Workshop Scope and Content

Workshop Scope and Content
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Utilizing Fort Ticonderoga’s extensive manuscript and artifact collection and its historic landscape and structures, together with a select group of visiting scholars and discussion of key best practices in education, this workshop will broaden teachers’ knowledge of the American Revolution and its participants on the northern frontier.

Before the workshop, participants will have access, via our website, to a primary source reader containing copies of prominent documents from the Fort collection to provide them with a background to what they will be discussing during the week. A secondary source reading list of required and suggested books will also be provided. Assigned readings by James Nelson (Benedict Arnold’s Navy) and Richard Ketchum (Saratoga) together provide an overview of the war on the northern frontier from the outbreak of the Revolution in April 1775 to its turning point at the Battles of Saratoga in 1777.



During the week teachers will take part in a series of lecture-discussions, experiential “hands-on” material culture activities, and historic site visits, developed to help create pedagogical connections. Each day includes a discussion led by Project Director Rich Strum, Teacher Facilitator Tim Potts, and the day’s speakers about the “question of the day,” integrating the lectures and the document and artifact of the day. For example, Benedict Arnold’s Declaration of Principles, written in June 1775 and signed by officers under his command a full year before American Independence—a document that presages many of the phrases in the Declaration of Independence—will be discussed as part of the theme “Benedict Arnold: An Unlikely Hero?” on Wednesday. Likewise, the painting The Murder of Jane McCrae by Asher B. Durand will be used as part of Thursday’s discussions about the Saratoga Campaign to explore the role of propaganda as used by both sides during the war.

These discussions and the study of a daily artifact and document will serve as a springboard for participants to explore other primary resources housed in the Fort’s archives. Participants will have the option of designing lesson plans individually or as part of a small group based on the documents and objects of the day. Small group projects will give teachers the chance to foster relationships with other attendees beyond the one-week workshop. Lesson plans will be multi-disciplinary and incorporate current best practices. Projects will be expected to be completed by September 15, 2016, and submitted to Fort Ticonderoga for inclusion on a dedicated website page.

While the workshop emphasizes the role of the northern frontier during the early years of the American Revolution, the skills and methods used will be transferable by teachers to museums and historic sites in their hometowns. Activities with primary source documents, artifacts, exhibitions, and historic landscapes will all be adaptable for use elsewhere.


Historical Significance

Thomas Pownall, Royal Governor of Massachusetts Bay, noted that “the course of empire flowed along the waterways penetrating the North American continent.” He went on to say “the waters in this country hold the Imperium…whoever are possessed of these waters must command the country.” The Ticonderoga peninsula proved to be one of the critical choke points on the waterway connecting Quebec City to the north with New York City to the south by way of the Hudson-Champlain-St. Lawrence corridor.

Fort Ticonderoga, often called the “Key to a Continent” and the “Gibraltar of the North,” played a vital role in the strategies of both the British and Continental armies during the first three years of the American Revolution. The importance of the Northern Theater from 1775 to 1777 is often overlooked, overshadowed by events in Boston (1775-76), New York (1776), and eastern Pennsylvania (1776-77).

"The American Revolution on the Northern Frontier: Fort Ticonderoga and the Road to Saratoga"

We invite educators to come explore the amazing history behind these first years of the Revolution. In addition to studying the important role Fort Ticonderoga, Lake Champlain, and the northern frontier played during the war, participants will explore the influence of the French & Indian War, the people involved on both sides of the Revolution, the sometimes-overlooked role Benedict Arnold played in those early years, the immediate and long-term impact of the Saratoga Campaign, and the lasting legacies of the northern campaign on the Revolution. Key tools in bringing this history to life for teachers include the use of primary documents, hands-on minds-on activities, elements of living history, best practices in the field of social studies education, and lecture-based discussions. Each day of the workshop utilizes a “Question of the Day” to promote discussion, supported by a document and an artifact from the Fort Ticonderoga collection. These will become the stimulus for teacher-created lesson plans. By the workshops’ conclusion participants will go away with a better understanding of how to use primary documents and artifacts with students, along with museum exhibitions, historic sites and landscapes, and living history techniques.

Fort Ticonderoga Today

Fort Ticonderoga is a privately run, not-for-profit educational institution continuously accredited by the American Alliance of Museums since 1972. Its 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.” Fort Ticonderoga’s great strengths in the humanities lie in its object-rich exhibits, its library and manuscript collection, its living-history program, and the interpretive power of the unspoiled landscape.

French & Indian War History

Constructed during the French & Indian War by the French (1755-58) as Fort Carillon, Ticonderoga defended the vital north-south waterway between Canada and New York. It was here on July 8, 1758, that British and French forces fought the largest battle of the war, with over 2,500 casualties and a surprising victory by a vastly outnumbered French force. This victory against an attacking force over four times as large gave Ticonderoga a reputation as being impregnable, a reputation that, though not deserved, would haunt commanders here during the American Revolution.

American Revolution at Ticonderoga

With the outbreak of the Revolution at Lexington and Concord, Fort Ticonderoga quickly became a target for two separate forces supported by Massachusetts and Connecticut. The capture of Fort Ticonderoga on May 10, 1775, by men led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, marked the first offensive victory of the Revolution for the colonists. With Ticonderoga in American hands, the fledgling Continental Army gained desperately-needed artillery. Henry Knox oversaw the transport of 59 cannon from Ticonderoga to General George Washington’s camp outside Boston during the winter of 1775-76—cannon used to force the British evacuation of Boston in March 1776. Ticonderoga also served as a launching point for the American invasion of Quebec that same winter, a Canadian campaign that met with initial success but ended in the spring of 1776 in a dismal retreat all the way back to Ticonderoga.

During 1776, Ticonderoga became a vital defensive position protecting New York from a British invasion from Quebec. Continental troops built extensive entrenchments on the Ticonderoga peninsula and across the lake on Mount Independence. By October 1776, over 12,000 troops occupied these defenses. At the same time, General Benedict Arnold oversaw the construction of a naval fleet on Lake Champlain and led it into battle near Valcour Island on October 11, 1776. While the American fleet was practically wiped out, the fleet and the strengthened defenses at Ticonderoga are credited with delaying an invasion from Canada until 1777.

In 1777, General John Burgoyne led a force of over 9,000 British and German troops from Canada into the Champlain Valley. General Arthur St. Clair, with a mere 2,500 troops, was unable to hold on to Ticonderoga, and on July 6th, it was once again “His Majesty’s Fort at Ticonderoga.” Later in the summer, when news of Ticonderoga’s fall reached George III, he is said to have run into the Queen’s bedroom shouting “I’ve beaten them! I’ve beaten them!” The King’s celebration was premature—Burgoyne, with lengthening supply lines and a dwindling number of troops, was forced to surrender at Saratoga in October 1777. Upon learning of Burgoyne’s defeat, the small British garrison remaining at Ticonderoga set fire to the fort and withdrew to Canada. Ticonderoga was never again occupied by a military force.


This rich history is supported by thousands of original manuscripts, diaries, orderly books, and maps contained in the Fort Ticonderoga library, a selection of which participants will have the opportunity to view during their week stay. Found within this collection are the letters, reports, and returns of Ethan Allen, George Washington, Benedict Arnold, John Burgoyne, loyalist Philip Skene, and Dr. Jonathan Potts, surgeon to the Northern Department of the Continental Army. The manuscript collection includes correspondence of both officers and common soldiers who served at Fort Ticonderoga in the 18thcentury. The collection also contains rare 18th-century military manuals and English and American newspapers and literary magazines of the period. Original maps, documenting change in the landscape, and engraved portraits of key figures also help provide a visual link to the past.