Ethan Allen and the Truth About the Green Mountain Boys
Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys are looked at as a brigade of Continental Soldiers. Although they would grow into this role, the Boys were created for a much different reason.
The New Hampshire Land Grants
In 1767, the Governor of New Hampshire, Benning Wentworth, began selling land in the area that is now the State of Vermont. Known as the New Hampshire Land Grants, these sales were made despite the fact that the New York had similar claims to this property.
The New Hampshire residents began coming in conflict with New Yorkers almost immediately. Some of these residents asked their relative, Ethan Allen, to go to New York and defend their grants to the Supreme Court.
The Green Mountain Boys
Ethan Allen had spent the early years of his life bouncing around Connecticut. He held several jobs to varying levels of success. Although often egotistical, he had made a name for himself by standing up for what he believed in.
Allen’s trip to New York proved unsuccessful, but it set him among the early leaders in Vermont’s road to independence.
In 1770, at the age of 32, Allen became one of the principle organizers of the Green Mountain Boys. The Boys set up militias in each town that could be called together as one force when needed. Ethan Allen was elected Colonel Commandant, effectively making him Vermont’s Commander-in-Chief.
The main goal of the Green Mountain Boys was to scare off New Yorkers who arrived to settle the area. Rarely were their efforts violent, but in addition to chasing away surveyors, the Boys would burn down cabins that were built without their approval.
Over the next few years this situation became even more heated. By April of 1775, Allen was engaged in drafting a petition to the King in hopes of having the situation resolved.
But then the Battle of Lexington in Concord took place...
Three weeks later, Ethan Allen had assembled the Green Mountain Boys and (with the assistance of Benedict Arnold) captured Fort Ticonderoga. The taking of Ticonderoga was done without the loss of life as it was very lightly guarded.
Although Allen always claimed he attacked Ticonderoga as an American Patriot, it is hard to imagine he didn't feel a bit of glee in leading troops into New York and taking one of their Forts.
Allen was highly in favor of an invasion of Quebec and was sent to recruit men and scout the area ahead of time. While he successfully convinced about 200 Canadiens to join the rebellion, Ethan was captured during this mission.
Allen would remain a prisoner of the British for almost three years. He was brought as far away as London, at times being treated very harshly, but spent most of his captivity in New York.
After Allen was released in a prisoner exchange, he returned to Vermont and learned it had declared independence while he was away.
Allen spent the rest of his life selling off the land he had accumulated and writing books, the most successful of which outlined his time jailed on British ships and helped develop his reputation as an American hero.
Although he did not have much success in politics, Allen was still considered a leader in Vermont. He was a major proponent of the State being recognized as independent of New York by the Continental Congress. With the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, statehood was delayed until the new government came into session.
Vermont became the first State to enter the Union after the original thirteen agreed to the Constitution. This was due in large part to the hard work of Ethan Allen but, unfortunately, he had passed away less than a year before his dream was achieved.
Ethan Allen was leading a small army before the American Revolution began. When his country needed him, he led his men in resistance to British oppression. Allen paid a heavy price for this, spending three years as a captive but in turn he is remembered as a Founding Father of Vermont.
If you are interested, you can read a very early biography of Allen here.
If you'd like to read more about Ethan Allen, pick up 'Those Turbulent Sons of Freedom.' Also, our Book of the Month 'Plain, Honest Men' is available below (read my book review here).
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