The Battle of Fort Ticonderoga is one of the most important clashes in the history of the American Revolution. It is also known as the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga. In order to understand the meaning of this particular confrontation, we have to dive into its history and background.
What is Fort Ticonderoga?
This place became Fort Ticonderoga in 1755 when a group of French settlers came to North America and began building a military base on the shore of Lake Champlain. Ticonderoga is located in New York. This particular settlement had exits to both the Hudson River and Canada, which made it an important crossing route between the two parts of the continent.
Originally this military base was called Fort Carrilon, and it witnessed many battles between the French and the Indians. In 1758 the British tried to conquer the fort but were without any luck. Being extremely insistent, they returned the following year under the command of General Amherst and successfully captured the fort which had already been damaged by the French while they were running for Canada.
After they have won the battle against the French, the British renamed the military base. Its name was Fort Ticonderoga which can be translated as the “fort between the two waters” or the “fort where the waters meet.” Even though the British wanted this fort to have an important strategic position in North America, they did not insist on strengthening it. That said, at the time of the American Revolution, merely fifty soldiers were housed at the fort.
The Capture of Fort Ticonderoga
When the American Revolution began in 1775 one of the most important battles between the Americans and the British was held at Fort Ticonderoga. On May 10th, Benedict Arnold from Massachusetts and Ethan Allen from Vermont joined their forces and attacked the British military base in Ticonderoga. The attack came at dawn when the soldiers were still sleeping. Even though it was a small battle, it was a major factor in the final outcome of the Revolution.
The capture of Fort Ticonderoga was the first American victory and gave the Continental Army a strong and important morale boost through the development of the conflict. Also, the American victory supplied the army with important artillery. The cannons captured at Fort Ticonderoga were afterwards used in other important battles against the British Army like the one at Boston in 1776.
In 1776 the British joined forces with the Canadians and tried to restore their power in the Ticonderoga area. Because the winter was coming, they considered it was too risky to supply the fort in Ticonderoga. The British withdrew their forces back to Canada even though the Canadians were opposed to this move.
The strategy changed during the winter, so that King George II named General Burgoyne to lead the expedition against the Americans. His route was established through the Champlain Lake near Fort Ticonderoga. In the summer of 1777 the British-Canadian army began to advance south. On the other side, the general appointed by the American Congress to command Ticonderoga, Arthur St. Clair, was facing many military difficulties. That was the reason for the Americans to change their position in the area. They moved their primary forces on the opposite side of Lake Champlain, in the area also known as Mount Rattlesnake. Its name was also later changed in Mount Independence. Meanwhile, Fort Ticonderoga was still being fortified but not so much that it could have faced a siege by the British.
On the first day of July 1777, General Burgoyne’s army arrived just north of Ticonderoga. They circled the fort and also Mount Independence and began their fire. General St. Clair announced to Congress and was advised to retreat south and leave the fort to the British forces. The American forces retreated during the night of the 5th to the 6th of July. The soldiers took as many supplies as they could so that the enemy would not benefit from the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. They tried to make their departure as secretive as possible.
The move was given away by a French officer who set his house on fire during the retreat so that the British could very well see the direction in which the American soldiers were going. The British army followed the American soldiers for a very long distance, but they were not able to catch them. The American troops made their way into the woods and lost their tracks as they were moving towards South in Skenesborough.
With the retreat of the American soldiers from Ticonderoga, the fort became once again a British military base.
The Battle of Ticonderoga seemed lost for the Americans since the beginning. That is because the British had rallied about 7,000 soldiers plus some Native American and Canadian troops. On the other side, the American Colonists had only 3,000 armed men. Another important aspect of the battle was the equipment of the armies. While the British were very well equipped, the Americans armed as best they could despite their lack of experience in the art of war. Later they developed their own uniforms made of a blue fabric. Both armies had muskets and guns in their endowment. Considering the relatively short duration of the battle, the casualties were about 60 or 70 men for both sides.
The fort was an important symbol for the Americans since its position was very strategic in the area. The colonists hoped that Ticonderoga could stop the British Army from making their way south. When General St. Clair annouced the retreat, the Americans got alarmed and many of them blamed him for not being able to stand up to the Royal troops.
Thomas Allen, an American reverend expressed his outrage towards this act by naming it one of the most disappointing military moves in the history of the entire world. Considering the wave of complaints which had grasped the entire population of the colonies, St. Claire was court-martialed but was acquitted. He justified the retreat claiming he had saved many important troops and provisions. All in all, if it had not been for the express order of retreat from Congress maybe St. Claire would have fought and became a hero instead of an outcast.