Mount Independence State Historic Site
"began the works at 3 places on Mount Independence." -
Col. Jeduthan Baldwin, June 20, 1777
On June, 1777, American Chief Engineer Jeduthan Baldwin wrote in his journal, "in the afternoon went with Col. Kosiusko to advise what works had best be done on the mount."
"Kosiusko" was classically trained Polish engineer Thaddeus Kosciuszko, Gen. Horatio Gates assigned him to survey the fortifications at Mount Independence and Fort Ticonderoga and make plans for improvements. The Northern Department of the American Army was on high alert, preparing for the arrival of British Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne, who was sailing south on Lake Champlain to fulfill his plan to split New England off from the rest of the American states. The American defenses along the southern land approach to Mount Independence clearly would not stand up to an enemy trying to encircle the Mount.
A few days later American Maj. Isaac Dunn observed about one hundred men under the direction of Kosciuszko, building three redoubts "in the rear of the Mount, and forming an abbatis." The work progressed rapidly. By about June 23 there were five to six hundred men "employed on the batteries at Mount Independence," and on June 27 Baldwin recorded, "leying platforms on the batteries on the S.E. side of the Mount."
Kosciuszko and Baldwin capitalized on the rugged topography and existing 1776 log and stone breastwork to create a three-level defensive system here. Some of the stonework from the old breastwork can be seen along the edge of the loop at the end of the spur trail. In these classic defenses the front line had cannon, and the second and third lines supported what was in front of them. Well to the rear was the camp, and at the Mount two-story blockhouses armed with more cannon to protect the rear lines.
On the plateau below you is the second, or middle, of the three batteries. The battery wall is built of stone and sod, with remains of the cannon platform foundations near the wall. Built into the stone outcropping immediately below you are traces of building foundations, likely soldier's huts erected by the British and Germans garrisoned here after the Americans withdrew in July 1777.
The three batteries were laid out so the lines of fire intersected with each other. Attacking forces would be subject to a number of cannon as they advanced over the cleared ground in front of the batteries. If the attackers were able to draw closer, soldiers with muskets would open fire.
The American forces never had a real chance to test the batteries they constructed. After they withdrew under the cover of darkness the night of July 5 and 6, 1777, British and German forces encamped in this area. They made good use of these defenses from September 19 to the 21, when the Americans tried to regain Mount Independence and Fort Independence and Fort Ticonderoga. Finally, the British also had to withdraw, on November 8, after the defeat of British Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne at the battles of Saratoga.