that at least in time of peace, some officers may have kept animals with them for companionship as well as work.

You can see Lieutenant de Birniere’s dog’s collar on display during the February 16, 2019 living history event in the Mars Education Center. Your dogs are welcome to enjoy the grounds with you, just remember that unlike the 18th century, they may not go inside the buildings within the fort.

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An Adventure made just for Scouts!

Fort Ticonderoga welcomes scouting groups of all ages to experience all that 2017 has to offer, including new experiences! Daily programs are offered May 6, 2017 through October 29, 2017. Additional program dates November-April are available upon special request. Enjoy a day trip, rain or shine, and take part in daily guided tours, weapons demonstrations, museum exhibits, hiking trails, self-exploration, and more! Additional scout experiences include the “Planting the Tree of Liberty” program, overnight experiences, and Girl Scout Day. Daily itineraries and special programming can be organized in advance by contacting our Group Tour Coordinator at (518) 585-1023 or rwiktorko@fort-ticonderoga.org. Reservations are required to obtain the group rate.

Add to the Ticonderoga experience by enrolling your scouts in the “Planting the Tree of Liberty” program. In this program, scouts form a platoon of soldiers, learning teamwork and discipline as they undergo a typical day in the life of Continental soldiers; practicing formation tactics, working with tools, learning about shelters, experiencing the confusion of battle, and witnessing a musket demonstration, all alongside Fort Ticonderoga’s interpretive staff. Scout badges are available after the completion of this program by pre-ordering them before your visit.

Give your troop the experience of a lifetime by allowing them to garrison Fort Ticonderoga for a night! Camp inside soldiers’ quarters in the fort’s barracks and discover the powerful atmosphere within these historic walls at night. Also, take a guided hike, tour original earthworks, prepare and eat soldiers’ meals, and participate in other special programs. Pre-registration is required by contacting our Group Tour Coordinator at (518) 585-1023 or rwiktorko@fort-ticonderoga.org. For more information and availability, visit http://www.fortticonderoga.org/education/scouting.

Fort Ticonderoga joins forces with the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York for Girl Scout Day held on Saturday, October 14th. Spend the day and take part in a series of programs designed for girl scouts. While interacting with historic interpreters, girl scouts will discover what life was like for 18th-century soldiers. Special guided tours and museum exhibitions will immerse them in Fort Ticonderoga’s epic history. Scouts will also thrill at the sound of musketry during the weapons demonstration, as well as explore the King’s Garden and the Heroic Corn Maze. To register, contact our School and Youth Programs Coordinator at (518) 585-6370 or bmccormick@fort-ticonderoga.org.For more information and a tentative schedule, visit  http://www.fortticonderoga.org/education/scouting/girl-scouts/girl-scout-day.

To learn more about programs for scout groups at Fort Ticonderoga, visit http://www.fortticonderoga.org/education/scouting.

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

Photo: Fort Ticonderoga welcomes scouting groups of all ages May 6, 2017 through October 29, 2017. Contact our Group Tour Coordinator to organize your scout visit.

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Spend the Day at Fort Ticonderoga! 2017 Season Begins Saturday, May 6

Experience Fort Ticonderoga on land and water during the 2017 season, beginning on Saturday, May 6. Fort Ticonderoga is a historic site, museum, and family destination that encourages visitors to build their perfect adventure in America’s most historic landscape. Every day is an event at Fort Ticonderoga and every year is a new experience. It is the only site in the world that tells a new story each year through dynamic historical interpretation. This year is 1757, the year made famous by the novel “Last of the Mohicans.” Visitors will discover the real story of 1757 as they step into Fort Carillon (later named Ticonderoga) bustling with activity with French soldiers, native warriors, and cannon preparing to take the fight for New France all the way up Lake George to British-held territory.

The daily experience will bring to life this epic story through new programs and museum exhibits, living history weekends, special events, breathtaking gardens, daily boat tours aboard M/V Carillon, Mount Defiance, hands-on family activities, hiking trails, and more!

“Fort Ticonderoga is a must-see destination, a center of learning, and an interactive, multi-faceted experience,” said Beth Hill, President and CEO. “It’s exploring the beautiful gardens, finding adventure in our events, marching with the Fife and Drum Corps, and learning about a historic trade. It’s a visit through the reconstructed fort, a stroll overlooking Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains of Vermont, and an afternoon in our exhibit galleries exploring our premier collections. Fort Ticonderoga is the one place in America that tells the complex international story of the origins of the nation’s military and its role in the founding of the United States.”

Fort Ticonderoga is open daily from May 6 through October 29, 2017 from 9:30 am until 5:00 pm. Special events and programs are offered throughout the year. General admission tickets can be purchased online at www.fortticonderoga.org or on site at the admissions booth upon entry. Members of Fort Ticonderoga and Ticonderoga Resident Ambassador Pass holders are admitted free of charge. Combination tickets for admission and Carillon boat cruises are available. Two-day admission tickets are available at a discounted rate.

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

Photos: Spend the day at Fort Ticonderoga, rain or shine May 6-October 29. Special events and programs are offered throughout the year. Photo 1.)  Photo Credit Fort Ticonderoga. Photo 2.) Copyright Fort Ticonderoga, Photographer: Carl Heilman II

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Strategies to Control Deer in Landscapes

Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulturist in Residence, King’s Garden
Horticulture Professor Emeritus, University of Vermont

Deer have become one of the most serious problems in gardens and landscapes, including the King’s Garden.  If you’ve been there near closing time, you may have seen the staff putting up the single strand electric wire fence around the beds outside the walled garden.  Obviously with the King’s Garden, those plants inside the walled garden are not touched by deer.  “Out of sight, out of mind” applies there. 

At the 6th Annual King’s Garden Symposium, Dr. Perry covered many types of repellents and fencing methods. One of the repellents mentioned was the Deer Chaser, developed by fellow symposium speaker Dr. Lee Reich.  This uses a motion sensor to activate a radio and light, using both sound and visual deterrents.

Knowing how to control deer successfully means knowing something about them and their behavior.  This is important in order to use repellents effectively, and to know when fences may be the only or best answer.  Here are some highlights from my presentation on Deer Control in Landscapes and Gardens at the 6th annual King’s Garden Symposium.  Check out more articles on deer control specifics that were covered at the talk, online (pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articleA.html).

Before you start investing in deer deterrents, you should first assess whether they have any chance of working.  Deer feeding is a function of alternative food sources.  If there are woods nearby, perhaps these will provide enough alternate food if your landscape becomes less inviting.

Deer feeding is primarily a function of population pressure.  Too many deer, and too little food, and they will eat most anything.  In this worst case, fencing may be your only effective control. To determine your control strategy for deer, first examine the current deer damage and pressure.  Understanding deer behavior, with many tips for control, are outlined in the book Deerproofing Your Yard and Garden, by Rhonda Massingham Hart.

If there are fewer than five deer per square mile, with only occasional browsing and buds
nipped in the spring, try repellents or more long-term landscaping choices.  If there are about five to ten deer per square mile, with damage through the summer including loitering and feeding during daytime, you may try the same techniques first.  If these don’t work, you may need to resort to controlled dogs and fencing.  Finally, if there are more than ten deer per square mile, with most plants being damaged and stripped to the ground, start with fencing and dogs but work toward cooperative community controls.

Deer are “neophobic” (afraid of anything new), so one tactic is to use several deterrents and to rotate them frequently.  This is because deer learn quickly.  Deer also have a main goal of not getting eaten.  Once they determine that something will not attack or go after them, and this only may take a few days, a particular control technique becomes ineffective. Keep deterrents mysterious or frightening to deer.

With low population pressure in my own landscape, I have successfully used motion-activated lighting for control. Yet when I fail to move this (it is mounted on a portable stand) every few days, the deer learn it is stationary and no threat.  Then there is the story of a neighbor with a chained dog.  Once the deer learned the dog was on a chain, and the length of the chain, they began feeding just outside the dog’s range in spite of its frantic barking.

Keep in mind that deer in wild country or rural areas will be more scared of humans than suburban deer who get used to having them around.  Perhaps this is based partly on hunting each fall in rural areas.

As with control of most four-legged garden creatures, deer are creatures of habit.  As with humans, it is easier to prevent habits before they even become habits.  The best controls often begin before there is a problem.  Start using deterrents in spring before deer visit your landscape or find your choice plants, and hopefully they’ll pass it by.  You might consider this as educating your deer.

Remember though that deer are adaptable.  If they do taste and like your plants, in spite of your deterrents, they may just stick around.  As author Hart says, “once they adapt to your garden, they adopt it.”  If deer adopt your garden, you’ll need to try other deterrents and strategies.  Just as people have different tastes, likes and dislikes, so do deer.  This perhaps explains in part why deterrents vary so widely in effectiveness from one location to another, as well as “resistant plants”.  You’ll have to experiment and determine the best controls for your own landscape or garden.

When it comes to finding food and not becoming food themselves, deer are smart and clever.  But as author Hart points out, even on your worst day you are smarter than deer.  Remember you can be successful by using such knowledge of deer behavior with your controls.

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Found in Collections

In its one-hundred-plus year history as a museum and collecting institution, Fort Ticonderoga has been gifted, purchased, and has excavated a staggering number of internationally significant objects.  However, as many collections and curatorial departments know (from large city museums to small historical societies), the history of object collecting is rarely neat and tidy.  Exhibit cases, collections storage, and even closets, have historically hosted objects that carry no documentation.  And yet, these important pieces of material culture were at one time acquired with a purpose.  With a generous grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Sciences (# MA-30-16-0178-16), a team of four catalogers, project registrar, and project manager have been steadily working since November to clean, catalog, research, and re-house a group of objects, many with little to no documentation and have long resided in an unsuitable storage environment.

For this blog entry, the Collections Department is excited to share some of our discoveries and cataloging projects:

Cataloger, Amanda, photographs a shovel from the tool collection.

Tool Collection

Among the impressive archaeological finds uncovered at Fort Ticonderoga, is the largest assemblage of 18th-century tools in North America.  These tools aided in the building of structures and earthwork by three nations, French, British and American, and were found during the early 20th-century restoration of the fort.  A list titled ‘Relics from the Past Found at Fort Ticonderoga’ in the Summer 1949 Bulletin of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum includes, “Sledge hammers by the dozen” and “Spades and shovels of 8 to 10 different designs.”  We have cataloged over 1,300 tools through this project so far! Tool examples include shovels, axes, mattocks, picks, augers, fascine knives, Irish spades or loys, as well as masonry, wood working, and agricultural tools. We have found maker’s marks and even remnant pieces of wooden handles. The Collections Department is partnering with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum to conduct a conservation assessment of this important collection, with plans for future conservation and exhibition.


“Thousands and thousands of grapeshot!” Persis diligently studies and measures the individual pieces of grapeshot.


On a landscape that saw extensive employment of Artillery, Fort Ticonderoga has an equally astonishing collection of ammunition.  As an example, the same ‘Relics’ listing from the Summer 1949 Bulletin notes “Thousands and thousands of grapeshot and little bullets from buckshot up.”  While the ammunition collection had been previously separated into groupings (cannon balls, mortar fragments, musket balls), their individual weights, calibers, and potential provenance had not been identified.  A dedicated cataloger has spent three months individually measuring each piece of ammunition with some exciting results: over 8,000 musket balls have been cataloged and re-housed. Unique examples range from ram rod impressions on musket balls to indentations indicating canister shots. Cannon balls have been separated with weights going from 1 pound up to 32 pounds, the latter the largest cannon known to have been used on site.  And thousands and thousands of grapeshot, weighing from 1 ½ ounces to a pound, have the most casting marks and flaws of all the types of ammunition.


Tabitha holds the lock plate with the intact bolt.

Archaeological Objects

Ammunition is not the only artifact collection to be found archaeologically at Fort Ticonderoga during its early 20th-century reconstruction.  An immense array of domestic, military, and naval objects, including copper kettles, tin canteens, and bayonets were excavated from the ruins and surrounding landscape.  While many of these undocumented historical pieces are easily identifiable, some are not.  Among the bulk of iron objects and fragments, a cataloger continued to find thin rectangular pieces, anywhere from 3 to 5 inches in length, with a large squared end and teethed protrusions along the opposite side. While cleaning and photographing locks, the cataloger turned over the plate to find the rectangular object in question still attached to its original housing.  As the doors of the fort succumbed to time and ruin, the iron locks suffered their own decay and while some retained the thin, rectangular bolt, others did not.  A number of these individual bolts have now been cataloged, and while their matching plate may never be found, their identification spurs further research.

Julia uses the HEPA filter collections vacuum and a screen to clean the 1746 petticoat.


While cataloging continues on archaeological objects, team members have also been busy removing textiles from the old unsuitable storage environment. These textiles have been put through an important routine of freezing to kill any possible insects. The textiles are gently cleaned with a HEPA filter collections vacuum before being cataloged and placed in acid-free storage boxes.  In some instances, custom blueboard boxes have been made.  An exciting artifact, a yellow silk petticoat dated 1746, with a red linsey-woolsey interior and an embroidered English Coat of Arms now resides in its own custom box to prevent unnecessary folds in the fabric.  Among the textiles, have been invaluable new additions to the institution’s history.  A pair of turn of the 20th century J & J Slater heeled silk shoes with glass bead decoration on the toe caps, owned by Sarah G. T. Pell, co-founder of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum, have been cataloged and will be part of an exhibit on Sarah’s life and involvement in the Equal Rights Movement opening May 6th.

As the Collections Department continues to rediscover and catalog our collections, we look forward to sharing our exciting finds!

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant # MA-30-16-0178-16.

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