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 Exploring... The Historic
 Lake Champlain and Lake George Region

By James P. Millard

Photos, from left: Lake George at Hague, Ticonderoga and Mt. Independence, view south from Mt. Defiance, Valcour Island. Three photos by the author, Valcour Island photo by Doug and Mark Harwood.

" 'Here a scene of indescribable sublimity burst upon us. Before us lay the waters of Lake Champlain, a sheet of unruffled glass, stretching some ninety miles to the south, widening and straitening as rocks and cliffs projected in the most fantastic shapes into the channel. On each side is a thick and uninhabited wilderness, now rising up into mountains, now falling into glens, while a noble background is presented toward the east by the Green Mountains, whose summits appear even to pierce the clouds. On the west mountains still more gigantic in loftiness, pride and dignity. I cannot by any powers of language do justice to such a scene.' "

R.G. Gleig, a member of Gen. Fraser's staff, June 1777.**

The Lake Champlain and Lake George region is so rich in history and natural beauty, it may at first seem somewhat overwhelming as one tries to determine just what to see and do. On these pages we will try to give a brief overview of some of the geographical  and historic attractions. For more information about a specific area, click on the link following the brief description.


Just north of the American/Canadian border in the Richelieu River is Ash Island or Île aux Têtes. The Abenaki name is Odepsék, which is roughly translated "place of the heads," or "where the heads are." It is called this because in 1694 an Abenaki war party encountered Click the thumbnail to see a stunning aerial photograph of Ash Island by AHL Guest Contributors Roger and Doug group of Mohawk warriors here. A heated battle ensued. The victorious Abenaki, as a warning against further Mohawk incursions into their territory, decapitated the warriors and placed their heads upon stakes around the perimeter of the island, facing out towards the waters edge.1


Early 20th Century map of Lake George showing the Baldwin region.Some 34 miles from Lake George Village, at a promontory that juts out from the western shore is Baldwin. Long a popular stopover for tourists on the northern portion of Lake George, Baldwin was the termination point of the Baldwin Branch of D& H Railroad for many years and an important steamboat stop. Some of Lake George's most famous steamboats were actually constructed here at a shipyard that operated for many years.


Click the thumbnail to see an aerial photo of Blockhouse Point by Roger and Doug Harwood (April 2005)Located in what is now North Hero, Vermont, the British maintained a blockhouse here known as the Loyal Blockhouse. They referred to its location as Dutchman's Point. The blockhouse guarded the entrance to "Carry Bay," so-called because it led to a very narrow strip of land called the carrying place. It was utilized by natives and other lake travelers as an important portage or shortcut across the islands. A truly fascinating note about Click here to see the Alburg Passage and Blockhouse Point from the air (Courtesy of Doug and Roger Harwood)this blockhouse is that the British refused to abandon it after the Colonies attained independence and became the United States in 1783. Not until the signing of Jay's Treaty in 1794 did the Crown feel compelled to part with this property.2


Located directly opposite Crown Point; across a very narrow channel in what is now Vermont, the Chimney Click here to see a photo of Chimney PointPoint area has been occupied for at least 7,500 years. Native Americans regularly camped at the point while hunting and fishing. The French first built a stockaded fort there- a "fort de pieux" or fort of posts- in 1731. This fort was the key French fortress in the Southern part of the lake until St. Frédéric was built across the channel. A small settlement known as Hocquart was located here. The area received its name from the chimneys that were all that was left standing after the French defeat by the British at the conclusion of the French and Indian War.3 For a detailed look at Chimney Point and Crown Point, click HERE.


A small, densely forested island just to the north of storied Valcour Island. Crab Island was the home to a small American battery of two guns and an army field hospital during the War of 1812. hospital. Before the Battle of Plattsburgh some 700 of Macomb's troops had been sent here, mostly sick with typhus and dysentery. On September 10, 1814, another 40 men, casualties of the land skirmishes at Culver Hill and Halsey's corners, arrived.

Monument on Crab IslandFinally, on the morning of the naval battle, 400 of the sick and injured were moved to Burlington. The physicians and hospital tents remained however, for the suffering and death was to continue on Crab Island. It was here, on the Northern end of the island, that the dead were buried. The dead, British and American, 148 in all, were buried together in long trenches. There is a simple monument at the island commemorating those who suffered and died there. For a listing of American casualties of the naval battle, click HERE.

Dr. James Mann was the U.S. Army physician assigned to Crab Island during the battle. To read excerpts of his dramatic account of the battle, click HERE.

Be sure to visit The Secrets of Crab Island by Jim Millard. Click HERE.

CROWN POINT ( also known as Pointe à la Chevelure), LAKE CHAMPLAIN, NY

Long regarded as one of the most important locations in the early wilderness of New France and later New York, Crown Point is located on a large peninsula just opposite Chimney Point on Lake Champlain. Crown Point was the site of two important fortifications- French Fort St. Frédéric and the massive fort constructed later by Jeffrey Amherst, known simply as "His Majesty's Fort at Crown Point". For more information, click the link above and also visit Crown Point- An Outline History by Greg Furness.


Lake George Island, approximately three miles from Lake George village, currently owned by the State of New York. During the French and Indian War, Abercromby is believed to have encamped several hundred men on the island. During the Revolution, the island was actually fortified by Burgoyne after he took Ticonderoga and Mt. Independence. The main of his force took the easterly route south along Wood Creek, the general did send a large contingent with supplies down Lake George. The Specht Journal tells us that "... supplies, regimental baggage and artillery equipment..." were to be taken there, and that it would be occupied by 2 companies that were to "provide the island with retrenchments and 2 artillery bateaux to cover them."4 An American force under John Brown attempted to attack the island, but were driven off by British gunboats stationed there. For more information on the battle see Timeline 4 (Sept. 24, 1777). There is a stone monument on the island with an inscription that details the role Diamond Island played in the military history of the lake.5


Dome Island is a high, dome-shaped island about nine miles from Lake George village. Reportedly, the height of the island made it a favorite for scouts to use in observing activity on the lake. It is believed troops under Israel Putnam camped here during the French and Indian War.6


One of the earliest French outposts on the lakes, this 144 ft. fort with log bastions was completed in July, 1666, on what is today known as Isle La Motte. The small fort was the site from which several expeditions were launched against English settlements. Based here were members of the famed French regiment known as the Carignan-Saliéres. This veteran regiment, brought to the New World by the Marquis de Tracy, was noted for having its ranks filled with hardy and seasoned troops. Upon its arrival in Canada it continued its tradition of serving the King for over 20 years. To learn more about Fort Ste. Anne and the Catholic Shrine that occupies the site today, click here.


Lake George's privately owned Fourteen Mile Island, is so named because it is some 14 miles from old Fort George at the southern end of Lake George (at least that is what Lt. James Hadden tells us in his Journal 5). It has had other names in the past, among them are Beardsley's and Kenesaw Island. Hadden tells us "Here we encamped [July 27, 1777], there being only one House on the Island; we saw and killed a great number of Rattle Snakes...". Fourteen Mile Island was also the scene of another dramatic event that took place during the American Revolution. On July 15, 1779, a group of officers led by Major Wait Hopkins, accompanied by some civilians were on the island berry-picking. They were attacked by a scouting party of three white men and 24 Indians. Nine members of the Hopkins party were scalped and killed and the rest were taken prisoner.7


This group of 5 privately-owned islands in Lake George is located a little over 2 miles south of Sabbath Day Point. A significant and bloody battle occurred on the islands during the French and Indian War. On July 5, 1757 Col. John Parker, on a scouting mission from Fort William Henry, was camped here with some 350 British troops. An engagement took place between the British force and some Indians allied with the French. The British force was slaughtered- of the 350+ troops, only 12 escaped. Reportedly, 131 British soldiers were killed, with the remainder taken captive. In those days, it should be noted, it was often preferable to die in battle than to be taken prisoner by Indians.8


The site of the landing place for General Abercrombie's ill-fated attack at the Heights of Carillon on July 8, 1758. Named for the much loved Augustus Lord Howe, the "soldier's soldier" who was killed early on in a skirmish at Trout Brook. Some 15,000 men put ashore on the banks of Howe's landing. They were ferried up the lake in some 900 bateaux, 135 whaleboats and other assorted craft. One can only imagine what the spectacle must have looked like! Earlier, in August 1757, the Marquis de Montcalm embarked from this same area on his storied expedition to take Fort William Henry. He was accompanied by a force of some 8,000 troops.


It is unlikely there were ever any military engagements on this island, however, armies did camp here during each of the wars that Lake George played a role in. Frank Leonbruno9 tells us that "On one occasion, 500 to 600 Frenchmen and Indians who were part of Vaudreuil's forces camped here." He also tells us that 400 soldiers were stationed here under Abercromby during the French and Indian War. It is known that Roger's Rangers encamped here during the winter of 1758. 


When Samuel de Champlain began his explorations of the lake that was to bear his name he was told of "beautiful inhabited valleys, with rich, plentiful corn fields." Doubtless one of the places his native guides were referring to is Missisquoi. A very large and important Native American village was located in the area we now know as Swanton, Vermont. Known by the Abenaki themselves as Mazipskoik, or place of flint- Missisquoi is one of the most important sites in the history of the Abenaki people, they having lived in the vicinity "from time unknown to any of us here present." The Abenaki have a large number of descendants still living in the area at present, and the native people have recently decided to make their presence more visible. The old view that Vermont was not inhabited by Indians, but was merely a "hunting and battle ground" has been proven to be quite wrong. It was from his base in Missisquoi that Grey Lock waged his war against the New Englanders. Gordon Day tells us that the name Missisquoi "was a truly legendary place" from the viewpoint of the Massachusetts towns on the Connecticut River.10  For more information about the Abenaki and Grey Lock click HERE.


Just Southwest of both Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, this mountain was to play a critical role in the ultimate abandonment of these fortresses. Known as Serpent a Sonnette or Rattlesnake Hill to the French, it was renamed Sugar Loaf Hill by the Americans. Despite the fact that it commanded a view of all the defenses on both sides of the lake, it was deemed too steep to fortify. Despite advice to the contrary by such figures as Benedict Arnold, John Trumbull and Thaddeus Kosciusko, it remained unfortified until the British under Burgoyne exploited this advantage and dragged cannon up its steep slopes. Realizing that a serious blunder had been made, the Americans saw that their position was now untenable and gave up the forts below. For a detailed view of Mt. Defiance, complete with stunning photos from the summit, click HERE.

Mt. Defiance from Ticonderoga Click to see a view of Ticonderoga from the heights of Mt. Defiance
Mt. Defiance from Ft. Ticonderoga Ticonderoga from Mt. Defiance

Located in New York state, just opposite the Vermont island of South Hero, Plattsburgh Bay has long played a significant role in the history of the region. The first white man to have seen the bay was undoubtedly Samuel de Champlain in 1609, who would have noticed the beautiful bay as he rounded the narrows of Cumberland Head. Later the French had an encounter with British warships in the area, resulting in the scuttling of several French vessels. But certainly, Plattsburgh is best known for the dramatic naval battle that took place here on September 11, 1814. For more information about this historic place and little known information about the land battles that took place in Plattsburgh- Click HERE

(referred to on earliest maps as Point au Feu (Fire Point)

Just south of Rouses Point, New York, Point au Fer is a southward-pointing peninsula on Lake Champlain. Point au Fer was the scene of exploits by Roger's Rangers, and it was the site of the White House- an important fortified garrison-house utilized by both the American rebels and the British. For more information about Point au Fer click HERE.


A tiny island at the north end of Lake George, this island was the site of many dramatic events. Originally called Isle au Mouton by the French, one of the earliest naval engagements on the lakes occurred here in early November 1755. A party of Roger's Rangers, in two bateaux carrying swivel guns, was caught in a cross-fire between French and Indian forces on land and in canoes on the water. The island is located just off-shore of what is now known as Howe's Landing, the point where some 15,000 troops under Abercrombie landed in the ill-fated expedition against Carillon in July, 1758. The island housed some 148 French prisoners who were captured early on in the expedition, hence its name.


The Northernmost portion of the Lake Champlain area is, of course, where it all began as far as the white man is concerned. While the Abenaki and Iroquois had inhabited this area for generations, it was the French explorer Samuel de Champlain who "discovered" the lake, in 1609. When one is to look at the important role that Quebec played in this history, one must go beyond the lake to the great rivers Richelieu and Saint Lawrence. There were many important French and later, British fortresses on these rivers, and they played a crucial role in the events that took place on the lakes. 4

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1 Gordon M. Day, "IN SEARCH OF NEW ENGLAND'S NATIVE PAST- Selected Essays by Gordon M. Day" Edited by Michael K. Foster and William Cowen (University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1998) 199
Andre Charbonneau,  "THE FORTIFICATIONS OF ILE AUX NOIX" (Minister of Supply and Services, Canada  Parks Canada, Canada Communication Group, 1994. Translated from the original French) 111-116
State of Vermont, Brochure- "Addison Vermont: CHIMNEY POINT State Historic Site" (Agency of Development & Community Affairs, Division for Historic Preservation, Montpelier, Vermont, 1992)
The Specht Journal: A military Journal of the Burgoyne Campaign. 1995. Translated by Helga Doblin, Edited by Mary C. Lynn. Greenwood Press, Westport, NY, London. 74
Frank Leonbruno, "LAKE GEORGE REFLECTIONS- ISLAND HISTORY AND LORE." (Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns, NY, 1998) 34, 35
James Hadden. Hadden's Journal and Orderly Books: A Journal Kept in Canada and Upon Burgoyne's Campaign in 1776 and 1777, by Lieut. James M. Hadden, Roy. Art. Edited by Horatio Rogers. (Albany: Joel Munsell's Sons, 1884) 104, 105
Frank Leonbruno, "LAKE GEORGE REFLECTIONS- ISLAND HISTORY AND LORE." (Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns, NY, 1998) 81, 85
I bid., 128-130
Leonbruno, 41
Gordon M. Day, "IN SEARCH OF NEW ENGLAND'S NATIVE PAST- Selected Essays by Gordon M. Day" Edited by Michael K. Foster and William Cowen (University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, MA 1998) 142
Allan S. Everest, "Point Au Fer on Lake Champlain." Clinton County Historical Association, Plattsburgh, New York, 1992. 3

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