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"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Ticonderoga—America’s First Revolutionary War Victory

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Bert Gildart: If you visit Fort Ticonderoga in New York—the site back-dropping one of the first significant battles for the Colonies in the Revolutionary War—your first stop should be Mount Defiance rather than the 1700s fort.

Though that’s not what we did yesterday, it’s what we now know we should have done. From the small village of Ticonderoga, located along Lake Champlain, it’s about a five minute drive to the top of the small hill over looking the fort—and much of what that fort once commanded.

That’s what we should have done, for it’s the quickest way to acquire an understanding of the fort’s strategic importance—and the significance of its name.

Mohawk Indians helped name the area, and to them the word Ticonderoga meant “the place between the great waters.” Standing there on top of Mount Defiance, it’s easy now to envision the fort’s importance. To the east, Lake Champlain sprawls before you. Turn now 180 degrees and you can see the drainage of Lake George, something cannon fire could control. And now, it’s time to visit the fort proper.

If you join one of the tours you learn right away that the security of New France and New England depended on the fortification and defense of this critical pass. And so, in 1755, the French began to build a fort, but because war was being waged in Europe, little attention was paid to this far flung outpost, and it remained unfinished—and vulnerable. In 1758, English troops, which outnumbered French troops five to one, stormed the fort. But under the superb leadership of the French general, Marquis de Montcalm, Fort Carrilon, as it was then known, held. Today, a marker commemorates the bravery of General Montcalm. In fact, you see the marker along the picturesque drive leading to the fort.

Subsequently, the British acquired the fort through negotiations, but they didn’t hold it long. On May 10, 1775 Ethan Allen demanded surrender from the British. He was joined by Benedict Arnold (Yes, the man who later turned traitor to the American cause), and together they claimed the first victory in the Revolutionary War.

That is a thumbnail sketch of the historic significance of this colorful fort, but it’s only a part of what we came to see. We wanted to see the pageantry still celebrated at this fort, and part of that is the first order of the day.

Because the history of the fort was shaped by three nations, each morning at the fort the day begins with the raising of French, British and American flags. About an hour later, there’s a cannon demonstration, and interpreters demonstrate the correct way to load a cannon. Simultaneously, they explain that cannon ball range is well over a mile, and that that range is adequate to control the passage to and from Lake George.

As well, the grounds on which the fort is housed also contains an elegant series of gardens, reminiscent of the time early French soldiers produced their own staples, as well as of the first attempts to attract tourist interested in Revolutionary history.

Recognizing a business opportunity, William Ferris Pell purchased the fort and the grounds in 1820, built a hotel and enhanced the grounds with a garden that offered beauty and the historic interpretation of the French to produce their own food.

Though the fort and grounds subsequently passed through several owners, today management is controlled by the Fort Ticonderoga Association. It’s all very photogenic, and is what Janie and I spent an entire day attempting to interpret.

Typically, Janie approached images with more standard lenses while I search for close-up opportunities with my 80-400 Nikon lens with image stabilization. At this stop, Janie also devoted more attention to the gardens. It’s a way of optimizing our time at a site that has such an incredible amount of material to absorb.

After all, Fort Ticonderoga lays claim to America’s first victory in the Revolutionary War, and they’ve gone to lengths to interpret, in time and place, the conditions of that claim.

 

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4th ed. Autographed by the Authors

Hiking Shenandoah National Park

Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.

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Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State

Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.

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Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent

Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons

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One Response to “Ticonderoga—America’s First Revolutionary War Victory”

  1. Benefits of Bear Spray | Bert Gildart: Writer and Photographer Says:

    [...] AUGUST 2006 POST: *Fort Ticonderoga [...]

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