Historic Fort Edward & Rogers Island
Native Americans began hunting and fishing on Rogers Island and along the Hudson River near what would later become Fort Edward at least 6000 years ago. Archaeologists have unearthed thousands of stone tools, pottery sherds and other artifacts as well as features like hearths from the Late Archaic, Transitional, Middle Woodland and Late Woodland Periods.
These first indigenous inhabitants left behind their hearths, trash pits, stone tools, and pottery as they hunted, fished and traveled in the area. They continued to visit this area until shortly before the first Europeans arrived around the turn of the 18th century AD.
The Great Carrying Place
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans in the area referred to the area around Fort Edward as Wahcoloosencoochaleva “The Great Carrying Place.” The Hudson River is not navigable north of Fort Edward due to waterfalls and rapids, making further travel by water impossible. To continue to the north, Native Americans carried their canoes overland to Lake George or Lake Champlain. This path to the north was part of a Native American route through the Hudson and Champlain Valleys know as the “Great War Path”
Historic Fort Edward and its Predecessors
Fort Edward was not the first fortification built during the colonial era. Fort Nicholson, a stockade built in 1709 during Queen Anne’s War was garrisoned by as many as 450 men. After its abandonment Fort Lydius was constructed as a trading post by John Henry Lydius in 1731. During the French & Indian War, Fort Lyman was built under the direction of General Phineas Lyman on the east bank of the Hudson River. On September 21, 1755 it was renamed renamed Fort Edward in honor of Prince Edward, the grandson of King George II and younger brother of King George the III.
Role in the French & Indian War
During the French & Indian War, Fort Edward and Rogers Island’s strategic location led to the construction of one of the largest British military complexes in North America. Construction extended to what would come to be called Rogers Island where additional barracks, storage buildings, hospitals and a blockhouse were built. Thousands of troops encamped in and around the fort, on the banks of the Hudson and on Rogers Island adjacent to the fort. Fort Edward eventually became the staging ground for invasions northward into French Canada by the British and provincial troops who would eventually drive the French out of New France. During the height of troop build up in 1757, when the population was estimated at 16,000, Fort Edward was the third largest city in the colonies behind only New York City and Boston. Philip Schuyler, Israel Putnam and Paul Revere were all stationed at Fort Edward during the French & Indian War before becoming officers in the Revolutionary War. Although there was never a battle fought on Rogers Island, it was the largest hospital complex, supplies depot and training base of the war.
From 1756 to 1759 Rogers Island was the base camp for Major Robert Rogers and his company of Rangers, the first U.S. Army Rangers. On October 25, 1757, Rogers wrote to Lord Loudon detailing his “Ranging Rules” which instructed his men on forest warfare based on tactics he developed from fighting methods used by Native Americans. This new method of training and rules of order were very different than the methods the British used on the battlefield. Irregular fighting forces would later use his rules, which would become more commonly known as standing orders, as the basis of military tactics around the world. His rules are still the standing orders in use by the U.S. Army Rangers today.
Abandonment of the Fort
In 1766, after the French & Indian War was over, Fort Edward was ordered evacuated and its stores were moved to the British fort at Crown Point, leaving Fort Edward to decay. Although the fort itself was in ruins during the Revolutionary War, Fort Edward remained strategically located on the Great Military Warpath and troops garrisoned in the remaining barracks on the island. In 1777 they were forced to flee when General John Burgoyne’s army passed through en route to Saratoga.
Much of what we know about Rogers Island and Fort Edward during both the prehistoric and historical time periods comes from the archaeological research conducted by Dr. David Starbuck. Click to here learn more.
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