Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome guest historian David A. Powell to the blog. A biography of David is at the bottom of this post.
The Hudson Valley in upstate New York is one of my favorite historical places – which might come as a surprise to some, given that my usual historical beat is the 1861-1865 time-frame. There are a handful of Civil War related sites along the Hudson, but not many.
But for two centuries before our war between the states, the region was the pathway for commerce, settlement, and conflict. The banks of the Hudson, Lakes George and Champlain, and the St. Lawrence are all dotted with crucial reminders of a violent historical past.
I’ve been to most of these sites; West Point, Bennington and Saratoga battlefields, the site of Fort William Henry, Crown Point, and plenty of other locations. One of them, however, fixes my attention beyond all others:
The fort occupies a strategic place on Lake Champlain, were a land portage connects Champlain to Lake George, and ultimately, the Hudson River.
<Lake Champlain from Fort, looking south>
Originally called Carrillon by the French, who built it in 1755; the fort changed hands several times during the ensuing 25 years. It was unsuccessfully attacked by the British in 1758, and finally captured the next year, part of the British “Annus Mirabilis,” that string of decisive triumphs over the French that reached their crescendo with Wolfe’s victory at Quebec. Two decades later, it figured in the American Revolution; it was wrested from British control by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold in 1775. Its heavy artillery was sledged across many miles of Wilderness snow and ice to reinforce the Rebel army besieging Boston by Henry Knox, which forced the British to abandon that city. In 1776 Ticonderoga was a bulwark of the Patriot defenses on Lake Champlain. In 1777, it was easily re-captured by the British under Burgoyne, but returned to American control after Burgoyne’s disasters of Bennington and Saratoga.
Ticonderoga is fully restored now, owned and maintained by a private foundation that has done an outstanding job of presenting and preserving the Fort’s history. The town and the fort grounds are also dotted with interesting monuments, many erected by British regiments, mainly placed to honor their troops who fought in the Fort’s bloodiest single battle, that of 1758.
British General James Abercrombie led 17,000 troops – colonials and British regulars – against a much smaller garrison of between 4,000 and 5,000 French, Canadian Militia, and Indian Allies. The French, under the Marquis de Montcalm, defended an entrenched line outside of the fort walls, which Abercrombie obligingly assaulted. The British lost 2,000 men, and Abercrombie retreated.
My favorite monument at Ticonderoga is actually paired with another monument erected by the American Colonists in Westminster Abbey (left to right in picture below). They both commemorate the death of Lord George Howe, a Brigadier General in Abercrombie’s army (and elder brother to the Howes of Revolutionary War fame) who embraced irregular warfare.
Go spend an afternoon at Ticonderoga. You won’t be disappointed.
*David A. Powell is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute (1983) with a B.A. in history. He has published numerous articles in various magazines, and more than fifteen historical simulations of different battles.
For the past decade, David’s focus has been on the epic battle of Chickamauga, and he is nationally recognized for his tours of that important battlefield. The result of that study was his first published book, The Maps of Chickamauga (Savas Beatie, 2009).
His latest book is Failure In The Saddle: Nathan Bedford Forrest, Joe Wheeler, and the Confederate Cavalry In the Chickamauga Campaign (Savas Beatie, 2011). He is currently working on a full length monograph of the battle of Chickamauga. The first volume of that work, entitled The Chickamauga Campaign: A Mad Irregular Battle, is scheduled for a 2014 release.
David and his wife Anne live and work in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. He is Vice President of Airsped, Inc., a specialized delivery firm.