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By James P. Millard

"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, Burgoyne Campaign, June 1777

Few words could better describe the paradox that was Lake Champlain and Lake George of 1777. Lieutenant Gleig was only one of a long line of military men to travel the great north-south water corridor between the mighty Saint Lawrence and Hudson Rivers. These same beautiful waterways that so enthralled Gleig and his companions were important avenues for warfare and all it entailed.

From 1609 through 1814, Lake Champlain and Lake George, together with the great rivers they flowed into, were the scene of contests and conflicts the likes of which had seldom been seen in civilized lands. During the brief periods of peace, these pathways through the wilderness were utilized by settlers as the only routes through the mountain forests to their new homes. It was only after the great American Civil War that the lake became unimportant to military planners. When finally the waterways lost their strategic military value due to settlement and technological advances, the corridors became important avenues of commerce and recreation.

The very names of these lakes reflect something of the heritage of the area. Champlain- named for and by the French explorer who "discovered" it. And George- given the name of the monarch of Great Britain. These two nations would wage almost constant war on the waterways during the first half of the 18th Century. 

Major fortifications were built and terrible battles were fought as these European nations tried to assert their sovereignty over the North American continent.

As with all wars, these conflicts were brutal affairs; for when the seasoned troops of Europe, together with their colonial allies and native peoples, were not engaged in warfare amongst themselves, they were plagued by the harsh conditions brought on by the severe weather or disease. No sooner did France and England end their Wars over the continent than the American Colonists themselves took to rebellion.

Lake Champlain and Lake George played key roles in many of the conflicts that wracked the continent during Colonial times and the first days of the Republic; among them were:

Inter-Tribal Algonquin/Iroquois Wars The Beaver Wars (1640-1741) King William's War: 1689-1697
Greylock's or Dummer's War: 1723-1727 Queen Anne's War: 1702-1713 King George's War: 1744-1748
The French and Indian War: 1754-1763 The American Revolution: 1775-1783 The War of 1812: 1812-1815

The Lake Champlain Steamboat "Ticonderoga"—preserved and on display at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VermontAmerica's Historic Lakes explores these conflicts and examines the crucial role the lakes played in them. In doing so we do not glorify war or the individual conflicts that occurred here. We do strive to learn about and honor those who took part in these struggles of long ago. Within these pages you will learn of warfare, but this site is not about military history. It is about a region, a region blessed with natural beauty. It is about people; men and women who lived on the lakes, traveled them, and earned a living on them and their shores. It is about lighthouses and waterfronts, canal boats and steamboats. It is about commerce and recreation, cities, villages and towns. It is about the United States of America and Canada-  the Province of Quebec, the states of Vermont and New York.

It is also about the earliest history of these waterways, time recorded only in the fossils found along the shores; time pre-dating humans by millions of years.

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James P. Millard
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