In these days, its hard to ever imagine that the USA was vulnerable to a full scale invasion from an imperial power throughout much of it’s history. In the 1700s and 1800s, the country’s main threat was also its oldest: Great Brittan. Great Brittan had already proven its hostility to the new nation in the War of 1812, and it also threatened to ally with the Confederate states during the Civil War. The constant fear of invasion from British Canada led the US government to build a fort on the border at Lake Champlain. It was named Fort Montgomery, after a Revolutionary War hero who died fighting the British in Quebec. Construction of the fort began in 1844, on the site of a previous fort from 1816, and ended in the 1870’s. Much of the fort was built during the Civil War, when fear of an attack from British Canada was at its peak. Now, just like the hostilities that led to it’s creation, Fort Montgomery is long forgotten.
It’s a long trek through mosquito-filled swamp to reach the island that holds the ruins of Fort Montgomery. After crossing a gravel land bridge that connects the fort’s island to the mainland, I began to see ruined stone pieces, and eventually one of the walls looming over the mote. The first part of the fort I encountered was a long series of arches, containing the remains of supply cabinets as well as slits in the wall, through which rifles could be aimed.
The first thing I noticed when i entered the main hallways was the evenly spaced windows looking out on a spectacular view of Lake Champlain. These windows, while framing beautiful views today, once were the openings for massive artillery pieces. Back in the day, the fort held 125 of these massive guns. The next thing I noticed was much less sinister: an extremely ornate brick roof with gentle arches(even though it was unnerving to see it on the verge of collapse.) Its strange that a place designed for war would have had such amazing architecture and design.
The once spectacular halls of the fort are now dark and gloomy
The fort was in very poor condition. There were many places on the second floor where i did not walk, as the floor appeared to be ready to collapse at any moment. It was not uncommon for me to have to crawl under and over fallen debris from previous collapses. I hope that someone preserves this beautiful work of architecture and important piece of history.
If you decide to visit Fort Montgomery, please watch your step through the crumbling ruins. There is also an abundance of poison ivy on the way to the fort.
Thanks for the read!