On several trips when I was young my father took us to Fort Ticonderoga, located on Lake George, New York. The Fort has an interesting role in American history, first built by the French but then burned so the British couldn’t use it for the French & Indian War. It was then rebuilt and used by the English and finally, it was captured by the upstart Americans during the Revolutionary War. Located at the lower end of Lake Champlain, the location was essentially the equivalent of today’s interstate highway. With most travel by boat, this was the crossroads, with a short portage from Lake George just to the west and south providing access down to New York City via the Hudson River, and at the north end of Lake Champlain, a short portage lead to the St. Lawrence River, providing access to Montreal and Quebec. Fort Ticonderoga was captured by the colonists early in the Revolutionary War. The British soldiers did not know war had been declared, so they only had one guard at the gate in the night time. With 20 soldiers as part of the garrison, all sleeping away, the 40 colonists who knocked on the gate and were admitted, easily took control of the fort.
My sisters and I loved our visits to Fort Ticonderoga so I was eager to include it in the trip plan for our vacation to Nova Scotia. I wanted to share this spot with my kids.
While on Nova Scotia we went to the Fortress at Louisbourg, an absolutely marvelous recreation of the fort and town that once existed. Started by the government because of the lack of work for local miners and fishermen, it turned into a huge archeological dig with the workers being retrained into various crafts. If you have been to Plimouth Plantation or Colonial Williamsburg, you will have an immediate understanding: the place is recreated to look pretty much as it did in a prior era, and the people working there are, for the most part, dressed in costume and act knowledgably about the life and times.
The current Fortress is set back in the time when the French, who had built the fort and town as THE major east coast city in the mid 1700s, were being threatened by the encroaching English. Right from the entrance at the gate, where we were challenged to prove we were not English spies, we were free to join in the fun. As large as the place already is, they told us it is only ¼ of the actual footprint of the old town. What an amazing national park!
And so, some days later, we end up at Fort Ticonderoga, and in comparison, it was tiny. My kids looked at me in astonishment that I felt they would have a great time here. While four hours at Louisburg was not enough time, we were essentially finished with our wandering of Fort Ticonderoga in about an hour.
The old adage of “you can’t go home again” also applies to returning to a place of a childhood memory. This was perhaps the first fort I saw and my dad made the history of the place come alive. Or, perhaps, it was a beautiful day and my mom and dad sat down on a bench and permitted us to wander by ourselves. My memory banks (and my sisters’) do not provide the details.
All I know is that there are grander forts, larger and with more substantial reconstruction and re-enactments. However, for a wonderful weekend trip from anywhere in the New York metropolitan area, Fort Ticonderoga still wins in my book!