Fort Ticonderoga is located at the southern end of Lake Champlain, at the mouth of the strait that connects it with Lake George.
The fort, originally named Fort Carillon, was built by the French. Construction began in 1755 by clearing the forest on a peninsula
on the western shore of the lake. After several months of work, it became obvious that the fort was in a poor position to defend an attack from Lake George
, so an additional fortification was built on the eastern shore of the straight. Even before construction of the fort was complete, the French army moved 36 cannon
down the lake to defend the fort.
The French and Indian War began in 1759, and Fort Carillon soon came under attack from British forces. Under the command of the Marquis de Montcalm, a French garrison of 3500 troops successfully repelled a British force of 15000 troops, commanded by General Abercromby. A year later, another British force, this time commanded by General Amherst, defeated the French garrison and drove them from the fort. The British immediately raised the flag of the King of England, and renamed their new possession Fort Ticonderoga.
After the war, the fort began to lose it's strategic value. The British now controlled the land around both lakes, and it was being colonized by English citizens. The fort, no longer the "key to the continent" quickly fell into disrepair.
At the beginning of the American Revolution, the garrison at the fort consisted on only a half-company of troops. Seeing an advantage, Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold and the Green Mountain Boys decided to attack and capture the fort on May 10, 1775. They crossed Lake Champlain under cover of darkness, and completely surprised the troops as they slept. The British Army considered Ticonderoga so insignificant that they had neglected to inform the garrison that hostilities had started at Lexington and Concord weeks before.
For a little over two years, Fort Ticonderoga was the centerpiece of the American northern defense. The first American Navy was built and trained in Lake Champlain under the protection for the fort. More fortifications were built in the surrounding area, including Mount Independence in Vermont. The fleet at Ticonderoga sailed north in 1776 and fought the British Navy at the Battle of Valcour Island. Although the fleet was defeated, it delayed the British drive down the Champlain Valley. Finally, in 1777, General Burgoyne placed a cannon across the straight from the fort, and forced the rebel troops to retreat on July 5th. This was the last time the fort was involved in a military conflict.
William Ferris Pell purchased the ruins of the fort in 1820, intending to save the site as a historical landmark. He built a hotel for tourists who wanted to visit the ruins. In 1908, Stephen and Sarah Gibbs Thompson Pell began to restore the old fort, and opened it to the public in 1909. President Taft was in attendance at the opening. It is currently managed by the Fort Ticonderoga Association, and is recognized as "a private not-for-profit educational historic site."
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