19. A Day’s Outing to Fort Edward and Lake George, NY

(Total distance to and from: 130 miles; total drive time, depending on the length of your stop-offs, 7-9 hours)

Some sunny morning soon during good weather, plan to take a lovely rural drive to Fort Edward  NY, along the highways  described in “Hasty History Hikes This Summer”  (Fort Edward is about 50 miles distant and slightly less than two hours travel time from Williamstown). Review again in Chapters 1 and 2 above, Fort Edward’s strategic importance to  British imperialist politics in North America  during the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars.

Unfortunately, not much of the 18th-century past is still to be seen in Fort Edward,  but it can still be felt if you contemplate the town’s favorite tale of terror, the tragic murder of Jane McCrea on July 27, 1777.  Just a few miles north of town along rte 4, the remains of Jane McCrea are “supposedly” interred in the Union Cemetery. Why  “supposedly” ? Read the story in Chapter 12 and meditate not only about her terrible full-bodied fate, but the post-mortem fate of her detached bones, stolen from her grave and distributed as holy relics!

Now push on a mile or two further north on rte 4 to  Hudson Falls and there turn west on rte 32 for the brief drive to Glens Falls. If you have time and the inclination, be sure to visit the Hyde Art Museum there – a small but precious collection of 19th and 20th century French and American paintings plus interesting examples from other earlier styles including a putative Rembrandt.The Museum is open every day except Mondays and national holidays, 10am-4pm, Tuesday through Friday; 12n-5pm Saturdays and Sundays.

Next drive north for 15 more miles to Lake George along rte 9 (do not be diverted  to NY thruway 87).  Just about half way or 6 miles on this old portage road (but now another  busy NY highway) above Glens Falls), you can still imagine yourself,  along with Colonel Ephraim Williams and his thousand Massachusetts militia including loyal Indians under their chief King Hendrick,  blindly marching into an ambush  set by the French and their Indian allies on September 7, 1755. The latter, hiding behind trees in this once dense forest on either side of the trail, utterly surprised the colonials.  Williams himself was fatally shot.  Also killed was King Hendrick. Williams’ troops scattered in disarray, but a few brave soldiers did manage to secure  their commander’s body and hurriedly bury it nearby. The original crude stone marker  is still to be seen in an off-road memorial along the west side of rte 9 just across the street from the current King Hendrick Motor Lodge.

The short battle, over in only a matter of minutes, has ever since been known as “Bloody Morning Scout.”  It was fought in the same vicinity as the grave, and some yards away on the east  side of the highway. You can find the modern monument, rather obscured in the woods yet perched loftily on the very rock on which Colonel Williams stood when felled by that fatal shot.

In spite of the rout, the remaining militia aided by the British regulars who were at that same moment constructing a fort on the south shore of Lake George, rallied and decisively defeated the French on the next day. The many dead of  both combatants during these forty-eight hours  of intense fighting were supposedly thrown into a fetid swamp just off the east side of the highway ever since identified as “Bloody Pond.” It’s well marked by a highway historical sign.

Time permitting, you might still be able to visit reconstructed Fort William Henry four miles further up rte 9  and right on the south shore of Lake George. There you can relive another  great battle fought  again  in the following year, 1756. The French attacked and this time after a prolonged fight did overcome the British and destroy the fort. The defeated red-coats and their families, under a flag of truce, were supposedly allowed to depart in freedom, but on the trail to Fort Edward they were suddenly beset and many massacred and scalped, a dramatic betrayal that inspired J. Fenimore Cooper to write “The Last of the Mohicans” (see again Chapter 4 above).  The present reconstruction of the fort is open daily with costumed performers demonstrating  18th century military life.

If you simply reverse the order of this trip, seeing all of the above on the way home from Lake George, which you can still comfortably accomplish before 6 pm, plan to begin your day by first taking a wonderful 2-hour luncheon cruise on Lake George, where you may view  the colorful autumn foliage along its narrow shores from the comfortable deck of the steamer “Lac du Saint Sacrement.”  Start from Williamstown at 9 am, and drive straight to Lake George without stopping. You will arrive there at approximately 11 am.

The boat docks right in front of re-constructed Fort William Henry, and departs every day at 12 noon.  Luncheon cruises, Monday through Saturday, cost $31.50 per adult and $15.50 per child under 11. On Sundays, a champagne brunch is served @ $41.50 per adult and $19.75 per child.  Each trip lasts two hours and is most spectacular during the leaf-peeping season, which ends with the last voyage on  October 9.   So hurry and make your reservations now;  call 1-800-553-2628 or 1-518-668-5777.

Related Post