What is being touted as America's first Revolutionary victory will be celebrated Saturday when 85 duly-certified descendants of Colonial warriors troop across Lake Champlain to re-enact — three times — the capture of Ft. Ticonderoga.
It didn't take three tries to overwhelm the sleepy British garrison inhabiting what in 1775, 20 years after it was built, had turned into "an amazing useless mass of earth," as a doughty Royal Engineer noted at the time.
In an early-morning surprise attack Col. Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, accompanied by three men from Pittsfield and three from Williamstown, wound up taking 60 tons of cannon and several dilapidated earthworks without firing a shot.
But assemblers of the affair, New York state's first bicentennial event, want to insure that the thousands expected to show up all get a chance to hear a latter-day Allen demand surrender, with characteristic aplomb, "in the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress." So they've scheduled it for three times.
The first re-enactment will be at 4 a.m. Saturday, 200 years to the hour after Allen, Benedict Arnold and Pittsfield stalwarts John Brown and James Easton entered the fort. Two more will take place at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; associated events will occur throughout the day.
Although bicentennial buffs have been searching through ancestral closets to claim a place in the intrepid band crossing the lake Saturday, none have named any of the six Berkshirites in the original rebel force as ancestors.
According to accounts of the capture, the taking of "Fort Ti" was planned by John Brown, a young Pittsfield lawyer, and James Easton, who owned a tavern near the current site of the Berkshire Museum.
A plaque near the museum says the pair met at the tavern on May 1, 1775, to plot the capture; other accounts report that both met here with Allen two months before, after Brown had returned from a mission to Canada, authorized by the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, to probe Canadian sentiment for the war.
Accounts of the planning in the collection of the Berkshire Athenaeum don't say precisely who first thought of the capture. Brown could have learned of the fort's importance during the trip north.
But Allen must have first suggested the plan, and may have had an ulterior motive as well: one of his biographers reports that Allen owned land on Grand Isle and Shelburne Point, separated from Ticonderoga only by the waters of the lake.