Col. Ethan Allen

Col. Ethan Allen taking Fort Ticonderoga

Col. Ethan Allen, later of the Continental Army and Vermont Militia, may have originated guerrilla warfare in the 13 colonies. When New York's British governor Tryon attempted to appropriate the land known as the New Hampshire Grants for the crown, Allen organized his Green Mountain Boys to protect the settlers' rights in the area. Elected the group's colonel commandant, Allen led his group in dispensing their vigilante justice, and was thus declared an outlaw.

Fortunately for Allen, many of his fellow colonists were soon to gain the same status. As one of the early patriots, he took the Green Mountain Boys to their most famous engagement at Fort Ticonderoga, N.Y., in 1777. Joining Col. Benedict Arnold, the force of 83 men captured the fort from its sleeping British inhabitants, sending its store of cannons and mortar to Boston Harbor in aid of Gen. George Washington. Despite Allen's combat experience in the French and Indian Wars, after this engagement his men saw fit to elect Allen's cousin, Seth Warner, as their leader.

Allen left to join the American campaign in Canada, and his Boys were assimilated into the Continental Army. Fighting with Montgomery's Army near Montreal, he was captured on Sept. 25, 1775, and put in chains. After his exchange in 1778, he published the popular "Narrative of Colonel Ethan Allen's Captivity," which strengthened the growing myth of this colorful man who that same year was promoted to colonel in the Continental Army and major general of militia.

Born on Jan. 21, 1738, in Litchfield, Conn., Allen had moved with his wife, Mary, to the region that is present-day Vermont in 1769. At the end of the Revolutionary War, he returned to his home there and devoted himself to obtaining statehood for Vermont. Frustrated by Congress's inaction, sometime between 1780 and 1783 Allen negotiated with Canada, perhaps angling to have Vermont denoted as a British province. He was charged with treason, but the charge was never substantiated; his action is widely seen as the flamboyant Allen's attempt to strong-arm the Continental Congress. Ethan Allen retired from politics in 1784.

Sadly, Allen did not live to celebrate Vermont's 1791 admittance as the fourteenth state in the Union. He died in 1789, having devoted his post-political years to writing treatises on his deist philosophy, including "Reason, the Only Oracle of Man." His statue stands in front of the Vermont statehouse, a proud reminder of the state's independence.

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