Tom Watson has a post on the peril that faces Fort Ticonderoga now, and about the nice afternoon he spent with his family there this summer. Fort Ticonderogawas originally the French Fort Carillon, built during the Seven Years’ War, and renamed Ticonderoga when it was taken over after the British victory over France in that war. Ticonderoga is known to most U.S. Americans (if it’s known at all) as the site that Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys daringly captured from the British in 1775, sending its artillery overland to Boston to help George Washington liberate Boston in 1776. Ticonderoga then served as a base of operations until it was lost to the British again in 1777, but the American forces were able to contain the British at Ticonderoga by halting their advance at the Battle of Saratoga, September 19, 1777, and eventually forced the British to surrender Ticonderoga again the following month. These two engagements–Ticonderoga and Saratoga–were sufficient to help secure French assistance on the American side, which is why they are known as the “turning point” in the military history of the American Revolution.
From a purely jingoistic perspective, Fort Ticonderoga is clearly one of the most important historical sites for the history of the Revolution, linked as it is to the greatest American victories in the first half of the war (1775-1778), and credited (in part) with securing French intervention, which proved decisive in 1781. And, let’s face it: the other tales of the first half of the war around New York and Philadelphia are for the most part stories of British victories and American failures. Watson nicely describes his most recent, and why sites like Ticonderoga are worthy of our patronage and our money:
We visited Ticonderoga – my third visit, my children’s second – last week on the way home from Lake George, and spend an hour wandering the battlements and peering at the collection of arms and other archeological wonders in the simple galleries housed in reconstructed barracks. It remains a wild and beautiful spot, its bloody history aside, and the views across the farmlands and up toward Mount Defiance (where the British mule-hauled cannon to eventually force Ticonderoga’s surrender from the rebels) are singularly beautiful. Moreover, they tell almost the complete story of New York’s importance to the new United States – sitting astride one of the great inland trade routes linking Canada with Albany and the Mohawk, New York and the Hudson.
Watson links to a New York Times article that explains the financial and management problems that face the fort. Memo to people working in museums and historic preservation: don’t depend on a single quirky and immensely wealthy donor to bankroll your project. Keep cultivating other donors, and be sure that the public knows about the important work you do in preserving local and national history. And everyone, when you travel, please consider dropping in on that old house museum, or that historic site you’ve always meant to get to, but you’ve always been in such a hurry to get somewhere else you’ve never made the time to get there. You never know when it might not be there for you to visit.