Ethan Allen
1738 - 1789

Ethan Allen was an American soldier, frontiersman, author of several books and pamphlets and Vermont folk hero. Allen was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, January 21, 1738 (n.s.) of humble backwoods stock. Little is known of his early life other than he was preparing for college when his father died in 1755, that he had military service during the French and Indian War and that he came under the intellectual influence of Thomas Young, an erudite, unorthodox rationalist. By 1769 Allen's enterprising nature led him into the New Hampshire grants, an area then claimed by both New Hampshire and New York. Allen and his brothers formed the nucleus of the Green Mountain Boys, an irregular but effective force for resistance to the "Yorkers." Superb propagandists as well as efficient soldiers, they exploited the grievances the backwoodsmen had against lower New York and identified the cause of the land speculators with the cause of the settlers.

When the news of Lexington and Concord arrived, Ethan Allen's energies were turned toward the larger conflict. Following instructions from the Connecticut assembly he raised a force and with considerable skill and dispatch took the British fort at Ticonderoga on May 10, 1775, as Allen reported "in the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress." What might have been a brilliant military career for this bold and impulsive man was thwarted when he was captured during a foolhardy attempt to capture Montreal in September, 1775. He was held prisoner until an exchange could be arranged on May 6, 1778. The following year he published his Narrative of Colonel Ethan Allen's Captivity.

Congress gave him the brevet rank of colonel with back pay, but he did not serve in the revolutionary forces after his release. He devoted his time to local affairs in Vermont and to the struggle with New York. Allen was unsuccessful in presenting the Vermont claim for separate statehood to congress in September, 1778. He then entered into a correspondence with General Frederick Haldimand, British commander at Quebec, to see upon what terms Vermont could rejoin the British empire.

Some historians claim that Allen's correspondence with Haldimand was a ruse to bring the continental congress to terms but most people believe that it was a wholehearted effort to make Vermont a British province.

The Paris treaty of 1783 wrecked the province scheme and Vermont had to wait until 1791 for statehood. Allen did not live to see this. He died on February 11, 1789, at Burlington.

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