The Battle of Ticonderoga

May 10, 1775 and July 5, 1777

Fort Ticonderoga is about 100 miles north of Albany, New York and is between Lake George and Lake Champlain. It was built in the year 1775 by the French to protect themselves against the British and to protect the fur trading routes. This was the first French fort to be built in North America. The Fort sits overlooking the major route through the Hudson River Valley from the Canadian border, a popular route for fur traders. They called it Fort Carillon.

In July 1758, British General Abercrombie and his 16,000 men could not take the fort from the 4,000 French soldiers. Then in 1759, British General Jeffrey Amhurst captured the fort from the French and renamed it Fort Ticonderoga after a nearby town. Ticonderoga comes from the Iroquois language (Cheonderoga) and means "the place between two waters."

John Brown, a Patriot lawyer, had been sent to Canada to see how the French were reacting to the Colonists' rebellion. On March 29, 1775, he wrote to the Massachusetts Committee of Safety: "One thing I must mention to be kept as a profound secret: the fort at Ticonderoga must be seized as soon as possible should hostilities be commenced by the King's troops."

The Continental Army's interest in capturing the fort was to have control of the waterways from Canada. There were many British soldiers in Canada and having control of the fort would mean having control of the waterways the British could use in attacking the Colonists. They did not want to make the first offensive move. The Battles at Lexington and Concord were not offensive, as much as they were "bickering."

Colonel Samuel Parson left Cambridge, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775 (the same day as the battles at Lexington and Concord) to go to Connecticut. He wanted to recruit men for the siege of Boston. He started to realize that the Continental Army did not have many cannons or artillery. Then he met Benedict Arnold, who told him that there were plenty of cannons at Ticonderoga. Benedict Arnold had heard that the fort was run-down and not well protected. Benedict Arnold went on to Cambridge and urged the Committee of Safety to allow him to seize the fort at Ticonderoga. The Committee agreed, but Benedict Arnold could only take 400 men from Massachusetts.

Colonel Parson then met up with John Brown and Colonel James Easton were leading forty men to Castleton, Vermont. They traveled together and met Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, who were marching to capture the fort at Ticonderoga.

Now there were two different armies marching toward Ticonderoga. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold met at Castleton and marched together. Both men wanted to be in charge. Benedict Arnold had the commission papers from the Committee of Safety, but Ethan Allen had the men. Finally, they decided to march side by side.

In the early morning hours of May 10, 1775, in the first offensive action of the war, the 175 Green Mountain Boys of Vermont led by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen walked through the open gate at Fort Ticonderoga. When a sleeping sentry awoke, Ethan Allen hit him on the side of his head and took his weapons. The sentry motioned to the upstairs and the men climbed the stairs. All eighty-three British soldiers and two officers, Captain William Delaplace and Lieutenant Jocelyn Feltham, were all asleep. It was an easy victory for the Continental Army and there were no shots fired.

Seth Warner, a Green Mountain Boy, was sent with some men to capture Fort Crown Point which sat on the southern tip of Lake Champlain. Both forts were under the control of the Continental Army.

Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen were both ordered to take their men back to Boston with all 100 cannons. The cannons were difficult to transport, and they did not arrive in Boston until January 1776.

Later, Congress realized the important locations of these forts and sent a thousand men to guard these posts. The colonists kept control of Fort Ticonderoga until July 5, 1777 when British forces led by General Burgoyne captured the fort. Fort Ticonderoga was set on fire by the British forces and in 1909 was restored and turned into a museum that is still open today for visitors.

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