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Report of the secret Agent. Plan formed in Connecticut to Capture Ticonderoga. Expedition under Ethan Allen.
events then pending. After a diligent but cautious performance of his delicate task, the agent sent word to them from Montreal that the people were, at best, lukewarm, and advised that, the moment hostilities commenced, Ticonderoga and its garrison should be seized. This advice was coupled with the positive assertion that the people of the New Hampshire Grants were ready to undertake the bold enterprise." Within three weeks after this information was received by Adams and Warren, the battle of Lexington occurred. The event aroused the whole country, and the patriots arm in flocked to the neighborhood of Boston from all quarters. The provincial Assembly 1775. of Connecticut was then in session, and several of its members’ concerted and agreed upon a plan to seize the munitions of war at Ticonderoga, for the use of the army gathering at Cambridge and Roxbury. They appointed Edward Mott and Noah Phelps a committee to proceed to the frontier towns, ascertain the condition of the fort and the strength of the garrison, and, if they thought it expedient, to raise men and attempt the surprise and capture of the post. One thousand dollars were advanced from the provincial treasury to pay the expenses of the expedition. The whole plan and proceedings were of a private character, without the public sanction of the Assembly, but with its full knowledge and tacit approbation. Mott and Phelps collected sixteen men as they passed through Connecticut; and at Pittsfield, Massachusetts, they laid their plans before Colonel Easton and John Brown (the latter was afterward the Colonel Brown whose exploits on Lake George have been noticed), who agreed to join them. Colonel Easton enlisted volunteers from his regiment of militia as he passed through the country, and about forty had been engaged when he reached Bennington. There Colonel Ethan Allen, a man of strong mind, vigorous frame, upright in all his ways, fearless in the discharge of his duty, and a zealous patriot, joined the expedition with his Green Mountain Boys, and the whole party, two hundred and seventy men, reached Castleton, fourteen miles east of Skenesborough, or Whitehall, at dusk on the 7th of May. A council of war was immediately held, and Allen was appointed commander of the expedition, Colonel James Easton, second in command, and Seth Warner, third. It was arranged that Allen and the principal officers, with the main body, should march to Shoreham, opposite Ticonderoga; that Captain Herrick, with thirty men, should push on to Skenesborough, and capture the young Major Skene (son of the governor, who was then in England), confine his people, and, seizing all the boats they might find there, hasten to join Allen at Shoreham;
By the grant of Charles II. to his brother James, duke of York, the tract in America called New York was bounded on the east by the Connecticut River, while the charters of Massachusetts and Connecticut gave those provinces a westward extent to the “South Sea” or the Pacific Ocean. When, toward the middle of the last century, settlements began to be made westward of the Connecticut River, disputes arose, and the line between Connecticut and New York was finally drawn, by mutual agreement, twenty miles east of the Hudson. Massachusetts claimed a continuation of the Connecticut line as its western boundary, but New York contested the claim as interfering with prior grants to that colony. New Hampshire, lying north of Massachusetts, was not as yet disturbed by these disputes, for the country west of the Green Mountains was a wilderness, and had never been surveyed. When Benning Wentworth was made Governor of New Hampshire, he was authorized to issue patents for unimproved lands within his province, and in 1749 applications were made to him for grants beyond the mountains. He gave a patent that year for a township six miles square, having its western line twenty miles east of the Hudson, and in his honor it was named Bennington. The Governor and Council of New York remonstrated against this grant, yet Wentworth continued to issue patents; and in 1754 fourteen townships of this kind were laid out and settlements commenced. During the French and Indian war settlements increased tardily, but after the victory of Wolfe at Quebec numerous applications for grants were made; and at the time of the peace, in 1763, one hundred and thirty-eight townships were surveyed west of the Connecticut River, and these were termed the New Hampshire Grants. The controversy between New York and the Grants became so violent that military organizations took place in the latter section to resist the civil power of New York, and about 1772 the military thus enrolled were first called Green Mountain Boys; among the most active and daring of whom were Ethan and Ira Allen and Remember Baker, men of whom I shall have occasion to speak hereafter.—See Sparks's Life of Ethan Allen, and Thompson's Vermont, part ii.
* Among these were Silas Deane, David Wooster, Samuel H. Parsons, and Edward Stevens, all distinguished men during the Revolution.
Expedition against Ticonderoga. Arnold joins Allen at Castleton. Dispute about Rank. Surprise of the Garrison.
and that Captain Douglas should proceed to Panton, beyond Crown Point, and secure every boat or bateau that should fall in his way. Benedict Arnold, who joined the army about this time, doubtless received a hint of this expedition before he left New Haven, for the moment he arrived at Cambridge with the company of which he was captain, he presented himself before the Committee of Safety, and proposed a similar expedition in the same direction. He made the thing appear so feasible, May 3, that the committee eagerly accepted his proposal, granted him a colonel's commission, ” and gave him the chief command of troops, not exceeding four hundred in number, which he might raise to accompany him on an expedition against the lake fortresses. Not doubting his success, Arnold was instructed to leave a sufficient garrison at Ticonderoga, and with the rest of the troops return to Cambridge with the arms and military stores that should fall into his possession. He was also supplied with one hundred pounds in cash, two hundred pounds weight each of gunpowder and leaden balls, one thousand flints, and ten horses, by the provincial Congress of Massachusetts. His instructions were to raise men in Western, Massachusetts, but, on reaching Stockbridge, he was disappointed in finding that another expedition had anticipated him, and was on its way to the lake. He remained only long enough to engage a few officers and men to follow him, and then hastened onward and May 9 joined the other expedition at Castleton. He introduced himself to the officers, pulled ” a bit of parchment from his pocket, and, by virtue of what he averred was a superior commission, as it was from the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, claimed the supreme command. This was objected to, for he came single-handed, without officers or troops; and the soldiers, a large proportion of whom were Green Mountain Boys, and who were much attached to Allen, declared that they would shoulder their muskets and march home rather than serve under any other leader. Arnold made a virtue of necessity, and united himself to the expedition as a volunteer, maintaining his rank, but having no command. The momentary interruption of Arnold produced no change in the plans, and Allen marched to the shore of the lake, opposite Ticonderoga, during the night. He applied to a farmer in Shoreham, named Beman, for a guide, who offered his son Nathan, a lad who passed a good deal of time within the fort, with the boys of the garrison, and was well acquainted with every secret way that led to or within the fortress." But a serious difficulty now occurred. They had but a few boats, and none had been sent from Skenesborough or May 10, Panton. The day began to dawn, and only the officers and eighty-three men had ” crossed the lake. Delay was hazardous, for the garrison, if aroused, would make stout resistance. Allen, therefore, resolved not to wait for the rear division to cross, but to attack the fort at once. He drew up his men in three ranks upon the shore, directly in front of where the Pavilion now stands, and in a low but distinct tone briefly harangued them; and then, placing himself at their head, with Arnold by his side, they marched quickly but stealthily up the height to the sally port. The sentinel snapped his fusee at the commander, but it missed fire, and he retreated within the fort under a covered way. The Americans followed close upon his heels, and were thus guided by the alarmed fugitive directly to the parade within the barracks. There another sentinel made a thrust at Easton, but a blow upon the head from Allen's sword made him beg for quarter, and the patriots met with no further resistance. As the troops rushed into the parade under the covered way, they gave a tremendous shout, and, filing off into two divisions, formed a line of forty men each along the southwestern and northeastern range of barracks. The aroused garrison leaped from their pallets, seized their arms, and rushed for the parade, but only to be made prisoners by the intrepid New Englanders. At the same moment Allen, with young Beman at his elbow as guide, ascended the steps to the door of the quarters of Captain Delaplace, the commandant
* He died in December, 1846, in Franklin county, New York, when nearly ninety years old. He had lived to see our confederacy increase from thirteen to thirty states, and from three millions of people to twenty millions.
Interview between Allen and Delaplace. Allen's Order to surrender obeyed. Trouble with Arnold about command.
of the garrison, and, giving three loud raps with the hilt of his sword, with a voice of peculiar power, ordered him to appear, or the whole garrison should be sacrificed. It was about four o'clock in the morning. The loud shout of the invaders had awakened the captain and his wife, both of whom sprang to the door just as Allen made his strange demand. Delaplace appeared in shirt and drawers, with the frightened face of his pretty wife peering over his shoulder. He and Allen had been old friends, and, upon recognition, the captain assumed. boldness, and authoritatively demanded his disturber's errand. Allen pointed to his men and sternly exclaimed, “I order you instantly to surrender.” “By what authority do you demand it?” said Delaplace. “In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!” thundered Allen, and, raising his sword over the head of the captain, who was about to speak, ordered him to be silent and surrender immediately. There was no alternative. Delaplace had about as much respect for the “Continental Congress” as Allen had for “Jehovah,” and they respectively relied upon and feared powder and ball more than either. In fact, the Continental Congress was but a shadow, for it did not meet for organization until six hours afterward,” and its “authority” was yet scarcely acknowledged even by the patriots in the field. But Delaplace ordered his troops to parade without arms, the garrison of forty-eight men were surrendered prisoners of war, and, with the women and children, were sent to Hartford, in Connecticut. The spoils were one hundred and twenty pieces of iron cannon, fifty swivels, two ten-inch mortars, one howitzer, one cohorn, ten tons of musket-balls, three cart-loads of flints, thirty new carriages, a considerable quantity of shells, a ware-house full of material for boat building, one hundred stand of small arms, ten casks of poor powder, two brass cannon, thirty barrels of flour, eighteen barrels of pork, and some beans and peas. Warner crossed the lake with the rear division, and marched up to the fort just after the surrender was made. As soon as the prisoners were secured, and all had breakfasted, he was sent off with a detachment of men in boats to take Crown Point; but a strong head wind drove them back, and they slept that night at Ticonderoga. Another and successful attempt was made on the 12th, and both fortresses fell into the hands of the patriots without bloodshed. Arnold, who yielded his claims to supreme command at Castleton, assumed control the moment the fort was surrendered. But his orders were not heeded, and the Connecticut Committee,” of semi-official origin, which accompanied the expedition, interposed, formally installed Colonel Allen in the command of Ticonderoga and its dependencies, and authorized him to remain as such until the Connecticut Assembly or the Continental Congress should send him instructions. They affirmed that the government of Massachusetts had no part in the transaction; that the men from Pittsfield were paid by Connecticut; and that Arnold could be considered only as a volunteer. Finding his commands unheeded, and unwilling to allow personal considerations to affect, inimically, the public good, Arnold again yielded. He sent a written protest, with a statement of his grievances, to the Massachusetts Legislature. The Connecticut Committee also sent a statement to the same body. The appointment of Allen was confirmed, and the Assembly of Massachusetts directed Arnold not to interfere. He soon afterward went down the lake to seize a British sloop of war at St. John's, and to seek other occasions where glory might be won in the service of his country. The capture of Ticonderoga and Crown Point was an event wholly unlooked for by the
* According to Mr. Rice, history has omitted the suffix to this demand, which in those days was considered a necessary clincher to all solemn averments. It is characteristic of the man and the times. Rice's brother was within a few feet of Allen, and said he exclaimed, “In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress, by God.”
* The second Continental Congress assembled at Philadelphia at ten o'clock that day (May 10th), and chose Peyton Randolph President, and Charles Thompson Secretary.
* One of the committee, Mr. Phelps, visited the fort, in disguise, the day before Allen and his men arrived. He pretended to be a countryman wishing to be shaved, and, while looking about for the garrison barber, observed every thing carefully, and saw the dilapidation of the walls and the laxity of duty and discipline, particularly as to sentinels.
Forbearance of the Colonists. Consistent Course of their Delegates in Congress. Various Addresses of the second Congress.
Continental Congress, then in session at Philadelphia, and many members were alarmed at the serious aspect of affairs at the east and north, for as yet the Americans had harbored no distinct thought or wish derogatory to the truest loyalty. They were aggrieved by the rulers and legislators of the parent country, and were earnestly seeking redress. Ten years they had been petitioning the king and Parliament to exercise righteousness and equity toward them, but their prayers were unheeded and their warnings were scoffed at and answered by new oppressions. Yet the colonists remained loyal, and never breathed an aspiration for political independence. The colonial Assemblies, as well as the mass of the people, looked forward with anxiety for a reconciliation, for they felt proud of their connection with the British realm, whose government was then among the most powerful upon earth.” When the news of the capture of the forts on Champlain reached Congress, they recommended to the committees of New York and Albany to remove the cannon and stores to the south end of Lake George, and to erect a strong post at that place. They also directed an exact inventory of the cannon and military stores to be taken, “in order,” as the dispatch said, “that they may be safely returned when the restoration of harmony between Great Britain and the colonies, so ardently desired by the latter, shall render it prudent and consistent with the over-ruling law of self-preservation.” The delegates to the first Continental Congress, who met in September of the previous year, while they exhibited rare firmness of purpose in tone and manner, again and again avowed their loyalty, and made most humble petitions to the king and the Legislature for a redress of grievances. And those of the Congress in session when the first hostile movements on Lake Champlain occurred, while they saw clearly that nothing but a general resort to arms was now left for the colonists, resolved to make fresh appeals to the king and Parliament before taking decidedly offensive steps in acts of open hostility. They felt quite certain, however, that the haughtiness of power would not bend so long as its pride was wounded, and that it would never yield to an agreement for a reconciliation upon terms other than the absolute submission of the insurgents. Congress, therefore, correctly representing the public sentiment, resolved to be, at the same time, free men and loyal subjects as long as a link of consistency should bind those conditions in unity. They adopted an • May 29, address to the inhabitants of Canada;a a declaration, setting forth the causes and jog the necessity for the colonies to take up arms;b an humble petition to the king;" o, an address to the Assembly of Jamaica;d” and an address to the people of Ire*July 28 land.e." To the king they expressed their continued devotion to his person, and their deep regret that circumstances had in the least weakened their attachment to the crown. To the people of Great Britain they truthfully declared that their acts were wholly defensive; that the charge which had been made against them, of seeking absolute independence, was a malicious slander; and that they had never, directly or indirectly, applied to a foreign power for countenance or aid in prosecuting a rebellion. They truly set forth that the rejection of their petitions and the accumulation of oppressive acts of Parliament were the causes that placed them in the attitude of resistance which they then assumed—an atti
* The affections of the people of the colonies were very much alienated by the grievances of the Stamp .Act in 1765, and kindred measures, yet they still had a strong attachment to the mother country, even when the Revolution finally broke out. Dr. Franklin's testimony in 1766 may be quoted as illustrative of the temper of the people nearly ten years later. In answer to the question concerning the feelings of the people of America toward Great Britain before the passage of the Stamp Act, he said, “They had not only a respect but an affection for Great Britain, for its laws, its customs, and its manners, and even a fondness for its fashions, that greatly increased the commerce. Natives of Britain were always treated with particular regard; and to be an Old Englandman was of itself a character of some respect, and gave a kind of rank among us.”—Examination of Dr. Franklin before the British House of Commons relative to the Repeal of the American Stamp Act.
* Pitkin, i., 355.
* Jamaica, one of the West India Islands, was then a British colony, with a provincial Legislature like those on the American Continent.
* See Journals of Congress, i., p. 100–168.
Military Preparations made by Congress. The Continental Army. Spirit of the People. Ticonderoga.
tude at once necessary and justifiable, and worthy of the free character of subjects of the British realm. “While we revere,” they said, “the memory of our gallant and virtuous ancestors, we never can surrender these glorious privileges for which they fought, bled, and conquered: your fleets and armies can destroy our towns and ravage our coasts ; these are inconsiderable objects—things of no moment to men whose bosoms glow with the ardor of liberty. We can retire beyond the reach of your navy, and, without any sensible diminution of the necessaries of life, enjoy a luxury which, from that period, you will want—the luxury of being free.”
While petitions and addresses were in course of preparation and adoption, Congress proceeded to make extensive military arrangements. The militia of the * * various colonies, and such volunteers as could be obA tained, were mustered into service under the title of the conti. NENTAL ARMY ; and the troops which had flocked to the vicinity of Boston from all parts of New England after the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, a and were then investing that city, were adopted and enrolled under the same title.b Congress voted to issue bills of credit, or paper money, to the amount of three millions of dollars, for the pay of the army, and also took measures for the establishment of provisional Assemblies in the several colonies instead of the royal governments; for acts of Parliament, declaring the colonies in a state of rebellion, and providing for the destruction of the commerce of several sea-port towns, and for the sending of fleets and armies to enforce submission, were regarded by the Americans as virtual acknowledgments of the abdication of all power here." Thus, while the colonists kept the door of reconciliation wide open, they prepared to maintain the righteous position which they had assumed at all hazards. Let us for a moment close the chronicles of the past, and consider one of the most interesting relics of the Revolution yet remaining—the ruins of Ticonderoga. I lingered with the old soldier among the fragments of the fortress until sunset; and just as the luminary
a April 19,
* See Parliamentary Register (1775), p. 6–69.