Daughters of the American Revolution
Although native Americans had been living on the Ticonderoga peninsula for about 7,000 years, the Town of Ticonderoga is relatively young. It was formed from the old town of Crown Point, New York on March 20, 1804. The name “Ticonderoga” is derived from an Iroquois word meaning “the land between the waters,” referring to its location between Lake George and Lake Champlain.
During the Seven Years War, The French & Indian War, Ticonderoga figured prominently in the struggle between France and Britain for control of the Champlain Valley. Because of its strategic location on the inland waterway, the French Governor Vaudreuil ordered a fort to be built on the Ticonderoga peninsula. Construction was begun in the fall of 1755 and continued for two more summers. The fort was named Carillon.
In 1757, French General Montcalm used Fort Carillon as the staging area for his attack on the British at Fort William Henry on Lake George.
In 1758, British General Abercromby led an army of more than 16,000 British and colonial troops against Fort Carillon, which only housed 3,200 French troops at the time. Montcalm quickly built earthwork fortifications on the heights of Carillon, now referred to as “the French Lines.” During the ensuing battle, Abercromby lost over 1,900 men, including hundreds of Scottish Highlanders who were members of the 42nd Regiment of Foot or Black Watch Regiment. Distinguishing themselves by their courageous and unswerving assault on the French Lines, the Black Watch lost over half of their men in this one battle. Despite being vastly outnumbered, the French were victorious and Abercromby retreated in shame.
In 1759, under the leadership of General Jeffrey Amherst, the British once again attacked Carillon. The French had suffered many losses in the year following the Montcalm's victory. Consequently, Fort Carillon had been left ill-equipped to fight Amherst's vastly superior army. After four days, the French blew up the powder magazine in an effort to prevent the British from using the ammunition and fortifications against them. However, Amherst rebuilt the fort and renamed it Fort Ticonderoga. The British continued to hold the fort after the end of the French & Indian War.
At the start of the American Revolution, Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold reluctantly joined forces to capture the fort in an attempt to seize the cannons at Ticonderoga and Crown Point. On May 10, 1755, under cover of darkness, Arnold and Allen, with his Green Mountain Boys, captured the fort without a shot being fired. This feat allowed the colonists to capture the cannons so sorely needed for their cause.
The following winter, Henry Knox led an expedition which dragged the cannon from both Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point on sledges over the snow to Boston where General Washington was attempting to drive the British from the city. The placement of the cannon on Dorchester Heights forced the British to evacuate on April 14, 1776.
Benedict Arnold commanded the forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point in 1776. While here, he organized the American Navy by building a fleet at Skenesborough (now Whitehall). He also strengthened the fortifications at Fort Ticonderoga and built a new fort at Mount Independence, just across Lake Champlain from Fort Ticonderoga. Once the fortifications were complete, he connected the two forts by a floating bridge. In the fall, Arnold's fleet was destroyed by the superior British navy, which then moved north to winter in Canada.
In the winter of 1776-1777, British General Burgoyne surprised the Americans by hauling cannon to the top of Mount Defiance, which overlooks Fort Ticonderoga. On July 5, in the dark, Commander Arthur St. Clair evacuated both Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence and headed south with the British in pursuit.
In September, as American forces were preparing for battle in the Saratoga area, Colonel John Brown was sent north to attack Ticonderoga. Another force was sent to recapture Mount Independence. On September 18, 1777, Brown seized the outworks of Fort Ticonderoga and released over 100 Americans who had been held prisoner by the British. Unfortunately, he was unable to capture the fort. This was the last military action to take place here.
After Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga, the British burned all the fortifications at Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. On October 8, they abandoned Fort Ticonderoga and it was never again used, although the British navy maintained control of Lake Champlain. In 1778, Continental troops raided the fort for supplies to use in defense of Hudson Highlands.
In 1783, George Washington visited Fort Ticonderoga to determine its future purpose. After the Revolution, the State of New York gave the fort and surrounding grounds to Columbia College and Union College, although they let the fort fall further into ruin. In 1791, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were among the first tourists to visit. Their diaries give vivid descriptions of the area. In the early 1800s, the Pell family bought the property and built a hotel near the site of the garrison gardens. The fort ruins then became a tourist destination and continue so to this day. In the 1920s, the Pells began reconstruction of the fort, which is ongoing with the newly-constructed Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center.
For more information on Ticonderoga and the surrounding area, see:
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