Fort Blunder

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(Host) Today Commentator Joe Citro tells us about a historic fort on Lake Champlain.

(Citro) The first time I saw it was by accident. I was driving west on route 2, crossing the Rousses Point Bridge from Alburg into New York state – and there it was. A massive, spooky-looking ruin. It’s sprawling rock walls were so overgrown with vegetation that it looked like part of the landscape. But I have an eye for such things and a habit of infuriating drivers behind me with my sudden stops.

It looked like a great stone castle magically floating on Lake Champlain. Though I had driven over the bridge before, I’d never noticed it. Could I be seeing some sort of north country Brigadoon?

No, it was definitely of this world, but where?

Was it in Vermont? New York? Or possibly on some unclaimed Champlain island? But as I quickly learned, location has always been part of its problem.

A little research revealed that I had happened upon Fort Montgomery.

America had built it at this strategic point where New York, Vermont, Lake Champlain and Canada all come together.

During the Revolutionary War, the British moved troops down from Canada at this point. During the War of 1812, British again sailed south on the Lake.

So in 1816 America decided to erect a 50-cannon fort before England – or Canada – got any more ideas.

Construction on Fort Montgomery began and was well underway, when, in 1819, a land survey of the 45th parallel revealed – much to the chagrin of the U.S. War Department – that America had built its fort in Canada. The British had taken Fort Montgomery without firing a shot.

Since then – and with good reason – everyone has called it “Fort Blunder.” In 1842, the Webster-Ashburton Treaty officially restored Fort Blunder to the United States, but by then we didn’t need it.

Historically, no battles were ever fought there but it’s still a dangerous place. It’s a ruin in the process of collapsing. Today it’s privately owned and posted against trespassers.

Fort Blunder is a historic site well worth seeing, but please, observe it from a distance.

This is Joe Citro.

Author and historian Jim Millard will present a lecture about Fort Blunder on Wednesday, May 12 7 pm at the Rouses Point Elementary School auditorium in Rouses Point, NY. For information contact Jody Maloy at Council on the Arts for Clinton County, 518-563-5222.

Novelist Joe Citro is a native Vermonter. He lives in Burlington.

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