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June 30, 2010 / howardmestas

TICONDEROGA: The Key to a Continent

Land of Strategic Importance

On the Lookout

As planned we were distant travelers again today as we traversed upstate New York for about 240 miles.  It was a long ride but worth the effort as we entered a zone on the continent where the 18th Century struggle for empire in North America witnessed some defining moments.  Our first stop was a location between Lake George and Lake Champlain an area of incredible strategic importance since whichever army controlled this spot

Panorama overlooking Lake Champlain with Mt Defiance to right

would control the St Lawrence River in Canada and the Hudson to the south.  Control of the extraordinary fortification of Fort Ticonderoga between the lakes would switch hands and names numerous times.  Originally it 


Vermont to the left

Ready to fire from above


Facing Lake Champlain

Locked and Loaded


On target

to the French who built it in 1755 and named it Fort Carillon where it would serve as a base to attack their English rivals to the south in numerous conflicts named the French and Indian Wars.  In a heroic stand1758, the Marquis de Montcalm with only 4,000 men withstood an assault by British General Abercrombie who commanded 16,000.  According to our guide Jim Hughto, this battle was a turning point

Cannon through a window

in history since many of Abercrombie’s young colonial lieutenants witnessed the reckless abandon of British officers and developed a measure of confidence that the King’s Army could be defeated if you follow a disciplined plan on the battlefield.  This attitude would play a major role a couple decades later when General Burgoyne’s

Last Line of defense

Lookout Pigeon

invasion from north would be thwarted at Saratoga by many members of the original colonial militia.  Saratoga was of course the major turning point in the Revolution since it would bring the French, who had been ousted from North America, back again to join the war against the British.

A Thought

We all know that when the Comte de Vergennes was meeting with Benjamin Franklin in 1777 to discuss the possibility of a Franco-American alliance, it was the Battle of Saratoga that was the finisher. 

Cannon Saratoga Battlefield

Jim says, "Let me introduce you to my little friend!"

But I wonder if the Battle of Carrion played in the back of the mind of the French Foreign Minister?  About 25 miles north of Fort Ticonderoga is Vermont’s oldest city and it is named Vergennes in honor of the minister.  The name was chosen by colonial militia hero named Ethan Allen.

What I will do for my students

Since I plan to refer to this location frequently I plan to show my students how ownership of land by nations can change hands through wars.  Originally the area between the lakes was owned by Native Americans, then the French, followed by the British,

Path at Saratoga Battlefield

Wildflowers at Saratoga Battlefield

then the American rebels, followed by the British again, and then ultimately by the Americans.  The Native Americans were allies to each of the armies yet they were the ones who were left with the least in the end.  I also plan to show how Ethan Ellen captured the fort without a shot and how in 1775 Henry Knox transported cannon taken from Ticonderoga to George Washington in Boston.  Since I have so many photos it should be a fun lesson.


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