During the French and Indian War, Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain in New York was considered the Gibraltar of America for its strategic location between the French territories in Canada and English colonies in America. Although it was partially destroyed by the French following the 1763 Treaty of Paris, it continued to hold weapons and a few British soldiers – mostly those considered not up to the task of real military service – up until the American Revolution. Though not in a geographically significant location anymore, it was still considered noteworthy by some American military personnel.
Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain
After the April 19, 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord, militiamen from around New England mobilized and descended on Boston, where British forces were effectively cut off from all land supply routes. Over the next 11 months, both sides pretty much just stared at each other with the occasional foray and skirmish with no major territorial gains or losses for either side. Well, Boston was a pretty big deal and George Washington wanted it.
Shortly after Boston was surrounded by the militias, a handful of individuals separately came to the conclusion that Fort Ticonderoga needed to be taken. Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen led the attack on the fort on May 10, 1775, which succeeded with only one minor injury on the American side. The fort was raided for all its supplies, including its 60 tons of heavy artillery. Between November 1775 and February 1776, Colonel Henry Knox dragged the 60 tons of weapons hundreds of miles over rough terrain and over two frozen rivers to Boston. After proposing several attack plans, which were all rejected by his officers, Washington opted to fortify the nearby Dorchester Heights with the artillery from Ticonderoga.
On March 2, 1776, the Americans began to bombard the British in Boston below. The two sides exchanged cannon fire for the next several days and on March 8, the British sent a letter to George Washington saying that if they were allowed to leave Boston in peace, they would not destroy the town. After several attempts to withdraw from Boston were ruined by storms, the British were finally able to leave on March 17 with more than 11,000 soldiers, women, and children on 120 ships.
An artist's rendition of the British Evacuation of Boston
After 11 months the standoff was finally over thanks to the British’s own cannons, which were taken from them at Fort Ticonderoga by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen, dragged hundreds of miles by Henry Knox and his men from New York in the winter, and used against them in Boston. In many ways, the measures taken to push the British out of Boston showed the resolve of the new Continental Army and paved the way for American success in the Revolutionary War.