Orwell in Addison County, Vermont — The American Northeast (New England)
Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Defiance
Mount Independence State Historic Site
“ . . . a perfect mousetrap.”
- Col. Alexander Scammell,
From here are seen nearly all the powerful forces of nature that made this spot on Lake Champlain the Gibraltar of the North as well as its Achilles heel during the American Revolution. Straight ahead (looking west) is the 853-foot high Mount Defiance. On the other side of it is Lake George. To the north the narrow, quarter-mile wide channel was the perfect place to build artillery batteries to curtail activity on Lake Champlain. To the west of the channel is the south-facing Fort Ticonderoga, built in 1755 by the French during the French & Indian War as a defense against the British. It guarded southern Lake Champlain and the mouth of the LaChute River, the outlet of Lake George that spills 225-feet down the northern side of Mount Defiance into Lake Champlain.
When the American Northern Army of 4,000 to 5,000 men straggled into Ticonderoga in July 1776, the stone fort sat in disrepair. They began its rehabilitation and the monumental task of creating a new defense across from Ticonderoga on the rocky peninsula
On October 28, 1776, Gen. Guy Carleton and his British fleet of five major vessels and 28 gunboats approached, after their naval victory on October 11 to 13 against Benedict Arnold at Valcour Island. Mount Independence and Fort Ticonderoga, manned by nearly 14,000 soldiers and bristling with cannon batteries, was a formidable sight. Carleton, feeling winter drawing near, turned back to Canada. British invasion was delayed for another year.
In June 1777 the British tried again. Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne sailed south on Lake Champlain to split off New England from the rest of the American states. American scouting parties fed the news about his movements to Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair, commander of the now severely undermanned Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. By June 25 the British were only 11 miles away, cannon fire signaling their approach. The 4,000 Americans worked feverishly, strengthening their vast defenses and bringing in reinforcements. A large British detachment landed at Three Mile Point on June 30. With nearly 8,000 British soldiers and German allies ready to attack, the Americans knew they were outnumbered two to one. St. Clair wrote, “The
The squeeze continued. On July 3 the British were repelled while attempting a minor attack on lines west of Ticonderoga. As the Americans celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, British engineer William Twiss discovered the flaw in the American defenses. Rugged Mount Defiance was undefended. “It was very commanding ground.” The British cut a road, hauled up two cannons, and placed troops on the summit.
As the next morning dawned Maj. St. Clair spotted British artillerymen high atop Mount Defiance, perfectly positioned to bombard Mount Independence and Ticonderoga. Col. Alexander Scammell of the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment called the predicament “a perfect mousetrap.” St. Clair convened his officers, who decided that under the cover of darkness that night they would abandon Mount Independence.
St. Clair ordered the sick and weak to travel by boats loaded with supplies to the south end of the lake at Skenesborough, New York. The rest of the army would march southeast thirty miles to Castleton, and then meet up with the others at Skenesborough to head south together. The shocking order to evacuate slowly spread around the garrison, the soldiers silently making preparations. Steady fire from a cannon battery masked any sounds. The night of July 5 and 6 wore on. At 3:00
The Americans hastened their departure, forced to leave much behind. St. Clair placed a volunteer four-man gun crew at the Mount Independence shore battery, with orders to fire at any enemy crossing the bridge. By 4:00 a.m. the Americans were marching out the south gate of Mount Independence or rowing their vessels southwards. At the same time the British entered Fort Ticonderoga. The several mile length of Mount Independence was all that separated the enemies. The American soldiers at the shore batteries, finding a cask of Madeira wine nearby, had passed out by the time the British crossed the bridge. The American occupation of Mount Independence and Fort Ticonderoga was over.
Erected by Mount Independence State Historic Site.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Revolutionary. A significant historical month for this entry is June 1777.
Location. 43° 49.735′ N, 73° 23.149′ Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Orwell VT 05760, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Officers Quarters 1776 (about 800 feet away, measured in a direct line); Burial Site (approx. ¼ mile away); To Repel the Enemy (approx. 0.3 miles away); General Hospital 1777 (approx. 0.4 miles away); Heritage Travelers over the Years (approx. 0.4 miles away); Third Brigade Encampment 1776 (approx. 0.4 miles away); Storehouse - 1776 (approx. half a mile away); Lake Champlain and the American Revolution (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Orwell.
More about this marker. There are several pictures on the marker. A large picture at the top of the marker shows British artillerymen at the summit of Mount Defiance, overlooking Mount Independence and Fort Ticonderoga. It has a caption of “The placement of cannon atop the dominating heights of Mount Defiance signaled the end of the American occupation of Mount Independence and Ticonderoga in 1777. Greg Harlin, painter. Collection of the Mount Independence State Historic Site.” The bottom of the marker features portraits of Generals Burgoyne and St. Clair. The captions read: “Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne led the British-German army that advanced from Canada in the summer of 1777. Sir Joshua Reynolds, painter. The Frick Collection, New York” and “Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair commanded the garrison at the two forts during the last days of American occupation. John Trumbull artist, 1777. Collection of Fort Ticonderoga.”
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. This series of markers are found on the walking trails in Mount Independence State Historic Site.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 3, 2020. It was originally submitted on April 11, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 2,818 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on April 11, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.