“Steve, the place that brings us (to Orwell) is closed for the season now,” Mike Hoey said. “But it’s being opened up for a little while, just for us.”
“Yeah, Mike; we’re here at Mount Independence,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “It’s a state historic site managed by the Division for Historic Preservation — and, yes, you’re right; they’ve opened the museum up for us today. (The property) is open year-round, so you can come visit. But Elsa Gilbertson, who’s the site administrator, is going to give us kind of an overview of why is this important.”
“In 1776, in the spring, Americans were coming back from Canada,” Gilbertson said. “They tried to make it another colony, which didn’t work out very well. So, they were heading south on the lake, and the officers met at Crown Point, (New York,) at that fort there, and they voted to take a stand at the strong ground opposite Fort Ticonderoga. The French had built it when their enemies, the British, were to the south — but in the American Revolution, the British were the Americans’ enemy and they were to the north, so the Americans needed something that pointed north. And this was a tall, mighty peninsula that was pointing exactly north.”
“And we’ve got this great painting behind us,” Perkins continued. “North is that way, and south is this way. Fort Ticonderoga is behind you.”
“There’s high cliffs and the lake is all around it, so it’s a very good defensive location,” Gilbertson replied.
“We couldn’t help but notice also, Elsa, another key defensive feature — the bridge constructed across the channel,” Hoey observed.
“Col. Jeduthan Baldwin (was the chief engineer in the Continental Army’s northern theater),” Gilbertson answered. “He could see that it was important to build a bridge here, so in early March of 1777, they started building it. They built these log caissons on the ice, and they filled them with rocks and then the caissons sank.
“They were just about finishing this bridge in July of ’77 when the British were getting mighty close down Lake Champlain, and so they had to abandon (the entire fort). We have a couple of logs, and they’re so big, and many of these caissons still exist under the water. There were at least 12,000 soldiers between the two locations here, and it was one of the largest population centers in America.”
“We’re going to film some more segments, Mike,” Perkins said. “We’re going to talk about the people who built this fort and lived here, and we’re going to talk about what happened — what happened at the fort. But to wrap it up (for) now, what can folks see when they come and they visit the mountain? Specifically, what would they see here in the museum?”
“Artifacts that were found during archaeological investigations,” Gilbertson noted. “We have six miles of walking and hiking trails, one of which is (ADA-accessible).”
“And so the museum is open seasonally, but the grounds are open year-round,” Perkins said.
“Yes,” Gilbertson concluded. “When there’s no snow, this is a good place to come in the off-season.”