Friday, October 04, 2013

Fort Stanwix

In Rome, New York, we spent a morning exploring Fort Stanwix.  Completed in 1762, the British built it to guard a significant portage known as The Oneida Carry during the time of the French and Indian War. It was abandoned and fell into disrepair and then was rebuilt and occupied by the colonists in 1776. The fort was held under seige by the British, Loyalists, and Indians for some time. It later burned to the ground and was abandoned. The National Park Service rebuilt it for the nation's bicentennial celebration in 1976. It is really nicely done, and we enjoyed our time there.

This is a picture of a model of Fort Stanwix, a star fort. The corners were built so that sentries on each could have a 180 degree view. There is a fence, a large ditch, and then the fort with its walls a full 14 feet thick! They were built of wood and filled with earth. It's hard to imagine something of this magnitude being built by sheer manpower.
Wives and children of enlisted men had the great privilege of camping outside the fort, but inside the outer fence. They were often employed washing and mending clothes or cooking for officers. Many soldiers couldn't afford to keep a home for their family, so this enabled them to provide shelter and be nearby.
This dim room was a casemate, where about 40 soldiers cooked and slept, ten to a bed! It was believed at the time that stretching out to sleep was unhealthy, so they slept propped or sitting up. We watched a film about life in the fort and there was certainly nothing glamorous about it. It was a hard and uncomfortable life. After the siege, the American forces expected attack, and for fourteen months kept hundreds of men at the ready. Attack never came, but boredom and cold took its toll on the troops, causing several to desert. They were captured and executed.
It was interesting to see how much nicer the living quarters became as one moved up in rank. This was a Junior Officer room, shared by just two or three men.
Families of higher ranking officers were permitted a small space within the fort. 
Can you imagine what it would have been like for women and children living in a fort in time of war? 
There was a lot for the kids to do, and they were really able to engage with the history of the place. The boys all got dressed up and the park ranger gave them a lesson on musket loading!
Poppy tried her hand at running a hoop.
They all took part in learning how to clean, load, and fire a cannon. The ranger who gave us a tour had plenty of time to talk answer questions. I'm sad that the national parks are all closed due to the government shutdown and all these people are out of work. 
I can't tell you how long Peregrine paced the bridge, keeping guard. He was in full character, thanking people for visiting Fort Stanwix.

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