Baum Site 1 Part III: Waterways of War

The super-powers of the 18th century fought for their empires, and the destiny of North America, along the waterways of New York State. Today, the New York Byway known as Lakes to Locks Passage unifies the interconnected waterway of the upper Hudson River, Champlain Canal, Lake George, and Lake Champlain; this waterway is the core of North America’s first "super-highway" between New York and the Canadian province of Quebec. In 1609, Henry Hudson traveled north along the Hudson River, claiming territory for the Dutch as New Netherland. In the same year, Samuel de Champlain traveled south from Quebec, staking claims for France along the Richelieu River and northern Lake Champlain. When Champlain joined his Huron and Montaignais Indian guides in a battle with a party of Iroquois Indians, the stage was set for two centuries of conflict.

Over fifty years later, the Dutch ceded control of their territory to the British, who renamed the land New York. The British continued to claim territory as they moved north along the Upper Hudson River, Lake George and the southern reaches of Lake Champlain. Simultaneously, the French traveled down from Quebec, and built forts to stake their claims to the new lands along the Richelieu River and northern Lake Champlain. But with the defeat of France during the French and Indian War in 1763, a majority of the North American continent fell under British control, and the fortifications fell into disuse. However, the British government had to address the mounting debt accumulated from seven years of warfare on two continents, plus the continued cost of maintaining a military presence in North America to protect the colonists. They did this by taxing the colonists but did not allow them a voice in the government.

Thus, a new conflict began to brew – one between the American colonists and the British motherland. The rallying cry of “taxation without representation” drove the establishment of Provincial Congresses, which undermined the authority of the Provincial Governor appointed by the King. In 1775, British troops set course for Boston to capture Rebel leaders and their arsenal in an attempt to bring the colonies back under the Crown's control. The American Revolution was underway, but from the British perspective, this was a civil war that needed to end quickly.

Learn More: Geography of the Waterways

 

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