Tag Archives: Lake Champlain

Crown Point Donation Attempt To Correct Historical Record


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IMG_4901While touring the museum at Crown Point State Historic Site in May, a group of members of the Daughters of the American Revolution from New York’s mid-Hudson Valley visited historic Crown Point on Lake Champlain.

They came to see the point from which Hudson Valley troops, commanded by Generals Richard Montgomery and Philip Schuyler, departed to invade British Canada, and found an opportunity to serve history by funding a bronze marker at the starting point of the so-called Knox Artillery Trail, but not at Ticonderoga – at Crown Point. Continue reading

Guided History Tour Across Lake Champlain Bridge Planned


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Crown Point Bridge 2If you’ve wanted to learn more about what you see as you walk or drive over the new Lake Champlain Bridge, join the managers of the Chimney Point, VT, and Crown Point, NY, State Historic Sites for a guided walk on Sunday, July 28, 2013, at 1:00 p.m. Tom Hughes and Elsa Gilbertson will leaders a walk across and back on the bridge, and will discuss the 9,000 years of human history at this important location on Lake Champlain.

At this narrow passage on Lake Champlain humans have crossed here, as well as traveled north and south on the lake since glacial waters receded over 9,000 years ago. The channel with its peninsulas, or points, on each side made this one of the most strategic spots on Lake Champlain for the Native Americans, and French, British, and early Americans in the 17th and 18th centuries. Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga Offering New Guided Waterway Tour


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1775 lake champlain battoeNow you can see Fort Ticonderoga the way two generations of soldiers saw the great lakeside citadel in the 18th century during Fort Ticonderoga’s new sunset tour, The Place Between Great Waters. The ninety minute tour takes place on scenic Lake Champlain located just below the Fort’s imposing walls. Costumed historic interpreters will lead the tour in an 18th-century battoe while guests paddle along side in their canoes and kayaks (Fort Ticonderoga canoes will be available for rent the evening of the program). Continue reading

A Unique North Country Civil War Connection


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Plaque 77th Reg NYS Vol NYH1It’s guaranteed that you’re going to enjoy this, another unique North Country link to the Civil War. It sounds like something culled from the pages of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, and begs the question: what the heck are the odds of that happening?

Though I can’t answer the question, I do recall that in my former employment, it was notable when three men all having the same first name worked in the same department. So what can you say about “The One-Legged Jims,” a group of three Civil War veterans? Continue reading

Western VT’s Historic Sites Opening For Season


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Crown Point Bridge (John Warren Photo)The Memorial Day weekend brings the start of the 2013 season at the Chimney Point, Mount Independence, and Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Sites. The sites open this Saturday, May 25, at 9:30 a.m.

The Chimney Point State Historic Site on Lake Champlain in Addison commands one of the most strategic locations on the Lake, of importance to human beings for over 9,000 years. The site presents the Native American, early French, and early American settlement of the area. The special exhibit is What Lies Beneath: 9,000 Years of History at Chimney Point, highlighting the archaeological findings from the 2009-2011 bridge and temporary ferry project—including the likely location of the “chimney” that gave Chimney Point its name in 1759. Continue reading

Washington County’s Mysterious Black Migration


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9781479771912_p0_v1_s260x420New York author L. Lloyd Stewart has recently published an extensively researched and documented book on African American history in New York State titled, The Mysterious Black Migration 1800-1820: The Van Vrankens and Other Families of African Descent in Washington County, New York.

The author will be at the Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) during May’s Troy Night Out, on May 31, 2013. Stewart will give a presentation at 6:30 pm and will be available to sign copies of his book afterward. Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga’s War College of the Seven Years’ War


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Plan du Fort Carillon smallLimited space is still available to attend Fort Ticonderoga’s Eighteenth Annual War College of the Seven Years’ War May 17-19, 2013.

This annual seminar focuses on the French & Indian War in North America (1754-1763), bringing together a panel of distinguished historians from around the country and beyond. The War College takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open to the public; pre-registration is required. Continue reading

The Prince of Wales at Rouses Point


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Prince of Wales 1919, CanadaBritish royalty were the most famous of foreign visitors to the village of Rouses Point, located in New York State’s extreme northeast corner.

In 1919, the Prince of Wales toured Canada and accepted an invitation to visit President Woodrow Wilson at the White House. Wilson was bedridden with illness at the time, so a “bemedalled staff of admirals and generals” was dispatched to greet the Prince when he first stepped onto American soil at Rouses Point.

On November 10, Edward, Prince of Wales, arrived at the train station. Awaiting him were Secretary of State Lansing, Major General John Biddle of the US Army, Rear Admiral Albert T. Niblick of the US Navy, and Major General Charleston of the British army. Continue reading

Rouses Point: Northern NY Crossroads


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Gene Tunney in Rouses Point 3WFew villages in New York State can lay claim to as rich a heritage as Rouses Point, and like the oft-used real-estate axiom says, there are three primary reasons—location, location, location.

As New York’s northeasternmost village, Rouses Point can be found at the north end of Lake Champlain. Bordering on Canada to the north and Vermont to the east, for decades it was a shipping and transportation crossroads, serving both water and rail traffic. Continue reading

Emancipation Anniversary: A Grassroots Victory


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Almost lost in the depressing “Fiscal Cliff” spectacle was the anniversary marking one of the major positive milestones of our history — President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

On January 1, 1863, some 3 million people held as slaves in the Confederate states were declared to be “forever free.” Of course, it wasn’t that simple. Most of those 3 million people were still subjugated until the Union Army swept away the final Confederate opposition more than two years later. And slavery was not abolished in the entire United States until after the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1865. Continue reading

Henry Knox’s "Noble Train" at Fort Ticonderoga


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Discover the story of Henry Knox’s noble train of artillery at Fort Ticonderoga’s upcoming living history event, Saturday, December 1, from 10 am – 4 pm. The event will feature a program highlighting Henry Knox’s arrival to Fort Ticonderoga and recreate the beginning of the epic feat that ultimately forced the British evacuation from Boston on March 17, 1776.

“Visitors to the ‘The Noble Train Begins’ living history event will meet Henry Knox, the unassuming Boston book seller whose physical and mental might was first tested with the epic feat of moving more than 14 mortars, 43 cannon, and other artillery to Boston in the winter of 1776,” said Stuart Lilie, Fort Ticonderoga’s Director of Interpretation. “See man and horse power in action as the artillery is selected for the journey. Meet the soldiers left to guard this frontier outpost as the first winter of the Revolutionary War takes hold.” Continue reading

John Burgoyne Lecture at Mount Independence


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On Saturday, October 20, at 1:00 p.m., historian Douglas Cubbison will present a program at the Mount Independence State Historic Site just across Lake Champlain in Orwell, VT on Burgoyne and the 1777 Saratoga Campaign of the American Revolution. The event, the annual Robert J. Maguire lecture, is offered by the Mount Independence Coalition.

Cubbison, who lives in Mission, Kansas, has done extensive research on Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne, and his book, Burgoyne and the Saratoga Campaign: His Papers, was published this June by the University of Oklahoma Press. The book includes an extensive introduction to the subject and many of Burgoyne’s papers, previously unpublished. Burgoyne had gathered these papers m for his defense when parliament was looking into his conduct during the northern campaign in 1777. Continue reading

The Season’s Last Crown Bridge History Tour


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On Sunday, September 30, 2012, state historic site managers Thomas Hughes at Crown Point, New York, and Elsa Gilbertson at Chimney Point, Vermont, will lead a guided round-trip walk across the new Lake Champlain Bridge connecting New York and Vermont.

For centuries, this crossing has been used by Woodlands Indians, the French, the British, and Americans. The narrow channel passage for water vessels and the peninsulas, or points, on either side made this one of the most strategic military locations along Lake Champlain, especially during the 1700s.

Continue reading

Northeast Open Atlatl Chamionsphip Begins Today


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People from all over the northeast begin gathering today at the Chimney Point State Historic Site on Lake Champlain in Addison, Vermont, for this weekend’s annual Open Atlatl Championship. The event is back at Chimney Point after two years at Mount Independence, due to the site’s closure during the Lake Champlain Bridge construction project.

The atlatl is the ancient tool used the world over before the bow and arrow to effectively project darts and spears for hunting. During the bridge project archeology work, a number of projectile points were found here, indicating the atlatl was used historically on the very location of this championship, now in its 17th year. Continue reading

Battle of Plattsburgh: Countdown to Invasion (Sept 11)


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On September 11, 1814, the American and British naval squadrons on Lake Champlain engage in a long awaited duel to the death, culminating in a decisive American victory.

Owing to the masterful strategic planning of Commodore Thomas Macdonough, the American fleet is able to defend Plattsburgh Bay and defeat the Royal Navy following a fierce 2 1/2 hour battle, the largest of the entire War.

On land, the British commander, General Sir George Prevost makes a monumental blunder when he allows his troops to wait for an hour before commencing the land attack while they finish breakfast. What should have been a simultaneous naval and land assault became delayed and although Prevost’s ground forces succeed in crossing the Saranac River at Pike’s Cantonment, a mile and a half above Plattsburgh, by this time, the naval battle had been decided.

Believing his forces could not hold Plattsburgh without naval superiority on the Lake, Prevost quickly issued orders to his commanders to withdraw. This order was met with shock and frustration by his veteran Generals, who clearly knew a land victory over the meager American Army and Militia was easily within their grasp…The grand British master plan of invasion from the north had been halted at Plattsburgh.

This Battle of Plattsburgh Countdown to Invasion fact is brought to you by the Greater Adirondack Ghost and Tour Company. If you enjoyed this fascinating snippet of North Country history, find them on Facebook

North Country’s Union General H. Judson Kilpatrick


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H. Judson Kilpatrick, a Union general during the Civil War, has been described as flamboyant, rash, and tempestuous. There’s no doubt that he was often a rogue officer, sometimes to disastrous effect. The South developed a deep hatred of him for the extreme methods he employed, but he was certainly part of the team effort that led to the North’s victory.

As every leader knew during the war, many levels of support were necessary in order to win. Despite being brash and confident in his abilities, Kilpatrick famously cited a North Country man, Captain John Viall, as critical to the general’s own success, and the Union’s as well.

John Greeley Viall, son of William and Mary Viall, was born in November 1829 in Westport, New York, on the western shore of Lake Champlain. In January 1852, when he was 22 years old, John left New York and settled in Texas. Nine months later, he purchased the San Antonio Tin, Copper, and Sheet Iron Ware Manufactory, which sold and/or fabricated stoves, cookware, water pipes, and just about anything made of metal.

Texas was still wild territory, having attained statehood just seven years earlier. Viall maintained contacts in Westport, and in a letter home in 1854, he described San Antonio as in “a state of intense excitement.” Several families had been killed by Indians, while others were scalped and left for dead in disputes along the state’s border. Viall had chosen a tough place to make a living.

In 1858, six years after he purchased the metal manufactory, the business failed. Viall returned to the North Country, where he became involved in politics. That same year, he was among the delegates to the convention in Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln was nominated to succeed Stephen Douglass in the US Senate.

On September 17, 1861, several months after the outbreak of hostilities between North and South, Viall enlisted at Crown Point. For three years following induction, he served as a private, second lieutenant, first lieutenant, and captain of Company H, Fifth New York Cavalry.

From that point (July 1864) forward, John served as captain and assistant quartermaster of volunteers until his honorable discharge in November 1865. Those final 16 months of service prompted General Kilpatrick to offer high praise for Quartermaster Viall, a man burdened with tremendous responsibility.

The duties of the quartermaster were remarkably varied, deeply complex, and absolutely critical to victory. The Quartermaster Review of 1928 noted that the success of all military operations relied on the promptness and efficiency of the quartermaster.

That may sound like an exaggerated assessment of any position, but consider the Review’s description of what the job entailed during the Civil War.

“The quartermaster’s department is charged with the duty of providing the means of transportation by land and water for all the troops and all the material of war. It furnishes the horses for artillery and cavalry; supplies tents, garrison equippage, forage, lumber, and all materials for camps; builds barracks, hospitals, wagons, and ambulances; provides harness, except for artillery horses; builds or charters ships and steamers, docks and wharves; constructs or repairs roads, bridges, and railroads; clothes the army; and is charged generally with the payment of all expenses attending military operations which are not expressly assigned by law or regulation to some other department.

“… wagonmasters, agents, teamsters, scouts, and spies, all … come under the supervision and pay of the quartermaster. He must … anticipate every want of the army.

“The quartermaster … builds the warehouses at every post; repairs, refits, and furnishes all houses and offices for army use; provides all hardware and building material (nails, glass, rope, etc.) and all the machinery used; fits up hospitals for the sick; and furnishes coffins for the dead.

“He pays the mileage of officers; expenses of courts-martial, per-diem of extra-duty men; postage on public service; expenses incurred in pursuing and apprehending deserters; burials of officers and soldiers, interpreters, veterinary surgeons, clerks, mechanics, laborers, and cooks.”

For General H. Judson Kilpatrick, one of the roughest, gruffest, most controversial men in the Union army, Viall provided those services better than any of the hundreds of men who undertook them for the Union cause. The general bestowed lasting glory on him with the oft-quoted pronouncement: “John Viall is the best quartermaster in the Army of the Potomac.”

Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs, the top man in the department, urged Viall to remain in the army at war’s end (ill health forced him to leave the service). Meigs himself was cited as indispensable to the Union cause by Secretary of State Seward. Clearly, Meigs’ assessment of Viall’s value was the highest of commendations.

Though working as quartermaster was the hallmark of his career, Viall did much more on the Union’s behalf, complementing a family history of stellar military service. His grandfather had fought in the Revolutionary War, “from Bunker Hill to Yorktown,” and his father had served in the War of 1812.

Impressive, for sure, but Viall’s own field experience took a back seat to none. He fought in the battles of Fredericksburg, Second Bull Run, Gettysburg, Appomattox Court House, Richmond, and dozens of others.

Throughout the remainder of his life, Viall consistently supported the military, though he struggled for reciprocation from the government. His health had suffered badly from the war, and when the military pension program was instituted in 1890, Viall began receiving $12 per month (equal to $300 in 2012).

A request for increased benefits due to stomach, kidney, and liver problems was rejected in 1892 (he was 63 at the time). Another rejection followed in 1900, even though a board of surgeons found him “totally disabled by reason of indigestion, enlarged prostate, and age.”

Finally, in 1907, the House of Representatives looked at Viall’s entire record from the Civil War. His great service was noted, leading up to a physical breakdown “from exposure and hardships in the West Virginia campaign.” Upon recovery, he had been “promoted to division quartermaster, and at the close of the war was acting quartermaster for the cavalry corps.” In retrospect, it was recognized that his efforts for the Union cause had been truly heroic.

A physician’s affidavit informed lawmakers of Viall’s current condition: “… the beneficiary is totally unable to perform any kind of manual or clerical labor due to general physical and mental debility, imperfect heart action, and senile decay.

“Other proof filed shows that the officer, owing to unfortunate financial ruin, has now nothing to live upon except the small pension of $12 per month, which is totally inadequate to maintain him. In consideration of the officer’s meritorious services for the period of four years, his great age, total inability to labor, and destitution, an increase of his pension to $24 per month is believed to be warranted.”

By an official Act of Congress on February 25, 1907, his pension was increased to $24 (equal to $575 per month in 2011).

Six years later, on September 1, 1913, John Greeley Viall—Westport native, loyal soldier, and among the best supply men to support the Union troops—died in Washington at the age of 85. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

Photos:  Captain’s medal of John Greeley Viall; Major General H. Judson Kilpatrick.
Lawrence Gooley has authored 11 books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Battle of Plattsburgh: Countdown to Invasion (Aug 31)


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On this date in 1814, invading British troops, numbering some 11 – 15,000 men, began their march in earnest across the Canadian frontier and into the United States, massing at the small village of Champlain, New York. Under the overall command of Sir George Prevost, the Governor General of Canada, the ranks of this massive army had been recently swelled by the British victory over Napoleon in Europe.

This fact had allowed battle hardened veterans of Wellington’s Army to be shipped directly to North America to bolster Prevost’s forces and these forces were now just 21 miles from Plattsburgh. The British quickly set to work commandeering any local teams of horses and wagons they could find, pressing them into service hauling the massive quantities of heavy baggage and supplies needed by the advancing Army…

Today’s Battle of Plattsburgh – “Countdown to Invasion” fact is brought to you by the Greater Adirondack Ghost & Tour Company. If you enjoyed this fascinating snippet of North Country history, find them on Facebook.

Invasion of Canada Living History Weekend Sept 1-2


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Visitors can explore the Continental Army’s first major initiative during the Revolutionary War at Fort Ticonderoga’s upcoming living history weekend “Onward to Canada: Reinforcements Head North to Join the Attack on St. John.” The September 1-2 event will recreate how the American army prepared to invade Canada in the fall of 1775.

Special programming offered throughout the weekend will recreate a unique and busy moment in Fort Ticonderoga’s history when the “Old French Fort” served as hub of activity for the fledging American Army and a launching point for an invasion into Canada. Programs will highlight close-order marching; the issuing of muskets, supplies, and clothing to the troops; special tours, weapons demonstrations; and regimental training exercises.

The objective of the invasion of Canada was to gain military control of the British province of Québec, and convince the French-speaking Canadians to join the Revolution on the side of the thirteen American colonies. In the fall of 1775 two invasion forces were launched with the goal of meeting in Québec. One expedition under the command of Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery set out from Fort Ticonderoga, besieged and captured Fort St. John, and very nearly captured British General Guy Carleton when taking Montreal. The other expedition left Cambridge, Massachusetts, under Colonel Benedict Arnold, and traveled with great difficulty through the wilderness of Maine to Québec City. The two forces joined there, but were defeated at the Battle of Québec in December 1775.

“Visitors can watch as Colonel Seth Warner’s Green Mountain Boys are transformed from recruits into a regiment to join Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery’s invasion of Canada. Learn about the practical concerns of getting soldiers and supplies to the front lines during a military campaign in a land of expansive lakes and dense woods. See bateaux in action as they move men and materiel to and from Fort Ticonderoga as we celebrate 1775 and Vermont’s military history,” said Stuart Lilie, Fort Ticonderoga’s Director of Interpretation. “The event will explore how new soldiers learned to move, think, and fight together as a team as they evolved into disciplined soldiers committed to defending the fledgling cause of liberty.”

Admission to “Onward to Canada” is included with Fort Ticonderoga’s general admission ticket. Fort Ticonderoga is open from 9:30 am until 5 pm daily. A complete event schedule is available online.