A short trip to Upstate New York last week involved a smorgasbord of activities, including getting my thumb stung by a hornet, which I do not recommend as a vacation enhancement.
We used Glens Falls as our base and drove along the west shore of Lake George up to Fort Ticonderoga, site of so many battles in Colonial times. We didn’t visit Fort William Henry at the southern end of Lake George, because it is already so fixed in my mind by my favorite movie, the 1992 Daniel Day-Lewis Last of the Mohicans.
Instead, we headed to Fort Ticonderoga at the narrow southern end of Lake Champlain. The northern tip of Lake George and the southern portion of Lake Champlain, both north-flowing lakes, are connect via the difficult La Chute River. Although the river is only 3.5 miles long, it drops about 230 feet (more height than Niagara Falls), which made it a key portage point for the military, if not an easily traversable waterway. Fabulous views on this drive!
Fort Ticonderoga was a pivotal point in numerous battles; between French explorer Samuel de Champlain and the Iroquois (1609); during the French and Indian War, when the Colonials fought alongside the British (1758-59); and in the American Revolution when the Patriots fought the British (1775-1777). As you can imagine, it’s easy to get tangled up in this history as the flags flying over the fort were changing with great regularity.
To combat confusion, each year the nonprofit (non-governmental) organization that maintains the Fort and runs its extensive history education program, adopts a particular year and focuses some of its programming on the experiences of a particular set of combatants at that time. When we visited, the program was focused on 1760 and the final British campaign to conquer New France (i.e., Canada).
Another notable year in the Fort’s history was 1775. News traveled slowly in those days, and the fort’s small contingent of British occupiers hadn’t heard about the battles of Lexington and Concord—the start of the American Revolution. In the middle of the night, they were overwhelmed by a small group of Green Mountain Boys, led by Ethan Allen, and Massachusetts militia, led by Benedict Arnold (still on the American side at that point).
Their purpose in capturing the fort was to seize its cannon and transport them three hundred miles over the snow-covered Berkshire mountains to Boston. The cannon were desperately needed there, in order to end a nearly year-long British siege. Several famous artworks depict the struggle over rough terrain by men and oxen, but it is apocryphal that oxen were used in this way. The cannon were pulled on sleds by horses, no easy feat, either, though the myth persists.
Don’t miss the boat trip out into the lake which provides helpful views of the Patriots’ various military positions on both sides of the lake, including Mount Defiance and Mount Independence. Ticonderoga was uniquely situated to control any forces seeking to travel south from French Canada and thereby, it could protect the entire Hudson Valley, Albany, and New York. Although New York itself was in British hands, it could not be resupplied by this route.
Aside from the costumed tour guides and staff who put on a wide variety of programming, the property includes a really beautiful “king’s garden,” corn maze, hiking trail, colonial crafts demonstrations (tailoring, shoemaking, musket maintenance, and the like), and spectacular scenery. Kids and grownups were having a great time! We did too. Except for the, you know, hornet thing.
Photos: of the fort by Mwanner and of the soldiers by Gin; each used under this Creative Commons license, no changes made.