The bad news is, I'm too busy working with my clients to create new content for this blog. The good news is, I have copies of a bunch of posts I created for a community blog that were lost from that site through a technology glitch. Here's an example from August, 2019.
A dozen people from as far away as New Jersey braved thunder, lightning and swarms of mosquitoes for a “Gossip Tour of Fort Ticonderoga.”
The tour promised:
“the real story of life at Ticonderoga… Drunken soldiers, stolen wives, unsolved crimes, and attempted murder were sprinkled through the experiences of the men and women stationed at Ticonderoga from 1755 to 1781.”
Fort Ticonderoga, known as the “key to the continent,” is situated in Essex County on a peninsula between Lake George and Lake Champlain. It seesawed between strategic significance and military backwater in the French & Indian and Revolutionary wars, was abandoned in the 19th century and rebuilt as a historic attraction in the early 20th century. The Gossip Tour is one of the ways the Fort keeps people coming back – they’re always putting a fresh spin on history.
Guns and Alcohol Do Not Mix
Ticonderoga was a desolate place in the middle of a hostile wilderness – but at least there was booze to take the edge off. Whether rum, fortified wine, or locally produced spruce beer, alcohol was both a daily ration and an occasional reward. Overindulgence led to soldiers getting lost, being left behind when regiments moved out, even armed brawls.
One of the best documented fights was over a woman. Calling it a “lurid tale of Ti,” curator and tour leader Matthew Keagle told the story of a soldier, his wife, and allegations of infidelity with an officer. Drunkenness, fighting and time in confinement ensued. Drawing from diaries and documents in the Fort’s collection, Keagle built the drama to a peak … then left the group hanging as the written record stopped without a resolution. Just one of the challenges of being a historian, he said.
Familiarity Breeds Contempt
At capacity, Fort Ticonderoga could house several hundred soldiers in its barracks. In such tight quarters, slights – perceived or actual – would fester into all-out fights. John Lacey, born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, served as a captain under Colonel Anthony Wayne. Lacey recorded a long list of grievances against Wayne – he would have been great on Twitter – and eventually resigned his commission. While Keagle referred to him as “pouty,” Lacey later rejoined the Bucks County Regiment of militia and commanded the American forces at the Battle of Crooked Billet.
Additional stories included inter-regimental fighting – a la Sharks vs. Jets, a brave Scotsman protecting a haymow from a marauding cow, and upstart officers ignoring the protocols of rank.
As the tour wrapped up, Keagle noted that despite the bickering and infighting, the soldiers who served at Fort Ticonderoga played an outsized role in the birth of the United States of America. While scholars focus on major battles, the stories on the Gossip Tour are the “garnish” that brings history to life.
Visit Fort Ticonderoga
Fort Ticonderoga is open daily from 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. through October 31 and is a 2-hour drive from Albany.
Colleen M. Ryan is an