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the New Yorkers who intruded on it and gathering in force to meet Governor Tryon when told that he was about to invade their lands with a body of British troops. What might have been the final result it is difficult to tell, but in 1775 a war on a wider scope broke out and by the time it ended Vermont had broken loose from both claimants and gained recognition as a part of the Union, though it was not admitted as a State till 1791.
It may well be imagined that the firing of the British troops on the patriots at Lexington roused the Green Mountaineers as it roused all the rest of New England. But they did not, like the others, march at once to Boston. There was work for them nearer home. Near at hand was the strong Fort Ticonderoga, famous in the French war, and known to have a large supply of military stores and a feeble garrison.
The eagerness to take Ticonderoga was not confined to Vermont. Steps to do so were also taken in Massachusetts and Connecticut. But the Green Mountain Boys were first in the field, with Ethan Allen at their head. Benedict Arnold obtained a commission from Massachusetts and made all haste to Lake George, leaving his recruits, when raised, to follow. Here he found Allen and his men and claimed the command in virtue of his commission. But Vermont did not acknowledge a Massachusetts commission, the mountaineers were in no mood to accept a new commander at such a time, and Arnold, failing in his effort, joined the force as a volunteer.
Nathan Beman, a boy who had often been in the fort, was obtained as a guide and the advance force, eightythree in number, crossed the lake by night, reaching the vicinity of the fort in the early morning of May 10.
The boats were sent back for the others, but the impetuous Allen had no thought of awaiting them. The opportunity of taking the stronghold by surprise was too good to be lost. Silently but with a quick step he led the men up the heights on which the fortress stood, entered the open and undefended gates, and before the sun rose had drawn up his men in order upon the parade ground. Three cheers were now given, which wakened the sleeping inmates.
The only resistance offered was by a sentinel, who snapped his fusee at Allen, and by another who made a thrust at an officer with a bayonet, slightly wounding him. In a moment more Colonel Allen, led by Nathan Beman, ascended the stairs leading to the apartment of the commandant, Captain Delaplace, and in a voice of thunder ordered him to appear. The astonished captain sprang from his bed and threw open the door, when he was met with a stern command to surrender the fort.
Rubbing his still sleepy eyes, the captain asked in whose name his visitor made such a demand.
“In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress !” roared Allen in reply.
Such authority as this could not be controverted, backed up as it was by the sword brandished over his head, and the captain was obliged to submit and order his men to yield. They numbered but fifty in all, but the fort contained a large amount of arms and artillery which afterwards proved of great use to the Continental army.
Seth Warner, a captain under Allen, crossed the lake with the remainder of the troops, arriving to find the
occupied by his fellows, and was sent soon afterwards up Lake Champlain against the fort of Crown Point. This also was taken, with its garrison of twelve men, its military stores, including sixty-one cannon, being in good condition.
Arnold had marched side by side with Allen into the fort, and the two now proceeded in boats up Lake Champlain against St. John's. This place was taken, but they were too weak to hold it, Allen being attacked by a force of two hundred men and driven to his boats, with which he returned to Ticonderoga.
The views of the frontier colonel now expanded, and on the 2d of June he wrote a letter to the Provincial Congress of New York, suggesting an invasion of Canada. His views were not accepted, perhaps unfortunately, for at that time the British forces in that province were in no condition to make a vigorous defence. About three months later Congress ordered such an expedition, but then it proved too late and the affair ended in defeat and disaster.
Meanwhile Colonel Allen proceeded to Philadelphia, where he received the thanks of the Continental Congress for his services. When the expedition against Canada was decided upon, he joined its leader, General Schuyler, as a volunteer, and was sent north by him on a secret mission, to learn the opinions of the Canadians.
He was very successful in this mission, found that many of the Canadians and Indians were ready to join him, and soon after was sent north again by General Montgomery, who was now in command of the expedition and was besieging St. John's. In a week's time Allen had gathered a force of two hundred and fifty Canadians, and men came in so fast that he wrote Montgomery that he would join him in three da five hundred or more. In a week, he said, he could gather one or two thousand, but he deemed it best not to wait.
His daring and precipitation soon put a disastrous end to his plans and hopes. On his march to St. John's, when opposite Montreal, he met Major Brown, with a small party of men. Brown proposed an attack on that city, saying that it was poorly defended and could easily be taken. Allen joined eagerly in the enterprise, crossed the St. Lawrence by night at a point a little below Montreal with about one hundred men, and waited for the expected signal from Brown, who had agreed to cross with a larger force above.
Brown's signal did not come. It was evident he had not crossed. Allen's canoes were capable of carrying only one-third of his party and retreat was impossible. A much stronger force advanced against him from Montreal, and after nearly two hours of fighting he was obliged to surrender, on promise of honorable terms. All his men had deserted during the fight except thirty-eight, who surrendered with him. Thus, by engaging in a rash and hazardous enterprise Allen's aid to Montgomery was brought to a disastrous termination.
General Prescott, in command at Montreal, treated his prisoner, on learning that he was the man who had taken Ticonderoga, harshly and brutally. He threatened him with hanging, sent him in fetters on board the Gaspee sloop-of-war, and dealt with him and his men as criminals, subjecting them to many indignities. Allen was soon after sent to England, being treated on the voyage in the same harsh manner, and still kept in irons on landing in England. Here Allen was an object of great curiosity, being attired in the picturesque dress of a frontiersman, which seemed very odd and grotesque to the English observers.
We shall briefly tell the story of his imprisonment. After a short stay in England he was sent back and confined in prison ships and jails in Halifax and New York, being harshly treated and heavily ironed most of the time. He was finally paroled and allowed some degree of liberty in the streets of New York. Alexander Graydon, a fellow-captive, has given a graphic picture of him as he appeared at this time.
“His figure was that of a robust, large-framed man, worn down by confinement and hard fare. His style was a singular compound of local barbarism, Scriptural phrases, and oriental wildness. Notwithstanding that Allen might have had something of the insubordinate, lawless, frontier spirit in his composition, he appeared to me to be a man of generosity and honor."
On May 3, 1778, Allen was exchanged, and became a free man once more. He hastened to Washington's camp at Valley Forge, and would have joined the army had not the troubles in Vermont broken out again. The Green Mountain Boys had declared their independence in 1777 and applied for admission to the Confederation on the same terms as the other colonies, but New York strongly opposed this. During the next few years the controversy continued, Congress hesitating to offend New York, and the British commanders, taking advantage of the discontent of the Vermonters, tried to get them to accept the king's authority, promising to make Vermont an independent British province.
In 1782 Allen sent their letters to Congress. From