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Legacy of Fort William Henry

Resurrecting the Past

David R. Starbuck

Publication Year: 2014

Fort William Henry, America’s early frontier fort at the southern end of Lake George, New York, was a flashpoint for conflict between the British and French empires in America. The fort is perhaps best known as the site of a massacre of British soldiers by Native Americans allied with the French that took place in 1757. Over the past decade, new and exciting archeological findings, in tandem with modern forensic methods, have changed our view of life at the fort prior to the massacre, by providing physical evidence of the role that Native Americans played on both sides of the conflict.

Intertwining recent revelations with those of the past, Starbuck creates a lively narrative beginning with the earliest Native American settlement on Lake George. He pays special attention to the fort itself: its reconstruction in the 1950s, the major discoveries of the 1990s, and the archeological disclosures of the past few years. He further discusses the importance of forensic anthropology in uncovering the secrets of the past, reviews key artifacts discovered at the fort, and considers the relevance of Fort William Henry and its history in the twenty-first century. Three appendixes treat exhibits since the 1950s; foodways; and General Daniel Webb’s surrender letter of August 17, 1757.

Published by: University Press of New England


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

What makes a fort “great”? What causes it to be remembered for hundreds of years? How can the events that occurred at a frontier fort change the course of a war and make it one of the signature events in American history? And how do we avoid all of the myths and fanciful stories that surround a famous historical event? ...

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1 The Brief Life of a Frontier Fort

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pp. 1-8

This is how Fort William Henry first appeared to Hawk-eye, the noble protagonist in James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel, The Last of the Mohicans. Then, the edge of Lake George lay somewhat closer to the fort than it does today, and the “entrenched camp” located to the southeast contained reinforcements recently arrived from Fort Edward, ...

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2 Beginnings: Native Americans on Lake George

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pp. 9-18

When Fort William Henry was being reconstructed in the 1950s, Native American hearths and prehistoric artifacts were found virtually everywhere on the fort grounds, and some of the best of these finds are on exhibit at the fort today in both the East and the North Barracks (fig. 2.1). ...

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3 The Reconstruction of the Fort in the 1950s

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pp. 19-28

Carleton Dunn (fig. 3.1) was twenty years old when he was hired in 1953 by the team that was rebuilding Fort William Henry. He had often worked as a lifeguard on the beach below, where he had found several shipwrecks, but now he was allowed to dig inside the fort in the ruins of both the South Barracks and the East Barracks (Dunn, personal communication, July 19, 2012). ...

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4 The 1990s: Archeology inside Barracks, Dumps, and a Well

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pp. 29-42

It was the summer of 1997, and I was crouched inside the fort’s well (fig. 4.1). Much, much earlier, in 1756, Rogers’s Rangers had dug this stone-lined well, and it had never provided enough water. Now I had descended into the well, hoping to find artifacts from the time period of the fort and maybe even the remains of a massacre victim or two. ...

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5 New Archeology at the Fort: 2011–12

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pp. 43-58

Do archeologists ever find something that is truly unique? There really are times when a lucky find causes us to be absolutely thrilled, surprised, and profoundly curious all at the same time. In the summer of 2011, when one of our field supervisors, Lauren Sheridan, discovered a brass arrowhead in the ruins of the East Barracks at the fort (fig. 5.1), ...

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6 The Dead Have Stories to Tell: Forensic Anthropology at the Fort

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pp. 59-70

On March 29, 2012, the National Geographic Channel aired a program titled “The Last Mohican?” in its cold-case forensics series, The Decrypters. New research conducted on one of the human skeletons discovered at Fort William Henry, identified as “Burial 14,” had just revealed the DNA of a Native American who had been buried in the British cemetery outside the fort. ...

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7 Artifacts Discovered at the Fort

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pp. 71-94

Every summer that we dig at Fort William Henry, we have operated a field laboratory somewhere on the grounds of the fort, either within a reconstructed barracks building or inside the Cemetery Building that is south of the fort’s parking lot (fig. 7.1). ...

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8 Why Is Fort William Henry Relevant Today?

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pp. 95-100

After purchasing their tickets, modern visitors to Fort William Henry walk across the parade ground to the audiovisual room and watch an introductory film that provides a context for everything that they will see and experience over the next one to two hours. ...

Appendix 1 | The Exhibits at Fort William Henry

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pp. 101-112

Appendix 2 | Foodways at Fort William Henry: An Interim Progress Report

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pp. 113-118

Appendix 3 | Major General Daniel Webb's Surrender Letter, August 17, 1757

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pp. 119-122

Further Reading

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pp. 123-126


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pp. 127-130

E-ISBN-13: 9781611685480
E-ISBN-10: 1611685486
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611685473

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 883168944
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Legacy of Fort William Henry

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Subject Headings

  • Fort William Henry (N.Y.) -- Capture, 1757.
  • United States -- History -- French and Indian War, 1754-1763 -- Antiquities.
  • New York (State) -- History -- French and Indian War, 1754-1763 -- Antiquities.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- New York (State) -- Fort William Henry.
  • Fort William Henry (N.Y.) -- Antiquities.
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