Mount Independence State Historic Site is one of the nation’s most significant Revolutionary War sites, offering six miles of trails along the archaeological remains of the fortification. Jointly owned and managed by the State of Vermont’s Division for Historic Preservation and the Fort Ticonderoga Association, Mount Independence documents the critical efforts to defend northern New York, New England, and the cause of American liberty.
From July 1776 to July 1777, the fate of the newly independent United States of America rested on this rocky peninsula on the east side of Lake Champlain, located in what is today Orwell, Vermont. This strong defensive position was first called East Point or Rattlesnake Hill but was renamed Mount Independence after the Declaration of Independence was read to the soldiers assembled here. Lieutenant Colonel Jeduthan Baldwin of Massachusetts, chief engineer of the American Northern Army, with assistance from Thaddaeus Kosciusko, designed the sophisticated three-tier defensive system at Mount Independence. By late October 1776, three brigades had completed encampments, the large shore batter and horseshoe-shaped battery, and began a picket fort in the center of the Mount. The sight of Mount Independence, Fort Ticonderoga, and 12,000 assembled troops proved so impressive that British General Guy Carleton and his fleet abandoned an attempted invasion, retreating to Canada for the winter. The American soldiers strategically retreated in July 1777 as the German and British troops occupied the area. Over a period of four months, the enemy strengthened the defenses to withstand an American counterattack as the bulk of the invading army under British General John Burgoyne marched south to defeat at Bennington and ultimately to surrender at Saratoga.
Transformed through farming and overgrowth for over a century, the former defense was preserved in 1911 when Stephen Pell of Fort Ticonderoga purchased the northern 113 acres of Mount Independence. In 1961, the State of Vermont began buying parcels of the southern section. Today, history and nature unite at Mount Independence with a one-of-a-kind experience recounting the gripping story of this significant Revolutionary War fortification and the lives of the soldiers who battled to survive the challenges of war and Mother Nature. Each year special events include guided nature and history hikes on the site’s trails, historical lectures, archaeological investigations, Soldiers Atop the Mount living history weekend, and the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence. The Baldwin Trail, opened in 2007, meets outdoor trail standards for handicapped accessibility.