Stephen Zeoli accepted the award on behalf of the Coalition at the ceremony in Woodstock. Here is the cover letter Zeoli wrote when submitting the book for consideration:
Mount Independence in Orwell is one of Vermont’s most important historic sites. Indeed, it is the site of one of America’s most significant Revolutionary War fortifications. The Mount is the place where the young United States of America first successfully defended itself from British invasion in the fall of 1776 — a crucial deliverance after Washington had been forced to abandon the lower Hudson River. The following year, American forces made a daring withdrawal from the rocky peninsula on Lake Champlain, preserving the core force that defeated Burgoyne at Saratoga in the fall of 1777. In between those two events, the American garrison at the Mount withstood a cruel winter under conditions harsher than Valley Forge.
Until the publication of Strong Ground, the dramatic and important story of Mount Independence had never been told in full. Most often historians have treated the Mount as the second sister of Fort Ticonderoga across the lake. But the Mount was considered by American General Philip Schuyler as the more strategically important of the two forts.
Published by the Mount Independence Coalition, Strong Ground tells this story in 112 full-color, richly illustrated pages. It is the result of a decade of work by the Coalition and principle author Don Wickman. The dramatic narrative is told as much as possible through the words of the participants, drawn from the journals, letters and memoirs in which they described their experiences. Sidebars illuminate related topics, ranging from Native American use of the peninsula to women’s roles in the army.
Meticulous research uncovered many rare and hard to find period paintings and sketches to bring the action to life. In addition to the archival maps and artwork, Strong Ground includes five original illustrations by noted historical artist Gary Zaboly, whose work graces the Alamo National Historic Site, as well as many other history texts.
The cover features a mural by Vermont artist Ernest Haas. The book was designed by Middlebury graphic artist David Carlson.
Strong Ground was very much a labor of love, but it was also a labor. Literally thousands of hours, most by unpaid volunteers, went into its publication. We are proud of the final product and thank you for considering it for the achievement award.
Congratulations to everyone who worked on and supported the publication of Strong Ground.