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What Connects Us to History?

Soldiers remembering the fallen
Remembering the fallen Black Watch soldiers of July 8th, 1758

Two words, perhaps an idea, that comes up frequently with visitors is “my history” as in this Fort, or its history is, “my history.” While this idea of a  personal connection to Fort Ticonderoga’s history seems relatively simple to define, it is not a simple concept.

A personal connection to history could be defined by any number of links. Perhaps the simplest link is the history of a hometown. This local history that folks grow up with often has a powerful impact. For many in and around Ticonderoga, local lore like Roger’s Rock, the old sawmill, or the great citadel of Ticonderoga have an important personal legacy. As with so many small towns, those sons and daughters who grow up and move away carry this personal connection to their hometown history for the rest of their life. Ticonderoga remains“my history” for so many of its children no matter where they live.

With a series of stories as broad as those great campaigns through Ticonderoga, so

4th of July Festivities
Independence Day marks a national connection to its history.

to casts that broad net of “my history.” For many growing up in New
England, Ticonderoga casts a long shadow over the local history of our hometowns. Whether provincial soldiers like Robert Webster who mustered in Woodstock, Connecticut to march with General Amherst’s attack on Ticonderoga in 1759, or the Maine soldiers of Colonel Marshall’s Massachusetts regiment, which marched to defend Ticonderoga in 1777, hometown hero’s who served at Ticonderoga cover the New England landscape.  In reality of course, Fort Ticonderoga’s story fills a whole Atlantic world with hometown heroes, forever connected to this ground. Frenchmen and French Canadians of cities like Montreal, Quebec, Bordeaux, or Montpellier, who rightly still call this ground Carillon, enjoy this same hometown legacy. With the various chapters in history that unfolded here, places as disparate as Shropshire, England and Brauschweig, Germany can count Ticonderoga as part of their local history.

Native American Heritage at Ticonderoga
Even the very name of Ticonderoga itself is interetwined with Native American History and Culture.

That sense of “my history” that comes from growing up with local history often coincides with a family connection to the history of Fort Ticonderoga. For many, exploring down the branches of their family tree reveals roots at Ticonderoga, finding an ancestor, a soldier whose personal story is one of countless stories locked away in family history. Through blood relations many people say that Fort Ticonderoga is part of, “my history.” This ancestry connection to Ticonderoga includes generations of Native Americans. Native Americans hold a deep personal connection to this, “place between the great waters,” tied by extended genetic lines to the peninsula’s Paleolithic native residents, or by tribal relationships with the Mohawks, Mohicans, Abenaki, Huron, & countless other tribes which featured such a paramount role in this history.

Equal in geographic scope to local history, how does ancestry relate to local history as a visceral connection to this site’s history? That question is as individual question as personal identities. For a nation like the United States, built so heavily from generations of immigrants, how we define ourselves is so varied. Do we call ourselves Irish-Americans, African-Americans, New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians, or simply Americans? Many use a variety of terms to describe themselves and in each of these descriptors often find a personal connection to Fort Ticonderoga making it part of their history.

With a museum built beginning in 1909, and a site visited since the end of the American Revolution, many call Ticonderoga, “my history” as part of a family tradition. Grandparents often bring their grandchildren here to experience the history of the Fort that they remember as kids. Family traditions, like breakfast at the Log House Restaurant, or an annual trip make the Fort just as personal to folks.  As Fort Ticonderoga grows and changes over time the support and concern of people is influenced by personal experiences and how they claim Fort Ticonderoga as “my history.”