“The accommodations are first class but limited” Fort Ticonderoga’s Little-Known 19th-Century Hotel

Fort Ticonderoga is best known for its military structures and associated history, but what many people do not realize is that the site played a very important role in the history of 19th-century American tourism.  Once steamboat travel became the principle mode of transport on New York’s northern lakes, Fort Ticonderoga became the location where travelers made the connection from the steamers plying Lake George to the steamers waiting to take passengers to on the next leg of their journey over Lake Champlain.  As a result, multitudes of people passed by the Fort’s ruins virtually every day.

The Pavilion was constructed in 1826 and served as a summer home for William Ferris Pell and his family through 1840. From the early 1840s through the end of the 19th century, the building was used as a hotel.

In 1820 the Fort’s grounds were purchased by William Ferris Pell.  Nearly a century later his great-grandson Stephen Pell and his wife Sarah undertook the project to restore the Fort and open it as a museum.  In 1826 William constructed The Pavilion on the flat plain to the east of the Fort.  He and his family occupied the building as a summer home until his death in 1840.  From the early 1840s through the end of the 19th century the building was rented to a variety of people who operated the building as a hotel, while one part, the north wing, was retained by one of Pell’s daughters, Mary, who lived there until her death in 1884.

Over the nearly sixty years that The Pavilion served as a hotel, it was visited by thousands of travelers including such notable people as Robert Todd Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln; the prominent French & Indian War historian, Francis Parkman; and prolific Adirondack photographer, Seneca Ray Stoddard.

This handbill, printed in 1868, briefly describes the hotel’s accomodations and ammenities.

The hotel was named at various times, The Pavilion Hotel and The Fort Ticonderoga Hotel.  One visitor in 1872 describes the building: “The central portion is two stories high, with a double piazza; the front supported by massive columns on which vines climb to the roof above; on either side extend long, low wings with glass enclosed verandas, and rooms en suite at the extreme ends.  The house faces the east, and is fronted by an extensive lawn covered by locusts and Lombardy poplars through which a plank walk leads down to the steamboat dock…  The accommodations are first-class, but limited, the chief business being the dinner provided for excursionists, and for which the house has become celebrated.”  In addition, an advertising handbill from 1868 notes that the hotel “has been newly furnished” and that the rooms are “airy, large, and it [has] suites, or Private parlors, as may be desired.”  Meals served at the hotel that year included “Fine trout, bass, pike and pickerel, which are served up daily” and “Game Dinners served up at the Fort Ticonderoga Hotel at short notice.”  It seems that the hotel was, in the words of one traveler, “Altogether it is a very enjoyable place.”

During the 20th century the house underwent major renovation and again served as summer residence for the Pell family.  The Pavilion has not been occupied since 1987 and today Fort Ticonderoga is developing plans for its future use.  In the meantime, the museum is offering, for the first time ever, special tours of the inside of the building where visitors will be guided by the museum’s curator on an exploration of the building’s past looking at evidence that survives from its 19th century use as an summer home and hotel, and the critical role it played in the restoration of Fort Ticonderoga.

For more information on tours of the Pavilion follow this link.

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

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Summertime Reading

“A book worth reading is a book worth owning.” So said my dad. That mantra seems to have rubbed off on me, as the stacks of books at home and in my office can attest. While my historical tastes span from the Middle Ages to the present and in both Europe and America, the vast majority of my books focus on 18th-century American history.

Summer always seems to be a time when many of us focus on our reading. Whether it’s at the beach or poolside, or in the hammock in the backyard, for many of us reading is an important part of summer.

My reading the past few months has focused on Benedict Arnold, the subject of the first Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute that runs from July 7-12. Fourteen teachers will spend a week learning about the military career of Benedict Arnold, working with James Kirby Martin from the University of Houston, master teacher Tim Potts, and me.

I’ve been reading Martin’s Benedict Arnold: Revolutionary Hero. Martin, while not apologetic for Arnold’s treason in 1780, does trace the trail of enemies that Arnold seems to collect through the Revolution. While Arnold’s clash with Ethan Allen here at Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775 is well-known, it’s the conflict with James Easton and John Brown that is to have a longer lasting impact on Arnold, dogging him over the years. At every turn, Arnold seems to create new enemies—here at Ticonderoga in the summer of 1776, a number of junior officers presiding over the court-martial of Moses Hazen become combative with Arnold. General Horatio Gates finally disbands the court-martial, momentarily freeing Arnold from the tangle, but resulting in a number of new antagonists for Arnold.

I also recently completed Arthur Lefkowitz’s book Benedict Arnold’s Army: The 1775 American Invasion of Canada during the Revolutionary War. If you aren’t familiar with this aspect of Arnold’s military career, I highly recommend this book. Arnold’s amazing trek through the Maine wilderness as he led the eastern prong of the American invasion into Canada in the fall of 1775 is a story of persistence against overwhelming odds and challenges. Despite torrential autumn rains (some think it may well have been a hurricane), early snows, and sparse food supplies, Arnold leads a force of nearly 1,000 men through the wilderness to the south shores of the St. Lawrence River across from Quebec City. This feat earned Arnold his promotion to Brigadier General in the Continental Army.

If you prefer historical fiction, Kenneth Roberts wrote two novels revolving around Arnold’s contributions to the American cause during the American Revolution. Arundel follows Arnold’s trek through Maine and ultimately to the failed attack on Quebec City on New Year’s Eve 1775. Rabble in Arms continues the story, covering the retreat from Canada in the spring of 1776, the Army’s arrival at Ticonderoga, the construction of the fleet on Lake Champlain and the Battle of Valcour, and the 1777 Saratoga Campaign.

Several opportunities to meet authors are coming up at Fort Ticonderoga. The Fort Ticonderoga Author Series gets underway later this month, with programs running through late September. Authors include Donald Hagist, Tom Chambers, Mark Bowie, and Ted Corbett. These programs take place on Sundays and are each followed by a book signing in the Museum Store. Each program is included in the cost of admission.

Keith Herkalo, author of The Battles at Plattsburgh: September 11, 1814, is one of nine presenters at the Second Conference on Lake George and Lake Champlain August 10 & 11, 2013. Pre-registration is required to attend the conference; you can learn more here.

Several authors are on the docket at our Tenth Annual Fort Ticonderoga Seminar on the American Revolution. Mark Jacob and Stephen Case are co-authors of Treacherous Beauty: Peggy Shippen, the Woman behind Benedict Arnold’s Plot to Betray America. Douglas Cubbison is the author of several books; most recently Burgoyne and the Saratoga Campaign: His Papers. Speakers with forthcoming books include Phil Mead, Melancholy Landscapes: Writing Warfare in Revolutionary America and Benjamin Smith, Following Knox’s Trail. The Seminar is held September 20-22, 2013, and pre-registration is required. Learn more here.

It’s summertime! I look forward to seeing you at one or more of these upcoming events. In the meantime, happy reading!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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Robert Fairchild and His Powder Horn

Powder horns are unique artifacts in that they have the ability to speak to a single person’s 18th-century military service unlike most other objects.  Muskets, swords, and other similar items, though important, are rarely able to connect people today nearly face-to-face with an individual person from the past.  What makes powder horns so interesting, and important, is that most have the owner’s name carved into it along with the date the horn was made (actually it’s the date the horn was carved or engraved) and the place the where the work was done.  With this basic information it is often possible to track the owner’s military service and, with further research, understand something about the person’s greater family life.

Overview of Robert Fairchild’s powder horn.

Recently, a rare French & Indian War powder horn was donated to Fort Ticonderoga.  It is inscribed “ROBERT FAIRCHILD HIS POWDER HORN MADE ATT LAKE GEORGE AUGUST THE 27 AD 1756.”  Apart from clearly identifying the horn’s owner, place, and date of carving, the horn is embellished with other interesting decorative and military motifs.  Bordering the cartouche containing Fairchild’s name is a simple floral and geometrically carved design.

Scroll and geometric designs embellish the border of the name cartouche.

The back of the horn features a detailed image of one of the British sloops that sailed on Lake George during the war.  A simple depiction of a four-bastion fort carved near the horn’s base may represent Fort William Henry under construction while Fairchild was at Lake George.

An image of a sloop adorns the back of the horn.

Around the narrow end of the horn are carved rectangular panels, two of which depict showing cannon mounted on large-wheeled field carriages being fired with smoke billowing out their muzzles and cannonballs flying through the air.

Cannon firing complete with billowing smoke and shot flying through the air.

Curiously, the powder horn’s spout has been cut off and there appears to be evidence that at one time a replacement (now missing) may have been attached.  The back of the horn has also been trimmed, probably removing about an inch of its base.  Exactly when or why this was done is not known.

Because of the date and place indicated on the horn, the most likely regiments that Robert Fairchild was serving with are those from Massachusetts, Connecticut, or New York.  A quick check of the available muster rolls for these colonies reveals that the only soldier with that name was from Connecticut.  Robert Fairchild was born January 16, 1737 and was living in Middletown, Connecticutin 1756.  He began his military service at the age of 19.  Muster rolls reveal that on April 3, 1756 Fairchild enlisted in Major Jehosaphat Starr’s Company of Colonel David Wooster’s 2nd Connecticut Provincial Regiment.  In 1756 many of the troops posted at the camps at south end of Lake George were involved in the construction of Fort William Henry.

The fort may be a very simplified representation of Fort William Henry which was under construction in 1756.

At other times these men were engaged in hauling supplies between the Lake George camp and Fort Edward, building boats, and going on scouts to spy on the enemy and capture prisoners.  Fairchild served at Lake George through December 3 when he was discharged from his duties for that campaign.

According to muster rolls, Fairchild remained home in Middletown, Connecticutin 1757 serving as a soldier in his local militia commanded by Captain Jacob Whitmore.  He served a total of 16 days that year, probably in August when many New England militia units were called to action to respond to the alarm raised with the siege of Fort William Henry early that month.

In 1758 Robert Fairchild returned to provincial service serving as a private soldier in Captain Timothy Hierlehey’s Company of Major-General Phineas Lyman’s 1st Connecticut Provincial Regiment.  He enlisted on March 28 and served through November 28.  Major-General Phineas Lyman’s Regiment was one of the many provincial regiments that took part in the ill-fated attack on Fort Ticonderoga on July 8th that resulted in nearly 2,000 British and American Provincial soldiers being killed and wounded.  While the battle was a devastating defeat for the British, it was for the French army its greatest victory of the entire French & Indian War.  As far as can be determined, Fairchild survived the battle unscathed.

Fairchild’s final year of military service was during the 1759 campaign where he enlisted on March 31 as a sergeant again in Captain Timothy Hierlehey’s Company of Major-General Phineas Lyman’s 1st Connecticut Provincial Regiment.  In that campaign, Lyman’s regiment again ventured to Ticonderoga with the British army and took part in its successful capture of the Fort and may have worked to repair it afterwards.  Fairchild served through December 16 when he was discharged and return to Middletown.

The spout was removed from the horn, but there is evidence of a now missing repair or replacement that was apparently secured to the horn through a series of four holes near the point where the spout once was. One hole is visible in the hatched decorative band near the opening.

A few years after returning home, Robert married Ruth Starr on May 13, 1762, and over the next 22 years they had nine children.  Robert died in New Haven, Connecticut at the age of 57 on November 15, 1794.  His wife, Ruth, outlived him by 23 years dying in 1817.  For the time being, this is what we know about Robert Fairchild.  Like so many New Englanders, however, further research will likely reveal more about his life.  Every new acquisition opens new opportunities to learn about the past and undoubtedly this powder horn will continue to “speak” to us for many years to come.

This powder horn came to the museum as a result of the Fort’s curator’s appearance on the highly-rated PBS television series History Detectives in January of this year that featured the investigation of an unrelated powder horn.  The donor of the Fairchild horn, Ms. Tonyia Baldwin, contacted Fort Ticonderoga after the show aired to discuss a powder horn that had belonged to her father.  Feeling that the powder horn needed to be preserved for future generations and made accessible to the public, she proceeded to donate it to Fort Ticonderoga.  Regarding the powder horn Ms. Baldwin said “I felt that it was time for it to go to a museum where it could be preserved and enjoyed by everyone, not just sitting on a shelf in our home.”

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

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Lake George, Lake Champlain, and Their Importance Today

Memorial Day Weekend typically kicks-off the summer season in the Lake George/Lake Champlain region. This past Memorial Day Weekend was more winter-like for many of us, with a cold rain and day-time temperatures in the low to mid-forties. Up north, Whiteface Mountain received nearly three feet of snow over the weekend. Such miserable late May weather put a damper on the number of tourists coming to the region for the weekend, which in turn had an economic impact on businesses throughout the region.

A cold, rainy Memorial Day Weekend serves as a reminder of how dependent the region is on tourists and how important Lake George and Lake Champlain are as economic generators.

This August, Fort Ticonderoga hosts the Second Conference on Lake George and Lake Champlain. On August 10 & 11, nine speakers give presentations related to the history, geography, culture, ecology, and current issues of these two lakes so important to both our history and our present-day life. The target audience for this conference is anyone with a general interest in the history and culture of the two lakes and their continued well-being.

The conference presents three strands: history, arts & culture, and ecology and current issues. Presenters come from as far away as Virginia and as close as our own backyard.

The history presentations include Dr. Bruce Venter on “Hulled Between Wind and Water”: The Attack on Diamond Island, Lake George’s only Naval Battle. Bruce is president of America’s History and summers on Lake George where his home faces Diamond Island. Morris Glenn, from the Board of the Essex County Historical Society, will provide A Short History of the Lake Champlain Bluestone Quarry (1823-1894). Stone from this quarry was especially suitable for public works projects including the footings for the Brooklyn Bridge. Keith Herkalo, president of the Battle of Plattsburgh Association shares In Search of Pike’s Cantonment: A Case Study of Historic Archaeological Research.

Presentations related to arts and culture in the region focus on Seneca Ray Stoddard’s focus on Fort Ticonderoga, the early 20th-century summers spent on Lake George by Alfred Steiglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, and the history and restoration of Sound Inter Club sailboats on Lake George.

Ecology and Current Issues topics include a report on the State of Lake Champlain, sustainable forestry in the Champlain Basin, and the long-term impact of the historic floods of 2011 on Lake Champlain. Rebecca Pelchar, an Instructor of Art History at SUNY Adirondack, will discuss Farmhouse Summers—O’Keeffe and Stieglitz on Lake George. Wooden boatbuilder Reuben Smith tells the story of the painstaking, careful restoration of the Sound Inter Club sailboats in Re-making History: The Sound Inter Club Restorations and Reintroduction to Lake George.

Presentation related to the ecology and current issues include The State of Lake Champlain: Current Science, Human Challenges, and Future Possibilities by Colleen Hickey, Education Outreach Coordinator with the Lake Champlain Basin Program. Greg Mayes, Fiber Supply Manager at International Paper’s Ticonderoga Mill discusses Sustainable Forestry…Managing Today for the Future. Mike Winslow, Staff Scientist for the Lake Champlain Committee, looks back at The Floods of 2011: Impacts and Long-Term Implications for Lake Champlain.

We are grateful to the South Lake Champlain Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation and the Ticonderoga Federal Credit Union for their generous support of this conference. Their support, along with the support of conference patrons, enables us to offer two teacher scholarships for the conference. The scholarships include covering the registration fee and provide teachers with an opportunity to mingle with the speakers at a dinner Saturday evening of the conference. The deadline for applications is July 1st. Applications can be downloaded here.

Registration for the Second Conference on Lake George and Lake Champlain is now open [download the conference brochure here] and I encourage you to participate in this weekend exploring the lakes in an interdisciplinary, holistic approach. Whether your primary interest in the lakes is historical, cultural, or ecological, there’s something for you in this unique conference.

I look forward to seeing you at Fort Ticonderoga this August at the Second Conference on Lake George and Lake Champlain!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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Building the Giberne, Part 2

This distinctive red-colored leather has had Birch tar rubbed into the flesh or inside of the leather to recreate the insect repellent quality of Russia leather.

The red leather that gives the giberne its notable color in the 1757 watercolors is Russia leather, a hard-wearing upholstery leather. This leather was extremely popular through the 18th and 19th century due the preservative effects of the Russian birch tar used in its processing. A German treatise from 1807 advocated for the domestic German production of this leather, describing its processing.

Juchten (Russia) or also Juften leather is a fine cow’s leather, tanned with willow bark and saturated with birch oil. It is waterproof, supple, and strong smelling. It is used for shoe uppers leather, purses, etc.

The initial tanning process of this leather was not altogether different from the tanning of any leather, with willow or similar bark, ground down to make a tan liquor which chemically changed the rawhide flayed from the animal to leather.  In various brick-lined tanning vats dug into the ground tanners first removed the hair with a lime solution. Draping the skins over logs, tanners scraped off the hair and rinsed out the lime solution. Skins went to a second set of tan vats where the bark and water solution worked on the leather for five weeks.

After rinsing and scraping again, Russia leather received its two distinct treatments.

The preparation of skins thus far differs little from the customary tanning of calfskin. Now begins a process, however, which is the essential part of making leather into Russia leather. This is the saturation or impregnation with birch oil. This oil gives the leather the particular smell which repels all worms and insects, suppleness, strength and durability in water, in short all properties whereby leather becomes Russia leather.

Russia leather had a particular finish to the surface, described in this same 1807 treatise.

Tooling is a work that contributes nothing to the quality, but is undertaken purely to give the leather, in the accustomed Russian manner, a refined appearance. The best Russia leather, were this property lacking, would not be taken for it. The tooling is performed with a brass serrated roller with two movable hand grips that looks like a small wheel. With it one cuts the lines on the grain side of the skin, first just parallel, then obliquely criss-crossed, as is seen on Russia leather.

With our visitor season begun, much of producing these French gibernes occurs inside our historic trades shop.

This leather was almost exclusively dyed red, using red sandalwood. Using similar tools and Scandinavian made birch tar we have closely reproduced this leather for our Languedoc soldier’s giberne reproductions, matching the color, texture, tooling, and distinctive birch aroma.

The 1754 De La Porterie, Institutions Miiltaire includes diagrams of the cavalry and the dragoon patterns of giberne, showing the internal construction of these cartouches rather than merely their external appearance. The diagrams show flap shapes similar to the 1757 watercolors, and a soft leather pouch to hold the cartridge block, and a pocket for tools and flint in front of that. However, while these diagrams show excellent detail of the dragoon pattern, it was similar but not identical to the infantry pattern.  La Porterie’s diagrams clearly do not show the two buckles on the giberne securing the shoulder strap to it as the 1757 watercolors indicate for the infantry gibernes. La Porterie’s diagrams show an extra stabilizing strap on the shoulder strap with small straps to carry a fatigue cap. Likewise, these engraved diagrams leave details like linings to the imagination.

These buckles, so visible in the 1757 watercolors and verified by archaeological evidence, are a key part of our interpretation of this cartridge pouch.

Luckily, many officer’s and sergeant’s gibernes built based on the December 1758 Ordannances survive. While many of these surviving examples often have some fancier details, such as gilded or embroidered coats of arms or ciphers, they fill in many gaps. These original pouches have flaps lined in some thin soft leather. They have flaps which are separate pieces seamed onto the pouch bodies, which on these originals appear to have been made out of the same Russia leather as the flaps. A surviving thirty-hole cartridge block from the 1759 wreck of the Juste in the Loire River, whose dimensions allow the giberne to be patterned based on the proportions shown in visual sources and diagrams. This recovered cartridge block confirms the 1747 regulations which stated that the gibernes were to be made without nails. The artifact block retains the small stitching holes around the outer rim that allowed the wood block to be stitched into the pouch.

The wooden cartridge block was actually sewn into the rest of the pouch, a surprisingly efficient way to secure it in place. The Russia leather folds up to create a pocket in front of the wooden block for tools and flints.

Pulling all these parts, patterns, and construction details together allows us to have, to the best of our current understanding, gibernes not too different than those carried by the Languedoc soldiers to Carillon in 1755. While we have constructed several gibernes based on our current interpretation, this detective work is never truly done. New evidence, use in the field, or new insights may cause a trip back to the drafting board to create a new and improved interpretation of the Languedoc soldier’s giberne.

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Wild French Food in 1755

The romance of living off the land aside, there is evidence that French soldiers supplemented their rations with game birds.

The past two years visitors often asked, “Did they hunt for their food?” in reference to the historical soldiers we portrayed at Fort Ticonderoga. For the men of Colonel Williard’s 1759Massachusettsprovincial regiment who we portrayed in 2011, the answer was a pretty definitive no. The one comical exception came from the diary of Private Lemuel Wood, who spent a day of service hunting cattle that had escaped from the army’s drovers. During 2012, documentary references to food and supply at Fort Ticonderoga in 1775 indicated that Colonel Hinman’s Connecticut regiment ate rations shipped up from Albany or even from Connecticut itself. Only the orderly book of Sergeant Bayze Wells recorded orders for fishing details and distribution of the catch as rations. He also recorded a lone moose shot by one of the officers in a patrol leagues down Lake Champlain. In this 2013 visitor season, indications are that the French soldiers of the Languedoc regiment did indeed hunt for at least some of their food. Visitors this season who ask, “Did they hunt for their food?” will not only get a cheerful, “Yes!” but some of the interesting historical evidence for this conclusion.

Looking at the verdant, wooded hills that surround Fort Ticonderoga today, it’s difficult to imagine how developed this military post became as the French & Indian War and subsequent Revolutionary war played out. These campaigns which killed and maimed soldiers likewise stripped and scarred the landscape of this wilderness peninsula, chasing wild game off to quieter valleys. However, in 1755 the Ticonderoga peninsula was a pristine landscape teeming with life, untouched by the clearing, blasting, and construction that would build this frontier fort in the future. Except for seasonal native hunting and fishing camps, the peninsula’s game was as virgin as the dense forest that covered it.

It would be incorrect to say the French soldiers at Ticonderoga in 1755 lived off of hunted game.  Even as early as February of 1755, the French minister of the navy had ordered commissaries in New France to prepare rations for the six battalions of preparing to leave France. Commissaries were to immediately grind the previous fall’s harvest of wheat into flour, storing it in barrels for shipping. The minister of the navy ordered “three thousand quintals of salt pork,” or 300,000 pounds, for the 1755 campaign season. The diary of Chevalier de la Pause of the Bearn regiment records issues of rations in 1755. His regiment disembarked from ships in Quebec, marching on to Montreal, and subsequently out into frontier posts just like the Languedoc regiment. Rations in settled areas were quite similar to their British and American counterparts. De la Pause noted “On the route from Quebec to Montreal each sergeant and soldier was given 2 pounds of bread, one pound of beef, 1 miserable (approximately a pint) of brandy.” Leaving Montreal for western posts, de la Pause’s men received more durable, “lard, biscuit, and tobacco and pots (of brandy) for fifteen days.”   The soldiers of the Languedoc regiment encamped at Ticonderoga in the fall of 1755 were administratively part of Fort Saint Frederick at Crown Point. Accordingly, Languedoc soldier’s digging a fortified camp on the Ticonderoga peninsula received fresh vegetables from the nearby Fort’s gardens, bread or flour from their ovens, and fresh beef from the Fort’s herd of cattle.

Canadian’s attached to Baron Dieskau’s Force at Carillon in 1755 were used to hunting in civilian life. How much these skills carried over to French regulars is unclear.

Yet these soldiers’ ration staples run into prevailing French cuisine at the time, which embraced a wide diversity of foods. Many of the popular delicacies in France were wild in the Champlain Valley. Lieutenant Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac, in his diary, noted not only “strawberries, raspberries, wild black berries,” but also “capillaries and ginsings,” stating both were harvested in Canada and shipped back to France. “Capillaries,” or fiddle-head ferns, were a fashionable part of a meal in France and commonly found in the forests around Lake Champlain. Equally common as fiddle-head ferns in the kitchens of France were small game birds. Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac noted while sailing to New France that “There is also a large amount of waterfowl called, ‘hapefoys’ which were fun to shoot at as we passed.” He also made careful note of the variety of pigeons available and the preferred preparations.

The quantity of turtledoves, pigeon, or rock doves is so large that we are obliged to destroy them because they are very destructive to wheat. These animals are very good dining and in any case, but particularly roasted and in soup they are a very agreeable bouillon. The Canadians seem to be very attached to all the ways.

Extinct since 1914, the passenger pigeons migrated in flocks so numerous as to darken the sky. Much as migratory birds today, mass migrations seem to have followed major waterways, such as the Lake Champlain corridor. Just as Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac noted the Canadian culinary customs, French soldiers quite likely noted the frenzy of hunting with which Canadians survived for the winter.

They make a surprising consumption. There are no inhabitant who, with a wife and two or three children, never killed in winter, one steer, one calf, two pigs, two sheep, chickens, geese, turkeys, chickens, without counting game and fish that they take in quantity throughout the winter.

Not surprisingly, a whole flock of passenger pigeon bones were recovered in the site of Fort Ticonderoga, as were deer bones and other game. While these archaeological remnants could represent the refuse of many campaign seasons, it seems likely that French culinary customs ensured that French soldiers in 1755 left some unknown portion of these remains.

Religious fast days made fish an essential source of protein. French cuisine had an equal love of fish, shellfish, and game birds.

French gastronomic interest in game meat was matched by religious concerns. For loyal soldiers in the Royal army of His Catholic Majesty Louis XV, adherence to church food restrictions was not a matter of personal conviction, it was part of army life. Within each week both Friday and Saturday were religious fast or lean days, for which meat other than fish was prohibited. Add to this days for a plethora of saints’ days and lent, and there were nearly 150 fast days in the 365 day year. In France, much of the protein during these fast days came from fish, generally fresh in coastal areas, or salted inland. Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac happily joined other soldiers and sailors fishing for fresh cod sailing to New France.  Inland areas of New France made access to fish more difficult and the diocese of Quebec successfully applied to the church for special dispensation to consume eggs and dairy products on fast days in the late 17th century. With the possible exception of officers’ “wheels of gruyere cheese,” the diary of Chevalier de la Pause records no issues of salted fish or other protein based rations to fill this void on fast days. It appears likely that French soldiers fished to flesh out their fast day dinners.  This supposition is backed up by archaeological remains of the diverse species of fish found in Lake Champlain as well as a plethora of freshwater mussels.

The French soldiers of the Languedoc regiment, who first fortified the Ticonderoga peninsula, were first and foremost soldiers not hunters. It is appealing to imagine living off the land, especially given the pristine landscape in which they encamped in 1755.  While these French soldiers, like their British and American counterparts, ate mostly preserved rations, wild food filled both culinary fashions and religions constraints.

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Encouraging a Passion for History

Earlier this week I travelled to Cooperstown to participate as a judge at New York State History Day. Sponsored by the New York State Historical Association, New York State History Day serves thousands of students in hundreds of school districts across the state. This year’s contest was the biggest ever, with over 400 students competing to represent the state at National History Day in June.

Students were engaged and passionate about their projects—and passionate about history. I spoke with students who simply bubbled over with enthusiasm as they discussed their projects and the history behind them. This year’s theme was “Turning Points in History” and a brief sampling of topics chosen by students included: the Titanic and maritime safety, the mass Irish immigration of the mid 19th century, Sputnik, and the work of muckraker Jane Adams.

One young middle school student, whose project focused on Upton Sinclair and the impact his book The Jungle had (and still has) on the meat-packing industry, shared how a work of fiction sparked a national movement to protect workers and monitor food safety. She was truly inspired that the efforts of one person could trigger so much change. Her enthusiasm for history and its practical application to life in today’s world was truly inspiring.

Engaging students and creating a life-long love of learning is the goal of school programs here at Fort Ticonderoga too! We are expecting thousands of students to visit Fort Ticonderoga this spring. Starting May 17th, students from schools in New York, Vermont, and elsewhere will travel to Fort Ticonderoga on field trips. Students will meet interpreters representing French soldiers from Languedoc who began construction of Fort Carillon in 1755. They will be able to watch as soldiers prepare their noon meal, visit the Historic Trades Shop to see the making of clothing and shoes, and explore the exhibits in the Museum.

Students take part in “To Act as One United Body” during a recent visit to Fort Ticonderoga.

Many students will take part in the “To Act as One United Body”program while at the Fort. In this immersive program, students form a platoon and learn about the training of soldiers at Ticonderoga in the weeks following the outbreak of the American Revolution in the spring and early summer of 1775. Students learn teamwork skills as they experience aspects of the lives of soldiers.

For some schools, their spring visit to Fort Ticonderoga comes after a visit to their school by a member of our Interpretive team. Our staff has visited numerous schools on both sides of Lake Champlain this winter and spring, bringing reproduction clothing and objects to help illustrate the lives of the Connecticut soldiers who journeyed to Ticonderoga in 1775. These programs have helped illuminate the story of the Fort while at the same time using language arts, geography, and math skills to help students grasp the enormity of the task of feeding and supplying an army in the northern wilderness. Thanks to support from the Walter Cerf Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation, the Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation, the Glens Falls Foundation, and Champlain National Bank, many of these programs were offered to schools at a greatly reduced rate.

Cameron Green, Military Program Supervisor, in a North Country classroom this spring.

These immersive experiences for school students have led to an expansion of programming for scouting groups too! Last year’s “Planting the Tree of Liberty” program for scouts is popular again as troop leaders make their reservations for 2013. New this year is an overnight opportunity for scouts. You can learn more about this and other programs for scouts in my February blog post.

New in 2013 is Girl Scout Day. Coming up on Saturday, September 7th, Girl Scout Day at Fort Ticonderoga offers a variety of programs and tours for girls from Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York. More details will be coming soon, but you can check out the tentative schedule here.

We encourage a passion for history in not just young people, but all our visitors. Whether it’s a passion for the French & Indian War among attendees at the War College of the Seven Years’ War or the passion evident in the teachers participating in our Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute, Fort Ticonderoga serves as a breeding ground for passion.

Our staff is passionate, our visitors are passionate, and I hope you are passionate about Fort Ticonderoga, the stories it has to tell, and all it can teach us about not just history, but life.

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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King’s Garden Volunteers Welcome

A patch of forget-me-nots is allowed to self-sow where “planned” annuals will be placed later


It’s always a pleasure to discover a plant growing in an unexpected place among purposefully placed plants in the garden.  These “volunteers” are nature’s gift to the gardener, the product of prolific re-seeders, birds or small mammals leaving seeds behind, or a gust of wind carrying seeds from outside the garden.  It is not uncommon to find sunflowers, johnny jump-ups, foxgloves and hollyhocks elbowing their way between bricks in the path or thriving within carefully planned beds.  These garden guests are welcome additions that add dimension and flair to the botanical displays.


With the growing season upon us, we are sure to find many of these volunteers as the beds are cleaned up, the last of the perennials are cut back, and the first weeds are pulled.  Preparing the King’s Garden for the thousands of annuals and perennials that are installed each year is both exciting and challenging.  Each new season brings the discovery of successes and failures after winter’s trials, new plant varieties to test, and the fruits of our labor realized.


Staff and volunteers install annual borders

Spring is also the time when garden volunteers (the human kind!) arrive with gloves at the ready to lend a hand and share their passion for horticulture.  King’s Garden volunteers have the opportunity to learn about the gardens and the plants cultivated here while spending time with other enthusiastic gardeners.   A willingness to learn and grow is most important; previous experience is not necessary!  Some volunteers embrace a certain project and find their specialty while others perform a variety of tasks working with both flowers and vegetables.  Other volunteers present tours and programs, helping us fulfill our education mission.  Garden volunteers enhance the efforts of our team working to preserve and share the history and beauty of the King’s Garden.


A program volunteer teaches a young gardener to plant seeds


If you would like to share in this experience, drop me a line at heidi@fort-ticonderoga.org to learn more.  You’ll learn to spot the volunteer poppies, bachelor buttons and columbine that are preparing to bloom and grow in the King’s Garden, plus work side by side with staff and other volunteers as we prepare, plant, and care for the historic gardens.  Join us!


Heidi Karkoski
Director of Horticulture




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Teachers as Students

There’s a saying that “teachers make the worst students.” This hasn’t been my experience at Fort Ticonderoga. Over the past several years I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of dedicated, innovative teachers as part of my job at Fort Ticonderoga.

This July, we host our first Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute focused on Benedict Arnold. A group of teachers from as far away as California will spend a week learning about the career of Benedict Arnold while also participating in a series of experiences designed to immerse them in the 18th-century history of Fort Ticonderoga. Teacher Institute participants will work with original documents in our collection and spend time creating innovative lesson plans incorporating multiple disciplines, including history, geography, ELA, math, and science. Developing an environment of collegiality, we hope to create a model learning experience for educators that will be replicated in future Institutes.

Participants in the NEH Landmarks Workshop “The American Revolution on the Northern Frontier” in July 2011.

The Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute is an outgrowth of our participation in the National Endowment for the Humanities “Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers” program. In 2011, we hosted two week-long workshops for a total of 80 teachers from across the country. During the week-long workshop focused on “The American Revolution on the Northern Frontier: Fort Ticonderoga and the Road to Saratoga,” we brought together a group of scholars to work with teachers as they explored the first three years of the American Revolution as it unfolded on the Northern Frontier.

These week-long workshops enabled teachers to interact with noted scholars in their fields and delve into the historical content of 1775-1777 while working with each other and utilizing the special resources Fort Ticonderoga can provide. One of the visiting scholars for the program was historian James Kirby Martin from the University of Houston. Martin’s engaging presentation style and his willingness to make himself accessible to teachers throughout his time here made him a logical choice to be the lead scholar for our first Teacher Institute this summer.

Providing teachers with an opportunity to have more time with historical content is the intent of our on-going teacher scholarship program. Begun in 2001, the teacher scholarships enable teachers to attend our various conferences and symposia. In addition to waiving the registration fees, the scholarships include several meals, including an off-site dinner with the seminar speakers. Our speakers frequently comment on the uniqueness of this opportunity to interact with teachers. Since 2001, 108 teachers have attended on scholarships, including the War College of the Seven Years’ War, the Seminar on the American Revolution, the Conference on Lake George and Lake Champlain, and Material Matters: It’s in the Details. Teachers have come from 14 different states and two Canadian provinces.

Another opportunity to work with teachers comes through the NEH’s “Teaching American History” program. These multiyear grants through school districts bring historical content to the teachers through a series of field trips, day-long workshops, and seminars. I’ve recently worked with three TAH groups (2 from Vermont and one from Connecticut). These grants teach teachers historical process and techniques and emphasize working with primary documents, artifacts, artworks, and historic sites.

Yet another opportunity to work with teachers comes through annual conferences, including the NYS Council for the Social Studies Conference and the Vermont Alliance for the Social Studies Conference. While the window of time to work with teachers is much smaller—usually just an hour to ninety minutes as part of a larger schedule of sessions—sharing techniques for engaging students with primary sources and historic sites can have a lasting impact on not just the teachers, but on their students for years to come.

And teaching teachers is really about that—having a lasting impact on students. Working with teachers has a ripple-effect. When a teacher learns how to incorporate the use of engaging, innovative techniques in their teaching, the student is the winner. While there is a limit to the number of students we can engage in a meaningful manner onsite at Fort Ticonderoga, the sky is the limit when it comes to the total number of students we can impact through our work with teachers.

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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Building the Giberne, Part 1

Images, such as this French Guards soldier in a copy of the 1755 manual exercise provide visual evidence for written documentation.

One of the essential articles needed to portray soldiers of the Languedoc regiment at Ticonderoga in 1755 are cartridge pouches. These cartridge pouches or, ‘cartouches,’ were properly called, ‘gibernes,‘ for French regular army soldiers. Much like English cartridge pouches; these gibernes were carried slung on leather belts from the left shoulder, and hung down near the soldier’s right hip. These were very different than the, waist-mounted, ‘gargousiers,’ carried by Canada’s colonial regulars or Troupe de la Marine. Unlike gargousiers, for which significant leather archaeological artifacts survive, reconstructing the giberne for theLanguedoc soldiers requires some careful detective work.

Much like the French predilection for capturing mechanical details in mechanical trades manuals such as that of Diderot and Garsault, Royal regulations for the army included relatively detailed orders for clothing and equipment. The French army ordinances of 1747 rather tersely stated about the giberne, “a pouch of red or black calf, the flap of the same, with a pattern of cartridges of 19 to 20 holes; the shoulders strap of buff leather well-stitched without nails or pricks.” As short as this statement is, it still provides enough detail to verify that the cartouches shown in images are legitimate sources to intimate details.

Similar in function to the famous grenadiers painted by David Morier in the British army, the 1757 watercolors served as a pictoral record of each regiment in the French Army, albeit in an ideal, regulation form.

The two great sources for the giberne used by the Languedoc soldiers at Ticonderoga during the French and Indian war survive. The first is the 1755 manual exercise. The engravings that detail the movements to handle the firelock, in marching, loading, and firing, also include images of the giberne from various angles. From these images the shield-shaped outer flap is quite visible, as is the stitching along the buff shoulder strap and the two sets of buckles used to adjust the pouch. Along the shoulder strap there is one buckle below the right breast and the pouch strap itself attaches with buckles on each side of the giberne. Unfortunately, the engravings for the 1755 manual exercise show soldiers of the French Guards, who had their own regimental distinctions on their gibernes, such as  gilded royal coat of arms and some sort of leather bound edge to the flap.  Luckily, a watercolor image for every single regiment in the French army was commissioned in 1757, providing detailed color images of enlisted soldiers of each regiment. While these images were created after 1755, there are no new regulations known for soldiers’ gibernes prior to December of 1758, which merely effected officers’ and sergeants’ pouches. Accordingly these images can reliably used as color source to discern details about the giberne. These watercolors also show the pouch quite clearly with a plain red leather flap and a stitched edge. They also confirm the buff shoulder strap, and potentially show a stitched edge as was specified in 1747. These watercolors also confirm the placement of buckles shown in the 1755 manual exercise.

On some level all of these documentary sources have to be taken with a grain of salt. Written regulations, beyond the challenges of translating them, are always open to interpretation. Engravings and watercolors include the inherent flaws of the artist’s perception of whatever subject he rendered. Even the best images aren’t truly technical diagrams, and so require educated imagination to discern exactly what they show. Equally problematic, all of these written and visual sources were created in France, begging the question of whether these gibernes were actually carried to Ticonderoga. To this question we have archaeological evidence that helps to prove the documents. During the excavation and reconstruction of Fort Ticonderoga, an unparalleled volume of artifacts were recovered. The collapsed fort walls and earthworks did not preserve much organic matter, ruling out whole gibernes or remnants surviving, but brass and other copper alloy objects survived very well. Among brass artifacts many buckles survive, including the exact buckles shown in pictorial sources.

This French buckle, recovered from the site of Fort Ticonderoga was worn by one of the thousands of French soldiers who encamped at the site. This pattern of buckle was used both on the shoulder strap of the giberne and on the waistbelt that carried the sword and bayonet.

Numerous buckles shaped like two capital letter Ds back to back, survived in the ruins of FortTiconderoga. These buckles could potentially be British or American made, were it not for one detail. English and American buckles nearly always have the tongue set in the middle of the two Ds. While the iron tongues rusted away in the soil, the slot cut into the brass shows that the tongue rotated around the edge of one of the Ds, not the center. This is a detail almost exclusively found on French buckles. This combined with the particular width and proportions of these buckles shows that they are in fact French giberne strap buckles.

A second type French giberne buckle survived among the remains of Fort Ticonderoga in quite large numbers. This buckle is shaped like a single letter D, and like the French double-D style buckle has the tongue slot set to the outside of the D rather than the center. This style of buckle could be interpreted as simply a musket sling buckle, which is a similar form. However, the width of this single-D giberne buckle matches the double-D shoulder strap buckle, indicating they were used on the same strap. The single-D giberne buckle is not shown in the 1755 manual exercise, which shows double-D buckles set on either side of the giberne. It would appear that the double-D buckles shows in the manual exercise are merely a regimental distinction of the French Guards. The 1757 watercolors show a single-D buckle on either side of the giberne, of exactly the same proportions as those recovered fromFortTiconderoga.

This style buckle appears to have been stitched directly onto each side of the giberne, allowing the shoulder strap to be easily removed or adjusted. This buckle was used for the same purpose on the frog of the waistbelt that supported the sword and bayonet.

When archaeological artifacts correspond with pictorial evidence and other documents there is a two-way street of corroboration. The documentary evidence helps confirm the original use of the artifacts, helping support our understanding of them. Conversely, archaeologically recovered artifacts provide tangible evidence to tie the process of researching documents back to reality. Artifacts, like these two styles of buckles, take what could merely be a semantic argument about French cartridge pouch details, and let us know that real objects were made that correspond with the documents about them. By extension, these artifacts help ground our drive to recreate the soldiers of the Languedocregiment in reality as well. The giberne buckles that were unearthed during the reconstruction ofFortTiconderoga, did not simply appear at the fort. Real soldiers carried these buckles as part of their accouterments. We may not know much about each individual soldier, but when we hold one of these buckles we hold something actually carried by the soldiers we are trying to portray.

This detail from the 1757 watercolors shows the distinctive outline of the single-D buckles recovered at Fort Ticonderoga.

As we work on recreating these soldiers’ gibernes we will be using buckles copied right from those examples recovered from the Fort’s remains. Hopefully, this not only makes our reproductions more accurate, but provides a real tangible connection to these French soldiers for our visitors as well. I would love to say that the job of recreating these French soldiers’ gibernes is done merely with the buckles. There are still plenty of questions to answer, such as the leather used, or the exact shape and form of its stitching. Please check in again as this process continues…

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