Travel Diary: Fort Carillon/Ticonderoga

    O.M.G. My mind has been blown.

    Today I walked where Morgan and Amalie walked, where le Chevalier de Bourlamaque walked in real life, where le Marquis de Montcalm walked. I walked where Rangers (real and fictional) died in the Battle of Ticonderoga (1758) and where Amalie's father was killed and looked up at the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain where Iain and his brothers and Captain Joseph laid on their bellies spying on Fort Carillon and the French. I walked through a forest that became a battlefield and now has become a forest again.

    Today was such a rich experience! We traveled the distance between Fort Edward (Fort Elizabeth) and Ticonderoga, savoring the beautiful scenery along the way, then spent the afternoon getting a tour of Fort Carillon/Ticonderoga from the wonderful and patient Chris Fox, curator of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum. I say that Chris is patient because, between me and Ben, there is never an end to the questions.

    Note of interest: It took us 45 minutes to make the drive from Fort Edward to Ticonderoga. It would have taken the Rangers three long days of marching to cross that same mountainous distance.

    So here are today's pictures and then someone has got to get some sleep!

    The color in the mountains is at its peak, and we drove past vista after vista of rolling hills covered with trees in blazing shades of red, orange and yellow. So beautiful!

    Near the hotel where we're staying is the memorial to Jane McCrae, who was killed and scalped by Indians at the age of 17. She'd been staying at the fort and stayed despite the British advance, believing herself to be safe because she was engaged to marry a British loyalist. But the Brits dragged her out of the fort by her hair. What happened next isn't certain, but what is certain is that she was killed and then scalped by Indians. Her fiance recognized her body. Her death not only forced him away from the British side, but also outraged so many colonists that men flocked to fight the British and defeated them at the Battle of Saratoga (which is near here). Jane was killed and scalped just south of the memorial.

    Duncan Campbell was an officer with the Black Watch, which fought at the Battle of Ticonderoga in 1758. That battle, part of both Surrender (toward the end) and Untamed (the prologue), cost the Black Watch hundreds of lives. Duncan Campbell was injured under Nannie Crombie's inept command and brought back to Fort Edward, where he died nine days later. This is his tomb stone.

    It was a very intense feeling to look at the grave marker of a man who fought and died in a battle I've written about twice.

    It took us 45 minutes. It would have taken Iain, Morgan, Connor and the Rangers three days. Yes, I'm grateful for modern transportation.

    Just outside the walls of the fort is a real bateau made this summer as part of a demonstration. Abercrombie (Nannie Crombie) put 900 or so of these on Lake George to carry his attack northward from the southern end of Lake George to Ticonderoga.

    Here's a look up at the walls of Fort Ticonderoga. You can see the guns nosing over the edge. Those aren't original Carillon guns, but came from British holdings elsewhere. TIconderoga played a key role in the French and Indian War (7 Years War) and also in the American Revolution. It started as Fort Carillon under the French.

    Here's Ben being funny. I'm certain those guns would have been loud.

    Here's a view from Ticonderoga looking toward Rattlesnake Mountain. If you remember in Surrender and Untamed, the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain is the location from which the Rangers spied on the French at Fort Carillon. Yes, Rattlesnake Mountain was real. And real Rangers really did spy on the French from that summit. Seeing it, standing there and looking up and imagining Iain, Morgan, Connor and the men up there looking down on us was wonderful.

    One of the things a person just has to do at historical sites such as this one is to pause and absorb it through the heart, eyes, mind and skin. Here, Ben is doing just this.

    Chris Fox shows us some of the original stone foundation dating back to the original French construction of Fort Carillon. The rocks had drill holes grooved into them. We were able to touch them. It was amazing to think that these rocks had been there for more than 250 years. Chris was so helpful and generous with his time.

    Here I am standing outside the gate to Fort Carillon/Ticonderoga. A real WOW moment for me.

    Though most of Fort Ticonderoga is reconstructed, the iron work on the gate is the original French ironwork for the gate of Fort Carillon. It was found in the rubble of the fort right there in the gateway.

    This is one of two moments that brought me to tears. The plaque names many of the significant historical figures to walk through that gateway, including George Washington, Ethan Allen, Benjamin Franklin, Benedict Arnold, Major Robert Rogers of Rogers' Rangers, le Chevalier de Bourlamaque and the Marquis de Montcalm. I ran my finger over their names and couldn't keep back the tears. (Sunglasses are great for moments like this!)

    This is one of those things I search for that helps me connect to the past. The people who lived at Fort Carillon/Fort Ticonderoga would have seen this exact same view — a view of Lake Champlain through the gate. I wish I'd been able to visit before I wrote Untamed because I would have been able to include Morgan seeing this view and thinking of his brothers off in the distance, so far away. Oh, well...

    Here's another view from the fort looking south over Lake Champlain. It's pretty enough to take away even the breath of a girl from Colorado.

    Here's a view of the courtyard inside Fort Carillon/Ticonderoga. It's smaller than I imagined it would be. The building we're looking at in this photo is almost 100 percent certainly Bourlamaque's quarters. So for those of you who've read Untamed, that means this is where Morgan and Amalie lived and fell in love.

    Ben and I lovingly caress a memorial marker for the Marquis de Montcalm. He's not portrayed very sympathetically in Last of the Mohicans, which we both believe to be a mischaracterization of a very decent man. He was killed during the war (not at Ticonderoga) and never returned to France to see his wife and children. A letter from him to his wife is part of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum's collection, and we were able to look at that.

    In front of the memorial marker for Montcalm, there stands a gun from the original Fort Carillon. Here I am soaking it up.

    Here, Ben and I are standing beneath Bourlamaque's front steps in front of some original French masonry. Yes, I touched that, too. A very touchy day for me. :-)

    Here's part of the new exhibit at Ticonderoga, showing a Colonial militiaman in the midst of the battle. I chose it because it shows him reloading his musket on his back, as Colonials, especially Rangers, were known for doing.

    And this choked me up. This is the Carillon Battlefield, where Abercrombie led his men to disastrous defeat. About 1,900 men died here in the span of a few hours, running up against the abatis the French had so hastily created. I was so glad to see this site was not a parking lot. It's sacred ground, in my opinion. To see it lovingly preserved was reassuring. It would have been all but devoid of trees right here because the French had cut them down to make the abatis, a hastily made pile of branches and trunks.

    Here's the memorial for the Black Watch, which bravely charged against the French ramparts again and again despite the futility of getting past the abatis. Almost half their number were slain or wounded in the battle. Someone had draped a bit of plaid nearby. *sniff*

    Here are the gently rolling remains of the earthen ramparts raised by the French against the British attack. Now they're overgrown by grass and retaken by trees. Still, when you pass through here it's very obvious that these are the remains of man-made structures.

    Here is where the French lines stood. I would say more — a death that is significant to the story happens near here — but I don't want to post spoilers about Untamed.

    When the French won against such overwhelming odds, turning back Abercrombie's army and keeping their hold on Carillon, Montcalm stood on this spot, proclaimed victory and gave the credit to God, erecting a cross in honor of the day. This isn't the original cross, but it was amazing to stand here and reflect on all of this anyway. My mom had taken the rest of these photos, so it seemed fitting I take a photo of her with her grandson standing on this important site.

    Another moment that made me tear up... This powder horn in the case was Major Robert Rogers powder horn. It was his diaries I studied before I started the MacKinnon's Rangers series. It was he and his men who were stationed on Rogers Island at Fort Edward. So Iain, Morgan and Connor essentially displace him, but he was part of the inspiration for them. And here was the very powder horn that he carried into battle. There are no words...

    And that concludes this evenings talk. Thanks so much for following along!

    Tomorrow: A trip up Lake George on the water

    And then back to Ithaca where I have to say good-bye to my son again. Oh, not looking forward to that part of this trip at all. I think I'll go hug him right now while he's here with me.

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