A Narrative of Col. Ethan Allen’s Captivity

Author: Ethan Allen  | Date: 1846

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Burlington 1846

"In the Name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress"

[1775]

Ever since I arrived at the state of manhood, and acquainted myself with the general history of mankind, I have felt a sincere passion for liberty. The history of nations, doomed to perpetual slavery, in consequence of yielding up to tyrants their natural-born liberties, I read with a sort of philosophical horror; so that the first systematical and bloody attempt at Lexington to enslave America thoroughly electrified my mind, and fully determined me to take part with my country.

And, while I was wishing for an opportunity to signalize myself in its behalf, directions were privately sent to me from the then colony, (now state) of Connecticut, to raise the Green Mountain Boys, and, if possible, to surprise and take the fortress of Ticonderoga. This enterprise I cheerfully undertook; and after first guarding all the several passes that led thither, to cut off all intelligence between the garrison and the country, made a forced march from Bennington, and arrived at the lake opposite to Ticonderoga, on the evening of the ninth day of May, 1775, with two hundred and thirty valiant Green Mountain Boys; and it was with the utmost difficulty that I procured boats to cross the lake.

However, I landed eighty-three men near the garrison, and sent the boats back for the rear guard, commanded by Col. Seth Warner, but the day began to dawn, and I found myself under a necessity to attack the fort, before the rear could cross the lake; and, as it was viewed hazardous, I harangued the officers and soldiers in the manner following:

"Friends and fellow soldiers: You have, for a number of years past, been a scourge and terror to arbitrary power. Your valor has been famed abroad, and acknowledged, as appears by the advice and orders to me, from the General Assembly of Connecticut, to surprise and take the garrison now before us. I now propose to advance before you, and in person, conduct you through the wicket-gate; for we must this morning either quit our pretensions to valor, or possess ourselves of this fortress in a few minutes; and, inasmuch as it is a desperate attempt, which none but the bravest of men dare undertake, I do not urge it on any contrary to his will. You that will undertake voluntarily, poise your firelocks."

The men being, at this time, drawn up in three ranks, each poised his firelock. I ordered them to face to the right, and at the head of the center-file, marched them immediately to the wicket-gate aforesaid, where I found a sentry posted, who instantly snapped his fusee at me. I ran immediately towards him, and he retreated through the covered way into the parade within the garrison, gave a halloo, and ran under a bombproof. My party, who followed me into the fort, I formed on the parade in such a manner as to face the two barracks which faced each other.

The garrison being asleep, except the sentries, we gave three huzzas which greatly surprised them. One of the sentries made a pass at one of my officers with a charged bayonet, and slightly wounded him. My first thought was to kill him with my sword; but in an instant I altered the design and fury of the blow to a slight cut on the side of the head; upon which he dropped his gun, and asked quarter, which I readily granted him, and demanded of him the place where the commanding officer kept.

He showed me a pair of stairs in the front of the barrack, on the west part of the garrison, which led up a second story in said barracks, to which I immediately repaired, and ordered the commander, Capt. De La Place, to come forth instantly, or I would sacrifice the whole garrison; at which the captain came immediately to the door with his breeches in his hand. When I ordered him to deliver me the fort instantly, he asked me by what authority I demanded it. I answered him:

"In the name of the great Jehovah, and the Continental Congress."

The authority of the Congress being very little known at that time, he began to speak again; but I interrupted him, and, with my drawn sword over his head, again demanded an immediate surrender of the garrison; with which he then complied, and ordered his men to be forth. with paraded without arms, as he had given orders, and in consequence thereof, sundry of the barracks doors were beat down, and about one third of the garrison imprisoned, which consisted of the said commander, a Lieut. Feltham, a conductor of artillery, a gunner, two sergeants, and forty-four rank and file, about one hundred pieces of cannon: one thirteen inch mortar, and a number of swivels. This surprise was carried into execution in the grey of the morning of the tenth day of May, 1775.

The sun seemed to rise that morning with a superior lustre; and Ticonderoga and its dependencies smiled on its conquerors, who tossed about the flowing bowl, and wished success to Congress, and the liberty and freedom of America.

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Chicago: Ethan Allen, A Narrative of Col. Ethan Allen’s Captivity in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed December 7, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=LFQELMCMI4STL9W.

MLA: Allen, Ethan. A Narrative of Col. Ethan Allen’s Captivity, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 7 Dec. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=LFQELMCMI4STL9W.

Harvard: Allen, E, A Narrative of Col. Ethan Allen’s Captivity. cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 7 December 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=LFQELMCMI4STL9W.