Who was "Ethan Allen"?

Ethan Allen is the historical leader of Vermont's Green Mountain Boys and has been enshrined in Vermont folklore as a hero. Allen is most celebrated for his courage and his vigor.

After serving in the French and Indian Wars, Allen settled in Bennington, Vermont. He quickly became involved in land disputes with the states of New York and New Hampshire over land grants dually issued by governors from both states. The Green Mountain Boys were initially formed to defend the settled citizens in the disputed territories between modern New Hampshire and modern New York, who had settled under New Hampshire grants and needed defense from aggression by New York.

With Ethan Allen as their leader, the Green Mountain Boys fought with American troops in the Revolutionary War. On May 10, 1775, the Americans and the Green Mountain Boys seized Fort Ticonderoga in New York from the British. Eventually, this small victory led to the American victory at Saratoga, which is considered by historians to be the turning point of the American Revolution.

Joining the Continental Army, Allen participated in secret missions to Canada. Allen was captured by the British on September 25, 1775, and sent to England. History records that Allen was treated harshly, but was returned in a prisoner exchange on May 6, 1778. This piece of Allen's history is often not retold in Vermont folklore. Allen missed most of the American Revolution due to his imprisonment.

Legal battles continued with the English Crown and eventually with the independantly declared States, until Vermont declared itself independent from New York and New Hampshire on January 17, 1777. Originally called "New Connecticut," the name was changed to "Vermont" by the Windsor Constitutional Convention on July 8, 1777. Vermont was not admitted into the United States until 1791, so for fourteen years it remained an independent republic. The Continental Congress did not recognize Vermont’s independence. Besides fighting along with the American troops in the Revolutionary War, the Green Mountain Boys were responsible for protecting the new republic of Vermont and its citizens.

Allen eventually settled in the Champlain Valley, outside the city of Burlington, in 1787. He died there on February 12, 1789. He was 51 years old, having been born in Litchfield, Connecticut, on January 10, 1738.

Although Allen never saw Vermont recognized as an official state, he was involved in negotiations to possibly annex Vermont as part of Canada. Scholarship is unclear about the author or intent of letters that might have been written by Ethan Allen, Ira Allen (Ethan's brother, founder of the University of Vermont and an important initial political leader), and other leaders of the time. Through the information contained in these letters, some scholars say that Ethan Allen wanted Vermont to join Canada for business reasons, although most scholarship seems to believe that Vermont was trying to provoke the United States into granting statehood by threatening to join Canada. Ethan Allen took his intentions to his grave.

Besides Fort Ethan Allen being named for Allen's efforts, his homestead in Burlington is preserved, as well as other honors.  Ethan Allen is presumably Vermont's most well known military hero.

There are so many tributes across Vermont to Ethan Allen that they are too numerous to count.  The corridor along the western side of the state, containing US Route 7, is also referred to as the "Ethan Allen Highway."  Amtrack runs a train route through the western side of Vermont known as the "Ethan Allen Express."  The United States government owns a submarine named after Ethan Allen.  The list goes on and on...


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Historic Fort Ethan Allen

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"Allen, Ethan," Encyclopedia Americana, The, International Edition, Grolier Incorporated, Danbury, CT, 1996, Vol. 1.

Cheney, Cora, Vermont The State with the Storybook Past, The New England Press, Shelburne, Vermont, 1986.




United States Department of the Interior, Nomination Form For The National Register of Historic Places, Fort Ethan Allen, 1988, National Park Service, section 8, pages 2, 3.

Other Links:

Ethan Allen biography:  http://www.infoplease.com/ce5/CE001495.html

Ethan Allen biography with other links:  http://www.wolfenet.com/~harbrsch/allen_e.html