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“in The Name Of The Great Jehovah And The Continental Congress!”
So bellowed Ethan Allen as he took Fort Ticonderoga without a shot. Once again the brawling giant of the Green Mountains had lived up to a myth that was indeed mighty—but no greater, perhaps, than the actual man
October 1963 | Volume 14, Issue 6
The landing was made just north of a projection into the lake known as Willow Point. At once Allen lined up his men in three ranks, seeing them in silhouette against a horizon that was just beginning to pale with dawn, and made a little speech. According to his own account, he reminded them that they had been for years “a scourge and terror to arbitrary power,” whose “valour has been famed abroad,” but that “we must this morning either quit our pretensions to valour, or possess ourselves of this fortress in a few minutes.” He urged none of his men to go contrary to their will and asked those who would go voluntarily to “poise your firelocks.” Every gun was lifted.
The column, headed by Allen with Arnold beside him, moved swiftly and silently into a road that led past a charcoal oven, a redoubt, a well, and around the eastern outer wall of the fort to the broken gate in the southern face. Through this sprang Ethan Allen, waving his sword. A British sentry, posted inside, sprang up, aimed his cocked musket pointblank at the charging giant, and pulled the trigger. There was a flash in the pan; the gun had misfired. The sentry then very sensibly fled, yelling at the top of his lungs to rouse his comrades, though this seemed unnecessary since Ethan and his men, pursuing him through an archway into the center of the fort, now emitted terrifying Indian war whoops. The sentry took refuge in a bombproof across the way while Ethan, briefly, formed his men in a hollow square.
Then, abruptly, all pretense of military discipline gave way, to the shocked outrage of Benedict Arnold. The men rushed with fearsome yells of “No Quarter” toward the barracks whence emerged at that moment a soldier with fixed bayonet. He made a thrust toward the nearest man but Ethan rushed him from the side and knocked him down with the flat of his sword, sparing his life on condition he point out the commandant’s room. Toward this, up a stairway, rushed Ethan, yelling “Come out of there, you damned old rat!” and demanding with a string of oaths the fort’s immediate surrender.
A bewildered half-naked officer (he was a lieutenant, the second-in-command) appeared at the head of the stairs, trousers in hand. What was this all about? he wanted to know. In whose name was this “surrender” demanded?
“In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!” cried Ethan Allen. He also roared that he would kill every man, woman, and child in the place if he did not obtain “immediate possession of the Fort and all the effects of George the Third.”
Then the door of the commandant’s room opened, and Captain William Delaplace, who had had time to don his full uniform, appeared. There being nothing else he could do, he surrendered his sword to Ethan Allen and ordered his men paraded without arms.
And then, for the conquerors of Ticonderoga, including Seth Warner’s rear guard which soon arrived, there followed one of the gayest, most riotous binges in all American history. For “the Refreshment of the Fatigued Soldiary,” Ethan appropriated some ninety gallons of rum from Delaplace’s private stock (he gave the Captain a receipt for it, later paid by Connecticut), and soon all the Americans save the highly disapproving, very military Benedict Arnold were glowingly alcoholic. Arnold, indeed, provided the only discordant note in the otherwise joyous harmony of the occasion by reasserting his claim to command on the grounds that he had an official written commission whereas Ethan Allen did not. This caused Chairman Mott of the war committee to give Ethan a written commission. It also placed Arnold in considerably more personal danger than he had been in during the assault, for the drunken Green Mountain Boys derided him, threatened him, even took pot shots at him. His scarlet coat was such a splendid target.
Ethan himself stayed sober enough to write and dispatch several letters to official bodies announcing his triumph, but their language testifies to an uncommon exhilaration, even for him. Here, for instance, is his message to the “Massachusetts Provential Congress”:
I have to inform You with Pleasure Unfelt Before that on breake of Day on the 10th of may 1775 by the Order of the General Assembly of the Colony of Connecticut took the Fortress of Ticonderoga by Storm the soldiary was Composed of about one Hundred Green Mountain Boys and Near Fifty Veteran Soldiers from the Province of Massachusetts Bay the Latter was under the Command of Col. James Easton who behaved with Great Zeal and fortitude. Not only in Council but in the Assault the Soldiary behaved with such resisless fury that they so terrified the Kings Troops that They Durst not Fire on their Assailants and our Soldiary was Agreeably Disappointed the Soldiary behaved with uncommon ranker when they leaped into the fourt.
Two days later, Seth Warner took Crown Point without firing a shot (his captives were a sergeant, eight privates, ten women and children). A few days after that, Benedict Arnold was given command of the schooner that Herrick had captured at Skenesboro. He rechristened it the Liberty and set out for the northern end of the lake, where, without bloodshed, he captured a British sloop, the only warship on Champlain.