Walking the Knox Trail: A Heroic Journey Then, It’s No Less Heroic Now
Traveling overland from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston may not be as arduous for re-enactor Dave Fagerberg as it was for General Henry Knox, whose route he is tracing.
As every school boy knows (or once knew), Knox left Fort Ticonderoga in the winter of 1775 at the head of a train of artillery, which General George Washington had ordered him to bring to Boston in the hopes that it could be used to dislodge the British.
Knox, though, was spared some of the challenges and indignities encountered by Fagerberg as he walks along Route 9N, clad in the wool uniform of a soldier in the Continental army. Among them: automobile, motorcycle and truck traffic, heat and summer insects. (To which one might add: stupid questions, such as, ‘are you a pirate?)
And at least Knox had company. He was accompanied by his brother, a servant and whatever crew he could muster at Ticonderoga to make the journey with him. Fagerberg, a retired insurance executive from Kansas, is walking unaccompanied, although a friend, Judy DeAngelis, is following by car.
“You have to like to walk,” conceded Fagerberg, stating he usually covers about ten miles a day.
“Walking is a culture in itself; I get to appreciate the details you miss if you’re driving, such as mountain springs and wooded areas. And getting a glimpse of Lake George isn’t a bad deal, either,” he said.
In 2006, Fagerberg was one of a group of re-enactors who hiked the 700-mile revolutionary trail from Providence, Rhode Island to Yorktown, Virginia to celebrate the 225th anniversary of Cornwall’s defeat. Thanks in part to the publicity generated by that trek, President Obama designated the route a national historic trail in 2009.
“Walking these historic trails has become something of a niche for me,” said Fagerberg. “It’s great to be able to walk them while I still can.”
Fagerberg left Fort Ticonderoga on July 8, passing through Ticonderoga, Hague, Silver Bay and Lake George Village in the days that followed.
His goal is to make stops at each of the fifty-six monuments erected in New York State and Massachusetts along the trail that Knox was believed to have followed on his way to Boston.
Installed in the 1920s, the monuments contain identical bronze plaques that read: ”Through this place passed General Henry Knox in the winter of 1775 – 1776 to deliver to General George Washington at Cambridge the Train of Artillery from Fort Ticonderoga used to force the British army to evacuate Boston.”
After visiting the monuments at Fort Ticonderoga and Mossy Point, Fagerberg walked south to Sabbath Day Point, in search of a monument he knew was there.
(While Fagerberg walked from Ticonderoga to Lake George, Knox made the journey by boat. At Mossy Point, a flotilla consisting of a scow and bateaux had been assembled for the trip to Fort George, at the head of the lake. On December 9, Knox went ashore at Sabbath Day Point, where he and his companions “warm’d ourselves by an exceeding good fire in an hut made by some civil indians who were with their Ladies abed – they gave us some Vension, roasted after their manner which was very relishing.”)
The monument at Sabbath Day Point was difficult to locate because it sits on private land.
“Finding it was the high point of the first two days,” said Fagerberg. “I told a young man in the house he should be honored to have such an important monument in his back yard.”
Fagerberg then walked over Tongue Mountain to Bolton Landing.
“I carry the flag of George Washington’s headquarters, so I’m visible to most people. Some people honk and wave, others just zoom by, busy getting to wherever they’re going,” he said.
Once he reaches a hamlet such as Bolton Landing or Lake George Village, Fagerberg’s interactions with the public become more frequent.
“If people stop me and ask what I’m doing, I try to educate them about Knox and the trail,” said Fagerberg. “I first learned about Knox from a television mini-series from the 1970s, so I’m surprised more people aren’t familiar with him.”
Fagerberg said he appreciated the hospitality shown to him along the way.
“I’m doing this strictly on my budget, and I’m spending a lot to make it happen. So when people ask to pick up my tab in a restaurant or deli, I’m grateful,” he said.
Henry Knox and his men marched for 56 days straight before they reached Dorchester Heights with the cannon, which did, in fact, persuade the British to abandon their position in Boston.
Fagerberg, however, will complete the journey in stages, returning to the trail in Massachusetts sometime in August.
“I’m looking forward to meeting with a historian in western Massachusetts, who will help me find pieces of the original trail, which are off in the woods,” he said.
And he welcomes the opportunity to meet with local historical societies and similar groups.
“These people really care about their history; they almost wish they could go with you,” said Fagerberg.