« PreviousContinue »
but it was by a band of raw militia, poorly armed and without discipline.
The militia hastily dispersed to collect the plunder, and while they were doing so, word came that a large reinforcement from the British army was approaching and only two miles away. Baum joined it, and the fortunes of the day were in peril. Fortunately, while Stark was vigorously seeking to rally his men, Colonel Warner came up with two hundred fresh men, who at once attacked the enemy. Stark joined him with what men he had collected, and another sharp fight began, ending at nightfall in the repulse of the enemy. “With one hour more of daylight,” said Stark, “we would have captured the whole body.”
As it was, the British lost very heavily, there being seven hundred prisoners, in addition to a large number of killed and wounded, while the American loss was small. Burgoyne had lost more than a thousand of his best troops, he had failed to obtain the supplies he sadly needed, and the whole plan of his campaign was deranged. His march was retarded for a month, in order to obtain the necessary supplies, during which Gates was growing stronger, and Stark's victory at Bennington had much to do with Burgoyne's eventful surrender.
Congress hastened to repair its former action by appointing Stark a brigadier-general, and in September he joined Gates and lent his share to the success of the campaign. He continued in the army till the end of the war, and was present at the battle of Springfield. From this time forward no events of importance marked his life. He survived, an honored citizen, till the advanced age of ninety-four, Congress voting him a pension four years before his death. He died May 9, 1822.
ETHAN ALLEN, THE CHIEF OF THE
GREEN MOUNTAIN BOYS
CHIEF among those who made the State of Vermont, and one of the most stalwart defenders of American liberty, was the famous Ethan Allen, a true son of the wilderness. Born in Litchfield, Connecticut, January 10, 1738, he removed with four younger brothers about 1763 to the neighborhood of Bennington, Vermont, and there became an earnest and ardent leader of the bold Green Mountain Boys. Up to that time Vermont had been a forest wilderness, the haunt of the wild beast and the wilder savage, and Allen and his brothers were among its early settlers. To whom the region belonged was a matter of controversy between New Hampshire and New York, both of which claimed it. During the French and Indian war it was a scene of the marching and fighting of troops, but before then the governor of New Hampshire had offered land on liberal terms to settlers, and as soon as the war was over the Allens and many other adventurers trooped in. Until the era of the Revolution the region was known as the New Hampshire Grants. Afterwards it became known as Vermont, the French word for Green Mountain.
As time went on a hot dispute arose between the two claimants of the region, and in the end the contest was referred to the king of England, who decided in 1764 in favor of New York, fixing the Connecticut River as the dividing line between New Hampshire and New York. All would now have gone well had not the government of New York attempted to make the settlers pay again for the lands they had cleared and settled or yield them to new men. This injustice was bitterly resented by the frontiersmen, and in 1770 Ethan Allen, one of their leading spirits, was sent to plead their cause before the courts at Albany. The whole legal discussion was a piece of idle formality. The matter had been decided in advance, and a verdict already fixed upon was given against the settlers. Allen was advised by the attorneys to go home and get his friends to make the best terms they could, the proverb being quoted to him that, “ Might often prevails against right.”
The bold mountaineer quaintly replied with an apt quotation from the Bible, “ The Lord is the God of the hills, but He is not the God of the valleys," and returned home full of warlike wrath, to infect the people with his own spirit.
When the sheriffs appeared among the mountaineers to eject them from their lands something like war broke out. The Green Mountain Boys organized themselves into an armed corps, with Ethan Allen for their colonel, and prepared to defend their rights by force of arms. Thus things went on for several years, the sheriffs and their followers being treated, not with bullets, but with "the switches of the wilderness," an effective argument. Finally Governor Tryon, of New York, issued a proclamation offering £ 150 reward for the capture of Allen and £ 50 for Seth Warner and some other ringleaders. Allen retorted by offering a reward for the capture of the attorney general of New York.
The trouble grew worse as time went on, the Vermont settlers ejecting forcibly from their territory all
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 fort occupied by his fellows, and was sent soon afterwards up Lake Champlain against the fort of Crown