On Tuesday, June 5, 7 p.m. at Thurman town hall underwater archaeologist Joseph W. Zarzynski will present a talk on Bateaux Below’s study of “The Sunken Fleet of 1758,” a notable event at Lake George during the French & Indian War (1755-1763).
In the autumn of 1758, the British sank over 260 warships in Lake George to protect the vessels over the winter of 1758-1759 from their enemy, the French and their Native American allies. Many of the sunken warships were recovered in 1759 and reused by the British. However, over 40 sunken warships were never retrieved by the British forces in 1759 and they offer underwater archaeologists an excellent opportunity to study these shipwrecks to find out about the colonial soldiers that used them. Zarzynski’s talk will give details on Bateaux Below’s 24-year-long study (1987-2011) of “The Sunken Fleet of 1758.” » Continue Reading.
Fort Ticonderoga has unveiled its newest exhibit, Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial Wars and Revolution. The exhibit highlights over 150 of the museum’s most important weapons and is a comprehensive and expanded reinterpretation of its world renowned historic arms collection.
Divided into seven sections and including a wide variety of muskets, pistols, swords and powder horns (some of which are one of only two or three of their types known), the exhibit explores the weapons used in America from the early 1600s through the end of the American Revolution. The exhibit is included in Fort Ticonderoga’s general admission price and will be on display throughout the 2012 season. » Continue Reading.
Fort Ticonderoga is inviting Ticonderoga residents to receive a special Ambassador Pass for the 2012 season. The special pass gives Ticonderoga residents free admission to the Fort, special exhibits, interpretive programs, author series, re-enactments, King’s Garden, Discovery Gardens, the Heroic Corn Maze, and more.
Ticonderoga residents should resent their valid drivers license or other form of identification as proof of residency. Children under 18 years are eligible for free admission with their parent’s pass.
Ticonderoga resident and Fort Ticonderoga Association Board member Anne McDonald said “Ticonderoga residents have such pride in Fort Ticonderoga’s history – our community’s story. We are excited to have the opportunity to build a strong Ambassador program that connects the Fort and area residents in our effort to build a bright future for one of America’s most significant historic sites and in turn help revitalize our community’s economy through destination tourism.”
The 2012 Ambassador Pass includes:
● Free General Admission to Fort Ticonderoga
● Free admission to the King’s Garden and Discovery Gardens
● Free admission to Fort Ticonderoga’s Heroic Corn Maze
● Free Admission to special programs such as the Author Series and Re-enactments
● Updates and invitations on Fort Ticonderoga
Contact Fort Ticonderoga’s business office at 518-585-2821, or visit their website to download the Ambassador Pass form, or e-mail email@example.com.
The Fort welcomes everyone to join the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga. Friends Memberships begin at $20 and give many benefits including free admission to Fort Ticonderoga, free or discounted admission to selected events, programs, and trips throughout the year, and the subscriptions to Fort Ticonderoga’s Haversack.
In 2012 Fort Ticonderoga will unveil its new weapons exhibit Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial Wars and Revolution, numerous new programs, and major special events.
A living history event at Fort Ticonderoga highlighting Major Robert Rogers and the Battle of Snowshoes will be held on Saturday, March 10 from 10 am – 4 pm. Visitors will be able to encounter the French Garrison in the middle of winter inside Fort Ticonderoga and tour through opposing pickets of British rangers and French soldiers adapted to frontier, winter warfare.
At 1 pm on Saturday, visitors will experience the hectic tree to tree fighting in a recreated battle during which the rangers make a stand against superior numbers, only to retreat through the deep woods. Visitors will be invited to tour Fort Ticonderoga as it appeared in the winter of 1758, meet the French and Indians who overwhelmed Roger’s experienced woodsmen, and see how native and French soldiers survived the deep winter at this remote military post. More adventurous visitors can take a hike led by a historic interpreter through the opposed pickets of soldiers in the deep woods. In these tours visitors can see how rangers kept a vigilant watch for subtle signs that might reveal their ferocious enemy.
“The Battle on Snowshoes event recreates the savage fight between Robert Roger’s rangers, and a mixed French force of regular soldiers, milice, and allied native warriors on March 13, 1758,” said Stuart Lilie, Director of Interpretation at Fort Ticonderoga. “This event is designed to be a rich experience for both participants and visitors alike.”
Re-enactors portraying French soldiers and native allies will live inside the period furnished barracks rooms of Fort Ticonderoga. They will recreate the winter garrison for Fort Carillon, as it was known until 1759. Just as in the March of 1758 these re-enactors will sortie out from the Fort to meet and overwhelm Roger’s men.
Major Robert Rogers force of both volunteers from the 27th foot, and his own rangers headed out on an extended scout from Fort Edward along Lake George, following an attack on a similar patrol from Captain Israel Putnam’s Connecticut rangers. Hiking on snowshoes due to the three feet of snow, the tracks of Roger’s force were spotted on its march up the west side of Lake George. Near the north end of Lake George, Major Rogers, advanced scouts spotted their French counterparts. Rogers and his Rangers took up positions in a ravine, setting his force in ambuscade to await whatever French patrol would come to meet him.
The French patrol that met Roger’s men proved far larger than he imagined, and in this Battle on Snowshoes, the rangers’ ambush was itself surrounded and overwhelmed. In deep woods on deep snow, the rangers were forced to retreat with heavy casualties as the French regulars, malice, and natives pressed home their attack. Despite stands along the way, this retreat quickly became chaotic as rangers, Roger’s included, ran for their lives from superior numbers of French.
Illustration from Gary S Zaboly‘s “A True Ranger: The Life and Many Wars of Major Robert Rogers” (Garden City Park, NY: Royal Blockhouse, 2004).
Registration is now open for Fort Ticonderoga’s Seventeenth Annual War College of the Seven Years’ War May 18-20, 2012. This annual seminar focuses on the French & Indian War in North America (1754-1763), bringing together a panel of distinguished historians from around the country and beyond. The War College takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open to the public; pre-registration is required. 2012 Speakers include:
DeWitt Bailey, British author and 18th-century arms expert, on British weapons of the war.
Maria Alessandra Bollettino, Framingham State University, on slave revolts in the British Caribbean during the war.
Earl John Chapman, Canadian author and historian, on the experiences of James Thompson, a sergeant in the 78th Highlanders.
Christopher D. Fox, Fort Ticonderoga, on Colonel Abijah Willard’s Massachusetts Provincials in 1759.
Jean-François Lozier, Canadian Museum of Civilization, on the use of paints and cosmetics among Natives and Europeans.
Paul W. Mapp, College of William & Mary, on the role the vast western lands played in the battle for empire.
William P. Tatum III, David Library of the American Revolution, on the British military justice system, using ten courts-martial at Ticonderoga in 1759 as case studies.
Len Travers, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, on the “Lost Patrol of 1756” on Lake George.
The weekend begins Friday evening with a presentation by Ticonderoga Town Historian William G. Dolback on “Historic Ticonderoga in Pictures.” Dolback is also President of the Ticonderoga Historical Society and leading local efforts to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the first settler in Ticonderoga in 1764.
Begun in 1996, the War College of the Seven Years’ War has become one of the premier seminars on the French & Indian War in the country. It features a mix of new and established scholars in an informal setting for a weekend of presentations related to the military, social, and cultural history of the French & Indian War.
Early Bird Registration for the War College is now open at $120 for the weekend ($100 for members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga). Registration forms can be downloaded from the Fort’s website under the “Explore and Learn” tab by selecting “Life Long Learning” on the drop down menu and then clicking on the War College. A printed copy is also available upon request by contacting Rich Strum, Director of Education, at 518-585-6370.
A new book, Lake George Shipwrecks and Sunken History, was published this spring by The History Press. Written by Joseph W. Zarzynski and Bob Benway, the book is a collection their columns previously published in the Lake George Mirror along with additional material. Zarzynski and Benway helped establish Bateaux Below, which works to preserve shipwreck sites in Lake George.
The depths of Lake George hold an incredible world of shipwrecks and lost history. Zarzynski and archeological diver Bob Benway present the most intriguing discoveries among more than two hundred known shipwreck sites. Entombed are remnants of Lake George’s important naval heritage, such as the 1758 Land Tortoise radeau, considered America’s oldest intact warship. Other wrecks include the steam yacht Ellide, and excursion boat Scioto, and the first Minne-Ha-Ha (including some new findings). Additional stories include an explanation behind the 1926 disappearance of two hunters, John J. Eden and L. D. Greene, of Middletown, and pieces on the lake’s logging history and marine railways.
Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.
Where, in the Lake Champlain region, was the richest trove of artillery pieces at the time of the outbreak of the Revolutionary War? Most published histories, including those used in the classroom, overlook the largest British fort ever built in North America – Crown Point. At 7:00 pm, May 12th, artillery expert Joseph M. Thatcher will present a free public lecture inside the museum auditorium at the Crown Point State Historic Site on the little-known but fascinating topic of “The Cannon From Crown Point.” » Continue Reading.
For 19th century guests of the Fort William Henry Hotel, an exploration of the ruins of Fort George was as essential to the experience of visiting Lake George as an excursion to Paradise Bay aboard the Ganouski or the Lillie M. Price.
Today, the grounds of the fort are part of a state park, but the site has remained remarkably undisturbed. For the past decade, state officials have worked with local organizations, archaeologists and historians to protect the site while, at the same time, taking steps to enhance public appreciation of one of the most significant battlegrounds in North America. Earlier this month, New York State’s Board for Historic Preservation took an additional measure to both preserve and promote Fort George; it recommended that the site be placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
“Archaeological investigations at this French and Indian War site have provided rare insights into New York’s colonial wars; the site is also an example of an early and successful public initiative in land conservation and commemoration,” said Rose Harvey, Commissioner for Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “Bringing recognition to this property will help us to preserve and illuminate an important component of New York State history.”
After having been the site of battles in 1755 and 1757, Fort George became the headquarters of the British as they prepared to launch attacks on the French at Ticonderoga, Crown Point and Montreal. In 1759, General Jeffery Amherst ordered the construction of a stone fort. Only one corner bastion was completed, but that stone ruin survives. During the War of Independence, the fort was occupied by both the Americans and the British.
In 1998, interpretive signs were installed, permitting visitors to conduct self-guided tours of the park. Two years later, Dr. David Starbuck led the first archaeological excavation of the grounds. Starbuck, his students and volunteers uncovered the foundations of two large buildings and hundreds of artifacts.
According to Commissioner Harvey, a place on the State and National Registers can make the site eligible for various public preservation programs and services.
Once the recommendation is approved by the state historic preservation officer, the property will be listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and then nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, where it will be reviewed and, once approved, entered on the National Register.
Illustrations: 19th century views of the ruins of Fort George.
The eastern edge of the Adirondack Park stretches into the middle of Lake Champlain, that great river-lake 120 miles long, four times the size of Lake George. Standing between the states of New York and Vermont, it’s the largest body of water in the Adirondacks, one that connects Whitehall and (via the Champlain Canal and Hudson River) New York City to Quebec’s Richelieu River and the St. Lawrence River. Two routes inland from the Atlantic Ocean that have had a historic impact on the entire North County, New York and Vermont. The book Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History celebrates what is unquestionably America’s most historic lake. Four hundred years of Champlain history are conveyed in the coffee-table book’s more than 300 color photographs, drawings, maps and vintage images. Chapters on the towns along the lake, the Chaplain basin’s First Peoples, its critical military and transportation history, and the sports and recreation opportunities are eloquently contextualized by regional writers, including occasional Almanack contributor Chris Shaw who provides the book’s Prologue and Epilogue, and Russ Bellico who offers a chapter entitled “Highway to Empire”.
Published by Adirondack Life in Jay, Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History is a great book for those who love the lake, local and state history buffs, and nature lovers.
Meeting Russell Bellico, as I did briefly several years ago, you’d think you were in the presence of an old sea captain spending his retirement in the softer wind and spray of Lake George. You’d be surprised to know that he spent 35 years in the economics department at Westfield State College in Massachusetts.
You’d be glad to hear that Bellico spent his time away from Westfield at Lake George, where as a summer resident he invested himself in local history. He has spent over three decades photographing shipwrecks and historic sites on Lake George and Lake Champlain. He has served as a consultant on the National Park Service’s Champlain Valley Heritage Corridor, a trustee of the Lake George Battlefield Park Alliance, and a board member of Bateaux Below, the organization founded by the archaeological team (which included Bellico) that documented the 1758 radeau Land Tortoise which lies underwater at the southern end of Lake George. Bellico is the author of a score or more articles and five books on the maritime and military history of Lake George and Lake Champlain. His first two projects were Chronicles of Lake George (1995) and Chronicles of Lake Champlain (1999). Both were aptly subtitled Journeys in War and Peace, as they were mostly drawn from primary sources by diaries, journals, and other early first hand accounts. His interest in boots on the ground history has no doubt contributed to some of Bellico’s most unique contributions to the region’s history – his careful looks at what remains. For example, Bellico weaves together histories of not just the events (through archaeology, primary sources, and first hand accounts) but of what remains of those events on the landscape. His third major effort, Sails and Steam in the Mountains: A Maritime and Military History of Lake George and Lake Champlain, earned a place as the go-to resource on the region’s maritime history.
Bellico’s latest effort, Empires in the Mountains: French and Indian War Campaigns and Forts in the Lake Champlain, Lake George, and Hudson River Corridor, is the fruit of three decades of the author’s work to understand the military and maritime importance of the region. His first volume to focus entirely on the campaigns and forts of the Great Warpath during the French & Indian War (1754-1763), Empires in the Mountains covers the epic battles of the war in the lake valleys, as well as the building of the fortresses and battleships in Northern New York’s wilderness.
And true to his authoritative and thorough style, Bellico explores this history with one eye toward what happened after those great events of 350 years ago. Bellico reviews the history of the abandonment, the excavations, and the exploitation of French and Indian War sites from Bloody Pond (which Bellico seems to suggest may in fact be correctly marked on Route 9 south of Lake George) and Fort Gage (bulldozed by a local developer avoiding APA oversight) to the more popular spots like Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Edward, Fort William Henry, and Fort George.
It’s that concluding epilogue, “Forts Revisited” that is perhaps the most valuable chapter of the book for local historians, and those interested in how we remember, and exploit, local history. For that chapter alone, this book belongs on the shelf of those interested in local history, regardless of your particular interest in the French and Indian War.
Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.
In the two centuries that followed the French destruction of Fort William Henry in 1757, the only visible reminder of the fort was the old well on the grounds of the hotel.
“The French,” wrote Seneca Ray Stoddard in his 1873 guide to Lake George, “burned whatever they could not carry off. They could not steal or burn the ‘Old Fort Well’ however, and it still remains, partially filled with stones and rubbish.”
It was rumored that the British hid their gold and silver in the well during the seige of 1757. After the surrender of the fort to the Marquis de Montcalm, the officers’ wives who had been told that they would be granted safe passage to Fort Edward threw their jewelry into the well “having a premonition of disaster,” according to one account. According to Stoddard’s tale, “On the night of August 9, 1757, as the Indians went about the fort, killing and scalping the sick and wounded, two women were thrown headlong down the well after having been scalped.”
Despite that rich history, the well has been excavated only twice; in the 1950s and again in 1997, under the supervision of archeologist David Starbuck.
The well was dug in late 1755, after Sir William Johnson defeated the French at the Battle of Lake George and began building Fort William Henry. Rogers’ Rangers, it is believed, actually dug and built the 40 ft deep stone well.
At least one source has it that the completion of the well was commemorated with a dance and a ration of rum for all.
Approximately one hundred years after the destruction of the fort, the first hotel was built on the site.
“Honeymoon couples would walk by the well and throw silver coins into it, believing that this offering to the legends of the ghosts which have been said to inhabit the walls of the old report, would bring them good luck, and future happiness,” the Lake George Mirror reported in 1955.
When reconstruction of the current replica fort began in 1953, the bottom was only 19 and 1/2 feet from the curb, indicating that that in the intervening years about 20 feet of of dirt and debris had accumulated.
According to David Starbuck, archaeologists were unable to dig deeper than 23 feet before hitting water when excavating the well in 1960. In 1997, Starbuck began a new archaeological dig at the fort, part of which was an excavation of the well. With the aid of sections of steel culvert with which to line the well and prevent it from collapsing, Starbuck himself was able to reach a depth of 30 feet.
“Since 1960 the well had been the center of attention for every school child who visited the fort,” Starbuck wrote in his “Massacre at Fort William Henry.” “They left us with a forty year legacy of tourist memorabilia.”
Starbuck and his assistants found toys, sunglasses and a lot of bubblegum.
At 27 feet from the surface, Starbuck made a discovery that completes our knowledge of the well’s construction. “The well had been lined at its bottom with vertical wood planks, creating a water tight barrel that prevented silt from washing in,” Starbuck reported. “(Each of the planks) was three inches thick, and twelve inches wide. Massive and tightly joined, the boards were waterlogged and swollen, and groundwater could seep into the well only by running over the tops of the planks through knotholes.”
Fort William Henry’s Archaeology Hall includes a full scale recreation of the well, enabling viewers to experience for themselves Starbuck’s sensations as he stood at the bottom of the well, sending up buckets of earth, debris, and the thousands of coins visitors have tossed into the well over the years. (The treasure, we assume, went elsewhere.)
Gerry Bradfield, the fort’s curator at the time, installed a video camera within the well’s shaft and taped the entire process.
The Archaeology Hall and other rooms throughout the Fort contain thousands of artifacts discovered on the grounds of Fort William Henry since the 1950’s, when the reconstruction of the fort began. Recent discoveries, such as pre-historic pottery shards as well as buttons from the uniforms of American soldiers in the War of Independence, suggest that the site was used before and after the fort was burned in 1757.
The exhibits are part of a larger “Living History Program” designed to enable visitors to better understand the history of the colonial era. The program includes tours led by guides in authentic costumes, the firing of 18th century muskets and cannons, recreated scenes of life at the fort and scenes from the events that took place there, as well as visits to dungeons, a powder magazine and a crypt of the victims of Montcalm’s 1757 massacre. Visitors can also view the 1936 film version of Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans,” believed by many to be the best and most graphic portrayal of Montcalm’s siege and the ensuing massacre.
The Fort William Henry Museum is open from May through October.
Photo of Old Fort Well, circa 1959, Lake George Mirror files
When my wife Lisa and I were considering purchasing the Lake George Mirror, among the first people we consulted was Chuck Hawley, the artist, politician and activist who died on March 9 at the age of 86.
Hawley was a part of my life for as long as I can remember. He was at my engagement party and my father’s funeral. He was Lake George’s supervisor and a member of the County board when my father published the Warrensburg-Lake George News, and the two developed a mutually useful relationship. He’d tell my father what would happen before it happened – information prized by a weekly newspaper editor when he’s competing with a daily, as I’ve learned for myself.
In 1998, I wrote a profile of Chuck for the Lake George Mirror, which I reproduce here. About twenty years ago, some hikers on Black Mountain discovered a slab of rockface inscribed: ‘R.Rogers.’ Whether this was in fact the autograph of Robert Rogers, as the hikers believed, is still subject to debate, but there is no doubt that many people around Lake George hoped that it was authentic.
Rogers and his Rangers have always appealed to our imaginations, perhaps because they were the first identifiably American heroes. Chuck Hawley, whose painting of a Ranger is reproduced here, has done more than anyone else in our region to shape the popular image of the Rangers.
The painting was one of a series depicting the Rangers commissioned by Harold Veeder in 1966 for the newly constructed Holiday Inn. They have been republished often in newspapers, magazines and books, and reproductions are best sellers at Fort William Henry and at the Lake George Historical Association’s shop in the old Court House.
Hawley wanted the portraits to be as historically accurate as possible; he spent months in the libraries researching the Rangers’ dress, habits and weapons; he read contemporary accounts and picked the brains of historians like Harrison Bird, the author of numerous books about the era, who served with Hawley on the Lake George Park Commission.
When he began the series, Hawley was Supervisor for the Town of Lake George, and the model for the portrait reproduced here was his colleague on the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Earl Bump, the Supervisor from Horicon. Another model was Howard MacDonald, for many years a member of the Lake George Village Board of Trustees and the founder of Lake George’s Little League.
Despite the fact that he has been both a public official and a painter (as well as a graphic designer and the owner of an advertising agency) Hawley has really had only one career: Lake George. It is a career for which he was in some sense predestined. Stuart Hawley, his father, was Warren County Clerk for twenty-five years; in 1950 he was elected to the New York State Assembly and served through 1958, when he was succeeded by Richard Bartlett. Assemblyman Hawley introduced the legislation authorizing the construction of the Prospect Mountain Highway. Fred Hawley, who was supervisor of Lake George from 1918 through 1921, was Chuck’s grandfather.
Hawley’s deep roots in the area (his own family came to Lake George a few decades after Rogers departed at the end of the French and Indian Wars) may have helped to make him an unusually farsighted public official.
He believed that the health of the tourist economy depended upon the protection of the lake, and the orderly development of the village and the shores. The businessmen who came to make a quick dollar, he has said, “can’t see past August. They’re the shortsighted ones. The visionaries see as far as Labor Day weekend.”
In 1997, Hawley gave up his seat on the Lake George Park Commission, which he had occupied for thirty years, ten of them as chairman.
In the late 1970s, worried that heavy development along the shores would cause the lake to lose its famous translucent clarity, and frustrated by the Park Commission’s lack of authority and funding, Hawley campaigned for the creation of a task force that would study the challenges facing Lake George and suggest approaches for meeting them.
In 1984, the Task Force for the Future of the Lake George Park was organized, with Hawley as a member. Of its 200 recommendations, the most significant were those urging the Governor and the legislature to enhance the Park Commission’s regulatory powers and to provide it with a reliable, independent source of funding. Hawley wrote to Governor Cuomo, “New responsibilities and powers for the Commission are vitally necessary to save Lake George. At this late date there is no alternative.”
Former Lake George Park Commission Chairman Carl DeSantis says of Hawley’s tenure: “He wasn’t afraid to take a stand, even if his position wasn’t popular with business. We’ve been good friends since the 1940s, and we both remember when the lake was a lot cleaner. Chuck has dedicated his life to protecting Lake George.”
Although Hawley has retired from official life, his interest in Lake George is undiminished. At his home on Pine Point, the lake is never out of view, and it has survived better than he expected. He’s pleased that the experimental use of sonar is under consideration, having fought to use that means to eradicate milfoil since the late 1980s. In 1971 he wondered aloud to a reporter from the Lake George Mirror why the Lake George business district faced away from the lake; in the late 1950s he and the late Alex Muratori developed a plan to build a boardwalk along the lake. He’s glad that one is underway.
And, of course, he still paints. Hawley’s landscapes of an unspoiled Lake George have been powerful tools for its preservation.
Chuck Hawley’s painting of Robert Rogers, based on Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Earl Bump.
Hawley receiving Lake George’s Wilbur Dow Award from Dow’s son Bill, president of the Lake George Steamboat Company, in 2002.
Two landscape paintings of Lake George by Hawley: “Black Mountain in Spring” and “Down the lake in Spring.”
One thing for sure, this list is not complete. There are perhaps thirty important people who didn’t make this short list. Suggestions from readers on the original post seeking nominations offers a much more complete list of those influential in the Adirondacks, but I said ten, and so here is ten. I’ve listed them roughly chronologically.
Something I found interesting: five of these men (yeah, they’re all men) were born in the eighteen years between 1840 and 1858—an Adirondack Greatest Generation? » Continue Reading.
The locally-made documentary about the French and Indian War, “Forgotten War: The Struggle for North America,” has been selected for broadcast by more than two hundred public broadcasting stations.
The documentary, which was produced by Plattsburgh’s Mountain Lakes PBS in conjunction with commemorations of the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian Wars, will be seen in three of the biggest markets in the country: New York, Boston and San Francisco, said Janet Kennedy, the executive director of Lakes to Locks Passage, which underwrote the documentary. Stations in Los Angeles and Philadelphia are considering broadcasts, said Kennedy.
“Mountain Lakes PBS is the smallest public television station in the country, so having one of its productions broadcast nationally is a remarkable achievement,” said Peter Repas, executive director of the Association of Public Broadcasting Stations of New York.
According to Colin Powers, Mountain Lakes PBS’s director of production and programming, for too many Americans, the French and Indian war is still the forgotten war, despite the fact that the 250th anniversary of the pre-Independence War conflict inspired countless new books and films.
Not only do relatively few Americans understand the role the conflict played in shaping the history of the North American continent, the significance of Lake George and Lake Champlain in determining the conflict’s outcome is often lost sight of, Powers said.
To remedy that defect, Powers and a team of producers, directors and writers spent more than two years creating “Forgotten War: The Struggle for North America,” an hour long documentary that will be seen on public broadcasting stations throughout the United States and Canada.
“We wanted to bring the war back to this corridor,” Powers said at the documentary’s premiere, which was held at Fort Ticonderoga. “An epic struggle for the fate of North America was played out right here in our own backyards. For five years—from 1755 to 1760—the battles raged at Lake George, Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga, and Quebec as France, Britain and the native peoples of North America fought to decide who would control the crucial highway of rivers and lakes between New York and the city of Montreal.”
The film makers succeeded in restoring the primacy of northern New York to the historical narrative, said David Starbuck, the archaeologist who has conducted excavations at Fort George and Fort William Henry.
“They did a great job of putting this area front and center,” said Starbuck, who served as one of the film’s consultants.
According to Powers, the film makers hoped to restore a perspective that many historians felt had been distorted by the PBS documentary “The War that made America,” which was filmed near Pittsburgh.
Much of “Forgotten War” was filmed in and around Fort Ticonderoga, using the 2000 re-enactors who show up every year as extras.
“They’re re-enactors, not actors, so we frequently had to re-stage scenes,” said Damian Panetta, the documentary’s producer and director.
Panetta and associate producer Karin O‘Connell elicited the advice not only of scholars but of the descendants of those who participated in the conflict.
“I was very cognizant of trying to tell a balanced story so I spoke to British, French, French Canadian, British Canadian, Scottish, American, Iroquios, Abenaki, and Mohican peoples,” said O’Connell.
The result, said Colin Powers, is a documentary that gives proper weight to Native Americans and the American colonists.
The French and Indian War is a forgotten war not merely because it has been overshadowed by the War of Independence, but also because it contains so many forgotten stories, said Powers.
According to Powers, ‘Forgotten War’ will be a rich resource long after it has been shown on television.
In addition to the full-length documentary, the producers have created videos that will be available at historic sites, a website with downloadable content, and educational curriculum that meet state curriculum standards.
“This was a project that took more than two years to complete,” said Alice Recore, the president and CEO of Mountain Lakes PBS. “I hope viewers will feel that it was well worth the time and the effort.”
For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror
The Rogers Island Visitors Center at Fort Edward is hosting the Rogers Rangers Challenge triathlon. The run, canoe/kayak, and bike event will be held (rain or shine) on Saturday October 3, 2009.
The Rogers Rangers Challenge is dedicated to the memory of Major Robert Rogers and his Independent Company of American Rangers which were based on Rogers Island at Fort Edward during the French & Indian War (1755-1763). Rogers Rangers, forerunners of the U.S. Army Rangers, fought and died on ground upon which the challenge takes place. Local Native Americans described Rogers as having the ability to “run like a deer.” Participants in the event are encouraged to dress in period costume. The Challenge begins at the Hogtown Trailhead with a run over Buck Mountain to Fort Ann Beach at Pilot Knob (7.5 miles) and then a canoe/ kayak along the east shore of Lake George (3 miles) (a Compass is recommended due to the potential of thick fog). The final leg is a bike from Fort Ann Beach to Rogers Island Visitors Center, Fort Edward (30 miles). The race is limited to 100 participants and you must be at least 16 to participate. The entry fees is $60.00 per person which includes membership to Rogers Island Visitors Center, and entertainment & catered lunch for each participant.
Participants must pre-register by September 12th; for more information e-mail Eileen Hannay at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 518-747-3693.
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