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The Christmas Riot of 1776: Overlooked Moment of American Disunity

Fort Ticonderoga Reenacts the Conflict during December 15
Living History Event “RIOT! Yankees vs. Buckskins”

New Research Sheds Light on Surprising Divisions within the Revolutionary Army

Join Fort Ticonderoga on December 15, 2018, for the signature living history event “RIOT! Yankees vs. Buckskins.” Throughout the day, visitors will participate in engaging presentations, weapons demonstrations, historic trades, and living history vignettes. Watch the disunity between officers unfold during an intense riot that plagued the American army in 1776.

Orderly book, openA special pop-up exhibit on display December 15 ONLY will present one of the garrison’s original orderly books. “These official documents which buried the details of the altercation and the riot between Pennsylvanians and Massachusetts soldiers has been known only circumstantially through two diaries and memoirs,” said Beth L. Hill, Fort Ticonderoga President and CEO. “The recent re-discovery of first-hand accounts, disregarded for over a century, help shed a new light on this surprising event. These sources will be used to recreate the events of Christmas day and explore the complex history of America’s remarkable struggle for Independence.”

Fort Ticonderoga Museum Curator Matthew Keagle recently discovered NEW evidence about this moment of American disunity. Sitting under noses of generations of historians is an event that shatters popular notions of the Revolutionary War. On Christmas day 1776, an altercation unfolded at Ticonderoga that resulted in American blood being shed by other Americans.

Soldiers rioting“Late on Christmas Day 1776, Pennsylvania soldiers attacked the camp of a Massachusetts Regiment and assaulted the regiment’s almost 60-year-old colonel, ransacked their quarters, and fired at the Massachusetts men,” said Curator Matthew Keagle. “The violent assault was the explosion of grievances over issues of class, race, and military professionalism that divided soldiers from the “south” with those from New England, and were exacerbated by alcohol and boredom in garrison at Ticonderoga.  While engaged in the same cause, the Independence of the United States, deep divisions existed between the ranks of the Revolutionary army. Fortunately, in this circumstance, the participants were able to resolve their differences for the benefit of the cause. This was not the first, nor would it be the last altercation across state lines, but it reflects how remarkable the achievement of Independence was, in the face of profound diversity between Americans.”

To learn more about this living history event, call 518-585-2821 or visit

Fort Ticonderoga: America’s Fort™
Fort Ticonderoga is an independent nonprofit educational organization and museum, which serves its mission by preserving, educating, and provoking active discussion about the past and its importance to present and future generations. It serves this mission by fostering an on-going dialogue surrounding citizens, soldiers, and nations through America’s military heritage. Welcoming visitors since 1909, it preserves North America’s largest 18th-century artillery collection, 2000 acres of historic landscape on Lake Champlain, and Carillon Battlefield, and the largest series of untouched 18th-century earthworks surviving in America.  Fort Ticonderoga engages more than 75,000 visitors each year with an economic impact of more than $12 million annually and offers programs, historic interpretation, boat cruises, tours, demonstrations, and exhibits throughout the year and is open for daily visitation May through October. Fort Ticonderoga is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and pursues its vision to enrich the human experience and strengthen citizenship by fostering critical thinking, historical literacy, and an appreciation of beauty. Visit for a full list of ongoing programs or call 518-585-2821. Fort Ticonderoga is located at 102 Fort Ti Road, Ticonderoga, New York.

America’s Fort is a registered trademark of the Fort Ticonderoga Association.

Photo 1: Orderly Book from winter of 1776 -1777.  Fort Ticonderoga Museum Collection.

Photo 2: Living History Event “RIOT! Yankees vs Buckskins” presented at Fort Ticonderoga on Saturday, December 15 from 10am-4pm.