Fort Ticonderoga is a large 18th century fort built at a strategically important narrows in Lake Champlain where a short traverse gives access to the north end of Lake George. The fort controlled both commonly used trade routes between the English-controlled Hudson River Valley and the French-controlled Saint Lawrence River Valley. The name "Ticonderoga" comes from an Iroquois word meaning "the place between two waters".
The French built a fort called Fort Carillon there in 1755. That name apparently derived from the musical sounds of a nearby waterfall. In 1758 the British, under General James Abercombie, staged a frontal attack with 16,000 troops and were soundly defeated by 4,000 French defenders. This battle gave the fort an undeserved reputation for invulnerability.
The 42nd Highland Regiment (the Black Watch) was especially badly mauled in the attack on Fort Carillon, giving rise to a legend involving a Scottish Major Duncan Campbell.
The fort was captured by the British, under General Amherst, in the following year.
On May 10, 1775, a sleeping British garrison of 22 soldiers was taken by surprise by a small force of Americans (calling themselves the Green Mountain Boys) under Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, walked into the fort through an unlocked gate. A single shot was fired -- probably by accident. The colonials obtained a large supply of cannon and powder, much of which was hauled 300 kilometers to Boston where it was used to lay siege to the town.
In 1776, the British returned to Canada and moved down Lake Champlain under General Carleton. A ramshackle fleet of American gunboats delayed the British until winter threatened (see Battle of Valcour Island), but the attack resumed the next year under General Burgoyne.
The Saratoga Campaign
The British force drove the Americans back into the fort, then hauled cannon to the top of undefended Mt. Defiance, which overlooked the fort.
Faced with bombardment, Arthur St. Clair ordered Ticonderoga abandoned on July 5.
Burgoyne's troops moved in the next day.
The colonials quickly withdrew across the Lake to Fort Independence on the Vermont side of the Lake. They soon abandonded that fort as well and retreated south in disarray. The rear guard left to delay the British at the Lake Champlain crossing was reportedly too drunk to fire their cannon, and the colonial army was fortunate to withdraw to the Hudson Valley without major losses.
The fort is privately owned and was restored in 1909. It is maintained as a tourist attraction.