Our 2022 Road Trip #12: The Armies Sacked at Fort Ticonderoga

Fort Ticonderoga!

Welcome to Fort Ticonderoga, which rhymes with hardly anything except “yoga” and “Conestoga”.

Some of the roadside attractions that catch our attention are all about indulging our geek sides. Some are highlights that speak to Anne the history aficionado. For such a tiny town, Ticonderoga pulled off the neat trick of catering to both facets in her. It was a little jarring transitioning from a tour of the 23rd century to a time capsule of the 18th, but we managed. We are large; we contain multitudes.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Since 1999 Anne and I have taken one road trip each year to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. After years of contenting ourselves with everyday life in Indianapolis and any surrounding areas that also had comics and toy shops, we chucked some of our self-imposed limitations and resolved as a team to leave the comforts of home for annual chances to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between. We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

For 2022 we wanted the opposite of Yellowstone. Last year’s vacation was an unforgettable experience, but those nine days and 3500 miles were daunting and grueling. Vermont was closer, smaller, greener, cozier, and slightly cooler. Thus we set aside eight days to venture through the four states that separate us from the Green Mountain State, dawdle there for a bit, and backtrack home…

stone bench!

Special features include cannons and the world’s most uncomfortable bus stop bench.

One quick mile east of the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour stood Fort Ticonderoga, whose name is Iroquois for “it is at the junction of two waterways”. A lot of pre-19th-century place names were the equivalent of an “It is your birthday” Print Shop banner, but folks got used to them after a while and didn’t obsess much on it. Military forts are not among the sites we go out of our way to collect in our travels, but Ticonderoga pairs neatly alongside our previous glimpses of Fort Niagara in 2004 and Fort McHenry in 2017, in case any longtime MCC readers are keeping scorecards.

cannons on walls!

More cannons loom over the walkways and turns.

The place began life as Fort Carillon, constructed on a 543-acre peninsula by the French between 1755 and 1757. It earned a rep for impregnability when in 1758 the Marquis de Montcalm and 4,000 Frenchmen successfully fended off 16,000 British soldiers. One year later, the French had left a skeleton crew of 400 on guard, who were no match for another 11,000 British led by General Jeffrey Amherst up the slopes of Mount Defiance, which sits across the lake. Under Amherst’s watch Fort Carillon was renamed Fort Ticonderoga, which has stuck to this day.

flag and cannons!

Mandatory flag flies over still more cannons.

The British kept the fort under their thumb until 1775, when it was taken by Americans led by the dynamic duo of Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, pre-treason. Our guys managed a two-year run before the British took it back thanks to General John Burgoyne. A take-back attempt two months later did no good. It remained a minor stronghold for his side even after Burgoyne got curb-stomped at the Battles of Saratoga (the site of which we visited back in 2018), but the Redcoats only half-heartedly kept it staffed until their big surrender at Yorktown, after which they just kinda drifted away from it. Locals looted and stripped it over the years like it was made of copper wiring and catalytic convertors.

Lake Champlain from Fort Ticonderoga!

The southern-facing view of Lake Champlain as it flows into Lake George.

The fort had no stirring tales of heroism or reversals of fortune beyond that point. The property changed hands a few times before it formally opened as a privately owned, historic tourist attraction in 1909. In later years the owners acquired more of the surrounding acres of relevance, including Mount Defiance itself. The entrance is a long driveway through a forest that eventually leads to the front gates. We were handed a free map of the grounds and a token that would gain us entrance to a separate path that would take us up to the peak of Defiance, should we choose to expand our Ticonderoga experience. Admission to that path ended daily at 4:30. We hadn’t firmly planned for it, but we pondered the option as we wandered the grounds.

Fort tunnel!

A cool tunnel takes visitors from the entrance side to the parade side of the fort.

fort from parade side!

Over on the parade side is a better, higher view of the soldiers’ barracks.

officer barracks!

The officers’ barracks were catty-corner from the rest, as seen here at ground level.

cannon details!

Details from one of those cannons looming high above.

Skyrim bridge live!

Every bridge in every fort in Skyrim.

Fort Carillon plaque!

A plaque detailing Fort Carillon’s provenance is prominently posted in case any future realtors need it.

famous people check-in plaque!

Another plaque name-checks all the famous people who strode these grounds back in the day and thereby added to its history-geek cachet and market value.

150th anniversary plaque!

Yet another plaque hung in 1925 celebrates the 150th anniversary since Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold stormed the place. Obviously all the subsequent management changes don’t count.

French bake oven!

A French bake oven, for the historical foodies out there.

cosplayers!

Anne peeked inside one barrack and found cosplayers on reenactment break.

Naturally parts of the buildings are devoted to exhibit space for various artifacts from the era. Bilingual signs were posted in English and French, since Canada is a mere 90 miles away.

Ethan Allen statue!

Ethan Allen in statue form. We’ll come back to him later in the trip.

Light 3-Pounder field cannon!

Still can’t get enough cannons? Here’s a Light 3-Pounder field cannon built by the Dutch for Redcoat use.

Belford pattern bronze light 6-pound artillery gun!

A Belford pattern bronze light 6-pound artillery gun made circa 1794, popularly used against French in 1797 and 1814, and against the United Irishmen in 1798.

flintlock pistol!

Wrapping up the weaponry collection with a later specimen, an 1831 flintlock pistol used by the Surrey Yeomanry (rich British mounted volunteers).

Burlington light infantry snare drum!

A Burlington light infantry snare drum, circa 1839-1845.

Lafayette portrait!

Art on display includes this 1857 portrait of Lafayette by Alonzo Chappel.

Boston Company of Cadets uniform coat!

Fashions include this 1772 uniform coat worn by the Boston Cadets, a militia unit who were disbanded in 1774 after British-installed Governor Thomas Gage fired ranking officer Colonel John Hancock. (Yes, that Hancock.)

Continental Army final uniform coat!

One of the final uniform coats worn by our Continental Army, 1786-1790.

Connecticut light infantry cap!

An 1815 Connecticut light infantry cap. The Latin motto above the bill means “He who is transplanted still sustains.”

Admittedly we didn’t investigate every building, nook or cranny. After scampering from one fortification to the next for a while, the rooms began to look alike. Our thoughts drifted back to the Mount Defiance token whose usefulness would expire at 4:30.

By this time it was after 4:00. We needed to leave now. So we agreed: “Yeah, let’s go see a mountaintop.”

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

2 responses

  1. We had visited the ole’ Fort a number of years ago while we stayed in Lake George. Interesting place of history. Nice photo’s of the Fort I remember.

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