“Many Americans have heard the name Ethan Allen, but few know very much about him. Those who do know his name know that he was the leader of the Green Mountain Boys. A few will know that Ethan Allen led the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. However, very few Americans know that Ethan Allen was a prisoner of war between September 1775 and May 1778.
“Ethan Allen possessed an abundance of rare common sense; he was a self-made man— a born leader of men. He was enterprising; he was ambitious; he sought fame … he early espoused the cause of the Colonies as the surest means of obtaining recognition for himself and freedom for the oppressed from all lands.”
While Ethan Allen’s days on the Revolutionary battlefield were limited, the impact of his victory at Fort Ticonderoga was critical. On April 19, 1775, the war for Independence began at Lexington and Concord. Only a few weeks later, on May 10, 1775, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys attacked Fort Ticonderoga in the early morning hours. The surprise attack was so perfectly planned that the British sentry did not have time to warn the British. The Fort was taken without the loss of life.
The capture of Fort Ticonderoga was a boost in the morale for the colonies. That winter, Henry Knox and a team of men, took the cannons out of the Fort and brought them to Boston. George Washington used these cannons on March 17, 1776, to drive the British out of Boston. Thus, even though Ethan Allen was a prisoner of war to a war that had not yet been declared, his early efforts at Fort Ticonderoga had a major effect upon this nation declaring its independence.
Ethan Allen was a man of high character. One antidote of his character is demonstrated while Ethan was a prisoner. The British officer who was in charge of the prisoners was challenged to a duel by a Canadian. The officer accepted the challenge and he was going to have Ethan act as his second. He told Ethan that if he (the officer) died in the duel, he expected Ethan to return to prison and let the other guards know what had happened. Ethan responded that he would. The duel did not end up happening because the parties were reconciled prior tot he duel.
Another example of the character of Ethan Allen occurred after the war. Ethan was having a hard time paying one of his debts and he was sued by the creditor. Ethan paid a lawyer to represent him and gave the lawyer strict instructions to negotiate an extension to pay the debt. His lawyer went to court and challenged the signature. When Ethan heard this, he marched to the front of the courtroom, told his lawyer, the judge, and the opposing counsel that it was his signature. Ethan dressed down his lawyer telling him in front of everyone that he was hired to obtain an extension, not to lie and cheat the creditor. Needless to say, the creditor granted an extension.
Ethan Allen was married twice and had a total of eight children. His first wife was named Mary and she was five years older than he was. His first wife died in 1783. The next year, he married a young widow who was 21 years younger than him.
The courtship of his second wife, Fanny, is very similar to the story 7 Brides for 7 Brothers. Ethan came into town one morning because it was a court day. Fanny was recently widowed and was visiting in town. He walked into the sitting room and told Fanny that he wanted to marry her. She said she needed to get “fixed up”. Ethan called the pastor and they were married that morning. He told the pastor that he really was not into the whole ceremony thing but since everyone did it, he figured it was what was expected of him. Ethan made sure the wedding ceremony was extremely short.
A final antidote reveals just how strong Ethan Allen’s love of freedom was. One of his brothers ended up supporting the British in the war for Independence. Ethan petitioned the state to seize his brother’s property. His love of liberty was stronger than family ties.
Ethan Allen was one of the leaders that lead to Vermont becoming an independent from both New Hampshire and New York. He also was a part of the process of Vermont ratifying the Constitution to become the 14th State of the United States of America.
Note from Mark Meuser:
This book was first published in 1902. Here is a picture of the author’s signature.