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Ethan Allen, General Vermont Republic Militia, Colonel Continental Army

My 3rd cousin, Ethan Allen, is better known in American history as the famous American Revolutionary War hero.

Ethan was born on January 21, 1738 in Litchfield, Connecticut to Joseph Allen and Mary Baker. Ethan's Great Grandfather on his paternal lineage was Henry Burt, who was my 10x Great Grandfather.

Ethan developed a reputation as a firebrand and a rabble rouser in his youth. He served in the French and Indian War and afterwards purchased some land in what is now Vermont under the New Hampshire Grants and moved his family west. Soon after a dispute arose regarding the land in the Champlain Valley, with both New York and New Hampshire claiming the land was theirs. 

In 1770 the New York Supreme Court ruled that the New Hampshire Grants were invalid, denying all claims to the territory. This infuriated the settlers that had purchased the disputed land under the New Hampshire Grants and they came together and formed a group called the "Green Mountain Boys" in hopes of stopping the New Yorkers from interfering in the land the settlers had claimed for themselves.

The group named Ethan Allen as their leader and soon began a campaign to intimidate the New Yorkers to get them to leave the territory. The group sometimes used violence to get the New Yorkers out.

In 1775, the Green Mountain Boys moved their focus towards the Revolutionary War, supporting the American Colonies in their fight against the British. Ethan Allen led his Green Mountain Boys, along with support from Benedict Arnold, to capture Fort Ticonderoga which they did. Soon after, Arnold and Allen went on to capture Crown Point to the north of Ticonderoga.

It is important to note that Fort Ticonderoga - once a great fortress - was at this time crumbing and only lightly guarded. However, with the capture of the fort came large guns (cannon) which were moved eastward the next winter to General George Washington's Continental Army camp which quickly aided them in removing the British from Boston (1776). 

Soon after, Allen went to  Philadelphia to meet with the Continental Congress to authorize the Green Mountain Boys under such officers as the citizens of Vermont should elect. Allen also petitioned Congress to authorize an invasion of Canada, with Montreal as the target. Congress agreed with Allen's plan and ordered General Phillip Schuyler to advance north from Ticonderoga and attack against Montreal and other parts of the province.


Ethan had assumed he would be elected to command the Green Mountain Boys, but was surprised to find that the citizens of Vermont instead chose Seth Warner (a former subordinate of Allen) as they felt Allen was too headstrong and radical.

Ethan then volunteered under General Schuyler's army and was sent to operate behind British lines along with a group of Canadian recruits. Allen, along with John Brown who was leading a similar group, decided they would attack Montreal on their own, hoping to surprise the British and capture Montreal.

Unfortunately word had reached the British in Montreal that "Ethan Allen the Notorious New Hampshire Incendiary" was in the area. Brown and his men failed to show up and Allen decided he and his men would attack Montreal on their own. This action failed miserably and Ethan was captured by the British and held as a prisoner of war for the almost the next three years.

Ethan served his time as prisoner at first on board British ships before being taken to England. A short while after being in England, King George declared that all American prisoners of war were to be held in America. The next day Allen and other American prisoners were put back on a ship and headed towards America. On the voyage they stopped in Ireland where a crowd of Irish, upon learning that the now famous Ethan Allen was on board, took up a collection of clothes and supplies for Allen and his men.

Upon arriving back in America, Ethan was held for several months aboard a ship outside of New York City. During this period, the Governor of New York (with whom Allen had previously struggled over the New Hampshire Land Grants) came aboard, looked directly at Allen but pretended to not recognize him.

Once the British felt that they had a secure hold on New York City, the prisoners were moved off ship. Ethan, being considered an officer, was allowed some parole freedoms during his time in New York. It was during this period that Ethan learned of the death of his young son, the news of which hit him hard. He wandered off and was soon found and arrested by the British and put into solitary confinement and his limited parole was revoked.

After nearly three years of imprisonment, Ethan was released to General George Washington under a prisoner exchange between the Americans and the British. Ethan was reportedly exchanged for British Colonel Archibald Campbell.


After his release,  Ethan reported to General Washington at Valley Forge and was presented with the brevet rank of Colonel in the Continental Army. This rank was bestowed to him as "reward for his fortitude, firmness and zeal in the cause of his country, manifested during his long and cruel captivity, as well as on former occasions". However, the brevet rank meant that there was no active roll for him until called upon. Allen's services were never requested. 

After the Revolutionary War had ended, Ethan found his influence in Vermont politics wained. While still considered a hero to the people of Vermont, and those of the United States, Ethan's final years were spent with his second wife (his first having died in 1783) and his young family. His days of adventures were over, and on February 12, 1789, Ethan Allen died. Accounts of his death vary, but he suffered "an apoplectic fit", lost consciousness and died several hours later.

Ethan Allen, an American Revolutionary War Hero and, I am proud to say, a member of my family.

Sculpture of Allen by Larkin Goldsmith Mead.

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