May 2005
Educators' Newsletter
In this issue


The Gunboat Philadelphia,
by Philip Lundeberg

Read about the American gunboat Philadelphia, her dramatic sinking at the Battle of Valcour in 1776, and her discovery and display in the twentieth century.

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Educators receive a 10% discount on all purchases!

In the Champlain Valley!

Fantasy meets history as costumed pirate crews storm the Maritime Museum at the
Kids Maritime Festival,
June 18 & 19, 2005.


The word pooped derives from the Latin puppis, meaning the stern or aftermost part of a vessel. The poop deck is the short, aftermost deck raised above the quarterdeck of a sailing ship. A ship is said to be pooped when a wave is so large that it breaks over her stern onto the poop deck. The word is used ashore to describe a person who has taken a figurative beating and is overwhelmed by exhaustion.

From When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There's the Devil to Pay,
by Olivia A. Isil.
Available at LCMM, 802-475-2022.





Lab Conserves 200-Year Old Bridge Timber

A 26-foot long timber floated up on the shores of Lake Champlain near Fort Ticonderoga early in the winter of 2004. Examination by Fort Ticonderoga staff members revealed that it was a portion of one of the cassions from the bridge built by Revolutionary War soldiers in the winter of 1776-1777. In December, through an agreement with the New York State Museum and Fort Ticonderoga, the 18-inch square timber was brought to the Conservation Lab at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for cleaning, stabilization, and display.

The timber is most likely one of the lower timbers used in the construction of one of the twenty-two cassions that supported a floating bridge connecting the fortifications at Fort Ticonderoga, New York and Mount Independence, Vermont. The bridge was constructed to join the two American positions as well as to obstruct the movement of British vessels up the lake.

Due to the fact that the timber was never truly waterlogged (it floated on its own), and that it had begun to dry on the shore prior to its discovery and transportation to the Conservation Lab, the stabilization of the wood is fairly passive. The eastern hemlock from which the timber was crafted is in wonderful shape and is quite hard, with little surface damage. Therefore our conservation focuses on controlling the rate of drying by keeping the timber encapsulated and monitoring the amount of moisture present in the wood. The slower the wood is allowed to dry the less risk there is of significant shrinkage of the artifact. If any of the surfaces of the timber show damage from the drying a consolidant will be applied to insure its integrity.

The timber is currently on display for public viewing at our Basin Harbor, VT site until facilities at Fort Ticonderoga become available.

Learn More about the Fight for Independence in our area with a Field Trip
1776: The Revolutionary War in the Champlain Valley


Bridge on the Ice: an American Defense in 1777

During the early years of the Revolutionary War, fortifications at the narrows of Lake Champlain were the northernmost line of defense separating the British forces from the heart of the American colonies.

Following the defeat of Benedict Arnold's fleet at the Battle of Valcour, a log and chain boom and a floating bridge were constructed between Fort Ticonderoga on the New York shore and Mount Independence in Vermont to block ship traffic.

Construction of the caissons began in 1777 under the direction of engineer Jeduthan Baldwin. The 2,500 American troops worked throughout the winter felling trees and hauling stone. Work began by cutting a large hole in the ice, roughly 30 feet square. A raft of timbers was built into this hole and stone was added until the raft began to sink. Onto this they added another level of timbers, followed by more stones. This technique continued until the base of the cassion settled into the sediment at the bottom of the lake and several feet were above the water line. In all, the bridge consisted of 22 of these massive log caissons, each 24 feet square, and some as much as 35 feet tall. A floating bridge was then assembled and attached to the cassions to allow the movement of troops and supplies between the fortifications.

It was not to last the season, however. The British invaded in July 1777, before the permanent bridge was completed. The floating walkway served as an escape route for the retreating Americans. Troops streamed across the bridge from the New York shore, many dumping the supplies they carried into the lake as they crossed. Then, as British General Burgoyne reported, "the boom and one of the intermediate floats [of the bridge] were cut with great dispatch ... a passage was formed in half an hour ... through impediments which the enemy had been laboring to construct since last autumn."

Many of these artifacts and the bridge cassions themselves were documented during an archaeological examination carried out by the LCMM in 1992 and 1993. One of the bridge timbers washed ashore in 2004 and is now on display at LCMM's Basin Harbor site.

Phone: 802-475-2022