The event will feature a lively program highlighting Henry Knox’s arrival to Fort Ticonderoga and recreate part of the epic feat that ultimately forced the British evacuation from Boston on March 17, 1776.
The siege of Boston, April 19, 1775 – March 17, 1776 was the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War in which New England militiamen, who later became part of the Continental Army, surrounded the town of Boston, Massachusetts, to prevent movement by the British Army garrisoned within. In November 1775, Washington sent a 25 year-old bookseller-turned-soldier, Henry Knox, to bring heavy artillery that had been captured at Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. Knox knew the challenge before him as he wrote to George Washington on December 5, 1775:
The garrison at Ticonderoga is so weak, the conveyance from the fort to the landing is so difficult, the passage across the lake so precarious, that I am afraid it will be ten days at least before I can get them on this side. When they are here, the conveyance from hence will depend entirely on the sledding; if that is wood, they shall immediately move forward; without sledding, the roads are so much gullied that it will be impossible to move a step.
In a technically complex and demanding operation, Knox left Ticonderoga in January 1776 carrying sixty tons of artillery through the dead of winter to Boston in just forty days. In March 1776, these artillery pieces were used to fortify Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston and its harbor and threatening the British naval supply lifeline. The British commander William Howe, realizing he could no longer hold the town, chose to evacuate it. He withdrew the British forces, departing on March 17, for Halifax, Nova Scotia thus giving Washington his first great victory of the war.
While many know that on May 10, 1775 Benedict Arnold, Ethan Allen, and 83 Green Mountain Boys captured Ticonderoga and its 78 pieces of heavy artillery, few know that the very next day 100 Green Mountain Boys, led by Seth Warner, likewise liberated nearby Crown Point from British control. On May 15, Allen and Arnold arrived at Crown Point and ordered militiamen to inventory and salvage materials that survived a 1773 fire.
The greatest prize, 111 cannon (of which 65 were immediately usable), were inventoried at Crown Point, along with tons of cannon balls and musket balls. Twenty-nine of the 59 cannon transported from Lake Champlain to South Boston that winter originated at Crown Point. Shortly before Henry Knox arrived at Ticonderoga in December to move heavy cannon a great distance, patriots prepared for his arrival by selecting 29 cannon at Crown Point to be hauled to Ticonderoga where they would join 30 cannon picked from among those already there.
“The Noble Train Begins” living history event at Fort Tinderoga on December 6th will feature interpretive staff working with oxen as they move the artillery in place for the journey, cannon tours and cannon demonstrations will also be presented. Historic trades programs such as pit saw demonstrations and sled building demonstrations will highlight the material needs and production of the new fledgling American army and in particular the resources needed for Knox’s epic journey to Boston. The Fort Ticonderoga Museum owns two original artillery pieces that made the epic journey in the winter of 1776.
The event will also include a presentation by Matthew Keagle, Director of Exhibitions. Keagle will discuss the tools of the artilleryman’s trade as he highlights the Fort Ticonderoga Museum’s artifact collection. See tools, ammunition, and evidence of the use of artillery recovered from Fort Ticonderoga’s ruins. Keagle’s presentation will take place at 12 pm inside the Mars Education Center.
Admission to the “The Noble Train Begins” living history event is $10 per person and payable at the gate. Friends of Fort Ticonderoga and children 4 years and under are free. For more details visit www.fortticonderoga.org or call 518-585-2821.