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Hat tip to Lake Champlain Life for pointing out this nice story about the bridges that have spanned the narrow between Chimney Point and Crown Point.
Back in 1777, Chief Engineer Jeduthan Baldwin of the American forces on Mount Independence commenced the building of a bridge spanning Lake Champlain between the Mount and the Ticonderoga peninsula. When completed, the bridge would be supported by 22 piers — or caissons — spread equally across the quarter mile expanse of water. Each caisson was about 25 feet wide at the bottom and tapered upward. No one is exactly sure of how the construction of these caissons was made, but we have some good guesses. The image below is by Gary Zaboly. It will be one of five featured drawings by Zaboly in the upcoming book about Mount Independence, called Strong Ground, being published by the Mount Independence Coalition.
This rendition depicts how the work might have gone with ice on the lake, but we know that the ice broke up in late March of 1777, so most of the piers must have been installed using a different method — most likely assembled on shore, then floated in to place and sunk with quarried rock for ballast.
The plan was to install a road bed atop the piers, but the Americans were forced to evacuate the site before the bridge was completed. Instead they relied on a temporary floating bridge to move men and supplies across the lake, including on the fateful night of July 5th, 1777, when the retreat began. A German soldier fighting for the British was so impressed by the work, he compared it favorably to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
In the early 1990s, I was one of many people attending a ceremony at the point on Mount Independence State Historic Site when we noticed a log from one of the caissons had bobbed up from the bottom of the lake. Some of us took off our shoes, waded into the water and helped wrestle the log onto shore.
Today that log has been restored and resides comfortably in the museum at Mount Independence State Historic Site.
It has been way to long since I published anything on this blog. My attentions have been elsewhere. One (or dozens) of the distractions has been my volunteer work for the Mount Independence Coalition. We’re wrapping up the development of a full-blown history of the Mount, which is titled Strong Ground: Mount Independence and the American Revolution. If you have any interest in the history of Vermont, the Champlain Valley or the Revolutionary War, you’ll want to get a copy. I’ll post here when it is available (beginning of August, most likely).
Anyway, I intend to start posting more often here. Thank you for reading.
August 16 is a state holiday in Vermont, as we celebrate the historic victory by New England forces at the Battle of Bennington in 1777. There is a great, tall monument in Bennington to memorialize the event, but the battle was actually fought on New York soil, about six miles from the monument.
British General John Burgoyne was marching his army of about 6000 southward with the goal of reaching Albany. He had successfully driven the undermanned American forces out of Mount Independence and Fort Ticonderoga a month earlier. Now, however, he was feeling the pinch of his extended supply line and the loss of men needed to guard it. When word reached Burgoyne that the Americans had a supply depot in Bennington, he dispatched Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum and a force of about 800, most of whom were Brunswick dragoons, to capture the supplies. Baum was also given the task of raising troops from among the many loyalists Burgoyne was assured lived in the area. Being a German and unable to speak English, Baum was a strange choice as a leader of an expedition to rally loyalists from among the provincial Americans. Needless to say, loyalists didn’t flock to Baum’s army, and when he ran into 1500 New Hampshire militia under command of John Stark, Baum’s army was soundly defeated and most of the men captured, wounded or killed — among the latter, Baum himself. A second British force commanded by Heinrich von Breymann and sent by Burgoyne to reinforce Baum arrived on the scene a few hours after the battle, and almost succeeded in staving off defeat. But Colonel Seth Warner and his force of Green Mountain Boys showed up just in time to ensure a total American victory.
Not only had this expedition failed in its mission, it also cost Burgoyne about 15% of his already dwindling army. The American fight for independence, which had been suffering defeat after defeat, was revitalized by the victory. The Battle of Bennington was a prelude, as well as one of the causes that led to the most important American triumph of the war, the surrender of Burgoyne’s forces at Saratoga in October.
I am pleased that the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester is now stocking my book, Mount Independence. Please support local bookstores, especially independent shops like Northshire, the Vermont Book Shop, and the Briggs Carriage Book Shop, which are also carrying the book.