One joy of traveling sans-family is the ability to visit as many forts and historical sites as I please without enduring the whine and pleading of little people. I say this not because my little people have complained but because I complained when I was myself a little people; and because my wife would complain were I to attempt to drag her to the fifth fort in as many months. “Aw Dad, not another fort”, was a favorite of my little sisters, while I was partial to, “Dad, this deer looks just like the last five. Why are we pulling over?”
Ticonderoga is all about cannons. Lots of cannons. Of course before it was called Ticonderoga it was called Carillon, and back then it was about tomahawks.
Carillon was built by the French around 1754. In those days the French and English were fighting over pretty much everything. These European guys fought each other in Europe, on the Atlantic, and in America. At the same time the Iroquois, Huron, and Algonquins were fighting each other in the same place… minus Europe and the Atlantic. Just to make things a bit more interesting, a large portion of the Englishmen here weren’t really Englishmen, they were Scottish Highlanders. The English had just got done fighting the pesky Highlanders back home, won, and decided to round them up and ship them to America where they could fight to their wild hearts content.
The French and Indian War while largely neglected by bored American school kids, is the perfect storm of historical conflicts. It had swords, muskets, cannons, tomahawks, bows and arrows, kilts, breach cloths, horses, ships, feathers, banners, bagpipes, and wilderness adventure.
If we look past that war and just look at the place we can include, spies, traitors, and heros.
Benedict Arnold once captured this fort when he was fighting for the Americans. Word is, he didn’t get as much credit as he thought he should have thanks to that upstaging Ethan Allen, and harbored a grudge, eventually leading to his turning coats. Of course they captured the fort not to control the lake but to get the cannons.
Having captured the cannons, the Americans had Henry Knox haul these cannons through the middle of nowhere in winter to Boston. Knox and his Ticonderoga cannons forced the Brits to get outa Beantown.
The Fort itself is quite impressive. High stone walls, lots of fire power, and a deep ditch make the outpost seem impregnable. Turns out it was quite an easy place to capture. One could simply sneak in the doors when the guard didn’t know you were coming as Ethan Allen did, or as the Brits did twice, simply put some big guns up on Mount Defiance where you can rain shells down inside the fort at your pleasure.
Those days are over. The United States no longer feels a need to defend itself from the Canadians, we now only fight against British oil companies, and the regiments of the Black Watch are replaced by tourists.
After the locale lost its military relevance, it was sold to Columbia University. They tired of the property and sold it to some rich guy who wanted to build a summer home on the lake. Down the hill from the walls the home still stands surrounded by beautiful gardens.
The fort is still privately owned but open to the public. I walked through the barracks, which is now a museum, and looked over the largest collection of powder horns I have ever seen. I saw sabers, muskets, rifles, and a few tomahawks. The museum did not have my children complaining of yet another fort and when I saw a deer in the parking lot, I did not pll over for a picture.