Making History “Real”

Monday, September 16, 1776, breaks at Ticonderoga with a hint of the cold weather yet to come, and the fortifications at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence are draped in the “Thick Fogs, that are peculiar at this place.” Thus another day dawns for the Continental Army’s Northern Department on the shores of Lake Champlain.

Dr. Lewis Beebe, surgeon in Colonel Charles Burrell’s 14th Connecticut Regiment encamped on Mount Independence, laments that disease and illness continue to take their toll among the troops. He writes that “Doctr parker is taken poorly, & the business all comes upon me. Hard fortune indeed to have so many sick upon hand at one time. But harder for those who are sick to be crowded into a dirty, Lousy, stinking Hospital, enough to kill well men.”

One of the sick is Colonel Jeduthan Baldwin from Massachusetts. He’s been sick since the 8th, sometimes so sick he’s been unable to tend to his duties as Chief Engineer at Ticonderoga. On the 16th, Baldwin notes he “was something better and it is of the Lord’s mercy that I am alive after Such a hard and constant fatigue.”

Also among those stricken by illness is the Reverend William Emerson, chaplain with the Massachusetts troops. Another chaplain, the Reverend Ammi Robbins from Colonel Burrell’s Connecticut Regiment, “went with Mr. Breck to visit Rev. Mr. Emerson who is very low.” Emerson, the grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson, is discharged on October 20th, but dies of dysentery in Rutland, Vermont, on his way home.

Across the lake, encamped on Liberty Hill near the Old French Lines, is Timothy Tuttle, a sergeant in Captain Joseph Morris’s First Company in the First New Jersey Regiment. Having survived small pox earlier in the year, Tuttle’s health has revived as he notes “Capt. Morris Paying some of his men to Day 2£-2s-8d stoppages for this month.” During the day, Tuttle “went as far as the Landing at Lake George” and had “rosted Beef and Turnips for dinner.”

Among the administrative concerns Major General Horatio Gates faces on September 16th is counterfeiting: “So much counterfeit money being of late brought into this camp, from the eastern parts of the continent, the Gen. forbids any money passing or being recd but continental money.”

The parole and countersign for the day are Connecticut and Trumbull.

Monday, September 16, 1776, provides a snapshot of day to day life in the Continental Army at Ticonderoga during the 1776 campaign. Insights into daily life at Ticonderoga come from the letters and journals of some of the men serving at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence.

Our interpretive staff will be bringing the year 1776 at Fort Ticonderoga to life this summer, utilizing the numerous journals, orderly books, letters, and other documents to help flesh out history. Making history “real” is part of our job description. Telling it in an engaging manner is also our job. We mustn’t forget that “story” is part of history.

I often overhear visitors saying “I wish history was this interesting when I was in school!” History has always been interesting—it’s just in the marketing. How we learn history directly correlates to whether we view it as a painful task or a life-long obsession.

This summer I will be working with about 120 teachers through several programs at Fort Ticonderoga. My primary goal is to help teachers tell the hi-“story” of places like Fort Ticonderoga in an engaging manner, so their students get beyond the impression that history is just a bunch of names and dates. History is the story of all of us. History is the story of life. And life happens!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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Earthen Remains of 1776

In 1777, Lieutenant Charles Wintersmith mapped out American Earthworks built on the remains of the old French Lines.

In 1777, Lieutenant Charles Wintersmith mapped out American Earthworks built on the remains of the old French Lines.

In creating living history programs based on diaries, letters, artifacts, and other documentation one can sometimes be left feeling that it’s a story, somehow detached from reality from so long ago. This upcoming season’s focus on 1776 and the Fourth PA battalion offers the wonderful nexus of visual and written sources with surviving earthworks 238 years old. This gives historians a chance allowing us to take a big deep breath and realize that yes, it’s really real and really happened right here.

Though three companies briefly passed through Ticonderoga on their march to join the army in Canada, it was July 13, 1776, when the entire Fourth PA battalion arrived and encamped on the slope just to the south of Fort Ticonderoga. In a letter to his wife back in Pennsylvania, Captain Persifor Frazer briefly described his arrival to FortTiconderoga:

On Friday we removed to this place and encamped just under the walls to the southward of the fort. This has been the strongest place of any I have yet seen but is now in a very ruinous condition and there is not any thing done to put it in a posture of defence…Our Battalion is now joined for the first time since it has been raised and it gave us all great satisfaction to find ourselves together though many of the 3d company through the fatigue they had undergone are in a poor state of health…

While the ruins of the Fort recreated today certainly allows the view of Captain Frazer to be easily imagined, it’s the Fourth PA battalion’s encampment and entrenchments in the old French lines that evoke the most.

The French Lines of the July 8th, 1758 battle are famous, but what survives today is the work of Americans in 1776.

The French Lines of the July 8th, 1758 battle are famous, but what survives today is the work of Americans in 1776.

In Fort tours visitors are encouraged to explore the French Lines on the Carillon Battlefield. Similar in shape and placement to the earthworks that survive today, General Montcalm on July 8th, 1758, made his stand against the army of General Abercromby at the lines. In the two days prior, French soldiers deforested this wooded hill overlooking the Fort itself. They used the logs to build a breastwork eight feet high with the tree tops arrayed outwards with sharpened branches twenty feet high. Whether recounting the withering fire unleashed by French soldiers or the epic attack of the 42nd Highlanders, the events that made the July 8th Battle of Carillon center around General Montcalm’s French lines. While the French Lines stand today as a testament to the great battle, they were already extensively modified by July 9th as French soldiers continued to build up the lines preparing for a second day’s attack. By the following year, General Amherst’s British and provincial army soldier’s found the French lines greatly reinforced with batteries of cannon and earth covering the outside of the log breastworks. Amherst’s men further modified the lines as they dug the first parallel trench of their siege lines into the French lines. Far from being the original French lines of July 8th 1758, the earthworks upon the heights of Carillon were already extensively modified by the time the Fort was in British hands.

In the summer of 1776 Colonel Wayne’s Pennsylvanians moved to the French Lines to defend this tactically important approach from a British attack from the north and west, much as Montcalm’s men took up this position to defend from a British attack from the south and west in 1758. Captain John Lacey appraised these earthworks as the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion moved into their new position.

On the 18th the Pennsya Troops moved from their encampment near the old Fort Ticonderoga, and Encamped along and within the old French lines on the high ground to the Northward and Westward of the Fort. These lines consist of a string of Redoubts or Breast Work, with a ditch on the outside, which had been picketed, and appeared to have once been a formadable works, but now gone very much to decay and out of repair. They extended across a point or Neck of Land from the Southern to the Northeast bend of Lake Champlain, as far as the hight extended, to a Marsh or Morass on the Margin of the Lake. These lines or Redoubts appeared to be well calculated for defence against the sudden approach of an Enemy without Cannon, but required twice the number of Men composing the four Pennsya Regiments to defend it.

Captain Lacey detailed life in camp at the French Lines, chronicling their work and a return to military discipline as they prepared to defend this historic ground.

Work on the French Lines proceeded rapidly in the late summer of 1776. Hard work in the dirt took a toll on the men and uniforms of the 4th PA battalion.

Work on the French Lines proceeded rapidly in the late summer of 1776. Hard work in the dirt took a toll on the men and uniforms of the 4th PA battalion.

The Troops Officers and men lay in Tents, their daily occupation was repairing the old lines and building new Re doubts, not even Sundays excepted, officers as well as men laboured in cutting brush making and toting fashines, and diging in the ditches, not a moments time was lost, and only time allow’d to Eat. Fattigue and guard-mounting occu pyed all our time. The following was the order of work viz. On the beating of the Revelee, which commenced at the Fire of the Morning Gun at the head Quarters of the Commander in Chief. At the moment the report of the Cannon was heard every Drum in Camp began to beat the Revelee, a little before or on the first appearance of Day brake, the Soldiers at the same instant seasing their Arms and accrutraments, rush forward to the Alarm posts–a place previously fixed for that purpose, there with the Officers they remain there ready for action untill, and sometimes after sunrise. As soon as it is sufficiently light to distinguish the Men, orders are given to go through the exercise of fireing, which is kept up untill the Troops are ordered to their Quarters, to get their brakefasts and at 7 at Troop Beating the Guards and Fattigue parties are turned out, who assemble opposate their respective Companies and are marched by Sergants to the Genl Parade to be joined by others, and placed under the proper officers are sent to the Stations of the different Guards or Fattigue, according to the Order of the Detail of the Day. The sick having been on our first arival from Crown Point sent over Lake George to the Barracks at the south end of it, where they had good Quarters, those in Camp are geting well, and very few new Cases accrue, owing to our regular duty & better supplies which are now becoming very regular and plenty. We begin to live like Christians and all in good Humour and Harmony.

PA soldiers, including the 4th PA Battalion constructed a large redoubt at the center of the French Lines. It survives today incredibly well preserved.

PA soldiers, including the 4th PA Battalion constructed a large redoubt at the center of the French Lines. It survives today incredibly well preserved.

In December the Fourth PA battalion left the French lines to take up winter quarters inside the Fort itself. Despite the elements these Fortifications remained, albeit in need of repair, into the summer 1777 when the British captured the American fortifications at Ticonderoga. Lieutenant Charles Wintersmith, who served as an engineer officer with the British Army, carefully surveyed the American earthworks, mapping them in 1777.  His maps show incredible detail of the Fort, batteries, and redoubts and the French lines.  Exploring the trails along the French lines in December with the leaves down reveals remains that almost perfectly correspond with Charles Wintersmith’s maps. Sally ports, cut at an angle between the inner parapet wall and outer ditches, remain in exactly the locations shown by Wintersmith. The redoubt at the center of the French Lines still stands tall with openings cut for cannons looking out over the paved exit road. Looking over earthworks which are in such impressive shape, that match up so well to contemporary maps, it is easy to imagine soldiers of the Fourth PA battalion building their new earthworks on the remains of the French Lines. The French lines that stand today grounds the history of the Fourth PA battalion and of 1776 in undeniable reality.

…it appears to be the last part of the world that God made & I have some ground to believe it was finished in the dark-that it was never Intended that man shou’d live in it is clear—for the people who attempted to make any stay—have for the most part perished by pestilence or the sword.

I believe it to be the Ancient Golgotha or place of Skulls—they are so plenty here that our people for want of Other Vessels drink out of them whilst the soldiers make tent pins of the shin and thigh bones of Abercrumbies men–

Ironically enough, our experience as historians today mirrors the experience of soldiers in the Fourth PA battalion of 1776. The military significance of the French Lines was not lost on the officers of this regiment, being students of military history in their own right. In this August 23rd letter to Colonel Penrose, Colonel Anthony Wayne, with both callous humor and backhanded reverence, remarked on the visceral reality of the 1758 battle as his men dug into this already historic ground.

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Plants That Had People Talking

Here are a few of the plants that caused a real buzz this year in the King’s Garden.  All are listed on the historic garden plan, yet are used in alternate locations so that the best results could be achieved, while still representing the designer’s selections within the walled garden.

Mask flower: Third time is a charm!

Mask flower (Alonsoa)This little-known flower (Alonsoa), grown as an annual in most zones, is listed on Marian Coffin’s plan for the formal garden along one of the main walkways. After a crop failure then marginal success with a test group of a few plants in 2012, this year’s mask flower border did not disappoint. We lightened the soil and kept close tabs on watering. This South American native also surely benefited from the summer’s hot weather.

Replaces: Pink and coral snapdragons
Variety/Cultivar: Salmon beauty
Seed source: Summer Hill Seeds



Nemesia: The good and the not-so-good!

NemesiaThis dainty annual likes it cool, but prefers full sun. Planting them along brick pavers that radiate heat can be a difficult proposition. The gardeners managed to keep the nemesia blooming all summer thanks to careful watering (never let them dry out!), lots of compost and regular deadheading. They were positioned near the house on a border that receives part sun. We did learn that rabbits like to munch on them and consequently lost one of the borders in the fall in the course of just two nights.

Replaces: Blue verbena
Variety/Cultivar: Poetry blue
Seed Source: Garden Harvest Supply



Columbine: Thank you Mother Nature!

ColumbineOne of the joys of gardening is “volunteers” that pop up, often unexpectedly, and grace a garden with their presence. This was the case with several colonies of columbine that seem to be a cross between the cultivated varieties planted in the garden. The salmony-yellow color was so unique and interesting, but only our earliest garden visitors got to see them blooming in late May and early June. Plan a visit next year accordingly.

Replaces: Cultivated varieties
Variety/Cultivar: n/a
Seed Source: Self-sown



Lilac zinnia: So many comments on the color!

Zinnia Benary's Giant LilacBenary’s giant zinnias have been grown in the King’s Garden for over a decade because they are tall, sturdy, loaded with blooms, and disease resistant. A substitute was needed for the China asters on the garden plan because of the disease, aster yellows. Workhorse zinnias to the rescue…and in a fabulous color that had everyone talking!

Replaces: Purple and mauve China aster
Variety/Cultivar: Benary’s giant zinnia, lilac
Seed Source: Swallowtail Seeds




Happy gardening,

Heidi Karkoski
Director of Horticulture


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Daniel Dwight’s Powder Horn

One of the most interesting genres of American art that survives from 18th century America is the engraved powder horn.  Horns fashioned for carrying gunpowder were supplied to military troops in both the French & Indian War and American Revolution.  Soldiers often engraved or carved designs on their horns, perhaps as a way of memorializing their service and the places they served.

Daniel Dwight's engraved powder horn dated "Tieonderoga October 1759."

Daniel Dwight’s engraved powder horn dated “Tieonderoga October 1759.”

Daniel Dwight was a regimental surgeon in General Phineas Lyman’s 1st Connecticut provincial regiment during the 1759 campaign.  His powder horn was engraved at Ticonderoga and records the only surviving view of the siege works constructed in 1759 by the British about a half-mile from Fort Ticonderoga.  The British cannon batteries identified by the number “5” on this powder horn held a total of 11 cannon.  The two larger batteries each held one 12-pounder and three 24-pounders and the smaller battery held two 10-inch mortars and one 13-inch mortar.

The British artillery batteries are identified by the number "5."

The British artillery batteries are identified by the number “5.”

Once the British cannon batteries were securely in place, the small French garrison blew up the powder magazine in the southeast bastion which set fire to the Fort as they retreated northward.  With the Fort securely under British control, General Amherst renamed the stronghold Fort Ticonderoga.

This sketch shows all the remarkable details of Dwight's horn.

This sketch shows all the remarkable details of Dwight’s horn.

While the person who engraved Dwight’s horn did not sign his work, powder horn historians generally refer to hors with the same decorative elements as seen on Dwight’s horn as the “Momento Mori” carver.  The “Momento Mori” carver was most likely a member of the Connecticut provincial forces and served with the army in the Lake George region.  His work is typified by the distinctive border decoration at the ends of the horn and form of the cartouche enclosing the horn owner’s name.

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

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Teachers, Teachers, Teachers

It may be early December, but plans are well underway for multiple opportunities for educators next summer at Fort Ticonderoga.

We are delighted to be hosting two National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School teachers in July 2014. Eighty teachers from across the country will spend a week at Fort Ticonderoga participating in “The American Revolution on the Northern Frontier: Fort Ticonderoga and the Road to Saratoga.”

Fort Ticonderoga is one of only 17 institutions and universities offering NEH Landmarks Workshops in the summer of 2014. These workshops focus on the humanities, providing teachers with an in-depth week with site staff and visiting scholars who are noted experts in their fields. Through a series of lecture-discussions, tours, and pedagogical activities, teachers have an opportunity to immerse themselves in the workshop content at a level rarely afforded them.

In “The American Revolution on the Northern Frontier,” teachers will delve into the early years of the American Revolution as they unfolded at Fort Ticonderoga and the surrounding region. They’ll have the opportunity to work with well-known scholars as they explore the roles of various groups in the Revolution. Among the scholars is Holly Mayer, from Duquesne University, who will discuss the role of women during the Revolution with one week’s participants. Holly is the author of Belonging to the Army: Camp Followers and Community during the American Revolution, a landmark work in combating decades-old stereotypes. Holly’s current research involves the often overlooked Canadians who enlisted in the Continental Army during the invasion of Canada in 1775-76 and remained with the army after the invasion’s failure.

This is the second time we’ve offered “The American Revolution on the Northern Frontier.” In 2011, eighty teachers from as far away as Skagway, Alaska, took part in the workshop and provided valuable feedback that enables us to offer an even better program in 2014. You can access comments and a video with past participants on our website.

Participation in the NEH Landmarks Workshops is open through a competitive application process. The application window is now open—applications are due by March 4, 2014. You can learn more about the workshops and how to apply here.

Also in July 2014, we offer the “Second Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute: 1776 at Ticonderoga.” This smaller, more focused institute for sixteen teachers provides participants with immersive opportunities with our Interpretation staff, opportunities to work in small groups with primary sources and objects, and features scholar James L. Nelson, author of Benedict Arnold’s Navy, who will discuss the year 1776 as it unfolded here at Ticonderoga and the surrounding region in a series of lecture-discussions. Helping crew our bateau, cooking with our staff at the camp kitchen, and learning rudimentary wood-working skills are a few of the hands-on elements of the week. Teacher Institute participants will be staying at Silver Bay YMCA Conference Center on beautiful Lake George and be able to take advantage of the numerous recreational activities available each evening. Participation for the Teacher institute is also open through a competitive application process. Applications are due by March 1, 2014.

We are also working with the Living History Education Foundation to offer a third option for teachers in the summer of 2014. While we are still in the planning stages for this week-long program, I can say that “The Labor of Liberty: Defending Independence in 1776” takes a hands-on approach to learning about the lives of Continental soldiers. Participants will crew a bateau, cook up rations, help construct a soldiers’ hut, create a knapsack, and spend a night in garrison in the Soldiers’ Barracks. Registration for this program will be through the Living History Education Foundation on their website.

For teachers not able to commit to spending an entire week at Fort Ticonderoga, we offer the Sixth Annual Conference on Colonial America for Educators on Friday, May 16th. This day-long conference focuses on the years 1609-1783 and includes presentations by classroom teachers, museum educators, and archivists. This year I am delighted to have teachers from as far away as the Syracuse and Albany areas presenting. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn how teachers connect their students with colonial history. Registration for the day is just $40 and includes lunch. You can learn more and download a flyer and registration form here.

We’ve got a busy summer ahead of us, with over 100 teachers expected to participate in our week-long offerings in July & August. Please help us spread the word about the fantastic opportunities available to teachers you may know!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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A Brief 1776 Preview

Documents, such as this tailor's bill for Captain John Lacey give very important details about clothing and their materials.

Documents, such as this tailor’s bill for Captain John Lacey give very important details about clothing and their materials.

As part of our year by year approach to tackling the immense story of Fort Ticonderoga, in 2014 the Department of Interpretation will be highlighting the year 1776. Fort staff will be portraying the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion who garrisoned Ticonderoga in that year. In the spring of 1776, Colonel Anthony Wayne’s 4th Pennsylvania Battalion had begun its march to join General Washington’s Army at New York City. Based on news of the deteriorating American campaign for the capture of Canada, reinforcements were ordered north, including a brigade of Pennsylvania soldiers. Along with other Pennsylvanians, the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion marched—and rowed—their way north, stopping at Fort Ticonderoga on their trek. When they joined the Northern Continental Army, their first service was disastrous, culminating in a headlong retreat that finally stopped at Fort Ticonderoga.

The Department of Interpretation will spotlight Captain John Lacey’s company within Colonel Anthony Wayne’s 4th Pennsylvania Battalion. Captain Lacey’s company was a picture of martial dress when it left Pennsylvania. Captain Lacey was not satisfied with the cloth available for the rest of the regiment in Philadelphia. In his memoirs he wrote:

I have used more industry to clothe my men than any of the other Captains, their regimentals were made in Philadelphia, by the taylors there, mine at Darby by my own men, and others at that place, under my own direction and of cloth that I had procured myself. Our regimental coats were deep blew faced with white, white vests and overalls edged with blew cloth. A very beautiful uniform, but on experience was found much better adopted for parade than utility in the hardships of a camp, as they too easily became soiled and hard to keep clean.

Modern experience using the Fort's batteau hints at the wear and tear on clothing and equipment inherent in living out of these boats.

Modern experience using the Fort’s bateau hints at the wear and tear on clothing and equipment inherent in living out of these boats.

Lacey’s company, along with two other companies of the regiment, rushed north to reinforce the Northern Continental Army in Canada. By the time they arrived back to Ticonderoga in July of 1776, these beautiful uniforms had been stained and tattered by marching through swamps and living out of bateaux for weeks. Like so many soldiers in the Northern Continental army, the men of Lacey’s company had to pull themselves together, rebuilding their company, as they began to dig in to defend Ticonderoga.

The story of John Lacey’s company is a microcosm of the issues facing not only the Northern Continental Army, but the newly independent nation at large. These men saw themselves as Pennsylvanians first and foremost. They cared little for New Englanders, and openly expressed their contempt. The entire Pennsylvania Brigade had to be separated from the New Englanders. General Horatio Gates, commander of the Army at Ticonderoga, ordered these Pennsylvanians to rebuild the French Lines, which they dubbed “Liberty Hill.” Here under the site of Montcalm’s Cross, the men of the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion rebuilt the French Lines, adding batteries and redoubts. As they dug into this historic ground they unearthed the bones of soldiers killed in the great 1758 Battle of Carillon.

Period images and documents indicate that the 4th PA Battalion had a sharp uniform appearance. Garments like their coats had a very fashionable cut.

Period images and documents indicate that the 4th PA Battalion had a sharp uniform appearance. Garments like their coats had a very fashionable cut.

As with so many other units in the Continental Army, the 4th Pennsylvania was far from harmonious. Rivalries and personal conflicts between officers filled otherwise productive days; John Lacey and Anthony Wayne appear to have never shared a kind word for each other. Even the basic idea of independence was a source of contention. To some defending rights their as Englishmen was a very different cause than founding a new nation. The Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment resigned his commission upon receiving news of the Declaration of Independence on July 28th, 1776. His resignation attests to how rapidly the war changed even in a matter of months. In spite of these setbacks, the men of Captain John Lacey’s company worked tirelessly to defend Ticonderoga, blocking a British invasion from the North, and putting real action behind the words of the Declaration of Independence so commonly remembered in 1776.

Beyond portraying this company, and bringing their presence, stitch-by-stitch, to life, the Department of Interpretation will show how they planned to defend Ticonderoga with musket and fatigue demonstrations. Visitors will be able to see how Captain Lacey’s company cooked their meals and survived while they were at Ticonderoga. Through tours and one-on-one discussions with costumed soldier, musicians and tradesmen, visitors will learn about the story of this company exploring the complex ideas and challenges inherent in American Independence.

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Dendrochronology: Using Tree Rings to Answer Questions about the Pavilion’s Past

The Pavilion at Fort Ticonderoga.

The Pavilion at Fort Ticonderoga.

In the summer of 2013 with support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Fort Ticonderoga began an in-depth study of the structural history of the Pavilion.  Oral history tells us that the Pavilion was built in 1826 by William Ferris Pell and occupied by his family until about 1840.  From the early 1840s through the end of the 19th century, the house served as a hotel.  When William Ferris Pell’s great-grandson, Stephen H.P. and his wife Sarah G.T. Pell began the restoration of FortTiconderoga in 1909, they simultaneously undertook the restoration of the Pavilion and then used the house as a summer residence for many years.  After Stephen Pell’s death in 1950, his son John occupied the house through 1987. As one of the earliest summer homes and hotels in the region, the Pavilion is one of the most important historic structures in the Adirondacks.

While the building’s occupation and use over the past 187 years is quite well documented, how the structure evolved over that period remains a mystery.  It is clear from historic photographs of the Pavilion that many elements of the building have changed.  Windows and doors have moved, appeared, and disappeared; porches have come and gone; and even a large portion of the building’s central structure was rebuilt over a century ago.  It is also possible that significant portions of the Pavilion were built over the course of several years.  But exactly when and why these changes occurred is largely unknown.  Clearly, there are several questions related to the Pavilion’s construction date(s) that need to be answered.

There are several ways of dating old buildings.  General dates can be estimated by simply examining interior and exterior decorative elements such as trims, mouldings, and window design.  These details can place a building’s construction in a general time span within about ten years or twenty years.  Some buildings have actual dates incorporated into their construction.  Cornerstones, dates carved in mantelpieces, dates formed of brick in exterior walls, or occasionally as wrought iron fixtures applied to a building’s façade suggest a more definitive year for a building’s construction.  Most buildings, however, do not have clear dates visible on their structure and many structures have been modified to the point where simple observation is not enough to reliably determine a date of construction.  Another option is dendrochronological analysis.

Core samples are about a quarter inch in diameter and as long as possible.  These samples contain between 30 and 60 growth rings.

Core samples are about a quarter inch in diameter and as long as possible. These samples contain between 30 and 60 growth rings.

Dendrochronology is a form of absolute dating that can be an indispensible tool for architectural historians.  The concept behind it is simple; take wood core samples from original timbers in a building’s framework and match the wood’s growth rings within a known chronology of growth rings from the same species of wood recorded in the geographic region where the building stands.  For dendrochronology to be most accurate the timber from which a sample is taken needs to be in good condition and have the “bark edge” of the tree still visible.  The bark edge is the last layer of wood that formed while the tree was still growing located directly underneath the bark.  In most cases early structures were built using timber that was still green meaning that if the date that the tree was cut can be established through dendrochonology, that same date is likely to be the year or within a year of the beginning of the construction of the building.


Dendrochronological Consultant William J. Callahan, Jr. uses an electric drill and specially-machined bits to extract cores of wood from structural timbers in the Pavilion.
Dendrochronological Consultant William J. Callahan, Jr. uses an electric drill and specially-machined bits to extract cores of wood from structural timbers in the Pavilion.

During the third week of November 34 wood core samples were extracted from structural timbers within the Pavilion.  The sampling was undertaken by Dendrochonological Consultant William J. Callahan, Jr. and the analysis will be undertaken by his colleague Dr. Edward Cook.  Mr. Callahan was very pleased with the samples and feels confident that they will yield good results.  This is the first such analysis ever undertaken at Fort Ticonderoga and the results are no doubt going to be very interesting.  While we are hopeful that the results will answer many questions about the date of the building, like any research, there may be just as many questions raised by the analysis as are answered.  So stay tuned, we are about to learn a lot about the Pavilion’s past!


Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator Fort Ticonderoga

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Expert Gardeners Share Their Knowledge at Upcoming Symposium

One of the great things about gardening is that there is always something new to learn.  I just received a reprint of a 1919 book, Gardens, Their Form and Design by Viscountess Frances Garnet Wolseley.  It promises “suggestions for the perfection of gardens through careful planning of the lie of the ground and of restful lines.”  Though many books on gardening offer similar information, I enjoy reading about historic gardening, with the flowery language of the time and philosophical and spiritual connections to gardening woven among practical statements.  Wolseley states, “A garden is, amongst many delights, the clear mirror of soul and character, for each owner is here reflected in his true colours”.

Kerry Mendez, the 'Passionate Perennialist'

Kerry Mendez, the ‘Passionate Perennialist’

After a winter of reading gardening books, browsing through seed catalogs, and dreaming of milder days and dirty fingernails, Fort Ticonderoga offers the perfect opportunity to spend the day with passionate gardeners who will share what they know and love about gardening.  Our Third Annual Garden & Landscape Symposium takes place on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center.  Well-known Saratogian, Kerry Mendez, will be featured for her talk “Seasonal Garden Care for Gorgeous ‘Well Behaved’ Gardens”. (Kerry is relocating to Maine, so we are pleased she’ll be back in the North Country this spring.)  This presentation emphasizes time-saving secrets for routine tasks.  Everyone surely could benefit from having some extra time on their hands!

In addition, Dr. Leonard Perry of UVM is back, this time enhancing our knowledge of spring-flowering bulbs through selection, design and care.  We welcome landscape architect, educator, and organic farmer Jane Sorenson who will inspire us to attract pollinators to our gardens through careful plant selection.  Rounding out the roster is Dave Rutkowski, a retired science teacher and accomplished cold-climate vegetable gardener, sharing his secrets to a bountiful harvest using time-tested methods.

Cheery daffodils signal spring has arrived at the King's Garden!

Cheery daffodils signal spring has arrived at the King’s Garden!

The schedule has been updated to include plenty of time to savor a homemade lunch and visit the King’s Garden for an early spring look at the bones of the garden.  Perhaps the daffodils leftover from bygone times will be waiting there in colorful bloom.  Following the formal presentations, a panel discussion offers the opportunity to ask your burning garden questions to our speakers or share your experiences with the group.  Between the sessions, books by Ms. Mendez and Dr. Perry will be available for purchase and signing, along with the Fort’s own history of the King’s Garden, Pavilion, and surrounding landscape, A Favorite Place of Resort for Strangers: The King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga.

It won’t be long before the snow flies and our gardens are still with the silence of winter.  Looking forward to spring – and the Garden & Landscape symposium –  is one way to help beat the winter blues.  Mark your calendars now and plan to join us!

Happy gardening,

Heidi teRiele Karkoski
Director of Horticulture

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All in a Day’s Work

What does the Director of Education do during the “down time” after Fort Ticonderoga closes for the season? Well, in the first ten days since we completed the 2013 season, I’ve been quite busy.

I spent an afternoon at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, attending the annual Internship and Career Fair at the college. Over the course of the afternoon, I spoke with about 20 students about different career and internships opportunities available at Fort Ticonderoga in 2014 and beyond. Internship opportunities go beyond the ones that might come quickly to mind: education, interpretation, collections management and care, and include marketing, business management, and media. This visit to Champlain College is part of our continuing expansion of our college and university partnerships. Also in the past month, I’ve worked with students from Penn State University’s Heritage Interpretation program and students from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. While coming from distinctly different programs, both groups of students were exploring the challenges involved in operating a historic site/tourist destination.

In addition to meeting with college students, I spent an afternoon with students at Peru Middle School (Peru, NY) working with them as they begin the research process to create History Day projects for North Country History Day, to be held at Fort Ticonderoga on March 8, 2014. This year’s theme is “Rights and Responsibilities in History” and students pitched their project ideas. I provided advice on narrowing or broadening their topics as appropriate. I came away impressed with the thought most students had put into creating an intriguing project and going beyond a typical project based on the Bill of Rights or Women’s Suffrage.

The other day a secondary student from the United Kingdom met with me. He and his dad drove up from New York City especially to meet with me and discuss his project on Fort Ticonderoga in preparation for his A Level exams. Joshua is writing a 5,000-word paper with a thesis that Fort Ticonderoga was a critical post that affected not just the outcome of the Seven Years’ War in North America, but also the war as it unfolded in Europe. Joshua and his dad had never been to Fort Ticonderoga before, but I was greatly impressed with his background knowledge and his ability to identify elements in the surrounding landscape.

On the same day Joshua met with me, I worked with a group from the 7th Engineer Battalion at Fort Drum. They spent several hours examining Fort Ticonderoga and the surrounding terrain. Each member of the group had done some “homework” before the visit and gave a mini-presentation to the rest of the group related to the strategic significance of various structures and fortifications on the peninsula.

Almost everything that happens at Fort Ticonderoga is the result of collaborations between departments. In the last ten days I’ve:

    • Met with the Curator of Collections and Director of Interpretation to discuss programming possibilities related to next year’s new exhibition “Founding Fashions.”
    • Met with the Director of Horticulture as we plan the Third Annual Garden & Landscape Symposium to be held April 12, 2014.
    • Worked with members of our Development team to identify potential sponsorship opportunities.
    • Met with members of the Interpretation staff to identify possible presenters for the Material Matters seminar coming January 25 & 26, 2014.

I’ve also been working on our upcoming NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers and our Second Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute. These programs will bring a total of about 100 teachers to Fort Ticonderoga in July 2014, spread out over three weeks. The application window for both these programs opens December 1st, so I’ve been working on website pages and the line-up of staff and visiting scholars that will be working with these teachers from all over the country. Next week I fly to Washington, DC, for meetings at the National Endowment for the Humanities, the agency that funded our two Landmarks Workshops next summer.

Also in the past week, I was asked to give a presentation for teachers at the Vermont Alliance for the Social Studies annual conference in Burlington on December 6th and to submit a proposal for a workshop for teachers at the New York State Council for the Social Studies annual conference to take place in Albany in late March.

As you might guess, all these programs and activities don’t just happen—there’s a lot of planning and leg work. I’m already working on events in 2015 and confirmed two speakers for the May 2015 War College this past week.

Add to that participating as the Fort’s representative on the “Ticonderoga, the First 250 Years” committee at its monthly meeting last week, and you’ve got a sample of what I’ve been up to over the last ten days.

And that said I better get back to work!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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Beautiful Brassicas

A late fall harvest of Brussels sprouts

A late fall harvest of Brussels sprouts

Brassica refers to a genus of plants in the mustard family, sometimes refered to as cole crops or cruciferous vegetables.  A few examples are cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and broccoli.  These crops are important sources of vitamin C, fiber, and other micronutrients that support good heatlth.  The military gardens at Fort Ticonderoga in the 18th century included generous amounts of cabbage which could be readily eaten or stored for winter use.  The vitamin C they contain helped prevent diseases such as scurvy that threatened the vitality of the troops.  The soldiers were also known to cultivate mustard greens, turnips, rape seed, and cauliflower – all Brassicas.

These are cool-season crops, meaning they thrive in cooler weather – spring and fall – and are generally tolerant of frost.   Kale and Brussels sprouts improve with the onset of cold weather and can even be harvested from under the snow.  Gardeners must be vigilant about pests such as cabbage worm and mindful to rotate members of the Brassicacaea family, never planting them in the same location in two consecutive years.

Dinosaur kale and green and red cabbages add bold texture

Dinosaur kale and green and red cabbages add bold texture to the Children’s Garden

I enjoy incorporating these delicious vegetables into ornamental gardens because they are beautiful too!  In late fall they are at their best and can be appreciated twofold.  Cabbages in light green, deep purple, and the blue-green savoy type add bold interest to a mixed border and make a colorful cole slaw.  The ruffled leaves of kale work nicely with both annuals and perennials and will outlast them as fall turns to winter.  Brussels sprouts make a bold backdrop for sunny marigolds or vivid calendula.  This year the Children’s Garden featured deep orange nasturtiums mounded beneath the Brussels sprouts to hide their naked stalks.  They are a perfect pairing!

Colorful 'Super red 80' cabbage

Colorful ‘Super red 80’ cabbage

Hybridization has produced interesting traits in cabbage and its cousins.  Some examples are cauliflowers ‘Cheddar’ (orange), ‘Graffiti ‘(purple) and ‘Vitaverde’ (green); the purplish-red Brussels sprouts called ‘Falstaff’; lime green ‘Romanesco’ cauliflower with spiraled pinnacles pressing outward; ‘Dynamo’, a miniature blue-green, and ‘Red express’ cabbages; plus showy flowering kale ‘Peacock’, popular in autumn decorations.  The unusual leaves of brassicas such as Lacinato or Dinosaur kale and Giant Japanese red mustard add nice color and texture to a garden scheme.

In celebration of the final harvest of fall, here’s to the beautiful brassicas that look great in the garden, add variety to comforting cold-weather foods, and are so good for us too!

Happy gardening,
Heidi teRiele Karkoski
Director of Horticulture


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