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NEWS | Sept. 21, 2020

Future New York Guard leaders learn lessons at Ticonderoga

By Sgt. Matthew Gunther New York National Guard

TICONDEROGA, NY – New York Army National Guard Soldiers selected as company commanders and first sergeants visited one of America’s most historic sites Sept. 16 to learn lessons from the past to apply to their future commands.

Three dozen students in the Company Commander and First Sergeant Pre-Command Course spent the day at Fort Ticonderoga, the site of pivotal battles in the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.

“It’s really interesting to me how much we relate to these guys so many years later,” said Capt. Andrew Carter of Schenectady.

Built by the French between 1755 and 1757, the fort controlled the portage route between Lake Champlain and Lake George. It was dubbed the Gibraltar of North America, and control of the fort allowed armies to move south from Canada to Albany and the Hudson Valley.

In 1759, 4,000 French Soldiers defeated 16,000 British and Americans who attempted to take the fort. And in 1776, the American Army surrendered the fort to the British.

But the pivotal American success at Ticonderoga came in May 1775. The Vermont militia, known as the Green Mountain Boys and led by Ethan Allen, along with militiamen from Connecticut and Massachusetts led by Col. Benedict Arnold, took the fort from a 48-man British garrison at the start of the American Revolution. The two debated who was in charge but eventually decided to cooperate on the attack on the fort.

The attack was critical in seizing the artillery pieces needed for the siege of British forces at Boston.

After crossing Lake Champlain from Vermont, Arnold and Allen surprised the commander of the British garrison in his bed and took control of the fort “in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress,” according to Allen.

After the British surrendered, the Americans celebrated, getting drunk on 90 gallons of rum stored at the fort.

Eventually, the cannons at the fort were hauled across snowy New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts and emplaced on the heights above Boston by Henry Knox, the commander of the Continental Army’s artillery. The threat of those guns forced the British to leave Boston on March 17, 1776.

The history of that 1775 raid was the focus of instruction for the New York Army Guard officers and NCOs.

“I love delving into the many battles that took place here, such as Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen taking the fort from the British in 1775,” said Capt. Joshua Williams. “This allowed them to send the cannons to Boston, which they used to drive the British from the city, a pivotal moment in American history.”

“From the point of view of the leadership at the time, their challenges to overcome weren’t much different than ours,” Carter said. “There is a lot to be learned from the choices they made.”

The Soldiers flew in UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from Saratoga County Airport to Ticonderoga, providing them with an impressive aerial view of the site.

Capt. Ryan Gonch of Albany said he enjoyed the dynamic nature of the day’s events.

“It’s a microcosm of our job as leaders. We began the day with transporting this group in UH-60’s to this site, which has its own set of challenges,” he said. “Then we get here and must change gears to absorb the history and lessons learned from this historic site.”



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