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Fort Ticonderoga is a large 18th century fort built at a strategically important narrows in Lake Champlain where a short traverse gives access to the north end of Lake George in the state of New York, USA. The fort controlled both commonly used trade routes between the English-controlled Hudson River Valley and the French-controlled Saint Lawrence River Valley. The name "Ticonderoga" comes from an Iroquois word meaning "the place between two waters". Fort Ticonderoga was the site of four battles over the course of 20 years.
Construction of the fort
On July 8, 1758 the British, under General James Abercombie, staged a frontal attack with 16,000 troops and were soundly defeated by 4,000 French defenders. This battle gave the fort an undeserved reputation for invulnerability. The 42nd Highland Regiment (the Black Watch) was especially badly mauled in the attack on Fort Carillon, giving rise to a legend involving the Scottish Major Duncan Campbell.
The terrifying reputation of the Native Americans, for the most part allied to the French, is thought to have provoked the wave of panic that apparently took over British troops retreating in great disorder by day's end. French patrols later found equipment strewn about, boots left stuck in mud, and many wounded on their stretchers left to die in clearings. In fact, few Natives were actually present during the battle, a large contingent of them having been dispatched by French governor Vaudreuil on a useless mission to Corlar . This gave Montcalm more reason to pester at his rival Vaudreuil, who had thus deprived him of the means to completely destroy the retreating British forces that eventually regrouped south of Lake George. This was the first Battle of Ticonderoga.
The fort during the American Revolution
On May 10, 1775, a sleeping British garrison of 22 soldiers was taken by surprise by a small force of Americans (calling themselves the Green Mountain Boys) under Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, who walked into the fort through an unlocked gate. A single shot was fired — probably by accident. The colonials obtained a large supply of cannon and powder, much of which was hauled 300 km to Boston where it was used to lay siege to the town.
In 1776, the British returned to Canada and moved down Lake Champlain under General Carleton. A ramshackle fleet of American gunboats delayed the British until winter threatened (see: Battle of Valcour Island), but the attack resumed the next year under General Burgoyne.
The Saratoga Campaign
The British force drove the Americans back into the fort, then hauled cannon to the top of undefended Mt. Defiance, which overlooked the fort. Faced with bombardment, Arthur St. Clair ordered Ticonderoga abandoned on July 5. Burgoyne's troops moved in the next day. The colonials quickly withdrew across the Lake to Fort Independence on the Vermont side of the Lake. They soon abandoned that fort as well and retreated south in disarray. The rear guard left to delay the British at the Lake Champlain crossing was reportedly too drunk to fire their cannon, and the colonial army was fortunate to withdraw to the Hudson Valley without major losses.
Abandonment of the fort
After Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga, the fort at Ticonderoga became increasingly irrelevant. The British abandoned Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point in 1780. The fort was now far interior to the border between Canada and the United States.
The town of Ticonderoga, New York, located in the area where the fort stands, also carries its name. The fort is privately owned and was restored in 1909. It is maintained as a tourist attraction, opening for the season on May 10th every year, closing in late October.
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