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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Tour of Ranger Island — CONTEST! UPDATED


Who wants to go with me to visit Fort Elizabeth/Fort Edward and Ranger Island? Grab your soft drinks and Doritos because today we’re taking a MacKinnon’s Rangers road trip!

OK, really we’re just taking advantage of Google Earth. I wanted to share with you a bird’s eye view of this part of New York that has become so special to me through the years — Fort Edward and Rogers Island. It occurs to me that this is kind of silly because I have actually on-the-ground images of all of these things taken from my trips to Fort Edward. But somehow it felt like I was taking you there with me when I discovered last night that I could actually look at Rogers Island via Google.

In the original published versions of Surrender and Untamed, I changed their names to Fort Elizabeth and Ranger Island. In the new author’s cut of Surrender and UntamedSurrender is out in five days!!! — I’ve changed Fort Elizabeth to Fort Edward but left Ranger Island because then everyone just wonders who Rogers is (a good thing to wonder, by the way). This made some folks in Fort Edward happy, because they live in one of the most important historic places in the United States — and no one has ever heard of them. And then a novelist writes a story about them, but calls them something else...

You can see how they might not like that so very much.

Without further ado, let’s rev the engine and hit the highway.

At top, you get a good overview of Ranger Island/Rogers Island. It sits in the middle of the Hudson River near the Great Carrying Place where Native people had to get out of their canoes and portage for a time. Fort Edward stood to the right of Rogers Island. The whole area is now the town of Fort Edward, but the fort itself stood not where the red dot is, but more where Highway 4 jogs to the right across from the island.

Think of the fort with a wide open plain in front of it used for drills. Beyond that on all sides is forest. Off to the left of the island and to the northeast stood a royal block house, completed in 1758 — I am winging the history, by the way, but I think that’s right — which made this spot the most heavily fortified British military position in North America.

In other words, what you are looking at is arguably the most important spot for the British during the French and Indian War. (Fort Pitt, featured in Ride the Fire, and Fort Detroit were also important).

But let’s move in closer and let the veil of history rise, giving us a peek back at the world of Iain, Morgan and Connor MacKinnon, and their adversary, Lord William Wentworth...



We come in from Albany, a port city that until recently belonged to the Dutch. We see mighty Fort Edward standing near that dark patch (center right) with the Union Flag flying from one of the fort’s bastions. There, in the river we see a long, narrow island, Ranger Island, that bustles with activity.





Ranger Island is connected to the fort by a bateau bridge that stands about in the middle of the photo there. Made of small boats, or bateaux, that have been lashed together and covered with planks that are also lashed together, it gives the Rangers a way to get to the plain north of the fort to practice shooting at marks, which they do frequently.

In the winter, ice floes sometimes clog the Hudson, and the bridge would have been relatively easy to remove to prevent the floes from crushing it or damming the river and flooding the island (which happened often anyway).

Let’s move in closer...


Here you can see the actual site of the Rangers’ encampment. The three white squares are excavated Ranger cabins that would have been used by enlisted men. They stood in rows, sharing walls with one another. The two larger white squares are covered excavations of officers’ cabins. In one, a brass compass was found. I have a replica of that compass, which I purchased at the Rogers Island Visitor Center.

If you look to the upper left, you'll see a square marked out with a low wall of stone. That is a cemetery for fallen Rangers.

A moment of silence please...



Let’s take a walk south, past fields where Rangers grew their food, great piles of wood used for cooking and heating, and pens and paddocks of animals used for food to a sad place, a place where there is much suffering — the smallpox hospital. It is believed to have stood near that pine tree in the center of the image.

Smallpox was still a deadly scourge in those days with very few people being inoculated against it, inoculation being something relatively new and deadly in and of itself at times.

Soldiers from the fort and Rangers found to have smallpox were placed in the smallpox hospital, isolated from the rest of the fort — except that their friends could come and visit. Not exactly quarantine by modern standards, which demonstrates a lack of understanding when it comes to infection control.


Here’s one last glimpse down at Ranger camp. The whipping post stood on the western edge of the island, toward your left, not far from the cabins. The small parade where the rangers mustered must have been near the cemetery. The officers’ necessaries were on the eastern edge of the island, the enlisted men’s on the right.

Think about this for a moment. Think 253 years ago when this would have been one of the most dangerous places on earth.

Now imagine rows of cabins, men busy repairing and caring for their gear, a great forest all around them. Tomorrow they leave on a mission. Major Iain MacKinnon is leading them northward to spy on Fort Carillon and see what Montcalm is doing. The men, all sons of Culloden or stubborn Irish, trust him. They’ve fought with him since ’55 when Wentworth forced him to choose between being hanged or fighting for Britain.

They know from experience that anything could happen — ambuscade, sickness, injury, dangerous shifts in the weather. Some will not return alive.

On the way back, something unexpected will happen that will change Iain MacKinnon’s life forever.


EXCITING UPDATE: Eileen Hannay of the Rogers Island Visitor Center posted a link on my Facebook page. I encourage everyone to read this. You’ll get a quick overview of the real history of this site as well as some very exciting news pertaining to archaeological excavations on the island. Click here to read all about it, and come back and chat with me.


To see images from the ground, look for the In Search of MacKinnon’s Rangers slide show on my blog down on the right-hand side.

Now for the contest:

Comment below on my blog and your name will be entered to win a signed copy of the new reissued version of Surrender, in stores on Tuesday. And if you care to share any Ranger lore, please feel free! I’ll be giving away two books on Friday. (The author copies aren’t actually here yet, but I’ll save your addresses until they are. Not my fault!)

41 comments:

Patti P said...

I don't like commenting first, but someone has to.
Thanks for the post and giveaway. I want this book.
musicalfrog at comcast.net

Elizabeth said...

I haven't read this series yet been waiting very patiently for this day!

Hilary said...

Would love to win!

Pamela, that was incredible! Wow... thank you for that history, you've really brought them to life... made them the people they really were, and not just characters in a book. Thank you so much for that!!

In many ways we (civilization) have come a long, long way, but when I first read Surrender and Untamed, I couldn't help but wish that I lived in those times, and even more-so after reading your post. Thank you again!

Hi, Patti — Thanks for being brave and stepping into the e-silence. I appreciate your post! Good luck!

Hi, Elizabeth — The day is very nearly here. I'm so excited for readers to have this book at last.

Hi, Hilary — Good luck!

Hi, UM — You know, the reason I started this series was the history. It just snagged me and drew me in. I wrote RIDE THE FIRE and I just wasn't ready to say goodbye to the pre-Revolutionary Colonial frontier. Something about it just captivates me. Still does, even after 3.6 novels now.

So all of these little details -- the island, Fort Edward, every historical dimple around the town, like what's left of the moat -- just fascinate me. That's my inspiration.

Makes me wonder if I should write straight historical novels...

ClaudiaGC said...

Loved this post! Your books always have a "real" feeling to me. I absolutely adore that. And you've really enlightened me about this whole war. Shows how much you can learn from reading romance novels. ;)
claudigc at msn dot com

Hi, Claudia — I'm so glad to hear that. "Real" is what I try to do. I love books that feel real to me, particularly historical fiction. If I get transported to that place and time, then I'm going to love the book. I try very hard to make the scenario real.

It makes me feel so incredibly good to know you feel that way.

Also, the woman who runs the Rogers Island Visitor Center has read the books (scared me to death when she did), and she loves them. She is an absolute expert on this topic. Having her as excited for Connor's book as all of you, makes me feel fantastic. I should go get her and tell her I'm looking down on her job site... ;-)

Andrea P said...

you know I am from New York and didn't know this amazing history! My next trip home will include some exploring for sure. Thanks for all this great info.

Thank you for the chance to win! This is a new series for me, but I'd love to read it =D

emilytardy@yahoo.com

Na said...

I am thinking back to all those years and I can imagine it was very dangerous indeed. Thank you for the chance to read your book.

Cambonified(at)yahoo(dot)com

ehannay said...

**Real** indeed! That brings a tear to my eye.

Andrea, I hope you're able to take the time to head upstate and see Fort Edward, Rogers Island and then Fort Ticonderoga farther north. Your state is so amazing! The beauty of the Adirondacks overwhelms even this Rocky Mountain girl.

Hi, Emily — Thanks for posting, and good luck!

Hi, Na — We take so much for granted these days. These Rangers accomplished feats wearing wool, linen, homespun and leather that today's Army Rangers (who are their descendants) would find challenging wearing polypro and using GPS devices. Seriously.

EILEEN! Hi! I'm so glad you stopped by. A bit of aerial spying on RIVC today. :-)

And thank you! You work so tirelessly to keep this history alive. More people need to know about it. The whole country needs to know about it.

Jenn said...

Thanks for the tour! What an interesting piece of history! Can't wait for the new and improved version of Surrender to finally come out!

Patty C. said...

Hi Pamela!

Love your books, the attention to detail is outstanding! I have only this year been introduced to your books so I have yet to aquire all of them. This series is next on my list. Congrats on the release & thank you for the history!

Dalila G. said...

What a great post Pamela, loads of wonderful information. I really liked all of the shots you shared with us today.
I'm going to have to look for this site and poke around it some more.

I can't wait to get my hands on your new release, must compare....hmmmm...one awesome book, SURRENDER, verses another awesome book, SURRENDER.
I guess I'll just force myself to read your book. *wink*

Thank you for book giveaway!

Tonya said...

One of the things I love most about all of your books is the details. It's obvious you spend lots of time researching. Thank you for that. Your books draw me in & make me feel like I'm right there with the characters.

Tammy said...

Pamela,
The Post Standard Newspaper (Syracuse NY)
Had an article about military cemetery found on Rogers Island. (11-30-11.)You should be able to view it online.
Our readers group is still interested in
the tour of Rogers Island if you do it.

Thank you for giving me a better idea what Ranger Island was really like. I have never been to New York or the east coast so this is new to me.

Red said...

Can't wait to read the new bits!

landin said...

Wow,very detailed! I think I'd like to visit fort Edward and rogers island if I were to ever visit New york,I'd especially like to check out that gift shop! Is it weird that I have this strange love of gift shops?

Anyways,thanks for taking the time to explain all the details of the area,it'll definitely come in handy when imagining Iain and Anne there.

I just updated the post with a very cool link that Eileen shared with me on Facebook! Please check it out!

Thank you, Eileen!

Hi, Jenn — I'm glad you find the history interesting, too. I try to balance with the story so that no one every feels like they're getting a history lesson. That would be dull (for most people). Good luck!

Hi, Patty — Thank you so much! I'm glad you found me, and I hope this series exceeds your expectations. :-)

Hi, Dalila — I'm glad you enjoyed it. Just google "Fort Edward, NY" and then click on Maps and then on Google Earth. That's how I got to see the images. You can scroll all around then. Or stop by the Rogers Island Visitor Center's site. They've got tons of info. I also just posted a very cool link to a news story.

Hi, Tonya — Thank you! That makes my day. :-)

Hi, Tammy — I would love to come and do the tour there, but now that I no longer have a job (I haven't really announced this yet), I'm living off my book income alone. Not sure I'll be able to pull off any travel at all. Eileen sent me the link to that article. Fantastic! Am I the only one who got goosebumps when they talked about the headless body? (Charlie Gordon, whose head lies by itself up at Fort Ticonderoga.)

Hi, Donna — You're welcome! The history back east is so fascinating. I really wish I lived in NY, to tell you the truth. Or I wish I could visit. A lot.

Hi, Red — Thanks for posting, and good luck!

Hi, Landin — I spent about two hours in that gift shop. When it was closed. Yes, I bought a fair few things, but I kind of wish I had a room in the visitor center — I would love to write there. If you do go — I highly recommend it — be sure to tell the folks at the gift shop hello from me. :-)

Anonymous said...

I recall being blown away the first time I saw Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans, and reading your books caused a similar reaction. It must be time for a re-read.
Lesley

I can't wait! When I was out browsing a used bookstore a while back I found a copy of Surrender and picked it up...then I found out that it was being re-released so I decided to wait it out....it's been hard but the more I learn the more I know it will be worth the wait!

Thanks for the tour :)

landin said...

Wow,I just read the article of the remains that were found,it really brings it home. It's so sad that they can't be identified,what a shame that these men will never be remembered by name.

And I wondered what happened to the one who's skull was missing? Really curious,that one...

Hi, Lesley — I love that film. The funny thing is that it wasn't what inspired this series. Ha! I was researching RIDE THE FIRE, the book before SURRENDER, and kept coming across references to Rogers' Rangers and wanted to find out more. Then after I started working on it, I realized that the places I was researching were in LAST OF THE MOHICANS. They talk of "Edward" and of course "William-Henry." But, yes, I love Daniel Day Lewis in that flim!

Booklover, thanks for being so patient! I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Landipan — In the story, there's poor Charlie Gordon, who's head gets shot off by a canon ball at the first Battle of Fort Carillon/Ticonderoga at the end of SURRENDER. They never find his head and so just bury his body on the island. It could have been something like that.

Lori Salas said...

No you cant just do historicals. We love the I Team as well. Cant wait to read this.

landin said...

Oh! I didn't even think of that possibility. Ya know, that very well may have been what happened with that poor fellow!

landin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
icha said...

hi pamela..

i haven't read this series so i cant comment,iam so sorry but i read i-team series..OMG.i love that series especially unlawful contact..i wish my country will be published your book...

icha09@gmail.com

thanks pamela

Icha, thanks so much for your kind words about the I-Team series. What is your country? Is the I-Team series published there?

Landin — I don't know what the analysis of the bones shows, but there should be some indication (or lack of) as to how his head was removed. People did a lot of really grisly things to one another back then.

AngelaCarr said...

I would love a signed copy. Thank you!!!

Did I mention how much I love Iain?! :)

Kaetrin said...

I'd love a signed copy! :D

hankts AT internode DOT on DOT net

Checked out the link. Fascinating! It's been a long time since I've seen the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain. When I lived in Montreal, a weekend camping in NY was always a treat. Makes me realize how artificial borders are.

Cassie said...

I am eagerly anticipating the completion/additions to this series. I feel a family connection to the McKinnons. I find your research fascinating....I've learned so much more history by reading Romance/ Historical Romance novels than I ever did in a classroom. Please keep writing.....I'd be honored to win a book for certain. Thanks for bringing history to life. Sure hope I'm not too late to be considered.

OK, and now for the winners....



Landin and Patti P.!

Please email me your snail mail addresses and I'll get your copies in the mail as soon as my author copies arrive.

(They're way overdue!)

There will be more opportunities to win this or UNTAMED, so don't feel bad it you haven't won yet!

And congrats to the winners!

Thanks for chatting about history with me, everyone.

Dalila G. said...

WooHoo!!
Congrats to Landin and Patti P.!
Happy reading! :-)

Pamela ~ Thanks for the extra information. How fascinating to read about past history. What a find, had to read the news clip twice, so interesting.
I'm also wondering about the missing skull.

landin said...

Thank you so much Pamela! I am soooo excited to read this book,you don't even know how bad,lol!

I am so very grateful,thank you! Going to email you right now!

KayH. said...

WoW ...that was great ! I love history, love the MacKinnons too.gredow

Chrisbails said...

This book looks great and would love to win and read. Pamela is a new author for me and always looking for new books and authors to check out. Great post. Love to learn something new.
christinebails@yahoo.com

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