“Too Opposite Characters”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Getting the Point


spear copy

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


Mallet, Pikeman

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

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

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

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

Mallet, pikeblock

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

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

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

Polermo, 1808

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bayonet spear 2

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

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

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

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New Blog Series


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

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


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Homeschool Day at Fort Ticonderoga September 5th

Homeschool Day is just around the corner at Fort Ticonderoga. Intended for homeschool students and their parents, Homeschool Day will be on Friday, September 5, 2014, from 9:30am-5:00pm. Homeschool families will have an opportunity to take part in a series of programs while learning about life on the northern frontier during the American Revolution.

Fort Ticonderoga staff will portray Captain John Lacey's company of the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion this year.

During the day students will learn about the Pennsylvania troops at Ticonderoga during the year 1776. Interacting with these American soldiers, students can ask about the life of an 18th-century soldier. What did he eat? Where did he sleep? What did he wear? Where did his clothes come from?

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

In addition, special programs for homeschool groups take place in the historic trades shops at 10:30am, 12:30pm, and 2:30pm. Programs at 12:00pm and 1:00pm illustrate the process of feeding the troops as the mid-day meal is prepared. Students in grades 6-12 can learn about how to be a part of the National History Day program at 11:30am.

In the King’s Garden, students can participate in the “Lady Bug Investigators” program atDSC04280 11:00am, 1:00pm, and 3:00pm, and take part in the self-guided activity “Watercolors in the Garden” from 10:00am to 4:00pm. In addition, Fort Ticonderoga’s Heroic Corn Maze will be open for homeschool families from 12:00pm-4:00pm.

To register your homeschool students to participate, please email Nancy LaVallie, Group Tour Coordinator at Fort Ticonderoga at nancy@fort-ticonderoga.org. The cost is $6 per student. One parent per family is admitted free of charge. Additional adults pay the adult group rate of $12. You can learn more about Homeschool Day and see a tentative schedule on our website.

To learn more about programs for students and teachers at Fort Ticonderoga visit www.fortticonderoga.org. Teachers interested in learning more about school programs, including outreach programs, should contact Rich Strum, Director of Education, at rstrum@fort-ticonderoga.org or at 518-585-6370.

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Explore Fort Ticonderoga’s Legends by Night in Garrison Ghost Tours!

Fort Ticonderoga is a remarkable place with a history that spans many centuries.  Tens of thousands of soldiers served at the Fort over the course of its military occupation spanning 1755-1777.  A great many of these men died here – disease, not warfare, was the number one killer.  The people who served here left an indellible mark on its landscape.  Numerous redoubts, earthworks, and of course, the Fort itself are vivid visual reminders of Ticonderoga’s epic past.  Some people say that some of the soldiers who served at the Fort still walk its ramparts and inhabit its barracks buildings.

Even before the restoration of the Fort began more than a century ago, visitors to the site claimed to have had experiences that are mysterious in nature.  By the mid 1800s it was said that the spirit of a young Indian girl could occasionally be seen walking the eroded walls of the Fort.  According to legend, she leapt from the ramparts of the Fort in the 1750s rather than acquiesce to the demands of a man she did not love.  In more recent decades reports of footsteps being heard in otherwise empty buildings or mysterious lights being observed in the early morning hours beg the question of whether or not the past is still present at Fort Ticonderoga.

Today, through Fort Ticonderoga’s Garrison Ghost Tours, we present the stories of unusual experiences reported by staff and visitors over many years through a nighttime exploration of the Fort.  Venture into the darkness to decide for yourself whether or not these experiences are connected to the Fort’s remarkable past.  A museum staff person will serve as your guide on this 90-minute exploration of the Fort’s darkest and most active areas and provide rare insight into a unique and not well understood aspect of Ticonderoga’s history.  Limited space and advanced reservations required. $35 per person. All sales are final.  There are no exchanges or refunds.  This is a rain or shine tour.

The entrance gate opens at 7:30 pm and the tour begins promptly at 8:00 pm.  It is recommended that guest arrive by 7:45.  Tour duration is 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Tour are scheduled for: July 23 and 30, August 6, 13 and 27, October 10 and 24

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Board with Tents?

Exploring Fort Ticonderoga in 1776 has required looking a lot more at the use of soldiers’ tents. The Fort itself, with a maximum capacity of only 400 officers and men, was already largely a supply depot when the northern continental army retreated back to the fort in July of 1776. The vast majority of these soldiers encamped, at least for a time in tents, rather than using the Fort’s barracks. The portrayal of Captain John Lacey’s company of the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion this season has relied heavily on the Captain’s own memoires. Shortly after the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion encamped up at the French Lines to the west of the Fort Captain Lacey described modifying his tent some time after the 18th of July.

I had procured some Boards from the Saw Mill, made a good and Drie floor, raised the sides of my Tent two Boards high, made a Chimny & fireplace at the back end with Sods of Dirt or Earth, which made it a commodious habitation. Having first sat the Example it was soon followed by all the other Officers, many of whome exceeded mine by carrying the sides of their Tents higher with Boards, with more commodious fireplaces, having improved on my Plan.

At first Captain Lacey’s description seemed like an isolated occurrence caused by their proximity to the saw mill on the LaChute river, encamping on clay soil during a miserably rainy summer, and the ingenuity of a few officers. However, some other documents indicate that the use of board flooring may be more common than this one instance.

Shelter made with wooden boards appears in several accounts of the 1776 and 1777 northern campaigns. By the middle of September in 1776, the Fourth Pennsylvania received orders to build, “lodging as the nature of the campaign will admit.” This lodging was constructed using principally boards as the regiment was forbidden to remove any boards from their huts when they moved into FortTiconderoga itself at the end of the campaign season.  They diary of Massachusetts Lieutenant Henry Sewell described similar construction when encamped on MountIndependence. His diary from September 4th, 1776, stated, “The regt. Employ’d building wooden tents and without tools too-almost.” Back at Ticonderoga the following year, Henry Sewell wrote down more detail describing on June 20th, 1777 “went to the mills & got slabs to build us a house.” While marching south to re-join the Continental Army amassing at Stillwater, New York, private Ezra Tylden recorded in his journal on September 23rd, 1777, “We stayed there that night and lay in little hutts out a doors; only a few boards or bushes put up over our heads to shelter us.”  Encamping at Stillwater on October 4th, 1777 Ezra Tylden noted, “we have now hutts which we built with the logs & few slaps to cover over our heads.” These accounts of building temporary or semi-permanent shelter using boards hint at how common boards were as a material in encampments. Other accounts hint that the use of boards as flooring under sleeping soldiers might have been similarly common.

Contained inside Anthony Wayne’s orderly book are Brigadier General Sullivan’s orders for his brigade to march northward from their camp at Albany on May 12th, 1776. These orders specifically describe decamping for the march.

Col. Winds Regt to March tomorrow at 6 o’clock the Col. to order the General to Beat at half past Four upon which the Soldiers are to strike their tents and make them up; the tents and baggage are immediately to be sent to the wharf and put under the care of those who are to Guard the baggage on board the Battoes. The boards for the tents and oars also to be taken and piled in one pile, and at 6 o’clock the Col. is to order the assembly, upon which the Regt is to parade with their Bage & c, and are to be marched off immediately for Ticonderoga.

Brigadier General Sullivan in a very matter-of-fact way orders the, “boards for the tents,” to be piled up just like the oars in one big pile. For an army that travels by battoe it is not surprising at all to see orders for oars to be collected up in preparation for the march. Much like each battoe had an allotted number of oars this would hint that each tent, including enlisted tents, had some number of boards with them. These boards likely constituted flooring. The search continues for 1776 diary accounts or orderly book entries at Ticonderoga about issues or collection of bedding; hay, straw, or even pine boughs. These Brigade orders ask for these boards to be collected as the tents are taken down, implying this was the practice up through the time of these orders. Sullivan’s orders could be interpreted as merely piling up the boards as if they were to be left behind for a subsequent encampment. Conversely, these orders could indicate that these boards were to move with the baggage, much as the piled up oars were to be used to row the baggage north. Either way it’s a tantalizing detail about the use of these tents with board floors.

The use of boards as shelter as well as flooring seems to have further evidence in the letters of William Weeks, Paymaster to the Third New Hampshire Regiment. In an August 6th, 1777 letter home penned in Stillwater, New York he writes about his lodging after the evacuation of Ticonderoga.

It is not at all to be wondered if we have a few sick when living upon fresh Provisions & lodging upon the ­bare Ground cover’d with Dew without Blanketts having a few Boards for Cover- But now they begin to be more healthy as they get hardened to this Method of living—I find there is a great deal in Use, when living at Ticonderoga I though I had very poor lodging, when laying on my Mattress, what can I say now—this I can, that I sleep as well upon the Ground as I ever did on a Bed, but how long shall this be my Mind, God only knows—Since I left Ti: I have purchas’d a Blankett which I find very useful—at Night I wrap myself in it & lay down upon the bare Ground & sometimes upon Boards, in the Morning my Blankett is wet, cover’d with Dew:

As an officer it is not terribly surprising that he had a proper mattress while encamped at Ticonderoga. Weeks’ baggage, like so many other officers’ baggage was captured at Skenesboro. British gunboats caught up with the wounded and baggage from Ticonderoga, which the Continental Army evacuated by boat while healthy officers and men marched overland through Vermont. Describing his living conditions at Stillwater he laments merely having boards propped up as a simple hut. In describing his typical dew coated night he says that he lays, “down upon the bare Ground & sometimes upon Boards.” Rather than any sort of bedding, an improvement over sleeping on the bare ground was to sleep on top of boards. If available, he would use boards as a floor, even without a tent.

Taken together, these accounts still don’t constitute evidence of a general practice of board flooring in tents or field improvised huts. However, the proximity of some Northern Continental Army encampments adjacent forests or sawmills, whether at Ticonderoga or on the upper Hudson River may have made sleeping on boards an attractive option for the Army. Research will continue and contributions of diaries or orders related to this topic are very much welcome. In the meantime, it’s time to at least try out laying down a simple floor of boards and imaging making that spot home for a night in 1776 or 1777.

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Teacher Scholarships for the Seminar on the American Revolution

Fort Ticonderoga offers four middle or high school teachers the opportunity to attend the Eleventh Annual Fort Ticonderoga Seminar on the American Revolution September 19-21, 2014 on scholarships. The Seminar takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open to the public; pre-registration is required. The scholarships are available for educators who are first-time attendees at the Seminar.

Since 2001, Fort Ticonderoga has provided 115 scholarships for teachers to attend its seminars and conferences at no cost, including 43 scholarships to attend the Seminar on the American Revolution. Teachers from 10 states have been awarded Seminar scholarships over the past 10 years. These scholarships are made possible by the generous support of Seminar patrons.

The Seminar on the American Revolution focuses on the military, political, and social history of the American Revolution (1775-1783), bringing together a panel of distinguished historians from around the country. This seminar continues to grow. We expect nearly 150 attendees for this weekend-seminar; a mixed audience of scholars and members of the general public with a deep interest in the history of the founding of our country.

We are excited about this year’s line-up of speakers, which includes:

  • Todd Andrlik
  • Todd Braisted
  • Tom Chambers
  • Ted Corbett
  • Steven Elliott
  • Cameron Green
  • Don Hagist
  • Arthur Lefkowitz
  • Richard Wiggin

Teachers interested in applying for a scholarship to attend this year’s Fort Ticonderoga Seminar on the American Revolution should download an application here. Applications are due by August 15th. Successful applicants will receive free registration, two box lunches, and an opportunity to dine with the Seminar speakers at a private dinner the Saturday of the Seminar. Contact Rich Strum, Director of Education, at (518) 585-6370 if you have questions.

Registration for the Seminar is now open at $145 ($120 for those registering by July 15th); additional discounts available for members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga. Registration forms can be downloaded here. A printed copy is also available upon request by contacting the Fort at 518-585-2821.

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Benjamin Warner’s Knapsack

In 1928 Fort Ticonderoga was given the honor of ensuring the preservation of an object that was once commonplace in the American Revolutionary War army, but that today may be a one-of-a-kind object.  It is a soldier’s knapsack.  This worn artifact may be the only extant example of a knapsack issued to Continental troops in the early years of the American Revolution. It belonged to Benjamin Warner (1757-1846) of New Haven, Connecticut. Warner enlisted on May 8, 1775 in Col. David Wooster’s 1st Connecticut Regiment serving at Roxbury, MA. In the fall of that year Warner volunteered for the march to Quebec serving in Col. Samuel Wyllys’ 2nd Connecticut Regiment. Benjamin Warner served in his local state militia in 1776 until he was called to arms on August 6, 1776 and sent to New York where he was present for the Battle of Long Island. He again served in the militia during the summer and fall of 1777. His final service occurred in 1780 when he was drafted into Col. John Lamb’s 2nd Continental Artillery Regiment on July 20 and served most of his time at Orangetown, New Jersey. After the Revolution Benjamin Warner settled in Ticonderoga where he spent the remainder of his life.

Benjamin Warner's knapsack.

Benjamin Warner’s knapsack.

The body of Warner’s knapsack is composed of one large pocket and a flap that originally held a second pocket of similar size. The knapsack originally had two leather shoulder straps with which to carry it on a person’s back and three narrow leather straps to secure the flap. Evidence for the three closure straps can be seen on the bottom edge of the flap.

Although Warner’s knapsack is an amazing object, the knapsack held much deeper meaning to him and he wanted to ensure that it survived as a reminder of the liberty that America achieved with the War for Independence.  In 1837 Benjamin Warner penned a short note instructing how the knapsack should be preserved.  The note reads:


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Benjamin Warner’s handwritten note instructing his descendants to preserve his Revolutionary War knapsack.

“This Napsack I caryd Through the War of the Revolution to achieve the American Independence I Transmit it to my olest sone Benjamin Warner Jr. with directions to keep it and transmit it to his oldest sone and so on to the latest posterity and whilst one shred of it shall remain never surrender you libertys to a foren envador or an aspiring demegog. Benjamin Warner Ticonderoga March 27, 1837″

These are remarkable words.  The sentiment that Warner conveys in his note is even more meaningful because of his personal connection helping the United States earn its freedom.  With this charge to preserve his knapsack “whilst one shred of it shall remain” comes great responsibility.  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” and it is the same sentiment that I believe Benjamin Warner was conveying to the future in 1837.

Benjamin Warner’s knapsack and handwritten note is featured in Fort Ticonderoga’s newest exhibit, Founding Fashion located in the exhibition gallery on the lower level of the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center.

Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator

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Celebrate the Scot in You! Fort Ticonderoga Presents Lively Scots Day Event June 14

If you have plans to visit the Lake George – Lake Champlain region this June, mark your calendars for a lively Scots Day event at Fort Ticonderoga on Saturday, June 14th from 9:30 am – 5 pm! Celebrate Scottish heritage and culture surrounded by America’s most beautiful and historic landscape at Fort Ticonderoga!.

Tour the Scottish Clan tents and vendors to discover more about your own connection to Scottish culture, and explore the stories of centuries of Scottish soldiers in the British Army through a military timeline offered throughout the day.

Daily activities also include Border Collie demonstrations and Pipe performances presented throughout the day. Experience all of this within the beautiful stone walls of Fort Ticonderoga surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of the Adirondack – Lake Champlain region!

America’s Fort Cafe, overlooking Lake Champlain, will feature special Scottish fare for the special event and a beer tent will offer sales of regional and festive beers for those over 21 years of age.

Admission to Scots Day is included in a Fort Ticonderoga’s general admission ticket. To learn more about the event, participating vendors and clans, and the full schedule visit www.fortticonderoga.org or call 518-585-2821

Events Details:

Scots Day is June 14th at Fort Ticonderoga!

Scots Day is June 14th at Fort Ticonderoga!

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 am at the Log House Welcome Center. 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. The Battle of Carillon was the bloodiest day of the French and Indian War and had the largest number of casualties in any one battle until the American Civil War.

Bagpipe Performances
Hear the sounds of Scottish bagpipe music throughout the day as the Plattsburgh Police Pipes and Drums and The King’s Highlanders perform lively concerts on the Fort’s historic Parade Ground.

Participating Scottish Clans
Clan Buchanan
Clan Campbell
Clan Forbes
Clan Hamilton
Clan MacPherson
Clan MacIntyre
Clan Murray
Clan Rose

Participating Organizations
St. Andrew’s Society of the Adirondacks
St. Andrew’s Society of Albany
The Color Guard of the St. Andrew’s Society of Washington

Black Watch Military Living History Programs
Discover the history of the Black Watch Regiment through living history programs presented throughout the day by members of a Black Watch re-enactor unit from Montreal. 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.

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. 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.”

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EXPERIENCE FORT TICONDEROGA! 2014 Season Begins Saturday, May 10

Fort Ticonderoga

Fort Ticonderoga

Fort Ticonderoga opens for the 2014 season on Saturday, May 10, and will offer new programs, living history weekends, special events, exhibits, gardens, the Carillon Battlefield hiking trail, canoe rentals, and the new Mount Defiance experience. Guests will immerse themselves in nearly 2000 acres of exquisite landscape at Fort Ticonderoga to discover one of North America’s most epic stories of defiance, hope, and independence.

Recognized as a top destination in the Adirondacks by USA News Travel, Fort Ticonderoga connects all guests to a place and time that defined a continent, a nation, and its continued legacy.

“Fort Ticonderoga is a family destination and a center of learning. A visit is an interactive, multi-disciplined 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 walk through the restored 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 staff will portray Captain John Lacey's company of the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion this year.

Fort Ticonderoga staff will portray Captain John Lacey’s company of the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion this year.

2014 Highlights:
Experience 1776 this year! Guests to Fort Ticonderoga will be immersed in the year 1776 when rebellion became revolution. Fort Ticonderoga’s interpretive staff will bring this dramatic and successful year at Ticonderoga to life as they portray Captain John Lacey’s company of the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion. A variety of daily soldier’s activities, tours, musket demos and special family programming will immerse guests in the story of this remarkable year of independence.

Step into the shoe maker’s shop and tailor’s shop to explore how Fort Ticonderoga served as a major supply depot producing shoes and clothing for the thousands of soldiers camped at Ticonderoga. With needle and thread or awl and bristle discover what kinds of supplies were needed to build the army to secure liberty.

Daily tours, Soldier’s Life programs, family hands-on activities, and Fife & Drum Corps performances launch guests on an adventure in time where they will discover the life at Fort Ticonderoga in 1776.

Fort Ticonderoga’s newest exhibit “Founding Fashion: The Diversity of Regularity in 18th- Century Military Clothing” highlights the most impressive 18th-century military clothing collection in America. Utilizing the most important elements of the museum’s clothing, art, and archeological collections, the exhibit will explore what military clothing is and how European military fashion and global commerce influenced American martial appearance through the American Revolution. Additional museum exhibits showing in 2014 include Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial Wars and Revolution and “It Would Make a Heart of Stone Melt: Sickness, Injury, and Medicine at Fort Ticonderoga.”

Recreation activities will highlight Fort Ticonderoga’s rich historic landscape in 2014! A new family scavenger hunt will be part of the hiking trail winding around Carillon Battlefield. The trail offers guests an unparalleled opportunity to explore epic history and natural beauty and the canoe rental program provides a unique perspective of the Fort’s history from the stunning waters of Lake Champlain.

Discover Mount Defiance! A visit to this breathtaking summit is a great way to begin or end your day at Fort Ticonderoga.

Discover Mount Defiance! A visit to this breathtaking summit is a great way to begin or end your day at Fort Ticonderoga.

Visit Mount Defiance to witness a birds-eye view of Fort Ticonderoga’s epic military landscape and discover how this summit shaped America’s history! Mount Defiance: Witness to History Tour is offered daily at 4pm.

The beautiful King’s Garden, one of North America’s oldest gardens and the largest public garden in the Adirondack-Lake Champlain region, will open on May 24 and offer many new garden-related programs for children and adults as well as daily tours. Guest will roll up their sleeves and dig into Fort Ticonderoga’s centuries of horticulture in the formal garden along with the Discovery Gardens – the Garrison Garden, Children’s Garden, and Three Sisters Garden. Program opportunities include Hands-on Horticulture presentations in July and August which offer active discovery and enjoyment for all ages. New this year, guests can celebrate their special day with a King’s Garden Birthday Party. A new interactive 18th-century American Garrison Garden will bring this vibrant, living garden space to life and highlight the vital vocation of gardening that was an important part of soldiers’ duties at Fort Ticonderoga.

Explore a variety of programs and family-friendly activities in the King's Garden

Explore a variety of programs and family-friendly activities in the King’s Garden

The Heroic Maze: A Corn Maze Adventure, the popular Fort family activity, will continue in its fourth year. Guests will find new clues connected to Fort Ticonderoga’s history while they explore a newly designed six-acre corn maze. NEW FOR 2014! “Engineer a Fort” Maze Quest. Hidden in the maze are 8 stations each representing a component of an 18th-century fort. Players are given a Quest Card to collect a stamp from each station. It takes perseverance and skill to find all the objects and is great fun for all ages. The corn maze opens August 15 and is included with general admission.

Hours and Admission:
Fort Ticonderoga is open daily from May 10 through November 2, 2014 from 9:30 am until 5 pm. General admission to Fort Ticonderoga, an independent non-profit organization, is $17.50 for adults, $15.00 for those 65 and over; and $8 for children 5 through 12. Children 4 and under are admitted free of charge. Friends of Fort Ticonderoga and Ticonderoga Resident Ambassador Pass holders are also admitted free.

Fort Ticonderoga offers more than one hundred exciting and unique events and programs this season! Visit www.FortTiconderoga.org for a full list of ongoing programs or call 518-585-2821. Funding for the 2014 season is provided in part by Amtrak. Visit http://www.fortticonderoga.org/visit/directions for a special 2 for 1 Amtrak offer!

Explore Fort Ticonderoga More

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