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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Brief 1776 Preview

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

Posted in Collections, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dendrochronology: Using Tree Rings to Answer Questions about the Pavilion’s Past

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

Posted in Horticulture, King's Garden, Landscape, Life Long Learning, Public Programs, Seminars | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Expert Gardeners Share Their Knowledge at Upcoming Symposium

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

Posted in National History Day, Programs, Public Programs, Seminars, Students, Students History, Teacher History Workshops | Comments Off on All in a Day’s Work

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


Posted in Horticulture, King's Garden, Landscape | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Beautiful Brassicas

3 Details for the Perfect 1777 Continental Regular Portrayal

There is good evidence of a variety of military cut uniforms on Massachusetts and New Hampshire regular officers in 1777. Their colors seem to have been based on preference or the availability of cloth more than any broader regulation.

Looking ahead to next summer’s Defiance and Independence event it is important to examine some common elements of the dress and equipment of the Continental soldiers defending the post. While Fort Ticonderoga had a diverse crowd of Continental regular soldiers in 1775 and 1776, the garrison in 1777 was almost exclusively from New England. Among them, Massachusetts and New Hampshire provided the vast majority of regular soldiers. Each regiment, and really each company within, has a unique history and a unique assemblage of clothing and equipment. However, there are specific details that apply to the Massachusetts and New Hampshire regulars defending Ticonderoga in the summer of 1777.

1)  Plenty of Civilian Clothes

In New England states, like Massachusetts and Connecticut, regular enlistment was not completely different from militia service. All the able-bodied men subject to militia duty trained with their respective town militia companies, part of a larger county and statewide militia structure. Excepting emergencies, such as the Lexington alarm, these companies rarely fielded together. Instead these companies provided a pool of manpower from which to draft regulars and militia for service on campaign. In previous campaign seasons regular enlistments typically meant a full campaign season’s worth of service, with terms  of an appropriate number of months or simply an end date. In 1777 regular Continental enlistments changed from these short terms of service to three years or the duration of the war. Each state’s quota of Continental regulars was allocated through the county militia regiments and down to each town’s militia company. In each town the selection for the draft was made to fulfill its quota. Those drafted could pay replacements to go in their stead and there were individuals who looked to sell their services as a potential replace. A riskier approach was to petition the town to demonstrate how they were vital to the community and therefore too important to draft. Town selectmen were eager to find, ‘warned-out,’ and ‘old-countrymen,’ to fill draft slots for their town’s respectable residents. The same process was used to raise companies of militia for the field, the only difference being the duration of service, such as two months from the time of their arrival at Ticonderoga.

This copy of the original watercolors drawn by a Brunswick officer hints at the volume of civilian clothes worn by Continental regulars facing him in 1777. Despite the military coat, this private’s stockings, breeches, waistcoat, and hat most likely came with him from home when he was drafted.

Much as the process for raising regular troops was the same as that of raising militia to fight in the field, so too there are parallels in their clothing and equipment. With the exception of clothing and equipment items issued at the discretion of officers, these Massachusetts and New Hampshire regulars were just as responsible for their clothing and equipment as their militia counterparts. Deserter descriptions bear this out as nearly every regular regiment at Ticonderoga listed deserters who left wearing some form of civilian clothing. The First New Hampshire regiment listed on July 10th in the Independent Chronical two deserters wearing, “1 suit of white clothing bound with black ferret and buttons, 1 sailor’s jacket and long trousers.” Colonel Jackson’s Massachusetts regiment advertised on March 29th, 1777, the loss of a soldier wearing, “blue coat with blue breeches.” On March 6th, Captain Benjamin Walcott of Colonel Marshall’s Massachusetts regiment lost a man wearing, “a blue surtout, a light colored surtout.” These deserters in terms of personal clothing differ very little from their deserting militia counter parts.

2) Uniforms, but Hardly Uniform

No evidence has surfaced for the mass issuance of clothing to Massachusetts and New Hampshire Continental regulars in 1777, though not necessarily for lack of good intentions. A February 6, 1777, New Hampshire Committee of Safety report cited the fact that no wool cloth had been available in the colony since the war started. Supply of these regulars fell to Colonels, Captains, and regular soldiers themselves. Despite these decentralized channels of supply, military clothing does appear in descriptions of these regular soldiers. A deserter from Colonel Marshall’s Massachusetts regiment was described in a March 17, 1777, Connecticut Courant advertisement wearing, “light colored coat with red facings, brown waistcoat, leather breeches and half boots.” A drummer in Colonel Bradford’s Massachusetts Regiment must not have deserted for lack of good clothing. He was described March 17th in the Boston Gazette wearing “scarlet coat faced black, leather breeches, white shoes, beaver hat.” Likewise, Brunswick soldiers in their artwork and diaries describe soldiers in military coats of grey with straw colored facings, brown with red facings, and brown with sea foam-green facings.

A hunting shirt of osnaburg or tow-cloth, a very coarse linen, was one of the most common uniform clothing issued from Northern Continental army stores. These split front shirts lent some military appearance, worn over otherwise civilian dress.

Another deserter from Colonel Francis’ Regiment was described in the May 31st edition of the Freeman’s Journal as wearing, a “tow frock and moose-skin breeches.” Both linen hunting shirts and leather breeches show up very commonly on the regulars posted to Ticonderoga in 1777. Indeed, the Northern Continental Army’s public store, which had a post at Ticonderoga, issued out tons of these garments. Colonel Jackson’s Massachusetts Regiment drew 238 hunting shirts out of these stores. Similarly, Colonel Bradford’s regiment drew 116 hunting shirts between February and August of 1777. Other regimental issues of clothing from Northern Department stores were more piecemeal. Colonel Brewer’s Massachusetts regiment drew only fifteen coats, waistcoats, breeches, pairs of shoes, and thirty shirts and pairs of hose or stockings.New Hampshire regulars seem to have had less success in military clothing. In desperate need for leg-wear, the Second New Hampshire regiment drew 240 pairs of trousers, worth a mere ten shillings each. These smatterings of uniform clothing filled holes of necessity, rather than creating a martial appearance.

3) French Musket, French Musket, French Musket

By the spring of 1777 diplomatic efforts in France to secure their military aid really began to pay off. On April 21st, 1777, supply ships from France arrived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, laden with 7000 French muskets complete with bayonets, scabbards, flints and worms. 2000 of these went to New Hampshire stores and 5000 went to Massachusetts. This shipment of muskets seems to have gone right into the hands of the regulars from these two states. Lieutenant Henry Sewell, of the Colonel Brewer’s Massachusetts Regiment, recorded that his company exchanged old muskets for new French Muskets by April 25th. Even as late as June 17th, supply returns for the Second and Third New Hampshire regiments still record a nearly perfect armament of muskets and bayonets. Rather than cobbling together old, civilian, and state-produced firelocks, Massachusetts and New Hampshire regulars carried new French muskets in their defense of Ticonderoga.

The regular soldiers, who tried to defend the extensive works all around Ticonderoga in early July 1777, were clothed and equipped in a manner that was a testament to their state as a fighting force. They were citizens turned soldiers and many simply wore their civilian clothing when no proper regular uniform could be provided. By the spring of 1777, when they were rapidly raised for the defense of a new nation, not yet a year old, many of these soldiers were already veterans, seasoned by surviving one or two previous campaigns. The military clothing that was available spoke to an ever growing local military industry, which strained to supply 1777’s regulars, but could fill in gaps. In that spring, the first mass shipments of new French muskets put excellent firelocks in the hands of veteran soldiers. While this wasn’t enough to save American-held Ticonderoga, in due time these would put the noose in the year of the hangman.


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 3 Details for the Perfect 1777 Continental Regular Portrayal

Life Long Learning

A ritual growing up was the inevitable question at dinnertime: “What did you learn today?” The answer varied from day to day. It might be the latest proof in geometry, a tidbit about the African nation of Upper Volta from social studies, or how to throw a spiral pass with a football in gym class. While my Dad was asking about school, he was also implicitly teaching me that learning is an on-going process. For him, “you learn something new every day” was more than a saying, it was a way of life.

We are all life long learners. Regardless of our vocations or the stage of life we are passing through, we are still learning something new every day. As one of my mentors in college noted, “We’re all on the highway of learning; it’s just that some of us are further down the road than others.”

Whether they think of it this way or not, every visitor who drives onto the Ticonderoga peninsula is a life long learner. They are going to go away knowing at least one new thing, even if they aren’t trying to!

Last month I had the opportunity to work with a group of senior citizens from Shelburne, Vermont. I travelled over to Shelburne on Tuesday and gave a presentation on Fort Ticonderoga to about 50 people. It’s always dangerous to speak in a darkened room right after lunch, but it proved to be one of the best audiences I’ve spoken to in a long time.

Two days later, 40 of these folks travelled to Fort Ticonderoga to spend a day learning about a broad scope of our history. Starting atop Mount Defiance, we discussed the geographic significance of the Ticonderoga peninsula on the historic north-south waterway connecting French Canada and the British colonies. We also talked about John Burgoyne’s 1777 campaign and his use of Mount Defiance to help push the American’s out of Ticonderoga on July 5th/6th, 1777.

Upon our arrival at Fort Ticonderoga, Stuart Lilie, Director of Interpretation, gave a presentation that provided background in understanding the clothing constructed and worn by our interpretive staff this season as we interpret the year 1755. The group had the opportunity to ask questions and examine and pass around examples of the re-production clothing made and worn by our staff.

After a re-fueling stop at the America’s Fort Café, the group learned about the fighting techniques and weapons used by French soldiers in a North America quite unlike southern France where the Languedoc soldiers came from.

Heidi Karkoski, Director of Horticulture, gave the group a tour of the King’s Garden, discussing the original plan of Marion Coffin and the challenges of replicating a 90-year-old planting plan as the available plants change, as has the climate and growing conditions in the garden.

The day concluded with a behind-the-scenes discussion about the construction and reconstruction of Fort Ticonderoga with Curator of Collections Chris Fox.

Not every group receives such an in-depth learning experience, but Fort Ticonderoga offers a full array of learning opportunities for life-long learners. As we transition into fall and inevitably winter, we have a number of chances for expanding our knowledge base.

Our “Fort Fever Series!” resumes in January with afternoon programs one Sunday a month through April. These one-hour programs feature members of the Fort Ticonderoga staff sharing their expertise and expanding knowledge base through presentations or by leading explorations of the landscape. Admission for these programs is collected at the door: $10/person; free for members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga.

The Fourth Annual “Material Matters: It’s in the Details” seminar January 25 & 26 takes a closer look at elements of 18th-century material culture, and includes presentation by Fort staff and experts in their fields. Topics in 2014 include: 18th-century entrenching tools, 18th-century English sailor clothing, Massachusetts Provincial arms, 18th-centry soldiers’ shoes, and 18th-century tents. Pre-registration is required to attend this seminar.

Our Interpretation Department offers a series of Clothing and Accoutrement Workshops January through April as well. These hands-on weekend workshops focus on specific elements of clothing or accoutrements that help support our upcoming 2014 living history events. Pre-registration is required.

And as our thoughts move from winter to spring, the Third Annual Garden and Landscape Symposium on April 12, 2014, provides inspiration and practical advice for home gardeners. This day-long symposium includes four sessions and a roundtable discussion with all the day’s presenters. Again, pre-registration is required to attend.

Learning is a life-long pursuit that never ends. At Fort Ticonderoga, our expanded calendar of life long learning opportunities means there’s always something new to learn at Fort Ticonderoga!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

Posted in Horticulture, Life Long Learning, Public Programs, Seminars | Comments Off on Life Long Learning

New Clues to Fort Ticonderoga’s Past from Old Photos

From time to time people donate old pictures of Fort Ticonderogato the museum.  This often happens when people are sorting through the possessions of passed love ones seeking to disperse a lifetime of accumulated effects.  More often that not, the photographs are undated and loosely organized.  Occasionally, however, there is information associated with the images in the form of a date they were taken and an indication of just who shot the images.  This extra information can make all the difference in the world when it comes to documenting the subjects recorded within the images.

This fall a page from an old family album with images of Fort Ticonderoga and the King’s Garden was received as a donation.  The top of the page is neatly inscribed “Fort Ticonderoga August 1914.”  Furthermore, the donor indicated that the photos were taken by her grandparents, Roscoe and Edith Suttie of New Haven,Connecticut.  A quick examination of the photographs revealed views of the Fort and King’s Garden that included several details that are rarely seen in other photos of the same era and provide clues to better understand when work on some the structures actually happened.

The remains of the soldiers’ barracks are in the process of being excavated.

One image showing the reconstructed officers’ barracks also shows the remains of the soldiers’ barracks on the left side of the image.  It is significant because it shows that the excavation of the rubble filling the interior of the building is in the process of being excavated.  The eastern half of the building (in the foreground) shows rubble still burying much of the structure while the western half appears to have been excavated and a fence has been erected along the outside of the building to protect what has been uncovered.  Additionally, there is a large, neatly stacked pile of stone visible in the parade ground which is probably the stone that has been removed from the barracks building’s remains.


The King’s Garden and Pavilion.

Another photograph shows the King’s Garden with the Pavilion in the background.  Along the garden’s brick wall are visible wooden pergolas between the wall’s buttresses.  These structures served to support the growth of flowering vines such as Boston Ivy.  In addition, there are two elements of the Pavilion of note.  A chimney is visible on the exterior of the building’s south wing.  Dating to the 19th century, this fireplace does not exist in the building today, it having presumably been removed in the 1910s or 1920s.  Also on the far southern end of the building (at the far right side of the image) the absence of a fireplace chimney that appears in photographs dating to about 1912 indicating that it was removed sometime in between.

Roscoe signed the guest book on August 21, 1914.

Fortunately for researchers today, the museum beteween 1909 through the mid 1980s kept guest books in its buildings for visitors to sign in and record thoughts about their visit.  A quick look at the 1914 book for the month of August revealed that in fact Roscoe signed the book on August 21 recording his and his wife’s visit for posterity and also providing an exact date for the photographs given to the museum by their granddaughter almost a century later.  While Roscoe and Edith’s visit in 1914 was likely simply for pleasure, their visit had a lasting impression on the museum’s history.  The snapshots they took during their visit so many years ago are helping us better understand the site’s history today.

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

Posted in Collections, King's Garden | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on New Clues to Fort Ticonderoga’s Past from Old Photos

Children’s Garden Design: The Sunflower House

Common name:          Sunflower
Botanical name:          Helianthus annuus
Family:                        Asteraceae
Plant type:                   Herbaceous annual
Blooms:                       Late summer to autumn

The sunflower is native to the Americas. There is evidence that it was grown domestically as early as 2600 B.C. in Mexico.  The large flower heads consist of showy outer ray flowers and fertile disc flowers that mature into sunflower “seeds”.  The seeds are actually an oil-rich fruit that is used raw and in processed foods throughout the world.

The name sunflower comes from the Greek word helios meaning sun and anthos meaning flower.  They are best grown in full sun where some varities may reach twelve feet or more.  Most members of this genus exhibit heliotropism, which is the ability to turn towards the sun.  This is true in the bud stage of development where it faces east in the morning, follows the sun west as the day progresses, and returns to an eastward direction at night.  When in bloom the flowers face east.

The cultivated sunflower has only one head, while wild forms have multiple heads per plant.   The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas where this native plant is so common it is considered a weed.  Sunflowers are an important agricultural crop choice for US producers from the northern plains of the Dakotas to the panhandle of Texas.  Bees and birds are attracted to the blossoms for food and are considered easy to grow.

Beloved by both children and adults, the sunflower has been a part of the Children’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga since its inception.  This video details how the sunflower house is “constructed”.  Enjoy!

Heidi teRiele Karkoski
Director of Horticulture

Posted in Horticulture, King's Garden, Landscape | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Children’s Garden Design: The Sunflower House

Mounted Soldiers in Brown’s Raid

As early as May of 1775, members of the Connecticut Committee for the Capture of Crown Point and Ticonderoga rode unarmed through western Massachusetts on their way to recruit John Brown in Pittsfield and the Green Mountain Boys in the New Hampshire Grants.

As Fort Ticonderoga prepares to re-create Colonel John Brown’s September 18th, 1777 raid on Fort Ticonderoga, a nagging, or perhaps neighing, question keeps coming up.  Were there mounted men among Colonel John Brown’s force of militia and regular continental soldiers? An answer question would not radically change the exact progress of events, but it certainly would change our understanding of Brown’s force. When picturing military campaigns along the Lake Champlain corridor, horses rarely come to mind. Many campaigns at Fort Ticonderoga have seen armies using draught horses as well as officers’ mounts, but examples of actual mounted soldiers seem to be few and far between. General Benjamin Lincoln, who coordinated three raids, including Brown’s, launched from Pawlet, Vermont, leaves behind correspondence with tantalizing mention of mounted soldiers. Edward A. Hoyt, in his 2003 posthumously published article, The Pawlet Expeditions, September 1777 cites many such orders of General Lincoln.

Militia light horse, equipped themselves as cavalry, with all appropriate saddlery and arms. General Benjamin Lincoln specifically tasked militia light horse in western Massachusetts with carrying ammunition for the three raids he dispatched from Pawlet, Vermont.

Massachusetts’ militia, much like the other New England states maintained militia troops of horse, armed as cavalry at the militia horseman’s expense as per state regulations. Possibly due to the distances between towns, or terrain conducive to mounted transport, some portion of Berskshire County’s militia mustered mounted, equipped as foot soldiers, but with horses for mobility. At the same time General Lincoln was mustering his forces, the State of Connecticut had already forwarded their state corps of light horse to Continental forces amassing near Saratoga, lending some precedent to mounted militia helping operations in wooded country. Lincoln appears to have called upon mounted men of Berkshire County to help gather supplies for his forces. The county was called upon, ““for a body of their militia . . . mounted, each bringing his sack of flour,” who began to arrive with flour by the 12th of September.  John Brown himself was the colonel of this county’s militia regiment, formed from each towns’ companies, both mounted and not.

Colonel John Brown appears to have had his pick of forces, as his expedition was to attack Fort Ticonderoga itself. Among many Vermont regulars and rangers, Brown chose men from the Berkshire county militia, though the proportion of mounted men amongst them is unknown. Brown must have competed for mounted men with the other two expeditions launched from Pawlet, as General Lincoln ordered mounted militia from Berkshire County attached to all three raids. These mounted militia men were to carry bags of flour to help keep supplies moving with these lightly equipped forces. Likewise,Lincoln attached militia light-horse to all three raiding parties to carry extra ammunition.

John Brown’s party traced along the eastern edge of the South Bay of Lake Champlain until fording at a spot known as, “the Narrows.” From there Brown traversed the rugged hills between Lake Champlain and Lake George before descending upon the British garrison at Lake George landing on September 18th. Initial interpretation of this route appeared to make the passage of mounted militia impassible. The South Bay of Lake Champlain is hemmed in by very steep hills, and crossing at the narrows would be harrowing for men, let alone horses. Based on this the initial assumption it was assumed that at the Narrows mounted men distributed their supplies to the rest of Brown’s men and then returned to Pawlet, though no document specifically attested to this.

As research has continued about Brown’s raid, some evidence has challenged this assumption and raised the possibility that at least some of Brown’s men were mounted. Correspondence from the Massachusetts Committee of Safety from September 24, records mounted militia riding supplies of flour to Colonel Johnson’s raid against Mount Independence, which coincided with Brown’s raid directly across Lake Champlain. General Lincoln, dispatching letters from Skenesboro at the southern end of the South Bay, must have expected riders to speed urgent orders to all the way to Colonel Brown, at Ticonderoga. Colonel Brown definitely was in possession of horses while at Ticonderoga, capturing many British draught horses along with cattle, supplies and 330 British soldiers. Brown’s attack ranged over a relatively large area, extending between Lake George landing,Mount Defiance, Mount Hope, and the French lines. Coordinating an attack between these positions may have required mounted men running messages between these various posts.

Perhaps the best piece of evidence that mounted men went with Brown all the way to Ticonderoga, comes from a letter from Brigadier General Jacob Bayley. Writing from Castleton ,Vermont as the Commissary General for the Northern Department, Bayley recounted Brown’s Raid.

The general, before he left (Skenesboro, 21st of September), gave orders to Colonel Brown and Colonel Johnson, who were still at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence respectively, “to return and join me at Stillwater, as soon as they should have succeeded, or all hopes of success should be cut off . . .”

In addition, he seized numerous carriages, cattle, and horses as well as cannon, arms, and ammunition.

 13th. Marched in three Divisions from Pawlet, commanded by Cols. Brown, Johnson and Woodbridge. Col. Brown crossed South Bay to relieve our prisoners at the North of Lake George; Col Johnson at the same time to diver the enemy at Independence; Col. Woodbridge at Skeensborough to cover Col. Brown’s retreat &c.

On Wednesday morning, ye 17th, at day-break Col. Brown began ye attack, set at liberty 100 of our men which were prisoners; took prisoners 293 of the enemy, amongst which were to Capts., 7 Lieuts, & two other officers; took Mount Defiance, Mount Hope, the French lines & the Block house at the Landing, 200 Battaus, one armed sloop, several gun-boats; on Sunday took about 100 prisoners– the prisoners are marched for Connecticut, except ye 100—took a vast quantity of plunder; his [Col. Brown’s] water crafter are with a party set out for the South end of Lake George, where are all their boats, baggage & heavy artillery. I have not the least doubt but they will succeed; The Division consists of 500 men each; Col. Brown is reinforced now to 700. We mean to keep possession of the ground at Ticonderoga; the field is now opened wide, the time is now come the we may intirely cut off Gen. Burgoyne’s whole army if we exert ourselves; our numbers are not sufficient to keep what we have & can get. I think it the Duty of every man to turn out with his horse & one month’s provisions; which will undoubtedly accomplish our design. I must call on all friends to America to turn out & come to our assistance at Ticonderoga.

Jacob Bayley B. D. G.

Castleton, September 21st, 1777

PS: Genl. Lincoln is gone to join Genl. Gates.

Mounted militia appear to have travelled horseback, but were equipped to fight on foot. The mounted militia of Berkshire county Massachusetts provided essential service in supplying General Lincoln’s raiding parties with stockpiles of flour for rations.

Despite being a day early in his account of Brown’s dawn attack, General Bayley clearly had good information about the attack. While he paints a brief, but exciting narrative, his recommendation at the end of his letter is fascinating. Rather than simply calling for reinforcements or another draft of the militia, he specifically states,”I think it the Duty of every man to turn out with his horse & one month’s provisions; which will undoubtedly accomplish our design.” This Vermonter, who had been in communication with General Lincoln, and had inside knowledge of Brown’s Raid specifically called for mounted volunteers to go to Ticonderoga.  The fact that he believed that mounted militia would be useful to the expedition, provides strong but still inconclusive evidence that Brown had mounted men serving with him during his September 18th raid. The fact that a Vermonter called for mounted volunteers may be indication that the Berkshire County mounted militia may be a more common aspect of militia service in western New England.  In any event, the tantalizing possibility of mounted soldiers makes Colonel John Brown’s raid on Ticonderoga fertile ground for further research.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Mounted Soldiers in Brown’s Raid