Continuing on with the 'Revolutionary War' and 'War of 1812' themes, we visited the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes, VT. They focus on the historical role that this area played in both conflicts, as well as general maritime history.
Their extensive collection of boats ranges from excavated, millennia-old Native American vessels to modern, unique ice-yachts. My husband had been quite gung-ho about possibly relocating to this area until he realized that they have an entire season dedicated strictly to ice-based sports...at which point he decided the south was a pretty nice place to be in the winter!There are several outbuildings at the museum, each with a difference focus. At "The Revolutionary War," we learned about Benedict Arnold's role in the Lake Champlain region, and also about a flag that we had never seen.
In the underwater archaeology exhibit, our eldest had a chance to try out a real, antique diving suit. It was so heavy that it took two adults to get it off his head! The museum is a living archaeological site, continually excavating area shipwrecks to add to their collection.
We approached the lake, where they have boats that are used for field trips and various excursions. There were no trips running today, but the guy maintaining the lines took some time to demonstrate how the cannons operated on the smaller ship. Supposedly, this deck would hold 45 men, operating nine cannons, during the War of 1812. Their interest, though, was how loud and how cool the cannons were!
He also took us on a canal boat, which was a bit like an 18th century big rigs - hauling freight from the lake to the Atlantic coastal cities, and back.
We learned about "canal families," who would live full-time on these cargo ships. The parents made a living transporting goods, and the children homeschooled and helped with the daily chores. The kitchen / living area looked way too tiny for me to ever consider this lifestyle. My hat's off to those who endured it!Ultimately, canal life ended, because the government declared homeschooling illegal, and forced the families to send their children to public schools. Let's take a moment, and appreciate the fact that we once again have the freedom to select the best method for our children's education.
Maritime Museum resources :
- Erie Canal mini-lapbook (Free)
Older Kids :
- Underwater Archaeology unit (Free)
- Shipwreck Webcast (Free)
- Boats unit (Free)
- All Hands on Deck unit study (Free)
- Video on Naval History during 1812 (15 min. - free)
The canal was proposed in 1812 and construction authorized in 1817. By 1818, 12 miles were completed and in 1819 the canal was opened from Fort Edward to Lake Champlain. The canal was officially opened on September 10, 1823. It was an immediate financial success and carried substantial commercial traffic until the 1970s.
Today, the enlarged barge canal provides a convenient route from the Atlantic Ocean and Hudson River to Lake Champlain for recreational boaters. By traveling the length of Lake Champlain, boaters can access the Chambly Canal, which connects Lake Champlain to the Saint Lawrence Seaway.