Raising Montcalm’s Cross

Young and old are fascinated by great battles in history.  In addition to these generic themes of the roar of cannons, musketry, and grim statistics, every battle has a unique story. It is these unique stories that have filled the imaginations of armchair generals and casual history buffs alike for centuries.  Fort Ticonderoga has been remembered, preserved, and restored because its grounds hosted five great battles in the course of two wars. In the process of planning a living history event to recreate these battles and wars, our goal is to bring the unique story of each encounter to life.

This summer’s upcoming ‘Montcalm’s Cross’ event is going to tell the story of the July, 8th 1758 Battle of Carillon. Unprecedented in military casualties in North America to that time, this battle made Ticonderoga a household name. The recreation of this battle is nothing new. Less than three months later it was re-enacted back in France in front of the Paris city hall. Two hundred and fifty-five years later, when bringing this story to life, there are a lot of factors to consider for the visitors of Fort Ticonderoga. The history of the battle and the unique narrative of its events and characters is a basic starting point. But to ensure that participants and visitors alike have an enjoyable and engaging experience, we have to broaden our planning. The battle will be recreated predominantly by re-enactors, dedicated historians who volunteer to recreate historic events. We have to take into account what is feasible to ask of these valuable volunteers. In addition, there are the various safety, comfort, and educational considerations for visitors coming to enjoy and engage in the living history event. The history of the battle and timeline of the event only tell a part of the story. In order to make the experience for visitors and participant as enjoyable and engaging as possible, we seek to recreate not only the basic facts, but the visceral details of the battle. To this end, one of the key considerations in re-enactment will be the setting of this important battle.

By July of 1758, Fort Carillon sat on a cleared tip of the Ticonderoga peninsula that was otherwise surrounded by virgin forest. These trees were tremendously old, so tall and large that they blocked most the light that could filter down to the forest floor. This prevented the usual growth of dense underbrush as with many secondary growth forests in the Northeast today. Most of the woods around this isolated Fort were surprisingly open inside, though the trees themselves were dense enough to obscure one’s view beyond thirty to fifty yards. In fact, French engineer Michele Chartier de Lotbineire described the density of these old growth trees as the cause of placing the Fort west of its initial design. The immediate area of the Fort had been cleared for almost three years by 1758, with the foundation of the fort itself blasted flat by French soldiers beginning in 1756. Therefore, the mown grass surrounding the present day Fort is not too far off the historical reality for 1758.

The Saturday of this two-day living history event will feature the skirmish that erupted as the British advanced from Lake George landing through the LeChute valley towards Ticonderoga. For our visitors attending the entire weekend of events, this will create two distinct days, both telling essential pieces of the story of the Battle of Carillon. Portraying the story of this skirmish is important to understanding the assault on the heights of Carillon. It was in this encounter that Brigadier General Lord Howe, darling of the British Army, was killed undermining British morale and command. This skirmish took place in the heavily forested landscape that dominated the LeChute Valley. To recreate this skirmish we are searching for a location on the site that has that same setting of dense forest. While trying to find a place on the landscape that has that same look, we have to take in to consideration that our visitors have the ability to get there and see what’s going on. They need to be comfortable and not in any actual danger while watching this recreation. Ideally, we are hoping to locate our visitors under the cover of the forest canopy. In this July event, the shade will be a welcome comfort and the perfect place to be immersed in this ancient forest landscape. Standing in amongst tree trunks, visitors can imagine taking shelter from buckshot and bullets, only to rush forward or retreat to the next.

For Sunday, our goal is to recreate the July 8th  direct assault on the heights of Carillon. The real battle of Carillon took place on the rise one mile to the west of the Fort. That hilltop, until a matter of hours before the battle, was still the old growth, virgin forest. The Marquis de Montcalm ordered his soldiers to entrench on that hillside, clearing off the forest for about a 100 yard radius around the top of the high ground. They used the trees they cut down to build the breastwork, their defensive position. Logs were stacked eight feet high, and one half mile long, zigzagging around the heights of Carillon to give intersecting fire against their British assailants. The tops of the trees were arrayed out thirty yards in front with the sharpened branches facing outwards, acting almost like barbed wire. Given the size and age of the trees used, this abatis hid the log breastwork from view.

Though we have the advantage of recreating the Battle of Carillon at the original location, using the actual battlefield itself is not an option. It is an archaeologically sensitive location and we hold our mission of preservation of these historic grounds equal to our mission of education about them. We have to find a place on the landscape where we can create the overall appearance of the Heights of Carillon on that day in July, 1758. Since the French lines were constructed rapidly right before the battle, the area around it was an open landscape of pine needles and leaves dotted by rocks and the remaining stumps from the cleared forest. The grounds for the re-created battle should capture the feel of the real setting. We cannot recreate the full half-mile of the French lines; it would take an army to do so. What we can do is recreate a representative section of the French lines, but have them be as visually faithful to our best understanding of the historic battlefield.

In so doing, we will reuse segments of the eight-foot high log breastwork that were recreated for the 250th anniversary of the battle. These were put together with the effort of many volunteers and have weathered the five years since then in surprisingly good shape. We will restore those segments to recreate a part of the French lines, but we want to move them up to the crest of the hill, which better matches the natural rise of the placement of the actual historic French lines.

Another key aspect of these recreated French lines is the abatis: the tree tops intertwined together, with sharpened branches pointed out in front of the breastwork. Historically, they served as a barbed-wire like barrier to that log breastwork, but they also visually screened the breastwork from the opposing forces. Overall, in recreating the French lines, visitors and participants alike should be able to see a log breastwork, screened by sharpened tree tops, overlooking about 100 yards of dead, barren, no-man’s land. In this way we can, in terms of setting, capture the real drama of that 1758 battle.

As with the skirmish that caused the death of Lord Howe, to portray the actual assault on the French lines, we have to consider where visitors will be. And this question certainly has the same considerations of comfort, safety, and accessibility. In addition, the location for viewing the battle is important in what part of the story we’re trying to tell. Placing visitors looking down from the French lines, just by the nature of where they are, tells the story from a very French perspective. Visitors would see wave after wave of British and provincial soldiers rushing up towards the French soldiers protected by the breastwork. They would feel the immediacy of the French firing as fast as they can to maintain their position and their lives. Conversely, placing visitors down far below the French lines outside this dead, no-man’s land space, lends itself to a more British or provincial perspective. Visitors would see in close detail the restless moments for British and provincial soldiers before they rush out into this open killing field. Visitors would look up at the worried faces of American provincials pinned down by fire from the French soldiers, huddling behind the stumps and rocks, anxiously awaiting nightfall. Still another option is to place viewing along a line perpendicular to the recreated French lines. In this way we would create a cross-sectional view to see the anatomy and the mechanics of the French victory and British defeat.

All these considerations go into telling the story of the 1758 Battle of Carillon at this summer’s, “Montcalm’s Cross,” event. As we figure out the best way to capture the visceral details of this great piece of history, we could not be more excited to have the opportunity to bring the stories of struggle and sacrifice of the individual soldiers to life.

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Diana in the King’s Garden


Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973)

In the center of the King’s Garden rests the bronze sculpture, The Young Diana, that depicts Roman mythology’s goddess of the hunt.  Displayed on a pedestal in the reflecting pool, the statue is located on a cross-axis and serves as a focal point when viewed from the garden entrances.  It was a gift from museum founder Stephen Pell’s cousin, Anna Hyatt Huntington, one of the foremost American sculptors of her time and one of the first women to achieve recognition in the medium.  Originally commissioned in 1923 by north Boston socialite Mrs. John Hays Hammond as a fountain for her summer estate, The Young Diana at the King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga is one of six versions of this sculpture, five of which are on display to the public. 


The youthful version of Diana was a departure from the classical treatment of the subject previously done by Huntington.

The sculptor and her philanthropist husband, Archer Milton Huntington, were staunch supporters of the restoration of Fort Ticonderoga beginning in 1928. Archer was named a Patron of the museum, then its highest form of recognition to donors.  A month after the couple visited in 1937 to observe the progress made in the Fort’s reconstruction, The Young Diana arrived in a crate much to delight of Stephen Pell.  His granddaughter recounted that he later said “How would you feel if you were expecting Mae West and got Shirley Temple taking a bath?”  The statue is a lithe, adolescent Diana with short cropped hair blown forward around her face.  Pell admitted that it was exactly right for the garden. 


The statue’s grace inspired Stephen’s wife, Sarah, to praise it in poetry.





At the same time, the artist had begun offering her sculpture to schools, colleges, museums, and garden parks.  More than 200 institutions throughout the world proved willing recipients.  The Huntingtons also established the largest outdoor sculpture garden in the United States on a 6,000-acre estate near Myrtle Beach, S.C., known as Brookgreen Gardens.  Anna Hyatt Huntington is best known for her animal and equestrian figures, and was an expert horsewoman.  She was the only female artist at that time to be awarded membership to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, considered the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in the U.S.


Pedestal detail

Her interpretation of Diana displayed here includes a base made up of three twisted dolphins holding a shell, with the goddess perched atop, having released her arrow to the sky.  It weighs over 1000 pounds and contains internal piping, which is consistent with its original design for use as a fountain.  The statue was repaired and restored, then reinstalled during the major restoration period of the King’s Garden which took place between 1995 and 2001.


By Heidi teRiele Karkoski
Curator of Landscape


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“In sight of the ruins, a quarter mile distant…” Part 2


The story of a visit to Fort Ticonderoga in 1872.

Part 2, Overland passage to the Fort.

Upon leaving the docks on the stagecoach bound for Fort Ticonderoga, Stoddard records that William Baldwin immediately set to entertaining and educating his passengers during the hour-long journey to the Fort; sometimes boasting of the famous passengers he has had the pleasure of carrying and at other times pointing out natural curiosities along the way.  Upon nearing the village of Ticonderoga Baldwin exclaims “Ladies and gentlemen, you will see, if you please, on your left, a great natural curiosity – an oak and an elm growing from one stump; you can see by the bark and by the leaves that there is no mistake about it; it is truly a great natural curiosity; and what God has joined together let not man put asunder!”


Ticonderoga had several sets of waterfalls around which its 19th-century industries developed.

In passing through Ticonderoga and by its several sets of waterfalls on the La Chute River, Stoddard records that Ticonderoga is a “thriving little village containing about 1,500 inhabitants, three or four churches, schools, an academy, woolen factory – noted for producing a remarkably good quality of cloth – two hotels, several stores, black lead mill, etc.”  Upon leaving the bounds of the village, Stoddard remarks “Glancing backward we see the lovely little village; its white houses and church spires gleaming through the dark green foliage of oaks, shut in by mountains that come down round about on every side; the divided falls flashing and foaming white, with a foreground of waving grasses and lily-pads.”  19th century Ticonderoga was surely a prosperous town.


In the 1870s the Carillon battlefield was marked by a wooden sign nailed to a tree.

As Baldwin’s caravan approaches the Fort’s historic garrison grounds Stoddard notes that “Arriving at the top of the hill we find a broad plateau, along which, in a south-easterly direction, we go, and entering a field through a gate, which is opened by a muddy little boy, are upon the bloody battle ground in front of the old French lines.”  He further states “We cross the “old French lines,” full of angles, fronted by a deep ditch, and extending through the woods to the water on either side, past two or three redouts, and come in sight of the ruins, a quarter of a mile distant.”  But to Stoddard’s chagrin, the ruins are not Baldwin’s prime objective; getting his passengers to the Lake Champlain dock below the Fort in a timely manner is his priority.  Upon catching his first glimpse of Fort Ticonderoga’s ruins Stoddard writes “What memories cluster around the gray old promontory? What a history is thine, oh, crumbling Ticonderoga? Enough for another chapter!  So, let us hasten to the hotel, down among the locusts, where a good dinner is awaiting, after which we can moralize, and paw among the ruins to our heart’s content.”


The Fort Ticonderoga Hotel entertained guests for sixty years between 1840 and 1900.

The hotel that Stoddard refers to is the Fort Ticonderoga Hotel which he describes, “was built in 1826, by William F. Pell, for a summer residence, and first occupied as a hotel in 1840, at which time the grounds were thrown open to the public.  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 and a road leads north through the fields to Addison Junction, over which a free carriage conveys guests to and from all trains.  Just back of the house are the ruins.  The accommodations are first-class, but limited, the chief business being the dinner provided for excursionists, and for which the house has become celebrated.  Altogether it is a very enjoyable place.”

This handbill describes the amenities offered at the Fort Ticonderoga Hotel in 1868.


To be continued…

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

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On the Road

One of the parts of my job I enjoy the most is the opportunity to get out into the surrounding area to work with different audiences, from a group of 6th grade students developing project topics for this year’s National History Day program to college students looking for internship opportunities in 2013.

Rich Strum, Director of Education, with students from Peru Middle School during a recent visit to discuss History Day topics.

Part of my role as Coordinator of North Country History Day is to meet with teachers and students to orient them to the National History Day program and help them as they begin to identify possible topics for their projects related to the current year’s theme: “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events.” Since late September I’ve met with several groups of students, including a group of homeschool parents and students here at Fort Ticonderoga during “Homeschool Day” in October.

Students at Peru Middle School just south of Plattsburgh meet every other week in an afterschool club to work on their History Day projects. I was able to meet with these students on a recent Thursday at the end of their school day to talk about History Day. Several students participated in the History Day program last year and have now encouraged classmates to take part in the coming year. Students are now entering the “crunch time,” with registration to participate in North Country History Day coming up in early February and the competition in early March. They are currently immersed in research related to their chosen topic.

Director of Interpretation Stuart Lilie with students from Ticonderoga Elementary School during the outreach program “A Soldier’s Life.”

Students are also the focus of our new school outreach program “A Soldier’s Life.” I’ve been working with Director of Interpretation Stuart Lilie to re-launch a formal school outreach program. In early November, Stuart, interpreter Cameron Green, and I went to Ticonderoga Elementary School to field test the new program with fourth grade students. Stuart and Cameron focused on the life of soldiers at the Fort in 1775, using food and clothing as tangible links between the soldier’s life and that of the students. This new program is now available for schools throughout the region. Grants from the Walter Cerf Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation and the Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Fund cover most of the costs for select schools.

I’ve also been out working with teachers in the region. On November 2nd, I spent the day working with a group of 45 teachers from across the state of Vermont at an event on “Changing Perspectives in History” sponsored by the “Turning Points in American History” Teaching American History NEH project. I worked with the teachers in groups of 15, using historic documents and images to talk about “Changing Perspectives on Benedict Arnold.” Many of these same teachers will spend a day at Fort Ticonderoga next August learning about ways to use museum exhibitions and interpretive programs to enhance their teaching of the American Revolution.

As I write, I am preparing to present on “The Common Core, Literacy, and Historical Thinking in Social Studies” at the Vermont Alliance for the Social Studies annual conference in Burlington later this month. This is one of several conferences for teachers that I try to attend each year. I’ll also be presenting at the New York State Council on the Social Studies conference in late February in Westchester, New York.

This fall I’ve also taken part in two internship fairs for college students: at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, and at SUNY Plattsburgh. These venues provide an opportunity for college students seeking practical, real-world experiences to learn about the options for internships and project-based collaborative relationships.

Finally, I gave a presentation to a group of 120 senior citizens at SUNY Adirondack as part of their life-long learning. The overview of Fort Ticonderoga’s history was followed by a lively discussion about the role of Fort Ticonderoga in 18th-century American history.

The road trips continue through the winter. Maybe I’ll be passing through your town.

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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Never Say Never

To historians, perhaps as much as scientists, proving yourself wrong is often more exciting than being correct.  Often visitors ask about how the cavalry was used in battle around Fort Ticonderoga, to which our answer would be that we haven’t found any evidence of cavalry at Fort Ticonderoga. Typically, we elaborate on this answer to mention many instances of mounted officers as well as large numbers of artillery horses in use during the American Revolution and even the French and Indian War. However, it appears that this explanation is not quite true.

With woods, wetlands, and few good roads military operations along Lake Champlain were not conducive to cavalry operations.

During Fort Ticonderoga’s military history, the Lake Champlain valley that surrounded the Fort was not conducive to effective cavalry operations. The scattered farms that dotted both the Vermont andNew York sides of theLake did not offer enough open ground to justify the presence of mounted soldiers. Instead the deep forests and many marshlands made horse-powered transport very difficult outside of the few roads between lakeside landings. Beyond this, pasture space to maintain horses around Fort Ticonderogawas limited and of poor quality during summer droughts. Large scale and rapid maneuvers were more easily executed by boat during the great campaigns around this key to the continent. Despite these factors it appears there was one very small cavalry operation atTiconderogain the fall of 1775.

For the purpose of reviewing the debts of the Continental Army, the Continental Congress appointed a smaller committee. This Committee of Claims initiated this small cavalry operation during their meeting in Philadelphiaon October 10th, 1775. General Phillip Schuyler kept a constant stream of correspondence with the Continental Congress as he managed the supply, personnel, and military operations of the Northern Department. From his quarters at Fort Ticonderoga, General Schuyler kept the Committee of Claims abreast of open accounts with merchants, teamsters, contractors, officers, and soldiers. This October 10th meeting found that there were ‘reasonable’ claims for payment within the Northern Department of the Continental Army. These included, “The Account of Du Simitiere, amounting to eight Dollars, for translating the Address of the United Colonies to the Inhabitants of Quebeck.” Among others, payment was authorized for “Christopher Ludwig’ s Account, for sundry expenses in forwarding Powder to Ticonderoga, amounting to 41.2 Dollars.” In order to get this money to Ticonderoga, the committee discussed “On motion, Resolved, That the Money be sent to General Schuyler, under an escort of four of the Light-Horse.” After an hour break the president of this committee summarized their decision: “The President reported that he had dispatched an express to General Schuyler with £6,364, Pennsylvania Currency, in Silver and Gold, ($16,970 2-3,) with an escort of four of the Light-Horse of this City. “

We know that four members of the Philadelphia Light Horse rode all the way to Fort Ticonderoga to deliver this money to General Schuyler. The minutes of the Continental Congress from November 25th, 1775 includes a resolve to pay “Levi Hollingsworth, for expenses of himself and three others, to Ticonderoga and back again, who took with them a sum of money for General Schuyler, the sum of 128 Dollars.” Levi Hollingsworth was a prominent Philadelphia merchant who specialized in flour, as did much of his family.  Like many other wealthy merchants in Philadelphia, Levi Hollingsworth was a member of the Philadelphia Light Horse, a gentleman’s volunteer cavalry troop.  In 1775, and perhaps throughout the war, the Philadelphia Light Horse was the best uniformed and equipped cavalry available to the Continental Congress and Continental Army. Much like any other independent gentlemen’s company, the members of the Philadelphia Light Horse voted on their uniform.

A dark brown short Coat, faced and lined with white, white Vest and Breeches; high topped Boots; round black Hat, bound with silver cord and a buck’s tail; and ARMS a Carbine, a pair of Pistols and Holsters, with flounces of brown cloth trimmed with white; a horseman’s Sword; white belts for the sword and carbine.

One of the few known images of the Philadelphia Light Horse. It largely agrees with uniform described in the minutes of the troop.

Every member had to equip themselves accordingly, creating a very fine unit of cavalry. They even purchased a fine yellow silk standard which survives to this day. These gentleman volunteers are best known for being General Washington’s escort during the 1776 and 1777 campaigns. Charles Wilson Peale portrayed two members of the Philadelphia Light Horse in the background of his portrait ofWashington at Princeton, giving us another pictorial source on this unit.

For his part, Levi Hollingsworth is much better known as an important merchant during the early years of the US Army.  During the Revolution, he supplied some foodstuffs to the Continental Army, beginning a very long relationship with military supply. During the early years of the US Army in the 1780s and 90s he expanded his dealings from simply foodstuffs into munitions and arms. During the war of 1812, he served as a very outspoken critic of the war as well as an important merchant to the US Army. Levi Hollingsworth’s correspondence after the American Revolution is very well known, as it was catalogued in the War Department Papers, as well as his own collection of papers later in life. As we delve more into the life of Levi Hollingsworth, we hope to know more about his trip to Ticonderoga than simply that he got there and back to Philadelphia, dressed pretty nicely. Further research may well give the names of the other three horseman and some answers to practical questions of riding up to this Old French Fort. In the best of all possible worlds, we may find a personal account of the trip so that when we portray 1775 again, we may be able to tell this neat story about the one real cavalry operation at Fort Ticonderoga.

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“In sight of the ruins, a quarter mile distant…” Part 1


The story of a visit to Fort Ticonderoga in 1872.

Part 1, The photographer and his book.

This is the first in a four-part blog series describing a visit to the ruins of Fort Ticonderogain 1872 by Seneca Ray Stoddard.  Stoddard (1844-1917) was a prolific photographer and writer focusing much of his work on New York’s Adirondack mountain region.  His guidebooks to northern New York are valuable resources that provide a unique window into the past.  Stoddard’s work at and about Fort Ticonderoga offers a rare glimpse into an aspect of the Fort’s past that we are only now beginning to fully appreciate.

Seneca Ray Stoddard left an exceptional combination of photographs and a written record that, when used together, offer unique insight into the history of Fort Ticonderoga.  By studying his works in tandem, we have the ability to retrace the steps and thoughts of a visitor to the Fort at a time when the Fort was still a romantic ruin and the events that occurred at the site were still vivid in people’s imaginations. 

In 1873 Seneca Ray Stoddard published Ticonderoga: Past and Present.  This book chronicles his visit to Fort Ticonderoga in 1872.  He begins his narrative with a description of the trip to Ticonderoga via Lake George steamboat, and the overland stagecoach ride to the ruins.  Upon reaching Fort Ticonderoga, Stoddard provides a rare and detailed description of a visit to the ruins and its outlying defenses and offers an interpretation of the Fort’s historic landscape and features; an interpretation based in part on his own knowledge of the Fort’s remarkable history and, in part, on the interpretation of other, more military-minded individuals who have visited the ruins before him.  While not necessarily published to be a guide to the Fort, Stoddard’s Ticonderoga does read as an unofficial guide book to this historic site that in the 19th century was already a well-known destination for America’s earliest generations of heritage tourists.  When combined with Stoddard’s extensive stereo photography of Fort Ticonderoga’s ruins, this book creates a veritable time machine in which one can travel 140 years into the past and visit the Fort at a time when it was still a pristine ruin.

Seneca Ray Stoddard visited Ticonderoga at least five times between 1868-1874. We can document his visits to the day through his signatures in Fort Ticonderoga Hotel guest books.

To get to Ticonderoga, Stoddard traveled the route followed by countless people before him; by boat down Lake George.  Whether idle travelers seeking respite in the peace of the northern lakes, businessmen traveling between New York City and Montreal, or armies seeking to capture or control Fort Ticonderoga during the French & Indian War and American Revolution; Lake George was the crucial link in the historic water highway passing through northern New York.  In the 19th century the Lake George steamboats disembarked their passengers at the Baldwin docks south of Ticonderoga.  From there travelers passed overland by stagecoach to the steamer dock on Lake Champlain below Fort Ticonderoga’s ruins.  By the early 1870s, with the construction of the railroad along Lake Champlain, travelers had the option of catching the speedier train to continue their journey.

William Baldwin’s stagecoaches at Fort Ticonderoga, September 25, 1874. This rare stereoview illustrates some of the very stagecoaches that Stoddard describes in his book.

Upon landing at the Baldwin dock, Stoddard boarded a stagecoach for the second leg of his journey to Fort Ticonderoga.  Of the transportation before him, Stoddard notes “Five great box-like stages, one baggage wagon, twenty-two horses and six drivers waited for us at the foot of Lake George, as the little steamer came to rest against the dock, and we passed out over the plank to the clay-bespattered platform, where stood the driver-in-chief, with always a pleasant word or a happy retort at his tongue’s end.”  Stoddard is referring to William Guy Baldwin, the famed stagecoach operated who transported travelers between the Lake George and Lake Champlain steamboat docks during the later decades of the 19th century.  Stoddard describes Baldwin as “a genial, obliging, gentlemanly man; the joy of seekers after knowledge; the terror of those who know too much.”

To be continued…

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

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We’ve Got the Blues

Anchusa azurea by name tells of its blue color. The strain ‘Dropmore’ was selected in 1905 and it still available today.

Deep blue, azure blue, sky blue, and sapphire blue – annuals and perennials in shades of blue are artfully arranged to accent both soft and bold colored plant groupings.  All are on display in the King’s Garden, one of just a few examples of landscape architect Marian Coffin’s work that remains from her successful career that peaked between 1918 and 1930.

She was commissioned to redesign the walled garden behind the summer home of Stephen and Sarah Pell at Fort Ticonderoga in 1920, using her expertise gained from formal training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and trips to Europe to study classical and “natural” garden designs.  Coffin was introduced to Gertrude Jekyll, probably the most influential English landscape architect of the period, while touring gardens abroad.  Jekyll appreciated the beauty of both natural and formal styles, used a painterly approach to garden design, and carefully used color to evoke a desired feeling in the landscape -theories that influenced the style Marian Coffin adopted in her own designs.

Clear blue Salvia azurea (pitcher sage) compliments a soft yellow dahlia

Colour in the Flower Garden (1908) was Jekyll’s most famous book, widely read by professional and amateur gardeners.   The use of blue and yellow flowers to create a sense of light is a recurrent theme in her planting schemes and she describes, “The blues will be more telling – more purely blue – by the juxtaposition of rightly placed complimentary color”.

Coffin incorporated this idea into the long rectangular beds and borders that separate the cool-hued east end of the King’s Garden with the fiery palette of the west end.  Lemon-yellow giant marigolds are paired with blue ageratum, pale yellow hollyhocks with steely-blue globe thistle, pure blue bachelor buttons matched with creamy yellow, nodding columbine, and sky-blue pitcher sage alongside light yellow marigolds.  These beds also include the blue flowers of anchusa, blue hybrid columbine, monkshood, lupine, mealycup sage and delphinium.  Considering the soft red brick walls in the background of the plantings as a third color in the scheme, Coffin successfully used muted shades of the three primary colors in perfect combination.

Delphinium bellamosum, a Coffin selection for the King’s Garden

Blue in its deepest tones is a striking contrast with vivid reds and oranges.  Again following Jekyll’s theories, Coffin incorporated “larkspur blue” delphinium –  a rich, deep blue -amidst the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows of beebalm, tiger lilies, and bold zinnias.  Warm colors are a real attention getter and can be overwhelming if not used judiciously.  The addition of blue accents gives the eye a place to rest in what could otherwise be a busy scheme.  Warm colors are more effective when balanced with blues and greens nearby or behind them.  It’s OK to have the blues!

Bachelor buttons allow the eye to rest among vivid red poppies and yellow bearded iris

This is the perfect time of year to evaluate your garden beds and begin to make plans for the next growing season.  What color combinations work in your garden and which ones do not?  Experiment with the addition of blue accents in shades that harmonize with the existing scheme.  Take inspiration from Gertrude Jekyll by reading her book on use of color at Internet Archive –  http://archive.org/details/colourinflowerg00jekygoog.  Though written over 100 years ago, her words are timeless.  “The duty we owe to our gardens and to our own bettering in our gardens is so to use the plants that they shall form beautiful pictures…”

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Combat in the North Woods

The scrub brush along Lake Champlain presented both a challange and opportunity.

In discussing firelocks, cannons, or mortars with visitors, the question that logically comes up is the use of these weapons in a battle. Unfortunately, mentioning “A Battle” leads to images conjured out of the movies. Despite the rugged, wooded hills surrounding Fort Ticonderoga, as well as Lake Champlain, the hypothetical battle in which these weapons fire is a large open pastoral landscape on a bright sunny day, as in any blockbuster movie. Beyond the exciting May 10th 1775 capture ofFort Ticonderoga that helped make the reputation of both the Green Mountain Boys and this remote Fortress, the summer of 1775 was filled with fatigue and preparations, poor fodder to describe combat in the north woods. However, as the Continental Army’s Northern Department coalesced enough to begin the siege of Saint Johns, we have enough accounts to characterize combat for the soldiers that served here.

The siege of Saint Johns began with landings to the south of this Fort on September sixth and did not end until the British Regular and Canadian garrison surrendered on November first.  In this way the skirmishes and artillery duels that made up the siege represent the longest period of military engagement until the siege of Quebec at the very end of the year. One could potentially dismiss the siege of Saint Johns as merely a siege, and therefore unrepresentative of a typical battle. However, the waterways and land that make up theLake Chaplain corridor into Canada makes the events of this siege the norm for the North.

For the New England and New York soldiers advancing into Canada, marching really meant rowing. Travel by bateaux, just as in the French & Indian war, was the only efficient mode. With hundreds of soldiers moving in a flotilla of bateaux, protection of these soldiers and fire support took the form of small but substantial schooners and row galleys built to transport and use cannons and mortars. Much in the manner of the tall ships on the high seas, water transport allowed for substantial cannons to maneuver on the lake with relative ease. Obviously smaller than the massive guns of the great ships of the line, the six- and twelve-pounder cannons of many of these lake vessels still dictated the range of engagement. As in coastal fortifications, lakeside fortifications carried a similar armament to their water born adversaries. Accordingly, combat was amphibious, as well as centered around the relatively large cannons stationed on ship and shore.

Battle during the siege ofSaint Johns was both very brief and agonizingly long. Encounters between patrols were a mere matter of minutes, while the ever-present cannons and mortars of ships and batteries alike could drop shot or mortars on soldiers at a moments notice day or night. Sergeant Aaron Barlow, of the Fifth Connecticut, described the first scout around the Fort in his September eighth entry:

They went out on scout about 1000 men, and came to within a mile and a half of the Fort where they were fired upon by some Indians and Regulars. They returned the fire. There was a hot fire for about 15 minutes. They run off and we retreated back a few rods and put up a Breast work. We lost 8 men and 6 wounded…In the evening they flung bombs at us and drove us out of our Breast work. We retreated back about a mile and put up another Breast work and tarried here till day.

Two days later, and back in bateaux with his fellow Connecticut soldiers, Sergeant Barlow described another encounter with a British sortie:

As we came near the place where we had our first fight we discovered the enemy before they saw us, some on the shore and some on theLakein Batteaux. We fired at those on shore. They returned the fire—grape shot from their swivel boats and small arms from the shore. Our row gallies fire on their boats. The fire continued about 10 minutes very hot, then they ran off.


The battlefield in 1775 was very far from a well mowed field.

Indeed these encounters on land and lake were quite brief, but the big guns present in boats and batteries meant long hours under fire. Already seemingly a seasoned veteran ten days later, Sergeant Barlow wrote of his service, “-A number belonging to the water craft went to work with them on land-we cut a road and made bridges within half a mile of the Fort. They fired Bomb shells and cannon Balls more or less every day at us but they have done us no damage by it.”  Major Henry Livingston of the Third New York noted this threat during the landings around the Fort on the eleventh of October, “As we were landing & for some time after we were landed they fired briskly with grapeshot from the Fort but by the good providence of God we had not a single man hurt. We made no Regular Encampment, but lodged about in the woods as well as we could for this night.” Given artillery ranges over two miles, soldiers in camp weren’t immune from the shot and shell. Near the end of the siege on October twenty-fifth, Colonel Rudolphus Ritzema noted, “-one of Capt. Mott’s Men killed and another wounded in their Tent by a dead Shot.”

Neither wide open fields, nor bare tree trunks under the canopy of the deep woods, the corridor along the lake presented both a challenge and an opportunity. Before landing to the south of Saint Johns, Colonel Rudolphus Ritzema tersely described this battlefield, “very few Settlements along either Shore of the lake; the Country hereabouts is very low & marshy.” The effects of this terrain were compounded by the employment of night-time maneuvers to avoid the cannon fire of the British held fort. Reverend Benjamin Trumbull wrote a spirited defense of the conduct of the CT soldiers, describing this difficulty:

The Design was that 500 men should pass the Forts in the dead of Night, undiscovered, and the remaining 400 should return with the Boats to the Isle Aux Noix. As soon as the 500 Men, who were designed to pass the Forts, were landed and paraded, they had Orders to march through the Swamp on the west Side of the Forts and take post below them. Although the Night was serene, yet the woods were so exceeding thick it was very dark for them, and the Passage difficult. For this Reason orders were given, which many of the troops heard, not to march with any Flank Guard, but to keep good Guards in the Front and Rear.

Despite these unfortunate consequences on September tenth, Continental Army actions during this siege were often aided by the concealment offered by this dense underbrush. Sergeant Barlow’s Journal records such an incident on the twenty-second of September, even allowing his fellow Connecticut Yankees to ambush a British gunboat:

We went to building a fasheen Batteryabout 100 rods this side of the Fort. We carried them through the bushes very still undiscovered by the Regulars til just at night a boat came along the lake about 12 Rods from the shore. A party discovered them, crept down in the bushes by the side of theLaketill they came against us, when they fired on them. They all dropt in the boat. They soon fired on us from the Fort, grape shot, cannon balls, and Bomb-shells did rattle.

 Major Livingston found similar success with his Yorkers as they built another battery opposing Saint Johns, stating, “As soon as it was dark under the Direction of on Halsey we began a Battery for 2 twelve pounders in addition to the French on & finish’d it before daylight. The Enemy probably never knew any thing we were abt although they were not more than 450 yards off…” The brush screening this battery was dense enough to prevent it from firing, requiring a detail of 40 men to clear away brush and trees under the cover darkness on the night of October twelfth.

Mounting packs and rowing onward was a daily part of soldiers life in 1775.

In many ways, the “battle” that Continental soldiers faced during the siege of Saint Johns would contain elements contemporary to more modern periods. At the very least it bears no resemblance to the 18th-century battle of the silver screen. Naval support and transport meant that soldiers could be landed into or withdrawn from combat with relative speed. Albeit powered oars and sails, the effect of this transport mirrors mechanized transport today. The combat described in these accounts contains both moments of sheer terror, and long nervous hours under observation and artillery fire. Even on quick scouts these soldiers had to be equally adept with the firelock and the shovel. Every static position, even for only a few hours, required entrenching a breastwork. Under the artillery fire of guns and mortars from land and water, the protection of these breastworks and larger batteries was vital. Likewise, managing the concealment of maneuver and entrenchments using the cover of the landscape and darkness seem equally modern. With all these complicating factors, it’s difficult to create a simple image to describe “battle,” but what is perhaps more important is to explain the sacrifice of those who served in battle in 1775.





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A Different Season—Not an Off Season

“What do you do with all your free time when the Fort is closed?” I’ve been asked this question often over the past thirteen years. The quick answer is “What free time?” But the serious answer is that Fort Ticonderoga is a year-round operation and all of us on the staff have plenty to keep us busy throughout the year.

While the gates officially closed for the 2012 season at the end of the day October 18th, programming continues throughout the “closed” season. We just completed our “Flashlight Nights,” giving visitors an opportunity to explore both the Corn Maze and the Fort after dark. You can visit the Fort on December 1st as we recreate the preparations under the oversight of Henry Knox to take dozens of the Fort’s cannon from Ticonderoga to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where General Washington awaits their arrival. On February 23rd, the Fort opens for a day focused on the historic Battle on Snowshoes in the late winter of 1758.

Fort Ticonderoga also hosts the Third Annual “Material Matters: It’s in the Details” Seminar January 26th & 27th. This two-day seminar focuses on 18th-century material culture and is intended for collectors and people with an interest in learning more about objects of the 18th century and what they can tell us about history. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of this great weekend!

Fort Ticonderoga’s “Fort Fever Series!” returns in January, with a program led by a Fort staff person once a month January through April. These programs take place on Sunday afternoons at 2:00. The cost is $10 (members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga are admitted at no cost). Programs are scheduled for January 13th, February 10th, March 17th, and April 21st.

On March 9th, Fort Ticonderoga again hosts North Country History Day for students in grades 6-12 from Clinton, Essex, Franklin, and Warren counties. This culmination of months of research, writing, and creativity brings together students from across the North Country in a competition focused on this year’s theme of “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events.” The top two projects in each category advance to New York State History Day, held in Cooperstown at the end of April.

On April 13th, Fort Ticonderoga hosts the Second Annual Garden & Landscape Symposium: “Enhancing Life through Gardening.” This one-day program focuses on practical, easy-to-implement strategies for expanding and improving your garden or landscape. The programs are offered in an informal setting that encourages interaction between speakers and attendees.

We also provide opportunities for school groups throughout the year, both on-site and in the classroom. Thanks to support from the Walter Cerf Community Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation and the Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation, school outreach programs are available for schools in Vermont’s Addison County and throughout the Adirondack Park at a greatly reduced rate (just $25). These same programs are available throughout the region at regular prices. Our school program “The Artist’s Eye: Geography, History, and Art” is available through the winter months, utilizing works of art in “The Art of War” exhibition housed in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center. And coming soon, information about our new, unique program “The Artificer’s Apprentice,” providing students with a rare chance to learn about and work with our historic trades staff, learning about the production of 18th-century clothing and footwear while trying their hand at some of the skills they’ve learned.

Besides programs, the winter season is time for evaluation and planning. While most of the 2013 calendar is set, there’s lots of planning and implementation to undertake in the coming months. As anyone who’s worked in event planning can tell you, events just don’t happen. They take months and months of careful work and coordination. The brochure for Material Matters is already at the printer and the 2013 War College brochure should be printer-ready in a few weeks.

Likewise, I am already working on some of our 2014 events. In the coming weeks I’ll be identifying and inviting potential speakers for our May 2014 War College of the Seven Years’ War and September 2014 Seminar on the American Revolution, as well as for our other seminar and conference programs.

So, while the transition from open season to closed season means a shift in pace and priorities, there’s really no such thing as an “Off Season” at Fort Ticonderoga. We look forward to your participation in some of our winter/spring events and seeing you at Fort Ticonderoga soon!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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His story deserves to be told…

Battles are often remembered for the major military figures involved and how the actions that took place on the battlefield contributed to the greater outcome of a war.  Usually when discussed today, battles are described in terms of tactics, commanders, and remarkable feats of heroism.  Casualty numbers are generally known, and people understand very well that war can have a dramatic effect on the lives of soldiers and their families.  But very little information tends to survive from the 18th century, especially the French & Indian War, to really describe what the effects of war were on individual soldiers, let along who they were as individuals.  Here is an example of one such soldier’s story, a story that deserves to be told.

Abraham Tyler was born September 23, 1739 in Scarborough, Maine.  He was an illegitimate son of Abraham Tyler (1712-1807) and Mary Sawyer (1714 – ).  Abraham grew up in Scarborough and in the spring of 1758 at the age of 18 joined the ranks of Captain John Libbie’s Company of Colonel Jedidiah Preble’s Massachusetts provincial regiment bound for a planned invasion of Canada.  Tyler and his company reached the British camp at the south of Lake George in the early summer awaiting orders for the embarkation of the army.  On July 4, 1758 the army of 17,000 British regular and American provincial troops set sail down the lake towards Ticonderoga.  The army landed on July 6th.  Two days later on July 8th the largest military force assembled in American to that time attacked the French army at their breastworks a half-mile from Fort Ticonderoga.  On that day Abraham Tyler experienced first hand, and for probably the first and only time, the horrors of battle.  In the early afternoon several hours after failing British efforts, the order came for the Massachusetts troops to “run to the breastork and get in if [they] could.”  The provincials were met with a storm of French musket fire so intense that one soldier reported “a man could not stand erect without being hit any more than he could stand out in a shower without having drops of rain fall on him, for the balls come like hands full.”  In the rush towards the breastwork, Tyler was struck by a ball in his right arm above his shoulder giving him a debilitating injury; an injury that would apparently plague him for the remainder of his life.

By the end of the day, the British had suffered tremendous casualties; nearly 2,000 men killed and wounded.  The army retreated up the lake to their camps at the south end of Lake George.  Eventually, many soldiers including Abraham Tyler were released from their duty due to the severity of their wounds and they made their way back home.

In the following winter Abraham Tyler submitted a petition to the Massachusetts House of Representatives seeking compensation for the expenses associated with his journey home after Ticonderoga.  His petition provides rare insight into just what happened to Tyler, his struggle to get home, and the long-term effects of the wound he suffered during the ill-fated attack on Ticonderoga.


Province of the Massachusetts Bay

To His Excellency Thomas Pownal Esqr To the honorable his Majesty’s Council and the honorable the House of Representatives humbly sheweth Abraham Tyler that your Petitioner was a Soldier in Capt Libbeys Company & Colo Preeble’s Regiment in the Service this last Summer & was in the battle at Ticonderoga, where your Petitioner received a shot which broke his right Arm above the Elbow; that while your Petr. was sick of his Wounds at the Lake, there being no hospital Stores there, he was obliged to take up eighteen shillings of the Sutler & sixteen Shillings of the Quarter -master & expended the further Sum of thirty Shillings in cash & all for necesarys; that your Petitioner was at the further expense of twenty six shillings & eight pence for his horse to come home; that your Petitioner has suffered greatly by reason of the Wounds aforesaid & is in danger of loosing & has Lost the use of his Arm and a great part of the bone is intirely gone so that your Petitioner has no prospect of being able to do any thing for his support for a long time as his Wound is not yet healed up; Your Petitioner therefore humbly prays that Your Excellency & Honours would grant him the money which he expended & also such further relief as to you in your great Wisdom Shall Seem most sutable to the damage he has Suffered & will always continue by reason of the wound aforesaid and your Petitioner as in duty bound shall ever pray.

Abraham Tyler

[Transcript of the original petition in the collection of the Massachusetts State Archives, Vol. 78, pp. 159-160.]


On February 2, 1759 the House resolved to pay Tyler “the sum of Eight pounds ten shillings and eight pence in Consideration of his Expenses & Sufferings.”  His expenses were reimbursed and it appears the additional four pounds were awarded in consideration of his suffering.  This was however a one-time payment and not an annual pension.

By about 1768 Abraham married Martha Smith (1740-1807).  They had at least one child, a daughter, Sarah born in 1768.  To what degree Tyler’s arm eventually healed is unknown.  While his father and several relatives are documented as having served in the American Revolution, there is no indication that Abraham served.  It is likely that the after effects of his wound were debilitating to the point where it was impossible for him to use a musket and fight during the Revolution.

Abraham and his wife Martha continued to reside in Scarborough, Maine where Martha died on March 24, 1807.  Two years later Abraham married his second wife Sarah Trundy Jordan on January 21, 1809 and the two apparently lived happily until Abraham’s death June 26, 1816 at the age of 76.

Abraham Tyler’s story is just one of many that Fort Ticonderoga preserves.  These are the people who made history at Ticonderoga.  It is important that the memory of what they did never fade.  It is also important that we always remember that Ticonderoga had a profound effect on a great many lives and and those effects changed many families forever.


Blog Post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator Fort Ticonderoga

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