Ethan Allen

ETHAN ALLEN, a brigadier-general in the American revolutionary army, was born in Salisbury, Connecticut, but was educated principally in Vermont, to which state his parents emigrated whilst he was yet young. His education was of a limited character. In the disturbances which agitated Vermont, he took an active part against the royal authority, in favor of the Green mountain boys, the name by which the settlers in that territory were designated.

In 1775, soon after the battle of Lexington, in compliance with the request of the legislature of Connecticut, Allen collected a body of about 230 Green mountain boys, and marched against the fortresses of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, for the purpose of taking them by assault. At Castleton, he was joined by colonel Arnold, who had received directions from the Massachusetts committee of safety to raise a corps of men for the same purpose, but, failing to accomplish that object, he determined to proceed with the small force of colonel Allen. They arrived at the lake opposite to Ticonderoga, on the evening of May 9, and, having with great difficulty procured boats, landed 83 men on the other shore during the night. The day beginning to dawn, however, Allen was obliged to attack the fort before his rear could cross the lake, having previously animated his soldiers, by a harangue, which he concluded with saying, I now propose to advance before you, and in person to conduct you through the wicket-gate; but, inasmuch as it is a desperate attempt, I do not urge on any one contrary to his will. You that will undertake voluntarily, poise your fire-locks.' They all immediately poised their fire locks. He then advanced at the head of the centre file to the wicket-gate, where a sentry snapped his fusee at him, and retreated through the covered way, followed by Allen, who formed his men upon the parade. The apartments of the commanding officer having been pointed out to him by a sentry who asked quarter, he instantly repaired thither, and, holding his sword over captain de Laplace, whom he found undressed demanded, the surrender of the fort. The latter asking him by what authority, I demand it,' said in the name of the great Jehovah, and of the continental congress.' De Laplace was constrained to comply with the summons, and the fort, with its stores and garrison, was given up. On the same day, also, Allen obtained possession of Crown Point, and soon after captured a sloop-of-war, the only armed vessel on lake Champlain, and thus acquired the entire command of the lake.

In the following autumn, he was twice despatched into Canada, to engage the inhabitants to lend their support to the American cause. In the last of these expeditions, he formed a plan, in concert with colonel Brown, to reduce Montreal. September 10, 1775, Allen accordingly crossed the river, at the head of 110 men, but was attacked, before Brown could join him, by the British troops, consisting of 500 men, and, after a most obstinate resistance, was taken prisoner. The events of his captivity he himself has recorded in a narrative compiled by him after his release, in the most singular style, but apparently with great fidelity. For some time he was kept in arms, and treated with much severity. He was sent to England as a prisoner, with an assurance, that, on his arrival there, he would meet with the halter. During the passage, extreme cruelty was exercised towards him and his fellow-prisoners. They were all, to the number of 34, thrust, hand-cuffed, into a small place in the vessel, enclosed with white oak plank, not more than 20 feet wide by 22 long. After about a month's confinement in Pendennis castle, near Falmouth, he was put on board a frigate, January 8, 1776, and carried to Halifax. Thence, after an imprisonment of five months, he was removed to New York. On the passage from. Halifax to the latter place, Allen was treated with great kindness by captain Smith, the commander of the vessel, and evinced his gratitude by refusing to join in a conspiracy to kill the British captain and seize the frigate. His refusal prevented the execution of the plan. He remained at New York for a year and a half, sometimes in confinement, and sometimes at large, on parole. On May 6, 1778 Allen was exchanged for colonel Campbell, and immediately afterwards repaired to the head-quarters of General Washington, by whom he was received with much respect. As his health was impaired he returned to Vermont, after having made an offer of his services to the commander-in-chief, in case of his recovery. His arrival in Vermont was celebrated by the discharge of cannon; and he was appointed to the command of the state militia, as a mark of esteem for his patriotism and military talents. A fruitless attempt was made by the British to bribe him to lend his support to a union of Vermont with Canada. H e died suddenly at his estate in Colchester, February 13, 1789.

General Allen was a man of strong and enterprising, but haughty and restless mind. Although his education had been circumscribed, he was daring in his pretensions to knowledge, and bold and peremptory in his assertions. Besides the narrative of his captivity, which we have noticed, and a number of pamphlets in the controversy with New York, he published a Vindication of the Opposition of the Inhabitants of Vermont to the Government of New York, and their right to form an independent State,' 1779, and a work, entitled, Allen's Theology, or the Oracles of Reason,' the first formal publication in the United States openly directed against the Christian religion. Allen was a confirmed infidel. He adopted some of the most fantastical and absurd notions imaginable, believing, with Pythagoras, that the soul of man, after death, would live again in beasts, birds, fishes, etc. He often told his friends, that he himself would live again under the appearance of a large white horse. However, there is an anecdote extant, which proves that he professed to entertain those ideas more from an affectation of singularity, than from conviction. Whilst sitting in his library, conversing with a physician by the name of Elliot, Allen was informed that his daughter was dying, and desired to speak with him. He immediately repaired to her chamber, followed by Dr. Elliot. His wife was distinguished for her piety, and had instructed her daughter in the principles of Christianity. As soon as her father stood at her bedside, she said to him, I am about to die; shall I believe in the principles you have taught me, or shall I believe in what my mother has taught me?' He became greatly agitated; his chin quivered his whole frame shook; and, after waiting a few moments, he replied, 'Believe what your mother has taught you.'