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Guest Contributor                               Gregory T. Furness
 

Aerial view of the historic Crown Point and Chimney Point peninsulas. They are joined by the historic Champlain Bridge, recently
 closed and scheduled for demolition.

 

Crown Point
(Pointe à la Chevelure)
An Outline History

By Gregory T. Furness

NOTE: This material is provided as a public service. America's Historic Lakes is not affiliated with the Crown Point State Historic Site. 
Contact the site for additional information.

 


During the 17th Century, both France and Great Britain laid claim to the Champlain Valley: the French by virtue of the voyages of Verrazano (1523/24), Cartier (1535/36 & 1541/42) and Champlain; the British based on those of the Cabots (1497/98). This territorial rivalry was one cause of the series of wars involving Europe and North America from 1689 to 1763.

1689-1697
KING WILLIAM'S WAR
(War of the Grand Alliance)

1690- Traveling by way of Lake Champlain, a band of French and Indians attacked and burned the settlement at Schenectady, NY. Other raids into New England used the Crown Point peninsula as a staging area. In retaliation, the British planned an invasion of Canada, and Capt. Jacobus deWarm was sent north by the Albany Council to scout French activity. He and his small force constructed a minor fortification on what is now Chimney Point, Vermont.

1691- A British force commanded by Peter Schuyler used Crown Point as an advanced base in their attack on La Prairie, south of Montreal.

1702-1713
QUEEN ANNE'S WAR
(War of the Spanish Succession)

1704- First raid on Deerfield, MA, by French forces.

1709 to 1711- British expeditions mounted against Montreal and Quebec and led each year by Sir Francis Nicholson reached only as far as Crown Point .

1713- The Treaty of Utrecht ended the conflict, and established Split Rock, 18 miles north of Crown Point, as the boundary between French and British Territories.

1730-1738
OCCUPATION AND SETTLEMENT

1730- The French, in violation of the Treaty of Utrecht as far as the British were concerned, erected a small, wooden stockade fort at Chimney Point.

1731- With the stockade fort (fort de pieux or "fort of posts") establishing French control of the area, plans were made by the Government of New France for a more substantial, permanent fortification.

1734- Drawings were completed by Chaussegros de Lery, King's Engineer in New France, and construction began on a new, stone fortification on the western shore of Pointe à la Chevelure. It consisted of a four-story masonry tower, or Redoute, surrounded by masonry walls.

1737- Construction of the fortification was completed in November. It was named Fort St. Frédéric, in honor of the Minister of the Department de la Marine, Frédéric Maurepas. The garrison consisted of approximately 120 men.

            Fort St. Frédéric 

         

(Click on the thumbnails to see a full size photo)

The outer limestone walls were about 18 feet high. The parapet was not strong enough to survive bombardment by artillery, but at this period the likelihood of the British transporting siege guns from Albany was considered remote. At the tip of each bastion was a guerite, or cylindrical sentry box.

St. Frédéric's entrance was on the northern side; a drawbridge spanned a dry ditch and the entryway passed through a two-story stone Guard House. This structure contained the winding gear for the drawbridge and portcullis- an iron grating which could be lowered to further seal the entrance. On the first floor were the quarters for the fort's guard, and on the second a hospital and quarters for the interpreter of Indian languages.

The Redoute was the strongest part of the fortification. With stone walls twelve feet thick at the base and vaulted ceilings, it was designed to withstand cannon fire. With four main rooms per floor, it housed a bakery, armory, powder magazine, quarters for officers and soldiers, and the rooms of the fort's commander. Twenty cannon were mounted in the Redoute, and access to the building was over a second drawbridge.

A chapel occupied the bastion opposite the Guard House, serving the needs of the garrison and settlers alike. The Parish Records note French as well as Native American baptisms, marriages, and burials. Two interments took place within the chapel: Pierre St. Ours (1736) son of the Fort's Commander, and Genevieve leTendre, Madame Radisson (1740).

A stone windmill was built at government expense in 1740 to grind locally produced grain. It was located on the point of land south of the Fort where the Champlain Memorial now stands. Several cannon were mounted on its upper floor so it could serve as a defensive work. Judging from deLery's plans for this mill, it was almost identical to one still standing on Ille Perrot, near Montréal.

The French Government strongly promoted settlement of the surrounding area, both to provide a "population buffer" to British encroachment and to provide the Garrison with food. Soldiers as well as civilians received grants of land, farming implements, and remission of taxes for several years. Several hamlets sprang up on both sides of the lake, and the French population reached several hundreds.

For a comprehensive listing of the Commanders of Fort St. Frédéric, click HERE.

1739-1748
KING GEORGE'S WAR
(War of the Austrian Succession)

1745- Fort St. Frédéric was used as a base for raids on British settlements in New York and New England and a call was made by Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts to drive the French from their position at Crown Point. Though Governor George Clinton of New York supported the plan, no expedition was raised and efforts were directed at other targets such as the French Fortress of Louisbourg at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, which was successfully captured.

1746- Fort Number Four (now Charlestown, NH) was raided several times by French forces. Another party from Fort St. Frédéric led by Rigaud de Vaudreuil attacked Fort Massachusetts (North Adams) and Deerfield, MA.

1747- A British and Native American force commanded by Walter Butler engaged French soldiers outside the walls of Fort St. Frédéric.

1748- The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ended the war, but maintained the territorial status quo. Louisbourg was returned to the French, much to the dismay of the British colonists who had captured it.

Descriptions of Crown Point were penned by several travelers during the period of peace that followed; Peter (or Per) Kalm, a Swedish botanist, Phineas Stevens, a "redeemer" (one who arranged prisoner exchanges) and Louis Franquet, a French military engineer. Their writings described civilian life as well as the military aspects of the place.

1754-1763
FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR
(Seven Years War, 1756-63)

Hostilities began in North America (with Washington's surrender at Fort Necessity) two years before they did in Europe.

1755- A meeting of Colonial Governors at Alexandria, Virginia, called by General Edward Braddock, newly-arrived commander in chief of the British forces in North America, identified four main objectives for the coming military campaign: Fort Duquesne (PA), Fort Niagara (NY), Fort Beausejour (Nova Scotia) and Fort St. Frédéric.

William Johnson was placed in command of a force of 3,500 Provincial troops from New England, New York, and New Jersey, for the expedition against Fort St. Frédéric. The French were soon aware of British plans due to papers captured at Braddock's defeat near Fort Duquesne, and a French force commanded by Baron Dieskau assembled at St. Frédéric. Taking the initiative, Dieskau marched south to intercept Johnson's army at the southern end of Lac St. Sacrement (re-named Lake George by Johnson) in September. Though the French were defeated and Dieskau wounded and captured, Johnson did not press his advantage and move against Fort St. Frédéric, but held his position and secured it with the construction of Fort William Henry.

In response, the French began construction in October 1755 of Carillon (later called Fort Ticonderoga) to serve as a buffer between the British position at Lake George and Fort St. Frédéric. The new timber fortification was not completed until the fall of 1758.

1756- Johnson was replaced as commander of the "Crown Point Expedition" by John Winslow, and once again a Provincial force moved on Crown Point. Upon reaching Fort William Henry they learned of General Montcalm's victory at Oswego (NY), and, fearing the appearance of a large French force in the Champlain Valley, the expedition proceeded no further.

1757- Winslow's replacement, Daniel Webb, had no opportunity to move towards Crown Point, as Montcalm led a force from Fort St. Frédéric to capture and destroy Fort William Henry.

1758- General James Abercromby, leading the largest British army yet assembled in North America (a combined force of over 13,000 British Regulars and Provincial troops) advanced towards Fort St. Frédéric in July. An ill-advised infantry attack on the French entrenchments surrounding Carillon resulted in Abercromby's defeat, and the British were forced to withdraw.

1759- General Jeffery Amherst was appointed commander in chief. The French, vastly outnumbered by the British force of over 12,000 men, devised a new strategy: they would withdraw in stages from the Champlain Valley fortifications to Isle aux Noix in the Richelieu River which they considered to have the best defensive possibilities. The forces in the Valley commanded by Bourlemaque and initially numbering some 2,300 were reduced to about 200 at St. Frédéric and Carillon as Amherst advanced. The civilian population was evacuated, and their farmsteads destroyed.

At the end of July, Amherst's army arrived at Carillon and prepared for a siege. After setting fire to the fort, the remaining French troops withdrew to Fort St. Frédéric. As Amherst continued his advance, the French blew up the Redoute and Windmill at Crown Point and left for Isle aux Noix on July 31st. Amherst took possession on August 4th, finding a good portion of the French fort intact. A single chimney from a French dwelling still standing on the eastern shore gave "Chimney Point" its name.

Lacking ships to oppose the armed French fleet on the lake and to transport men and supplies, Amherst was unable to follow the French immediately. Part of the army was put to work building ships; the sloop Boscawen, the brig Duke of Cumberland, the radeau Ligonier and numerous bateau were constructed in short order.

Noting the strategic advantages of Crown Point's terrain, Amherst also ordered the construction of new, extensive fortifications to secure his hold on the Champlain Valley. "His Majesty's Fort of Crown Point", enclosing over seven acres, was one of the largest built by the British in Colonial North America. With timber and earth ramparts 27 feet tall and a dry ditch up to15 feet deep cut into the bedrock, it mounted 104 cannon and was designed to accommodate 4,000 men.

Clockwise around the interior from the entrance were a Guard House, the well and Well House, the Officers Barracks, the King's Bastion (or flag bastion) the Soldiers Barracks, the Magazine, the wood-framed Armory, and the brick-fronted New Officers Barracks. The barracks were laid out as multiple units of four rooms (two upstairs, two down, with central entrance hallways containing stairs) joined end-to-end. Twenty enlisted men shared a room; the number of officers sharing quarters was determined by rank. Bomb-Proof rooms were located within the rampart around the inside perimeter. Used for storage of supplies and provisions, they could also provide shelter in case of bombardment. Three smaller forts, the Grenadier Redoubt, the Light Infantry Redoubt and Gage's Redoubt, mounted ten cannon each and protected the main fort at a distance of five hundred yards. Two and a half miles south of Fort Crown Point, a line of three blockhouses across the base of the peninsula provided a first line of defense against land attack.

The British fleet was completed in October, but the season was too far advanced to continue the campaign into Canada. Placing Col. William Haviland of the 27th Regiment in command to continue work on the fortifications, Amherst returned to winter quarters in New York City.

1760- As part of a three-pronged attack on Montreal- the last French stronghold- Haviland led a British force northward from Crown Point. The successful capture of Montreal ended hostilities in the Champlain Valley.

1761-1762 - The focus of the war shifted away from Crown Point, but work continued on the fortifications. Haviland, Col. John Young of the 60th, and Col. Robert Elliott of the 55th commanded during this period.

 1763- The Treaty of Paris brought the war to a close, leaving the British in control of the former French territories. The military importance of Crown Point declined and construction ceased, leaving only the New Officer's Barracks unfinished.

1764-1774
A DECADE OF RELATIVE PEACE

Even in the absence of a military threat, the British maintained a garrison at Crown Point. Like the French before them, the British granted lands in the area to Soldiers who had seen active service as well as to civilians, superseding the old French claims, and the area once again began to be sparsely settled. In addition to dwellings owned by officers of the British Garrison, a village grew up to the west of Fort Crown Point and with its tavern, general store, apothecary shop and residences, became a trading center for the surrounding area, as peacetime travel and commerce on Lake Champlain increased.

1768- Governor Henry Moore of New York proposed the establishment of a large town at Crown Point, and a plan drafted by Adolphus Benzel (a retired officer resident at Crown Point) was sent to the King for approval; under consideration was the establishment of a new "northern province". Crown Point was the proposed capital, with Amherst as Governor and Philip Skene as Lieutenant Governor, but no further was taken.

1772- With the passing years, lack of maintenance on the fortifications took its toll; the British Government was reluctant to spend money on fortifications in peace time. Captain Gavin Cochrane of the 60th Regiment, commanding at Crown Point from 1768 to 1772 was kept busy making repairs: "a side wall of the Bakehouse rebuilt, which was tumbling down and could not get it done for less than a Dollar a day by the Bricklayer", "the Gate of the Fort being wore out and gone to pieces, I ordered a stout new one to be made", "the Bridge of plank which was the only way to go upon the Ramparts has fallen down, but nothing can be done til the frost is gone".

1773- On April 21st, a chimney fire in the Soldier's Barracks spread to the pine shingles of the barracks and the squared log walls of the fort. Captain William Anstruther's detachment of the 26th Regiment was unable to control the flames that burned for three days, resulting in the destruction of the main fort. The garrison remained, sheltering themselves in structures outside the main fort, and began a major effort to recover cannon, shot, ironwork, tools, and anything useable that had survived the fire.

1774- British military engineer John Montressor was dispatched to inspect the forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point. His report on Ticonderoga stated that "its ruinous situation is such that it would require more to repair it than the constructing of a new Fort, it being composed of decayed Wood and Earth". At Crown Point he reported "the Conflagration of the late Fort has rendered it an amazing useless mass of Earth only". Rather than reconstruct either fort, he recommended the enlargement of Crown Point's Grenadier Redoubt and submitted a plan for the work required, which was approved, with construction to begin in the spring of the following year. The British felt the need to maintain a military presence in the valley in response to unrest in the "Hampshire Grants" caused by conflicting land grants issued by New York and New Hampshire, both of which claimed the territory that is present day Vermont.

1775-1783
THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

1775- The 7th Regiment was ordered south from Montreal on May 4th to join the 26th at Crown Point and begin reconstruction of the Grenadier Redoubt. Before they could leave Canada, on May 10th an American force led by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen captured Ticonderoga and the following day a detachment under Seth Warner secured Crown Point.

On May 15th, Arnold and Allen arrived at Crown Point and set men to work salvaging materials that had not been removed after the fire; 111 cannon were collected (of which 65 were usable) along with tons of shot and musket balls. The majority of the cannon transported by General Henry Knox to Boston that winter originated at Crown Point.

In September an American force commanded by Generals Richard Montgomery and Philip Schuyler left Crown Point to invade Canada. After victories at Isle aux Noix, St. Jean and Montreal the army was joined by Benedict Arnold's force which had marched from Massachusetts through the forests of Maine for the final attack on Québec City. The assault failed; Montgomery was killed, Arnold wounded, and the Americans forced to retreat.

1776-The American retreat was slowed by repeated attacks of General Guy Carleton's British troops, and by an outbreak of smallpox. By June, what remained of the "Army of Canada" had returned to Crown Point, where smallpox continued to claim lives at the rate of several dozens a day.

In July, the Army's general officers (Schuyler, Arnold, Horatio Gates, John Sullivan and Baron de Woedtke) met and decided to remove the main body of the army from Crown Point to Mount Independence (across the lake from Ticonderoga) and to send the sick and wounded on to Fort George at Lake George. While Washington had reservations about this move, he supported the decision of his Generals. The 6th Pennsylvania Battalion, commanded by Col. Thomas Hartley, remained to garrison Crown Point.

In August, the American naval fleet constructed at Skenesboro assembled at Crown Point, and after rigging and outfitting proceeded northward under the command of Benedict Arnold in anticipation of a British invasion.

On October 11th, the expected confrontation between British and American forces took place off Valcour Island, 41 miles north of Crown Point. Though badly beaten, the Americans managed to escape with a few of their vessels. On the 13th, Arnold ran his ships aground in a bay near Panton, VT , set fire to them, and returned overland to Crown Point. Shortly thereafter, Col. Hartley's forces also withdrew, and the British found the post abandoned when they arrived on October 14th.

1777- General John Burgoyne led about 8,000 British troops into the Champlain Valley. A magazine and a hospital were constructed at Crown Point and 200 soldiers left there to support the army on its southward march; the army was split and half the troops sent down the west shore of the lake, half down the east. Despite Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga in October, the British did not abandon their hold on Crown Point.

1778-1783- Crown Point was occupied, except during the winter, by British troops and their fleet continued regular patrols the lake. In 1778/79 Major Christopher Carleton staged a series of raids on American Settlers in the valley, and a number of prisoners were carried to Canada.

 1784- Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris which ended the war, the British abandoned their position at Crown Point and withdrew to Canada.

THE 19th and 20th CENTURIES

1801- An act of the New York State Legislature granted the "Garrison Grounds" at Crown Point to Union College in Schenectady and Columbia College in New York City so that they might subdivide and sell the property- an early example of State aid to education.

1817- The Garrison Grounds were surveyed and drawn in detail by Isaac Roberdeau, U.S. Topographical Engineers. A report was sent to Brigadier General Johnathan G. Swift, but no further military interest was shown. (National Archives, RG-77, Buell Collection)

1828- The property was sold to Sylvester Churchill, a native of Vermont and "a Major in the Army of the United States" who had served in the Champlain Valley during the War of 1812.

1839- Churchill sold the property to James and Samuel Murdock with a stipulation in the deed that the new owners could not "do or suffer to be committed on the said premises any kind of waste by tearing down any of the ramparts or walls or carrying away any of the material of which [they] are composed". This clause was largely responsible for the survival of the fort ruins to the present day.

1858- The U.S. Government constructed a 55-foot limestone Lighthouse on the site of the Grenadier Redoubt. Its light, fitted with a fresnal lens, was visible for 14.5 miles.

1868- The Fletcher Marble Company operated a small quarry to exploit a vein of what they believed to be black marble north of the British fort. (Such a quarry had operated for years in Shoreham, VT) The stone, dark when freshly cut, lightened on exposure to air and the company folded.

1870-75- The firm of Smith & Bullis of Port Henry, NY constructed and operated a kiln for the commercial production of lime. The kiln was a transitional design of "running" kiln, fired from the sides. The ruins are located southwest of the British Fort.

1909-1912- As part of the Tercentenary Celebration of Champlain's voyage down Lake Champlain, the lighthouse was remodeled to also serve as a monument to the French explorer. A bronze bas relief by Auguste Rodin, "La Belle France", was mounted on the monument.

1910- The State of New York acquired title of the "Garrison Grounds" from Witherbee, Sherman and Company of Port Henry, NY.

----------------------
About the Author-

Gregory T. Furness resides on the New York side of the Champlain Valley. He has a B.A. in American History and an M.A. in Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Programs. After a career as an archivist, researcher, and historian he retired in 2002 following twenty-seven years as an historic site manager. His special interests are in in social history and pre-industrial technology.

America's Historic Lakes is grateful for his special contribution. (JPM)

SOME SELECTED SOURCES

MANUSCRIPT

France, Archives des Colonies, serie C11A, C13A. Copies at Public Archives of Canada

Great Britain, British Library, Add.MSS 21661-21892, Frederick Haldimand Papers. Copies at Public Archives of Canada.

William L. Clements Library, Ann Arbor, MI, Thomas Gage Papers.

Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa, MG 21,A1,Ser.1,Vol.5, Dartmouth Papers. MG 8, G 10. Registre paroissiax, Fort St. Frédéric ou Beauharnois.

Great Britain, Public Record Office, W.O. 34, Jeffery Amherst Papers. Particularly Volumes 50, 51 and 52. Copies at Public Archives of Canada

Vermont Historical Society, Montpelier, VT. Guy Omeron Coolidge Papers.

Actual Survey of Crown Point, Mss Map by A. Benzel, 1768.

PRINTED SOURCES

Amherst, Jeffery: The Journal of Jeffery Amherst, J. C. Webster, ed., Toronto, ONT, Ryerson Press, 1931.

Anderson, Fred: A People's Army. Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1994

Arnold, Benedict: Regimental Memorandum Book. Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. VIII, 1884

Bougainville, Antoine: Adventure in the Wilderness: The American Journals of Louis Antoine de Bougainville. Edward P. Hamilton, ed., Norman, OK, 1968

Coolidge, Guy O.: The French Occupation of the Champlain Valley from 1609 to 1759 Reprint Edition, Harrison, NY, Harbor Hill Books, 1979.

Elting, John R.: The Battles of Saratoga. Monmouth Beach, NJ 1977

Enys, John: The American Journals of Lt. John Enys. Elizabeth Cometti, ed., Syracuse, NY, 1976

Force, Peter: American Archives. Fourth and Fifth Series. Washington, DC, 1839-1848

Franquet, Louis: Voyages et Memoires sur le Canada. Québec,1889

French, Allen: The Taking of Ticonderoga in 1776: The British Story. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1928

Gage, Thomas: The Correspondence of General Thomas Gage. Clarence E. Carter, ed. (2 vols.) New Haven, CT 1931 and 1933.

Gipson, Lawrence Henry: The British Empire before the American Revolution. 15 Vols. Caldwell, Id., Caxton Printers. 1936-70.

Kalm, Peter: Travels into North America. (2 Vols.) New York, NY, Dover Press, 1964

Leach, Douglas E.: Arms for Empire. New York, NY, MacMillan 1973

Morgan, William J., ed.: Naval Documents of the American Revolution. Washington, DC, 1970-1972.

Parkman, Francis: A Half Century of Conflict. Boston, MA, Little, Brown, 1929

____ Montcalm and Wolfe. Boston, Little, Brown, 1930

Roy, Pierre-Georges: Hommes et Choses du Fort St. Frédéric. Montréal, Éditions des Dix, 1946

Stanley, George F: Canada Invaded: 1775-1776. Toronto, ONT, 1973

Stevens, Phineas: "Journal of Phineas Stevens" in Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, Vol 5, 1837, p. 199-205

Ward, Christopher: The War of the Revolution. (2 vols.) New York, NY, Macmillan, 1952.

Washington, Ida H. and Paul A.: Carleton's Raid. Caanan, NH, Phoenix Press, 1977.

INTERNET SOURCES*

Update: January 2016- Unfortunately, the links featured below have expired. No further information is available.

Charles L. Fisher: "...Obliged to live...on the outside of the Fort": A Report on the Soldiers' Huts Found During Archaeological Survey of the Proposed Maintenance Building Site, Crown Point State Historic Site, Essex County, New York. (New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Bureau of Historic Sites, Peebles Island, Waterford, N.Y., February 1993).  Link now expired. Previously available at: ftp://unix2.nysed.gov/pub/nys.agency.pubs/parks/crownpnt.txt

 

Paul R. Huey: A BIBLIOGRAPHY OF REPORTS, PUBLISHED ARTICLES, AND BOOKS RELATING TO THE ARCHEOLOGY OF CROWN POINT STATE HISTORIC SITE THROUGH AUGUST 1996. Link now expired. Previously available at: ftp://unix2.nysed.gov/pub/nys.agency.pubs/parks/crown_pt.txt

Lois Feister: Archeological excavations at the oven ruins in the French fort at Crown Point State Historic Site, Essex County, New York. Link now expired. Previously available at: http://nysdocs.nysed.gov/scandocs1.asp?oclc=43470001

Lois Feister: Archeological excavations at the Crown Point soldiers' barracks, 1976 and 1977. Link now expired. Previously available at: http://nysdocs.nysed.gov/scandocs1.asp?oclc=40833753

Lois M. Feister, Paul R. Huey: The 18th Century Summer House Site at Crown Point State Historic Site: A synthesis of three excavation projects. (New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Bureau of Historic Sites, Peebles Island, Waterford, N.Y., December 1995). Link now expired. Previously available at: http://nysdocs.nysed.gov/scandocs1.asp?oclc=34005826 http

*Internet sources provided courtesy of Paul R. Huey.

---------------------------

Gregory Furness
1998
Last Updated: January 23, 2016

 

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