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Lake Champlain, Lake George, and Richelieu River
HISTORY TIMELINE
By James P. Millard

Part VIII- A Nation Divided: The American Civil War
1860-1865

Note: This page is Part VIII of a comprehensive timeline of Lake Champlain and Lake George history.
It is by no means a complete listing of events related to the American Civil War in New York and Vermont.

1860

 

Civil War brings profound change to the Champlain Valley

November 14, 1860
The Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers calls attention to the fact that fortifications along the northern frontier are being neglected, and that Fort Montgomery, at the border in Rouses Point, was only "about half finished."

1861

January 1861
Work on Fort Montgomery is suspended. The "foundation" of Fort Montgomery is complete; the "super-structure" only of the north and east facing fronts are complete to their full height. Scarp of rest of the work has been erected some 18 feet in height above the foundation. A minimal amount of work has been completed on the coverface.1

January 18
Engineer Department Report to Secretary of War Joseph Holt lists "Fort Montgomery, Rouses Point, N.Y. — About half built; capable of some defense."2

April 12, 1861
American Civil War begins when Fort Sumter is bombarded.

C.E. Blunt, Engineer Dept. Officer at Fort Montgomery, is ordered to Washington DC (Arlington Heights) to work on the defenses there, while still retaining nominal control of works on the northern frontier.3

June 1861
"The Second [Vermont Infantry] rendezvoused at Burlington, June, 1861, and went into Camp Underwood, where the men were drilled preparatory to active duty in the field. While in camp the regiment was uniformed, the cloth being of Vermont manufacture; and here, too, the boys were furnished old pattern smooth bore muskets, much to their dissatisfaction, for they expected modern rifles." 4

July, 1861
Work resumes on Fort Montgomery as Chief Engineer Joseph Totten orders Capt. David White to assume full local charge of construction as Engineer Superintendent. Capt. C.E. Blunt remains in overall command. Work is to continue as rapidly as possible. Some $3,000 unexpended balance on hand is supplemented by an additional $10,000 that Totten has convinced President Lincoln to divert from another work.5

July-November
An "army of employees", numbering nearly 400 men, work daily at Island Point erecting Fort Montgomery.
6

November, 1861
The Trent Affair brings Anglo-American relations to a new low. The nation is potentially the closest it has come to war with Britain since the Treaty of Ghent. In addition, France declares its willingness to support Great Britain in a conflict with the US. The northern border becomes even more of a concern to the War Department.

November 19, 1861
The 1st Vermont Cavalry is mustered in at Burlington, Vermont.++

December 30, 1861
Totten reports to E.D. Morgan, Governor of New York- “The new fort there placed [Fort Montgomery] is well advanced, and measures are in train for the most rapid progress in the spring. It may even now resist escalade, and by the opening of the lake will be prepared to mount a number of heavy guns. All this winter will be devoted to inside finish of magazines and gun casemates, and the preparation of materials for outside walls. It is easy to see that a war in the North may make this well adapted. This fort will overlook a large surface of ground as well as the channel of the lake. Its armament will be seventy-six 10-inch guns, ten 32-pounders, forty 24-pounder howitzers, ten mortars— 136 pieces. Provided this fort fulfill its object, there will be no need of fortifications higher up the lake, and all the advantages of this lake communications will be preserved to us during the war. Strategical considerations indicate certain positions farther back from the boundary line as points of assemblage for troops, but these would not need fortifications so long as Fort Montgomery shall be held. 7

1862

 

February 20, 1862
Congressional appropriations provide $900,000 for defenses on the Canadian border. During 1862/1863 work on Fort Montgomery (and 3 other Northern Frontier forts) is carried out aggressively.

September 17, 1862
"The Battle of Antietam. In the morning, as Lieut.-Col. John Stetson of the 59th New York (formerly captain of Company E, 16th N.Y.) with his regiment was leaving the field in obedience to the orders of Gen. Sumner, he was shot thought the body, his remains being left in the hands of the enemy until the 19th, when they were found and buried by Maj. Frank Palmer, his fellow townsman an friend. "Rally on your colors." —The last words of Col. Stetson."**

October 1862
One-third of Fort Montgomery's full complement of guns are mounted.8

1863

Mr. Frank H. Dupont becomes “overseer” of work at Fort. He will continue in this capacity until at least 1869 when his efforts are mentioned in Champlain Journal of August.

1864

 

 

 

 

 

April 24, 1864
"Col. Stephen Moffitt of the 96th regiment was made a prisoner of war and confined in prison at Plymouth, N.C., for four months. He was one of the fifty officers of highest rank placed by the rebels in front of their works during the bombardment of the city of Charleston, S.C."**


May 16, 1864

"Of the men of the 118th at Drury's Bluff, there were wounded Lieut. Col. Geo. F. Nichols, Adj. John M. Carter, Capts. Livingston and Ransom, Lieuts. Treadway and Sherman, while Capt. Dennis Stone, who before entering the army had been pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Au Sable Forks, and James H. Pierce were taken prisoners. Lieut. W.H. Stevenson was killed while carrying his wounded captain, Robert W. Livingston, to a place of safety. Of him his captain said: "No more gallant and generous spirit was offered among the victims of the war. No praise of Lieutenant Stevenson—his gallant ardor—his dash—his generous friendship, can be misplaced." Stevenson's assistants, George Miller and William Huff were wounded, captured, and died in Southern prisons. It was here that Lieut. Henry J. Adams of Elizabethtown seized a standard and shouted "Rally round the flag boys!" In the morning of this disastrous day, Capt. Benedict, a young and gallant officer of the 96th, was killed with two of his men by a shell..."**

October 19, 1864
"The day of the St. Alban's raid [sic- should be St. Albans Raid]. At the American House, five strangers took dinner and there were six more at the St. Alban's House. The afternoon was cloudy, threatening rain, and the streets unusually quiet., since about forty of the principal men of the place were in Montpelier and Burlington, attending the session of the legislature at the first place and the Supreme Court at the second. Just after the town clock had struck the hour of three, simultaneously the banks were entered by armed men, with drawn revolvers, who proceeded to take possession of bank bills, treasury notes, and United States bonds. Any chance caller at either bank was robbed at once. But little silver was taken, being "too heavy," and they found no gold. The robbery occupied some twelve minutes, and in the haste both gold and bank notes were overlooked. Outside, in the streets, other raiders intimidated the citizens, ordering chance passers to the green, shooting any who resisted, throwing Greek fire upon the wooden buildings, and seizing horses for flight. Bennett H. Young, the leader, rode about the streets giving orders to his men. They declared themselves Confederate soldiers, come to rob and burn the town. In a few minutes, the raiders jumped upon their horses and, taking the Sheldon road, made all haste to escape. In a half hour, and armed party from St. Albans was in pursuit. The robbers succeeded in getting across the line into Canada, but thirteen were arrested there and held for trial.

During the raid the news reached Burlington by telegram. Bells were rung, hundreds of citizens gathered in the banks and a large body of armed men stared by train for St. Albans. Offers of assistance came from outside towns. At four o'clock a telegram reached Plattsburgh and every man made ready to defend his native town. On a street corner, that evening, the forming of a military company was suggested and to Benj. M. Beckwith, just returned from the seat of war, was intrusted [sic] the making out of a list of prominent citizens."**

September 1864
Gen. H.W. Halleck orders a company of workmen organized into a military unit for defense of the works. Uniforms and small arms are requisitioned and distributed. The unit drills every day in infantry and heavy artillery tactics. Fort guns are fired regularly for practice.9

Future Fort Keeper Wm. McComb is appointed 1st Sergeant of the unit.10

November 8, 1864
"Orrel Town, Sheriff of Clinton county, ordered from Capt. B. M. Beckwith of Co. A, Home Guard, a detail for patrol duty "of thirty men, good and true, to patrol the streets within the corporation of the town of Plattsburgh, commencing at the hour of nine o'clock P.M. till sunrise of the morning of the ninth of November, under the following orders, that no guns or pistols shall be fired during that time unless imperative necessity requires it." That election night was one of the quietest ever known in Plattsburg for, after 9 o'clock not a person other than the guards was to be seen upon the streets."**

Capt. David White, with his overseer alone to assist him, superintends the work of 260 to 400 men under his charge [construction during the war].11

November 20, 1864
Reported Rebel Raid at Rouses Point.
”A gang of rebel raiders, on horseback, are reported to have made their appearance at Rouses Point Sunday night. On being challenged, they fired on the picket guard. This fire was promptly returned, and one of them fell from his saddle. The raiders immediately fled, taking the wounded man with them.12

December 13, 1864
"...at Montreal the trial of the St. Albans raiders was brought to a close, Justice Coursol, rendering a decision in favor of the robbers, who were at once released from custody and the money ($80,0000 found upon them restored. Through the recommendation of Governor-General Lord Monck the provincial parliament voted $50,000 in gold (equivalent to $88,000 in currency) to be paid to the banks. Though the loss, including cost of the trial, was about $140,000, yet the financial strength of the little town was such that there was no particular disturbance in the monetary situation."**

1865

January 31, 1865
Fort Montgomery Armament Report of C.E. Blunt:
7 32-pounder smooth bore guns en casemate
36 24-pounder flank howitzers mounted en casemate.13

March 16-18, 1865
High snowmelt causes flooding which damages sections of the Champlain Canal. 14

April 1865
Within a few days after death of Lincoln, Captain Gustave Drolet, commander of the garrison at Lacolle, Quebec purportedly launches an ill-fated one man attempt to capture Fort Montgomery.15

April 9, 1865
Civil War ends with surrender of Lee at Appomattox.

November 14, 1865
Work on Fort Montgomery is progressing rapidly as shown in a "Daily Report of Services Rendered…" details 76 ˝ workers at site on this day. It appears the fort is largely finished as masons are plastering in Curtain III [gorge]. It seems the gorge and moat was among the last to be finished. On this day, there were 9 double teams hauling earth, wood, water, and stone. There were 10 laborers loading these teams on the commons and on the cover face, while 10 ˝ men were digging and hauling earth in the moat and another 8 were digging and hauling earth on the commons.16

Sources/Notes:

1 Daniel T. Taylor, The Shores of Champlain. 1979. Champlain, NY: Moorsfield Press. Originally appeared in the Champlain Counselor [1892]. Reprinted c. 1937 in the North Countryman.  P.43
2
War of the Rebellion- Official Records: Series III, Vol. 1 P. 49
3
ibid. P.43

4
Lewis Cass Aldrich, History of Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, Vermont. 1891. Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co.
5
ibid. P.43
6
ibid. P.44
7
War of the Rebellion: Official Records- Series III, Vol. I P. 773-774
8
Daniel T. Taylor, The Shores of Champlain. 1979. Champlain, NY: Moorsfield Press. Originally appeared in the Champlain Counselor [1892]. Reprinted c. 1937 in the North Countryman.  P.43
9
ibid. P.46, 49
10
ibid. P.46, 49

11
Champlain Journal August 4, 1869
12
New York Times. November 23, 1864. Proquest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2001) pg. 1
13
National Archives Fortifications File R.G.77 Drawer 246, Sheet 32-1
14  The Adirondack Research Library of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks Chronology Management Team: An Adirondack Chronology <http://www.protectadks.org/library/adkchronology.pdf> Last revised and enlarged – 18 June, 2006 (July 29, 2006)

15
Clinton County Historical Association: North Country Notes, No. 16. Jan. 1964. The British Raid on Fort Montgomery in 1865. Plattsburgh, NY.
16
Daily Report of Services Rendered at Fort Montgomery, Rouses Point, Clinton County, N.Y. on the 14th day of November 1865, and of their application. Clinton County Historical Association Archives: Plattsburgh, NY
** THREE CENTURIES IN THE CHAMPLAIN VALLEY: A COLLECTION OF HISTORICAL FACTS AND INCIDENTS- TERCENTENARY EDITION. 1909: Compiled and Edited by Mrs. George Fuller Tuttle. Saranac Chapter, D.A.R. Plattsburgh, NY.
++
Tom Ledoux, Vermont in the Civil War, 1861 Timeline, 19 December 2005, <http://vermontcivilwar.org/museum/tl/61.php> (19 December 2005)
Recommendation- Excellent online source of information on Vermont's role in the Civil War
http://www.vermontcivilwar.org

   
To be continued..,

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