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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Ready, Set, Garden!

A spring display of tulips in the King’s Garden was visited by attendees of the Garden Clubs of America national convention held in Lake Placid, May 1973.


The word “spring” conjures up many pictures – green grass, the arrival of migrating songbirds, warm sunshine, and of course, flowers!  Classics like tulips, daffodils, and grape hyacinths are starting to peek through the soil to color the landscape.  These bulbs are planted in the fall and are a great source of satisfaction for gardeners anxious to begin the garden season.

There are a wide variety of summer-blooming bulbs, tubers, corms and rhizomes that are planted in late spring that add variety and flair to seasonal displays.  The King’s Garden’s historic plan lists several, including dahlias, gladiolas, and numerous lilies.  These are all geophytes, plants with an underground storage organ.  Around the gardens, other examples of geophytes include allium, bearded irises, liatris, cannas, hops and garlic.  All are easy to handle, ship, and store compared to rooted perennials.  Those that are tender must be dug in the fall and stored.

Leftover from bygone days, these Star of Bethlehem plants, though beautiful, are problematic due to their invasive nature. Bulblets form around the main bulb creating large colonies.


The flowering onion (allium) and lily of the valley bloom in May, with bearded irises in June, lilies in July, followed by gladiolas in August and dahlias in September.  Now is the perfect time to weave these annuals and perennials into your garden plans.  Begin your planning by attending the second annual Garden & Landscape Symposium on April 13th to be inspired and get expert advice from a distinguished panel of speakers on design and care.


Looking for sources for plants?  The “bulb” experts at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs offer hundreds of interesting selections in their Summer-Flowering Bulbs Catalogue that are great for garden beds and containers.  I’ve got my eye on the hardy Hibiscus ‘Fireball’ and the 2013 Perennial Plant of the Year, variegated Solomon’s seal.  When you shop with them, they make a donation to the King’s Garden!  You can also support the garden by attending the Spring Plant Sale on May 18th from 10 am to 2 pm.  We’ll be sharing the showy, tropical red canna, along with perennials from the historic gardens.  Members of the Essex County Master Gardeners will be on hand to discuss how to adapt your gardening practices in response to the changing climate.

Orange tulips blooming in the King’s Garden


The King’s Garden opens for the season on Saturday, May 25, 2013.  Dozens of events, programs and activities are scheduled throughout.  I hope to see you this spring in the garden!


Heidi teRiele Karkoski
Director of Horticulture

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Students, Creativity, and History

It’s that time of year again—North Country History Day is fast approaching. Over fifty students from seven different schools in five northern New York counties will come to Fort Ticonderoga later this month to compete for the opportunity to represent the North Country at New York State History Day in Cooperstown at the end of April.

For those new to the History Day concept, think “Science Fair,” except with a focus on history. History Day is a year-long national program that teaches students the components of practicing good historical techniques. With an emphasis on primary sources, History Day requires students to research a topic related to an annual theme. Students present their findings in a final project that demonstrates not just good research, but the students’ ability to interpret their findings and draw conclusions—skills essential not just in history, but in life.

This year’s theme is “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events.” I’m sure that for many of you the Battle of Saratoga jumps out as a likely topic that fits in with the theme. Or maybe Gettysburg if the Civil War is more your thing. While there are projects on both Saratoga and Gettysburg at this year’s North Country History Day competition, students have come up with dozens of other topics related to “Turning Points in History”:

• “Kristallnacht”
• “Valley Forge: From Farms to Arms”
• “History Repeats Itself”
• “Walt Disney”
• “Cold War Comes to the North Country”
• “Ronald Reagan and the Rise of Conservativism in America”
• “On the Road to Freedom”
• “Racial Segregation”
• “Carnegie and Frick”
• “Yes We Can: Women’s Work World War II”
• “The New Deal”
• “Irish Potato Famine”
• “Martin Luther King, Jr.”
• “Nellie Bly: A Madhouse Exposé”
• “The Growth of a Nation on the Back of a Horse”
• “Smallpox: The First Vaccine”
• “D-Day Deception”
• “The Discovery of Penicillin”
• “You Say You Want a Revolution”
• “The Automobile”
• “The Red Cross: Clara Barton”
• “Roe v. Wade: How it Changed America”
• “How Airplanes Changed Warfare”
• “The Fall of the Roman Empire”
• “The Birth of the Electric Age”

Students compete at two levels: Junior Division (grades 6-8) and Senior Division (grades 9-12). They can enter Individuals projects or be part of a Group project. Students can choose to enter a Historical Paper, an Exhibit, a Documentary, a Website, or a Performance. The choice of entries enables a student to match their historical interest with a method of presentation best suited for their skills and abilities.

New York State is divided into fourteen regions stretching from eastern Long Island to western New York and from New York City to the Canadian border. Competitions often begin at the school district level and advance to the regional competitions. The top entries in each category earn the right to advance to the state contest, where winners advance to the national competition, held in College Park, Maryland, each year.

History Day provides students with an opportunity to explore a topic of interest in-depth, learning historical techniques of research and analysis. Each project must have a thesis that is supported by the content of the project. Helping students learn the techniques of a good historian helps make them not just better history students, but better students in general. A 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal by Norm Augustine noted that while Americans continue to believe students are falling behind in math and science, it’s actually history that’s most neglected in our schools today. “Why is history important?” asks the article. Because history is:

Not primarily the memorized facts that have current and former CEOs concerned. It’s the other things that subjects like history impact: critical thinking, research skills, and the ability to communicate clearly and cogently. Such skills are certainly important for those at the top, but in today’s economy they are fundamental to performance at nearly every level. A failing grade in history suggests that students are not only failing to comprehend our nation’s story and that of our world, but also failing to develop skills that are crucial to employment across sectors.

Augustine goes on to praise the National History Day program. “Students who participate in National History Day—actually a year-long program that gets students in grades 6-12 doing historical research—consistently outperform their peers on state standardized tests, not only in social studies but in science and math as well.”

Having just returned from the New York State Council for the Social Studies Conference, held in Westchester County last week, I’m well-aware of the buzz in the social studies community about the adoption of the Common Core. The study of history is an essential part of making today’s students successful tomorrow. Programs like National History Day help students along that path to becoming critical thinkers that our nation needs tomorrow!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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Children’s Garden Offers Something For Everyone


An Adirondack chair for the younger set rests beside a bumble bee topiary

A plot that was once part of the vegetable and cutting gardens for the Pell summer home, and before that a soldier’s garden that helped feed 18th-century troops, is now utilized as our Children’s Garden. This 50×50 garden includes flowing internal pathways, topiaries, kid-sized chairs and thematic plantings to help children and adults learn more about plants and nature. Initially the garden consisted of strictly annuals and vegetables, but over time, perennials have been incorporated into the scheme to create focal points and structure. I really enjoy planning and planting this garden each season.


Rudbeckia nitida or cutleaf coneflower grows to eight feet in the Children’s Garden

This year’s theme areas include the popular Sunflower House and Salsa Spot, along with the Flying Friends Area, row crops of everlasting flowers suitable for drying, a White Night display, and a collection of plants with interesting green flowers or foliage. I like to use large, showy specimens to visually separate areas of the garden such as broom corn, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), spider flower (Cleome), sunflowers, and the huge Rudbeckia nitida or cutleaf coneflower. Texture and color play important roles in each garden area. Some of my favorites in the texture department include Lacinato “dinosaur” kale, dill and fennel, cannas, slender grasses, borage and various amaranths. Vegetables are so easy to incorporate into flower plantings (or flowers into vegetable plantings!) and the results are beautiful and fruitful!

Ornaments and accessories add visual appeal and are great because they can be moved around the garden year to year. Sometimes a fun garden accent can be found among things already on hand. Here are some ideas from our gardens. For climbing beans, peas, and flowering vines consider an old wooden ladder, 3-pole teepees made of saplings, or old wooden or wire fence sections. Pathways can be constructed of mulch or bark chips, stepping stones, pavers (they don’t have to all match) or grass clippings. We have a stack of old slate slabs that make a great walkway. At planting time, fill a few containers of different sizes and use them to fill in spaces between your plantings. As the garden matures these containers can be shifted to a new location where a pop of color is needed. Old rakes and tool handles may be fashioned into scarecrows with the addition of burlap or old clothing. At home, these are all projects where the kids can help out and share in creating your garden.


Rustic bean teepees frame a view of the Three Sisters scarecrows in the garden beyond

This season a new tour explores each themed area in the Children’s Garden with a garden guide. Helpful information and fun facts will be shared on the 20-minute tour, appropriate for children and adults. Our gardens are a learning laboratory for other programs including Growing Up with Gardening: Sow, Grow & Know, and Hands-on Horticulture programs all scheduled for July and August. Nature walks for kids are also planned, exploring the trees, fields, gardens and grounds of the King’s Garden area. A complete list of King’s Garden programs can be found at http://www.fortticonderoga.org/visit/gardens.

The King’s Garden opens for the season on May 25, 2013.  Join us!

Heidi Karkoski
Director of Horticulture

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Maurice de Saxe and Canadian Clothing

Maurice de Saxe secured his reputation as a skilled general with his brilliant success in campaigns during the War of Austrian Succession, 1740-1748.

While General Montcalm is the most famous and influential French officer in North America, on the continent of Europe, Marshall-General Maurice de Saxe was France’s most famous and successful officer during the middle of the 18th century. Like many officers in the French Army, he was of foreign birth, a son of the Elector of Saxony. He actually fought against the French army as a teenager in the Netherlands, and served with the Austrian, or Imperial, Army fighting the Turks in Hungary in the 1710’s. At the conclusion of that war, he moved to France and rose steadily to the rank of General. His military achievements culminated in his highly successful campaigns through Belgium and the Netherlands in the War of Austrian Succession, known in British North America as King George’s War. Maurice de Saxe was known personally for being kind and irreverent, but he was also a military innovator, and blunt critic of all matters military in his time. He did not enjoy his military success for long. Merely two years after peace by the Treaty of Aix-Chappelle in 1748, Maurice de Saxe succumbed to a fever. However, his posthumously published, Reveries or Memoires Concerning the Art of War encapsulated his half-century of military experience and his vision for a new reformed military system.

An English translation of his memoires was first published in 1759 in London, and remains an important text for students of military history. Saxe’s extensive discussions of military organization, tactics, and the concept of the combined arms, “legion,” make this a very important work. He also critiqued French clothing and its utility on campaign, designing a new plan for clothing soldiers. It is fascinating for those studying the French Army in North American during the subsequent war, that clothing issued in New France closely mirrors his recommendations. Maurice de Saxe prefaces his discussion of clothing bluntly.

Our dress is not only very expensive, but most inconvenient; the soldier is neither shod nor clad. The love of appearance prevails over the regard due to health, which is one of the grand points demanding our attention.

Hardly a Roman helmet, these simple knit wool hats answered the practical concerns that Saxe raised about the felt hats commonly used.

Saxe has nothing good to say about soldiers’ hats. Of these black felt cocked hats, he states, “The hat soon loses its agreeable shape; is not strong enough to resist the rain and hard usage of a campaign, but presently wears out.” He complains that the men try to sleep in their hats, whereupon they fall off leaving a soldier’s head exposed during the dewy night. Given an extensive classical education and abiding love of the topic, Maurice de Saxe recommended a Roman or Greek styled helmet as the solution to these problems. While this idea did catch on in the French army, especially among the dragoons, service in Canadaprompted an interesting solution to headwear. The diary of Chevalier de la Pause of the Guyenne regiment records that each soldier and sergeant received, “1 bonnet,” upon arriving in Quebecon June 27th, 1755. Based on subsequent issues of clothing to French soldiers in New France, this bonnet appears to be the ubiquitous Canadian knit wool toque. While hardly a glittering bronze helmet this thick boiled wool hat answered the needs for a durable, warm, uniform headwear that remained on soldiers head at all times.

Maurice de Saxe envisioned long Turkish robes made in wool as the perfect outer garment. With an additional hood this would provide great protection for French soldiers.

While a soldiers’ coat or justacorps was an essentials part of a soldiers’ uniform, Saxe had little good to say about it. The coat was attractive and potentially warm but, “when wet, the soldier not only feels it to the skin, but is reduced to the disagreeable necessity of drying it upon his back. It is therefore no longer surprising to see so many diseases in an army.” In place of the coat Saxe recommended a, “Turkish cloak, with a hood to it.” Contemporary images of Turks show a loose fitting sleeved robe overlapping and closed by a sash. Saxe promotes this garment stating:

These cloaks cover a man completely, and do not contain above two ells and a half of cloth; consequently are both light and cheap; the head and neck will be effectually secured from the rain and wind; and the body, when laid down, kept dry; because they are not made to fit tight, and when wet, are dried again the first moment of fair weather.

It is almost as if Saxe perfectly imagined the Canadian capot, which Chevalier de la Pause records issued to every man in the Guyenne regiment on the 4th of October in 1755. Perhaps if Maurice de Saxe travelled to Canada, he would have seen more value in the capot than Lieutentant Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac who had no love for the garment.

The average Canadian hardly wears French clothing, but one species of, “capots” crossed in front with lapels. The buttons and collars are of another color. A sash around the capot: simple and impractical clothing.

With both a long outer waistcoat and an additional under waistcoat, French soldiers in Canada nearly had Maurice de Saxe’s ideal uniform.

In Saxe’s ideal uniform the primary garment was to be a long sleeved-waistcoat, or veste. This veste would have been worn in conjunction with a short under-waistcoat. He describes this garment as akin to a, “short doublet.” Along with the knit bonnets, French soldiers arriving in Canada received exactly this, a gilet or simple under-waistcoat to wear with their uniform sleeved-waistcoat. He imagined with this uniform, that this Turkish cloak could be rolled up on the back when not in use, in a manner eerily similar to the tumplines described in Canadian and Native use. Saxe described this scheme and advantages in detail.

But to return to the cloaks: As the quantity of cloth required is small; and they are light, they can be rolled up, and fastened along the knapsack upon the back; in which position they will be very far from having a bad effect, at the same time that the men under arms, and in fair weather, will find themselves easy, and unencumbered by them;

Most of all Maurice de Saxe detested the leg wear and footwear commonly worn in the French army. Of the poor soldier he said, “in regard to his feet, they, with stockings and shoes rot in a manner together.” Of the gaiters commonly worn by soldiers he said, “White gaiters are only fit for a review, and spoil in washing; they are also very inconvenient, hurtful, of no real use, and very expensive.” In the ideal uniform Saxe envisioned, “shoes made of thin leather, with low heels; which will fit extremely well.”  The low heel was important for the posture and comfort of the men, “because low heels oblige men to turn out their toes, to stretch their joints, and consequently to draw in their shoulders.” Across the Atlantic Ocean, the Canadian soulier de beouf  issued to French soldiers in summer clothing issues bears striking similarity to this ideal shoe. Lieutenant d’Aleyrac was quite favorable in his assessment.

The souliers de boeuf are made entirely different than those in France, they have a sole as thin as the uppers that surrounds the entire foot, to the height of the quarters; then, we sew another smaller a strip of leather upon them which covers the top of the foot; this fashion allows marching more conveniently in the woods and mountains.

Perhaps not exaclty what Saxe envisioned, the combination of wool leggings and mocassins parallels his idea of leather bottomed stockings for winter dress.

In place of the tall canvas gaiters Saxe recommended a knee high leather gaiter, supported by the breeches buttons, instead of an additional leather garter. However, for winter dress Saxe envisioned a heavy woolen stocking to be issued every November first. This woolen stocking was to be large enough to pull on over the shoes and gaiters and, “soled with a slender leather; and the sole to be brought a little over the sides and toes of the feet.” In overall effect this garment is similar to the combination of wool Native American leggings and moccasins.  Lieutenant d’Aleyrac described these leggings or mittasse as follows:

The leggings are a type of very broad gaiters whose two sides are sewn together, about four fingers from the edge without buttons or buttonholes. This is another native invention.

In the diary of Chevalier de la Pause wool mitasse were issued to officers starting in the summer of 1755, and to enlisted soldiers by the spring of 1757. New England diaries, like Sergeant Aaron Barlow, even called native leggings, “Indian stockings.” Inventories from Fort Carillon in October of 1757 list stores of leggings as made of, “molton,” or very thickly fulled wool, not unlike Saxe’s winter stockings. The, “slender leather sole,” pictured by Saxe is similar both to native moccasins, or soulier savage and the Canadian made soulier de beouf.

There is no evidence to show any causation between the recommendations of Maurice de Saxe, and Canadian issued clothing in the French Army. Whatever similarity that existed appears to be merely correlation. One can look at later French uniforms and perceive the influence of Maurice de Saxe, but his overall uniform scheme was not adopted. It is interesting none less that one of France’s most experienced and successful officers of the first half of the 18th century envisioned an ideal uniform that had such parallels to that dictated by the culture and climate extremes ofNew France in the Seven Years War.

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“In sight of the ruins, a quarter mile distant…” Part 4


The story of a visit to Fort Ticonderoga in 1872.

Part 4, Conclusion; there is always something new to discover!

Seneca Ray Stoddard’s narrative of his visit to Ticonderoga and related stereo photographs provide unique documentation regarding how people traveled to the site and what could be seen as visitors explored the ruins. 

This image captures evidence of 19th-century occupation of Fort Ticonderoga’s grounds.

Occasionally, however, his photographs capture details about the Fort’s landscape, which, although were likely meaningless to Stoddard, provide important clues to how use of the grounds evolved during the 19th century. 

 One photograph, for example, was intended to show a portion of the interior of the officers’ barracks and a view of the landscape towards the French lines to the west.  The group of structures in the background, however, are the real points of interest.  This is the only image known that clearly shows this group of 19th-century farm buildings.  Exactly when where they built, who lived in them, or how long they existed is currently unknown.

The railroad trestle and roof of a barn can be seen in the background of this photograph.

Similarly, another photograph illustrates construction details of the original railroad trestle spanning the La Chute River to the south of the Fort in the early 1870s.  In addition, a roof of another structure, possibly a barn, is clearly shown on the slope just to the right of the cluster of trees.  Again, when it was built, who used it, and how long it existed is currently unknown.

 A third photograph taken by Stoddard on October 7, 1910 documents the New York State Historical Association’s visit to Fort Ticonderoga in connection with its annual meeting that was held aboard the Steamer Vermonton Lake Champlain.  During their visit, the members were given a tour of the Fort and museum by the museum’s founders Stephen and Sarah Pell.

This rare 1910 photograph shows the reconstruction of the Fort still in progress.

Like the previous two photographs, this image provides documentation for aspects of the site that Stoddard was probably not intending to specifically document.  Notice that the roof of the barracks building is not yet completely tiled and a ladder can be seen through the widow at the end of the building.  Also note the construction sheds and workshops still standing on the parade ground.  While by the time this photograph was taken, the museum had been open to the public for several months, it is clear that the Fort is still very much a construction site.  This photograph is one of only a handful of images know that documents the earliest phases of the reconstruction of the Fort actually in progress.

Seneca Ray Stoddard’s legacy for Fort Ticonderoga lies in his photography and writings.  His book Ticonderoga and dozens of photographs documenting nearly all aspects of Fort Ticonderoga and its historic landscape are vivid reminders that historic sites are ever-changing places and that the interpretation of history evolves over time.  The Fort that Stoddard saw through his camera lenses is gone forever, but through his work, Stoddard has preserved many brief moments in the Fort’s history.  And because of his work it is possible to experience, in some small way, what visitors to the ruins experienced almost a century and a half ago.  Today Fort Ticonderoga’s mission is to ensure that present and future generations learn from the struggles, sacrifices, and victories that shaped the nations of North America and changed world history.  In some ways this mission is really just an extension of Stoddard’s efforts to preserve Fort Ticonderoga’s history through his writings and photography so many generations ago.

Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator

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William Ferris Pell, Horticulturalist

When William Ferris Pell purchased the 546-acre Garrison Grounds encompassing the ruins of Fort Ticonderoga in 1820, he preserved the remaining stonework of the Fort and began shaping the landscape surrounding the summer home he built nearby.  Set in a pastoral landscape, the site was described as reminiscent of “park scenery of England; and the view of the ruins from those meadows is strikingly beautiful: the clumps of trees, the circuitous route [to the ferry dock], the view of Lake Champlain on the right, and an amphitheatre of wood on the left, make this a most beautiful and interesting route.”

A large collection of gooseberries was included in William Ferris Pell’s garden.

Pell worked in the family business, Pells and Company, an auction house and import/export firm that later evolved into a financing company.  The early 1800s ushered in significant changes as New York City became a center for landscape gardeners and nurserymen.  Horticultural societies were formed and proper country estates with picturesque landscapes were created by industrialists north along the Hudson River. Frequent trips by Pell through the Champlain Valley to Burlington, Vermont, and Canada brought him past the ruined Fort and spacious grounds where he decided to erect his summer home on the shores of Lake Champlain.

William Ferris Pell had a keen interest in botany, purportedly studying at Columbia College under Dr. David Hosick, a well-known and respected botanist and horticulturalist who founded Elgin Garden, a botanic garden, herbarium, and library three and a half miles outside of New York’s city limits where Rockefeller Center stands today.  Pell’s sketch made for the layout of his Ticonderoga property included a plum nursery and a fenced and gated yard or garden with internal pathways.  His passion for trees is apparent in the number and variety of species he planted around the home he named the Pavilion (1826).  An early visitor remarked that Pell “has been at pains to bring varieties of trees, shrubs, and fruits” to his gardens.  Ornamental and fruit-bearing trees are mentioned in an 1841 edition of Theodore Dwight’s Northern Traveller, including “the choicest fruits imported from Europe”, thousands of flourishing locust trees, horse chestnut, catalpa, and “upwards of 70 varieties of the gooseberry from Europe.”

Stereoview photo from c. 1875 showing a tall, narrow ornamental tree behind the Pavilion.

Early photographs in the Fort’s collection depict some of the specimens planted around the Pavilion.  Three black locust trees dating from this era still remain on the front lawn.  A notable tree whose species has not been identified appears in numerous images from 1875 – 1917.  Its unique columnar effect suggests that William Ferris Pell may have planted it as part of his collection.  Some sentiment may have been attached to the venerable old tree.  After it died around 1911, the branches were trimmed back and the main truck left to allow vines to grow up it for perhaps a decade; a somewhat disorderly arrangement compared to the finely kept gardens nearby.  The last record of the tree is a family photo of the resident foreman and his son taken next to its lifeless trunk.

This 1884 lithograph depicts representations, but not all the trees on the landscape. The artist chose to include the unique specimen near the Pavilion.

Landscape trees added by the Pell family in the early 1900s are the next generation of legacy trees to be planted on the Pavilion grounds.   Images and documents from the Fort’s collection are used to help date changes made to the landscape and learn the age of the trees.  These historic trees are the subject of the Fort Fever Series program entitled “A Timeline of Trees on the Pavilion Landscape” presented on Sunday, February 10th, 2013.  Learn more about this snowshoe walk/hike here.

Exploring our site on foot and walking beneath towering ash, maples, oaks, and many others, is a way to step into the past and imagine yourself visiting in 1845 and experiencing “drops of sunshine which steal from beneath the sloping eaves of the verdant grove.”

Heidi teRiele Karkoksi
Director of Horticulture





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