TICONDEROGA, N.Y. (AP) Before the Civil War and Antietam, the bloodiest battle fought on American soil was here, on a narrow but strategically vital strip of land between Lake Champlain and Lake George.
cally vital strip of land between Lake Champlain and Lake George.
A 15,000-strong British army sailed up Lake George 250 years ago this summer, intent on taking Fort Ticonderoga, France’s southernmost outpost in the region. The French — outnumbered nearly five to one, but well fortified — hastily built 8-foot-high log barriers as the enemy approached.
The name Ticonderoga still resonates among veterans of Scotland’s most revered military regiment, the Black Watch, but not because the fight went well for their predecessors in 1758.
Hacking through brush, felled trees and sharpened tree limbs that slowed their advance to a desperate crawl, the 42nd Highland Regiment and other redcoats were easy targets for French gunners firing from behind the barriers.
“They go in 1,000 strong and lose 500,” British author Stephen Brumwell said of the Black Watch casualties as he stood on the fort’s wind-swept ramparts, not far from where hundreds of his countrymen are buried.
Almost 2,000 British troops in all were killed, wounded or captured at Ticonderoga, along with some 440 Frenchmen.
Veterans of the Black Watch, which has been merged with other British military units after nearly three centuries as an independent regiment, will join British, Canadian and American active military personnel here in July for a memorial service marking the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Carillon, also known as the Battle of Ticonderoga.
The name Ticonderoga lives on at a desert base camp in Iraq named by a British unit.
“They still haven’t forgotten,” Mr. Brumwell, author of several books on the 18th-century British military in North America, said during a recent history conference. “For them, it’s a very poignant moment, this massive shedding of blood. The British are great fans of these glorious defeats.”
Ticonderoga, in northern New York near the Vermont line, has been a storied place since long before Europeans arrived on the continent, according to author and historian Fred Anderson.
Indians camped here while using the region’s system of lakes and rivers to trade and wage war.
“It’s one of those spots that draws our attention to the importance not only of these colliding empires, but to the people between them,” said Mr. Anderson, professor of history at the University of Colorado in Boulder, during the fort’s annual symposium on the French and Indian War (1754-1763), of which the Ticonderoga battle was a part.
The fort, named Fort Carillon by the French when they built it, was a key piece of a region bloodied by set-piece battles, sieges and forest ambushes involving redcoats, rangers, colonial Americans, French regulars, Canadian militia and numerous Indian tribes between 1755 and 1760. During the Revolutionary War, the fort changed hands twice between the British and Americans without any shots being fired.
The Ticonderoga battle, fought on July 8, 1758, saw about 3,200 French troops under the command of the Marquis de Montcalm turn back several frontal assaults on their defenses. The Black Watch was held in reserve, but the kilt-clad Highlanders couldn’t stay out of the fray and rushed the French lines without orders.