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Forts of the Lake Champlain Valley
Empires in the Mountains focuses solely on the French and Indian War (1754-1763) campaigns and the strategic forts located on the Lake Champlain, Lake George, and Hudson River water route.
Lake Champlain Forts
There are few, if any, locations that rival the historic importance of the Champlain Valley of northern New York and Vermont and southern Quebec.
For over two hundred years the Champlain Valley was contested by armies and fleets of Iroquois, Algonquin, Abenaki, British, French and Patriots seeking, in turn, to control their fertile farmland and rich fishing and hunting grounds. But most importantly they contested the easy, natural water highway that Lake Champlain provided. In conjunction with the Richelieu and Saint Lawrence Rivesr to the north and Lake George and the Hudson River to the south, the waterway connected New York and Albany with Montreal and Quebec.
In addition to its ability to connect the major cities and ports of the day, the Lake also provided a means of dividing with the intent of conquering. During both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, British forces sought to control the Lake - thereby separating New England from the rest of the new country.
There were numerous forts and encampments on the Lake over the years. Here we'll examine some of the most important ones.
A Natural Water Highway
Fort Ticonderoga - (Fort Carillon)
Mount Independence - (Rattlesnake Hill)
Originally called Rattlesnake Hill, Mount Independence was an extensive fortification built on a prominent piece of land near Orwell, Vermont that juts into Lake Champlain. It is directly across Lake Champlain from Fort Ticonderoga. When it was built in 1776, it was the most heavily staffed fort in North America, with about 12,000 American soldiers. Working with Fort Ticonderoga, it was intended to stop a British invasion from Canada.
The mural above shows a bridge that was built across Lake Champlain to connect Mount Independence and Fort Ticonderoga to allow movement of troops and supplies between the two installations.
On July 28, 1776 its name was changed to Mount Independence after reading the newly adopted Declaration of Independence to the troops. In the winter of 1776-77 it was winter quarters for about 2500 American troops.
Fort Crown Point - (Fort St. Frederic)
From 1734-1755 France maintained complete control of the Champlain Valley. Fort St. Frederic controlled the narrows between Crown Point on what is now the New York side of Lake Champlain and Chimney Point in what is now Addison, Vermont. A combined military and civilian presence blocked British expansion.
In 1759 British regulars and provincial troops captured the fort, and immediately began construction of "His Majesty's Fort of Crown Point". Crown Point, located midway between Albany and Montreal, became the center of communication between New York and Canada, and Lake Champlain became a vital highway linking two diverse regions of British North America.
In April 1773, a chimney fire spread from the soldier's barracks resulting in an explosion of the powder magazine and the destruction of the main fort. Troop strength at Crown Point was gradually reduced until only a small garrison remained to surrender the fort to American rebel troops commanded by Seth Warner in May of 1775.
The surrender of Fort Crown Point to American rebel troops yielded 114 pieces of cannon and heavy ordnance, much of which was moved to Boston during that winter to force the British out of that city. Crown Point later became a springboard for an ill-fated American invasion of Canada.
After the Americans abandoned Crown Point, the British assembled their troops here - using the fort as a staging area in both 1776 and 1777. Delayed by Benedict Arnold and the new American Navy at Valcour Island, Sir Guy Carleton arrived here with his troops in October of 1776, but soon after retreated north for the winter. British General John Burgoyne's army arrived here in June of 1777 en route to Saratoga. Crown Point remained under British control until the end of the war.
Despite Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga, the British retained absolute control of Lake Champlain with a garrison manning Crown Point for the remainder of the war. British ships cruised regularly between Crown Point and the naval shipyard at St. Jean, Quebec. Crown Point did not return to American control until after the Peace Treaty in 1783.
Fort Saint Anne
Fort Ste. Anne
Located on the island of Isle La Motte in the middle of Lake Champlain, Fort Ste. Anne was the site of the oldest European settlement in the Lake Champlain Valley.
Fort 'Blunder' Videos - Fort Montgomery
Also known as 'Fort Blunder' because of a surveying error, Fort Montgomery was the northernmost American fort on Lake Champlain. It was so far north that construction of the fort was actually begun in 1816 nearly one mile north of the Canadian border, well within Canadian territory!
A later treaty ceded the land to the United States and construction resumed in 1844.
Fort Lennox - (Isle aux Noix)
Fort Chambly - (Fort St. Paul)
Fort Chambly Videos
This book looks at the entire scope of the French and Indian War, not just the northeast campaigns. It is an excellent coverage of the period and shows how the seeds of the American Revolution began to germinate 20 years earlier.
Forts of Lake Champlain Resources
For additional reading about Lake Champlain's forts and the battles that were fought for control of the Lake, I recommend:
© 2015 Tom McHugh