A letter from Ethan Allen to the Governor of Connecticut, written
two days after the capture of Fort Ticonderoga on May 10, 1775.

Honorable Sir- I make you a present of a Major a Captain and Two   
Lieuts in the regular establishment of George the Third. I hope they      
may serve as ransom for some of our friends at Boston and particularly
for Capt Brown of Rhode Island. . .

Taking Fort Ticonderoga[1]

In the spring of 1775 relations between the American colonies and Great Britain had steadily worsened. The First Continental Congress had already taken place. The colonists were stockpiling arms in anticipation of an outbreak of hostilities. In February of 1775, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress sent Colonel John Brown of Pittsfield to Canada to discover how the Canadians would react should Great Britain be defied. The Canadians were not about to back up the southern colonies, and he added, "One thing I must mention to be kept as a profound Secret, the Fort at Tyconderogo must be seised as soon as possible should hositilities be committed by the King's Troops."

Col. Samuel Wyllys, Silas Deane and Samuel Parsons of Connecticut (perhaps at Col. Brown's suggestion) conceived the idea of capturing Ticonderoga and the military supplies stored there. The Colony of Massachusetts raised a considerable sum and selected Col. Benedict Arnold to raise a force and take the fort. About the same time Ethan Allen[2], leader of the Green Mountain Boys in Vermont also came up with the same idea. Allen and Arnold met in Castleton, VT. They didn't hit it off, and both insisted they had command. The Green Mountain Boys absolutely refused to serve under anyone but Allen. Finally, Arnold went along as a volunteer.

Captain Noah Phelps of Simsbury was sent by Allen to Ticonderoga to spy on them. He crossed the lake disguised as a farmer, and found lodging near the fort where several officers were having supper. He eavesdropped as best he could, and in the morning went into the fort for a shave and observed what he could. He learned the number of men there and the fact that the ammunition was damaged. Thereupon, he returned to Castleton to report his findings.

Allen immediately sent his men to Hand's Point near Shoreham. By the time all had gathered, there were 270 men. The problem was, there weren't enough boats, and the ones that were supposed to be there didn't show up. Finally, two boats did show. Allen and Arnold, with eighty-three men crowded into the two boats and landed about a half mile below the fort at daybreak.

After they were assembled, Allen started to give them the command to march forward. Benedict Arnold jumped in and said he was taking command. Allen turned to Amos Callender, of Shoreham, and said, "What shall I do with the damned rascal? Shall I put him under guard?" Callender was worried about a fracas at such a critical time and suggested they agree to enter the fort together. They both agreed.

A young man named Beman, who was about eighteen years old and had spent much time in the fort, and was well acquainted with all the passages, buildings and quarters of the officers and soldiers became the guide. The main entrance on the south was in ruins. Nine men from Shoreham were known to be part of the group: Nathan Beman, Thomas Rowley, Jr.[3], John Crigo, Elijah Kellogg, Amos Callender, Samuel Wolcott, Samuel Wolcott, Jr., Stephen Smith (then of Manchester) and Hopkins Rowley[4] (then of Pittsford). Allen, Arnold and their men swarmed through and came upon a single sentry. He pointed his musket at the group and pulled the trigger. It apparently misfired, so he turned and ran into the fort shouting an alarm. The Green Mountain Boys were in close pursuit, yelling like Indians. Another sentry slightly wounded one of them with a bayonet and received a blow to the head for his trouble. Allen ordered him to show the way to the officer's quarters.

Leaving the men drawn up in two lines, back to back, Allen and Arnold followed the sentry to a staircase in the west barracks. In response to the pounding on the door an officer[5], wearing a coat and waistcoat, but carrying his breeches, opened the door. Allen shouted, "Come out of there, you damned old rat," (or "skunk" or "bastard," depending on who was telling the story). The astonished officer asked by what authority they intruded. That was when Allen smartly replied, "In the Name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!"[6]

A Footnote to the Affair: After the Battle of Breed's Hill (near Bunker Hill in Massachusetts) General Washington regarded the need for the cannon and other armaments from Fort Ticonderoga so great that "no Trouble or Expence must be spared to obtain them." The task of bringing them to Boston fell to Henry Knox, a former bookseller, who became commander of the artillery. He selected 59 of Fort Ticonderoga's guns and the cannon for a wintry 300-mile trip. They were installed at Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston on March 5, 1776 to the astonishment of the British and the gratitude of George Washington.

[1] This compilation is drawn from Stephen H. P. Pell, Fort Ticonderoga, A Short History, (Ticonderoga, NY; Fort Ticonderoga Museum, 1935, 1990) pages 54 to 65; Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution, (New York; The MacMillan Company, 1952) Volume I, pages 63-72; and Rev. Josiah Goodhue, History of the Town of Shoreham, Vermont, 1761 to 1861, (Middlebury, VT; A. H. Copeland, 1861) pages 12-17.

[2] Ethan Allen was born in a log cabin in Litchfield, CT, the eldest son of a farmer. He served in the French and Indian War. Thereafter, he set up an iron furnace and tried lead mining. In 1768 he removed to New Hampshire Grants (now known as Vermont). New York was attempting to exercise authority over the Grants, claiming them as theirs. Allen was one of the leaders in the resistance, and was tried and convicted in absentia. Thomas Rowley was widely known as a wit and a poet. If Ethan Allen roused up the Green Mountain Boys to defend their homes and hearths, Rowley set the mountains on fire with his inspirational poems. A long poem about the conflict starts like this:

An invitation to the poor tenants that
live under their patroons in the Province
of New York, To come and settle on our
Good lands under the New Hampshire Grants.

Come all you laboring hands that toil below,
Among the rocks and sands, that plow and so;
Upon your hired lands, let out by cruel hands,
'Twill make you large amends to Rutland go.

[3] The vital statistics of Thomas Rowley Jr. are quite different, depending upon the source. Bruce Campbell MacGunnigle, C.G., Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, Edward Fuller, 2nd Edition, Volume 4 (General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1995), page 154: Thomas [Rowley] b. after 1756; m. Danby VT 10 July 1710 (sic) Eunice Cooper; d. Shoreham VT 1803. They cite Montpelier. VT VR (marriage and death, Thomas Jr.).

Susan Holt MacIntire & Sanford Stowell Witherell, A Genealogical Register of the Early Families of Shoreham, VT, (Rutland, VT; Academy Books, 1992), page 409: Rowley, Thomas Jr., son of Thomas Rowley and Lois Cass, b. ca. 1746 Hebron, Ct., d. 11 Sept. 1828 Buffalo, N.Y., m. 10 July 1780 in Danby, Vt. Eunice Cooper, dau. of Stephen Cooper and Eunice Edwards, b. 1754, d. 1827. No citations are given. A note said: Thomas and family ran an Inn, but sold it and left Shoreham in 1814.

[4] Hopkins Rowley was born 18 December 1758, probably in Kent, Litchfield Co., CT (his father's transactions said he was "of Kent" embracing that time frame-- 1758 & 1759), died 1 September 1831 in Shoreham, Addison County, VT. He married 1) probably Pittsford 1 Sep. 1784 Elizabeth Stewart, born Kent, CT 17 May 1770, died Shoreham 29 July 1825; 2) Enosburg, Franklin Co., VT Abigail Mott. Hopkins and Elizabeth are buried together in Lakeview Cemetery in Shoreham.

[5] Some records state that Lieutenant Jocelyn Feltham was the officer who answered the door, but Allen, in his own account of the matter, said it was Capt. William Delaplace, commander of the fort.

[6] The Continental Congress had given no such authority. As a matter of fact, they couldn't figure out what to do with the fort and its possessions. To New York, on whose soil it stood? To the New Hampshire Grants, since they captured it? To Massachusetts or Connecticut, since they paid for a good portion of the effort? This question caused grave headshaking in the Second Continental Congress, where some timid souls were even suggesting that the fort be returned to the Crown.

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