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Green Mountain Boys
Ethan Allen Statue
The Green Mountain Boys, as history records them, were a band of a few hundred American patriots in the early years of the American Revolution. Before any serious fighting began many viewed them as Just a group of back country Vermont boys raising havoc. But, that would change shortly thereafter. In fact, they would later be considered the founding fathers of the state of Vermont.
Actually, their beginning started in southwestern Vermont and was comprised of men from Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. They came by their colorful name from the Green Mountains of Vermont. They were mostly men holding land titles from New Hampshire granting them land between Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River, today known as Vermont. The need for an armed militia became apparent in 1770 when the British Crown refused to recognize their land grants and declared the land belonged to New York.
Thus, the “Boys” banded together to protect their interests by keeping New York settlers out of their territory. They were led by Ethan Allen, his brother Ira, and their cousins Seth Warner and Remember Baker. Ethan is best known as one of the founding fathers of Vermont and capturing Fort Ticonderoga early in the Revolution. That occurred when Allen and his militia, numbering about 83, along with assistance from Colonel Benedict Arnold, attacked the British held Fort.
The fort's commander, Captain William Delaplace, demanded to know by what authority the fort was being entered. Allen reportedly replied "In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress! Some historians question if Allen actually made the remark as in later writings he made scathing remarks against Christianity, the Holy Bible and the Catholic faith.
In any event, Delaplace promptly surrendered his sword. The remainder of the fort's garrison surrendered without firing a shot. It became America’s first victory of the war as well as a turning point in as much as it effectively foiled any further attempts by the British to invade through Canada.
A detachment of the Green Mountain Boys, under Seth Warner's command continued on to seize a small garrison at Crown Point in New York on Lake Champlain held by the British engaging in a number of other battles along the way.
On May 14, Arnold and 50 of his troops sailed north to Fort St. John on the Richelieu River where a small British warship was reported to be anchored. Arnold's force seized the sloop HMS Royal George, supplies, and a number of bateaux, a kind of flat bottomed row boat.
Shortly after, Allen decided to occupy the Fort himself and set out with about 100 men in four bateaux. In his haste he failed to take provisions for the journey. After about two days of rowing Ethan’s men were tired and hungry. Fortunately, they ran into Arnold on his way back to Ticonderoga who graciously provided them with supplies. However, when Arnold heard of Allen’s plan he tried to dissuade Allen from his objective, noting by that time the British likely knew about the raid on St. John and had sent forces to retake it. Allen, known to be a stubborn sort, persisted and went anyway.
When Allen and his men arrived at St. John they discovered a contingent of about 200 British regulars approaching. Allen deferred to the side of caution since his men were at the point of collapse and the British troops significantly outnumbered his tired company. Allen retreated to the opposite side of the river, where the men collapsed and slept. The band was so tired they didn’t even post a guard. They were rudely awakened when British scouts discovered their presence discovered them and began firing at them from across the river. Panicking, Allen’s men hopped into their boats and with all due haste frantically rowed for their lives.
Following the failed attempt on St. John, many of the Green Mountain Boys returned to their homes and farms. Allen and about 30 men were later captured in the Battle of Longue-Pointe around Montreal which effectively ended his participation in the revolution until 1778, as he was imprisoned by the British.
In early 1777, Vermont became an independent nation naming the Green Mountain Boys as the basis for their republic army. In 1791 Vermont became the 14th state.