New Perspectives on "The Last Argument of Kings"

A Ticonderoga Seminar on 18th-Century Artillery

August 5 & 6, 2017

Fort Ticonderoga presents "New Perspectives on the Last Argument of Kings: A Ticonderoga Seminar on 18th-Century Aritllery" August 5 & 6, 2017, in the Mars Education Center. This special weekend symposium features visiting scholars and members of the Ticonderoga curatorial and interpretation departments exploring the various aspects of 18th-century artillery in the Atlantic World. Fort Ticonderoga's collection of 18th-century artillery is among the largest in North America.

Symposiums at Ticonderoga offer a unique, informal setting that promotes interaction and discussion between speakers and attendees. We invite you to join us for this one-time symposium.

Confirmed Presentations


Ultima Ratio RegumA Pair of Valliére 4-Pounders at Yorktown and BeyondLearn about the dramatic story of a surviving pair of Valliére 4-pounder field guns through the American War of Independence to the present day.Christopher Bryant is an independent researcher and dealer of his­torical portraits and artifacts, with a particular focus on British military subjects. He resides in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts.



“The American Foundery”—Springfield Arsenal, Massachusetts, 1782-1800: Assuring Independence. Eighteen years before the United States established the first National Armory at Springfield, Massachusetts, the young republic built on the same site a major artillery manufactory so that the nation should never be “indebted for the means of their existence to any nation on earth.” This bronze field gun foundry, starting before the close of the War of Independence, was the US government’s first industrial investment and prepared the ground for the famous Springfield Armory. Richard Colton retired at the end of 2016 after sixteen years as Historian at Springfield Armory National Historic Site. 


“If you are satisfied with the methods the workers have found… then so am I”: Reproduction as a method of understanding Eighteenth-century ArtilleryEighteenth-century artillery carriages represent the innovation and industrial capabilities of the nations that constructed them and their design has fostered much discussion by scholars of the period. This paper explores the value of reproduction as a method of understanding and interpreting the construction of artillery wheels and carriages and the methods employed to produce them on a large scale. Recognizing that context is a key element in our understanding of material culture, the relationship between military and civilian vehicle construction will also be discussed.  Andrew De Lisle is a wheelwright and carriagemaker, specializing in the reproduction of vehicles from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Lost in Boston: The Artillery of Carillon/TiconderogaNarratives of artillery at Ticonderoga almost invariably begin and end with Henry Knox and his Noble Train of Artillery. One might be forgiven in thinking that there were no cannon left after Knox departed Ticonderoga, and yet by 1777 more cannon had arrived at the fort than Knox took to Boston in 1775. The number and types of artillery in and around Ticonderoga’s walls was constantly in flux, varying based on strategic needs and the availability of materiel. This presentation will address the arming of Carillon and later Ticonderoga from its inception in 1755 through the destruction of most of the fort’s ordnance in November of 1777, exploring the often unknown story of Ticonderoga’s artillery in the 18th century. Matthew Keagle is the Curator at Fort Ticonderoga.

Pell’s Citadel: The Ticonderoga Artillery CollectionAlmost from the beginning the reconstructed walls of Fort Ticonderoga begged for cannon. Using connections and agents across the world the museum’s founders gradual filled Ticonderoga’s embrasures with one of the largest and most diverse artillery collections in private hands. The collection represents the Pell family’s connections with European governments as well as the work of field agents scouring the world for loose cannon. This talk will focus on the often remarkable acquisition of this world class collection of artillery. Matthew Keagle is the Curator at Fort Ticonderoga.


“Artillery at This Post”—Three Case Studies of Artillery at TiconderogaExamine three examples of Artillery corps that fought at Ticonderoga as they are recreated today: French colonial and army Artillery 1757; Major Ebenezer Stevens independent Continental Artillery1777; Captain Borthwick’s Company of the British Royal Artillery 1777. Examine the subtle differences in doctrine and materiel as well as the work of recreating them today. Stuart Lilie leads visitor programs at Fort Ticonderoga as Senior Director of Interpretation.



Pack Horses, Grasshoppers, and Butterflies reconsidered: British light 3-pounders of the 1770sWithin only a few years' time, British and Irish ordnance developers created a series of lightweight, mobile guns intended for use in the American service. While these cannons have been dutifully researched, written about, and used in living history applications, new information significantly redefines our understanding of these dynamic pieces. Eric Schnitzer is the Park Ranger/Historian at Saratoga National Historical Park, a 1777 battle site in which some of these very light 3-pounders were used.


The Politics of Arming America or: Why are there still more than 50 Vallière 4-lb Cannon in the United States but only three in all of Europe?In March 1776, the Continental Congress sent Silas Deane to Versailles with a request for "100 field pieces." In response France sent not 100 but 194 4-lb guns, down to the last serviceable Valliere battalion gun in its arsenal, carriages, limbers and all, across the Atlantic. Why? Robert A Selig is an independent historian and consultant who specializes in researching the contributions of France in the American struggle for Independence.


Green Wood and Wet Paint:  American Travelling Carriages at TiconderogaThe vehicles that made cannons mobile were paramount for attack and defense.  American artificers spent the early part of 1777 producing dozens of travelling carriages for the coming campaign.  Archeological remains, period treatises, letters, journals, and papers show us exactly what these carriages looked like.  See how old school English theories set into constraints of time and materials produced uniquely American carriages—a design that would become the model for the United States artillery for years to come. Nicholas Spadone is the Assistant Director of Interpretation at Fort Ticonderoga.


When the King’s Last Argument is but a Whimper: Artillery Deployment in Antigua’s Colonial Fortifications Eighteenth-century cannon were incredibly destructive offensive weapons, leveling fortifications and cutting down large numbers of men on the battlefield, when they worked. Antigua, a small British island in the Caribbean, suffered chronic artillery shortages defending the island from French, Dutch and Spanish warships and privateers where more often than not, the artillery did not work. This paper examines the logistical issues plaguing the island, and models the strategic placement of these resources, to demonstrate the difficulties of defending Antigua in the 18th century. Christopher Waters is an archaeologist and a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Syracuse University studying Antigua’s colonial defense network.


Download the Symposium Brochure and Registration Form.

Lodging Suggestions

Summer is peak time for accommodations in the Ticonderoga area. We suggest that you make accommodations arrangements as soon as possible if you plan to attend this event. For more information.

Other Conferences and Symposia at Fort Ticonderoga