to Fort Ticonderoga!
Robert E.: Today we visited
Ticonderoga, outside the village of the
same name. This great stone fortress was originally built by the
French in 1755, and its original name was Fort Carillon.
Photo: Mary and me at the entrance to the grounds of the Fort.
Ulysses: "Carillon" is a French word meaning
"a chime of bells." There is a small river nearby the fort that
has many waterfalls. Michel Chartier, the Frenchman who built the
fort, thought the water splashing over the rocks sounded like distant
Abe: The Algonquin word "Ticonderoga" means
"falling waters," roughly the same thing as the French.
Robert E.: As many as 2,000 Frenchmen worked
on the construction of the fort, and they made astounding progress
considering they were hacking it out of wilderness without the benefit
of modern day equipment. This fort was considered to be very important
during the early history of the United States when the European
nations of France and England vied for control of the vast lands
of the New World -- America. The French were established in what
is now the Canadian French-speaking province of Quebec while the
English controlled the lower part of the State of New York as well
as Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
Photo: Mary and me with one of the French cannon protecting the
outer walls of the fort. Behind us is the main entrance to the fort
and the roof of one of the barracks.
Ulysses: There was a most important waterway
running through New York into Canada. It was the great Lake Champlain
that was fed by Lake George (in upstate New York). The lower end
of Lake George was very near the upper end of the Hudson River so,
in essence, one could paddle a canoe from Canada all the way down
to New York City.
Abe: Ticonderoga is located on a point of
land that commands a view of the lower end of Lake Champlain and
the most important portage over the La Chute River (where those
waterfalls are) into Lake George. Whomever controlled the Fort controlled
the entrance into Canada.
Robert E. and Mary by the same cannon from the opposite viewpoint.
Behind us you can see the southern end of Lake Champlain. Just below
these walls is the entrance to the La Chute River leading to Lake
E.: The fort was originally built as a wooden stockade, but within
a year, granite stone was substituted. By the summer of 1758, it
was completed and stocked with several dozen heavy cannons. The
French constructed it as a "star" fort which means it has six points
to it: one on each of the four corners and two independent demi-lunes
attached to the main fort by drawbridges. The fort is ringed by
a low outer wall and a dry moat. Photo:
Postcard of Fort Ticonderoga showing its star shape.
Ulysses: In its day, Fort Ticonderoga was
considered to be the strongest fortification on the North American
Abe: Even after two hundred years, Fort Ticonderoga
is still the strongest surviving 18th century fortress in North
E.: The walls are several feet thick. The French engineers built
barracks, a bakery to feed the troops, a powder magazine, a small
chapel, as well as many deep storage areas inside the fort. There
is also a fresh-water well so the defenders could remain inside
during a siege and still have water. Photo:
Ulysses, Abe, and me by the secondary inner walls
of the fort. Abe asks that you note we are sitting on the sign --
not the fragile wall.
Abe: The plans were excellent, but the fort
was never truly besieged.
Ulysses: The fort was only active for about
thirty years from 1755 to early 1780's. But these were very important
years: the French and Indian Wars and the American Revolution. The
fort changed hands several times from French to English during the
French and Indian Wars. On May 9, 1775, at the beginning of the
American Revolution, it was captured by a Vermont militia called
the Green Mountain Boys led by Ethan Allen. It was held by the Americans
for two years before it again fell to the British. At the end of
the war, the British blew up the powder in the magazine and burned
the fort so it would not be of use to the victorious Americans.
Abe: The fort lay in stately ruins for the
next century, but in the early 1900's, the Pell family, who owned
the property and the fort, decided to restore Ticonderoga to its
former grandeur. Today, the fort is still undergoing reconstruction,
and the Pell descendants are very active in the Fort's reconstruction
and its museum.
Robert E.: Fort Ticonderoga hosts several
annual re-enactments that draw large crowds from many states and
Canada. In June, battles of the French and Indian War are recreated.
In early September, re-enactors representing the soldiers of the
British and the Americans engage in Revolutionary battles.
Abe: And for the last two weekends in October,
Ticonderoga becomes "The Haunted Fort."
Lewis Stevenson's Poem:
Robert E.: The famous Scottish poet Robert Lewis Stevenson
immortalized Ticonderoga in his poem of the same name that was published
in Scribners' Magazine in December, 1887. Stevenson based
his poem on a ghost story he had heard in Scotland. In the highlands
of Scotland, a laird named Duncan Campbell gave rest and respite
to a stranger who claimed he was running from the law. What Campbell
didn't know was his midnight guest had just murdered Campbell's
own cousin. The next morning the man left, but Campbell never had
a restful night again. His cousin's angry ghost visited him in his
dreams and told Duncan he had harbored his murderer. After visiting
Duncan two more times, the ghost finally said they would meet again
at a place called Ticonderoga -- a name Duncan Campbell had never
time, war broke out between Britain and France. Laird Campbell was
an officer in the Forty-Second Highlanders, known as the Black Watch.
His regiment was sent to the New World to fight the French there.
To Duncan Campbell's horror, he learned his regiment was to fight
at a fort in the wilderness called Ticonderoga. On July 7, 1758,
the night before the fateful battle, Duncan was again visited by
the ghost. The following morning, Duncan Campbell was mortally wounded
during an unsuccessful attack against the stone walls of the fort.
He died a few days later and was buried near the British Fort Edward
at the southern end of Lake George. Photo: Postcard of Lake George
showing its beauty.
In his poem, Stevenson changes Campbell's
name to "Cameron" and Fort Carillon to Fort Sault-Marie, but the
story is the same. Here are the final lines of this long poem when
Cameron (Campbell) learns the name of the place from one of the
Indian scouts and what happened after that.
"O, you of the outland tongue,
You of the painted face,
This is the place of my death;
Can you tell me the name of this place?
"Since the Frenchmen have been here
They have called it Sault-Marie;
But that is a name for priests,
And not for you and me.
It went by another word,"
Quoth he of the shaven head:
"It was called Ticonderoga
In the days of the great dead."
And it fell on the morrow's morning,
In the fiercest of the fight,
That the Cameron bit the dust
As he foretold at night;
And far from the hills of heather,
Far from the isles of the sea,
He sleeps in the place of the name
As it was doomed to be.
The Last of the
Abe: Robert Lewis Stevenson was not the only
literary man who was inspired by this fort and by the Lake George
region. Novelist James Fenimore Cooper set most of his tales in
upstate New York during the 1750's, including his most famous book
of all -- The Last of the Mohicans.
Ulysses: It is a story set against the background
of a real battle that took place between the French under the command
of General Montcalm and the British under the command of General
Monroe. Montcalm was stationed at Fort Ticonderoga (Fort Carillon).
He floated a huge force of soldiers and cannon down Lake George
to the southern end of the Lake where they attacked and captured
Fort William Henry. Monroe and his defeated army were given safe
conduct by Montcalm to evacuate the fort, but the French Indian
allies disobeyed the general and attacked the departing English
soldiers, killing many of them. This treacherous attack was the
basis of Cooper's famous story.
Postcard of Lake George showing its beauty along with a letter written
by Thomas Jefferson to his daughter, Martha on May 31, 1791. In
May, 1791, Jefferson and James Madison traveled up the Hudson Valley
through Lake George on a fishing trip where Jefferson wrote letters
to his daughters on the bark of the paper birch tree. These letters
are known as the "Birchbark Letters." This letter states,
"Lake George is, without comparison, the most beautiful water
I ever saw; formed by a contour of mountains into a basin thirty-five
miles long and from two to four miles broad finely interspersed
with islands, its water limpid as crystal, and the mountain sides
covered with rich groves of thuja, silver fir, white pine, aspen,
and paper birch down to the water-edge; here and there precipices
of rock to checker the scene and save it from monotony. An abundance
of speckled trout, salmon trout, bass and other fish, with which
it is stored, have added to our other amusements, the sport of taking
Next Stop: Civil War
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