Forgotten Voices of the North Woods: 

Revisiting historic literature of the Adirondacks

L. E. Chittenden and his book "Personal Reminiscences 1840 - 1890," published in 1893.

Lucius Eugene Chittenden  (1824 - 1900) Born in Williston Vermont, studied and practiced law in that state. He was active in anti-slavery politics and was Register of the Treasury under Lincoln's first administration.  Among his other writings is "The Capture of Ticonderoga" published in 1872.

Lucius Chittenden is mentioned in Alfred Donaldson's "A History of the Adirondacks" Vol II (published 1921) when, in his late 50's, he visited the Adirondacks and made the acquaintance with the guide Mitchell Sabattis. A condensed version of his association with Sabattis is given in Donaldson while the full story can be found in chapter 16 of "Personal Reminiscences."

For today we will revisit Chittenden's exciting account of an encounter between osprey and bald eagles on Long Lake. This is taken from Chapter 24, "Owls, Falcons and Eagles":


At the time of which I am writing, on a point which extended into the lake from its western shore under Buck Mountain, there was a grove of white pines. In the largest of these was the nest of a pair of eagles. They had nested there for many years. Sabattis, then a man of fifty, could not remember a year when it was not occupied. By annual additions it had grown to an enormous size and was visible for miles. These eagles were masters of the lake, and it was not often visited by the ospreys, even upon a fishing excursion.

One morning, from my camp at the outlet, I noticed a pair of ospreys with two young but full-grown birds in the trees on the eastern shore. The old birds were training the young ones in capturing small fish, which I thought were yellow perch, near the shore. One of the young birds made a circuit farther up the lake and struck a lake trout. He had some difficulty in rising from the water, but slowly succeeded. Before he took his course toward the place where the parent birds were on the watch, a young eagle dashed out from the point and with a fierce scream started in pursuit. At the same moment the old ospreys started to defend their young. They were not in time. The eagle had almost reached the young hawk, when it dropped the fish. The eagle did not seize it before it struck the water, and in four or five similar cases I never saw the fish caught in its descent. While the eagle was struggling to rise after it had seized the fish, and before he was twenty feet from the water, one of the ospreys made a swoop and struck his claws into the eagle with such force that both went into the lake, where they separated. As the eagle rose a second time it was struck by the second osprey and again forced into the lake. I think he was struck in this manner four times when the old eagle came to his rescue and the ospreys retired., screaming defiance, and one of them carrying the fish which had been the cause of the contest. But the eagle was disabled and could not rise. One of the guides went for him in a boat, but before he could reach him he was drowned. His back was found to have been so torn by the talons of the fish-hawks that the wounds would have been mortal if he had fallen on the shore.

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