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Making History “Real”

Monday, September 16, 1776, breaks at Ticonderoga with a hint of the cold weather yet to come, and the fortifications at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence are draped in the “Thick Fogs, that are peculiar at this place.” Thus another day dawns for the Continental Army’s Northern Department on the shores of Lake Champlain.

Dr. Lewis Beebe, surgeon in Colonel Charles Burrell’s 14th Connecticut Regiment encamped on Mount Independence, laments that disease and illness continue to take their toll among the troops. He writes that “Doctr parker is taken poorly, & the business all comes upon me. Hard fortune indeed to have so many sick upon hand at one time. But harder for those who are sick to be crowded into a dirty, Lousy, stinking Hospital, enough to kill well men.”

One of the sick is Colonel Jeduthan Baldwin from Massachusetts. He’s been sick since the 8th, sometimes so sick he’s been unable to tend to his duties as Chief Engineer at Ticonderoga. On the 16th, Baldwin notes he “was something better and it is of the Lord’s mercy that I am alive after Such a hard and constant fatigue.”

Also among those stricken by illness is the Reverend William Emerson, chaplain with the Massachusetts troops. Another chaplain, the Reverend Ammi Robbins from Colonel Burrell’s Connecticut Regiment, “went with Mr. Breck to visit Rev. Mr. Emerson who is very low.” Emerson, the grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson, is discharged on October 20th, but dies of dysentery in Rutland, Vermont, on his way home.

Across the lake, encamped on Liberty Hill near the Old French Lines, is Timothy Tuttle, a sergeant in Captain Joseph Morris’s First Company in the First New Jersey Regiment. Having survived small pox earlier in the year, Tuttle’s health has revived as he notes “Capt. Morris Paying some of his men to Day 2£-2s-8d stoppages for this month.” During the day, Tuttle “went as far as the Landing at Lake George” and had “rosted Beef and Turnips for dinner.”

Among the administrative concerns Major General Horatio Gates faces on September 16th is counterfeiting: “So much counterfeit money being of late brought into this camp, from the eastern parts of the continent, the Gen. forbids any money passing or being recd but continental money.”

The parole and countersign for the day are Connecticut and Trumbull.

Monday, September 16, 1776, provides a snapshot of day to day life in the Continental Army at Ticonderoga during the 1776 campaign. Insights into daily life at Ticonderoga come from the letters and journals of some of the men serving at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence.

Our interpretive staff will be bringing the year 1776 at Fort Ticonderoga to life this summer, utilizing the numerous journals, orderly books, letters, and other documents to help flesh out history. Making history “real” is part of our job description. Telling it in an engaging manner is also our job. We mustn’t forget that “story” is part of history.

I often overhear visitors saying “I wish history was this interesting when I was in school!” History has always been interesting—it’s just in the marketing. How we learn history directly correlates to whether we view it as a painful task or a life-long obsession.

This summer I will be working with about 120 teachers through several programs at Fort Ticonderoga. My primary goal is to help teachers tell the hi-“story” of places like Fort Ticonderoga in an engaging manner, so their students get beyond the impression that history is just a bunch of names and dates. History is the story of all of us. History is the story of life. And life happens!

Rich Strum
Director of Education