Thursday, May 10, 2012

May 10, 1775: Ticonderoga Taken By Storm!

The Capture of Fort Ticonderoga, engraving after Alonzo Chappel[1]
             "...[I]...ordered the commander, Capt. De la Place, to come forth instantly, or I would sacrifice the whole garrison; at which the Capt. 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'...If the Colonel has expressed a little of his usual severity in this place, he might have remarked also, that neither of these authorities he mentioned were much known in a British camp." [2]         

                                                                                         -Ethan Allen

         Next to Washington's raid on Trenton, this is probably one of the most successful operations involving surprise of the war.  What is interesting is that the Green Mountain Boys were militia (or in some peoples' minds, brigands).  They were formed by Allen in the early 1770's to run off settlers in the New Hampshire Grants.  

           "Last evening arrived here John Brown, Esq; from Ticonderoga, express to the General Congress, from whom we learn, that on the beginning of this instant, a company of about fifty men, from Connecticutt and the western part of Massachussetts,  and joined by upwards of one-hundred from Bennington [Green Mountain Boys], in New York government and the adjacent towns, proceeded to the eastern side of Lake Champlain, and on the night before the 11th current, crossed the lake with 85 men (not being able to obtain craft to transport the rest), and about daybreak invested the fort, whose gate, contrary to expectation, they found shut, but the wicker open, through which, with the Indian war whoop, all that could entered one by one, other scaling the wall on both sides of the gate, and instantly secured and disarmed the sentries, and pressed into the parade, where they formd the hollow square; but immediately quitting that order, they rushed into the several barracks on three sides of the fort, and seized on the garrison, consisting of two officers, and upwards of forty privates [a detachment of the 26th Foot, commanded by Capt. de la Place], whom they brought out disarmed, put under guard and sent since to Hartford, Connecticut .  All this was performed in about ten minutes, without the loss of life or a drop of blood on our side, and but very little on that of the King's troops. 
       In the fort were found about thirty barrels of flour, a few ditto of pork, seventy-odd chests of leaden ball, computed at three hundred tons, about then or twelve barrells of powder in bad condition, near two-hundred pieces of ordnances of all sizes, from eighteen pounders downwards, at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, which last place being held by only a corporal and eight men, falls of course into our hands."[3]

Less than one hundred men captured this!
Plan of Fort Carillon [Ticonderoga] by Jeffrys (1771)[4]

       The capture of Ticonderoga by Ethan Allen with his Green Mountain Boys and Benedict Arnold of Connecticut provided the rebels with a much needed strong point, provided a critical capability (heavy ordnance), and secured the New York Highlands and North-South lines of communication for at least the next two years.  Thanks to the later efforts of Henry Knox, Ticonderoga would supply the ordnance for the army's position at Dorchester Heights that made the town of Boston an untenable British garrison.  When you consider how difficult a mission was Ticonderoga;  River Crossing, Penetration, Night attack on a fortified garrison, its impressive that a militia unit could pull this off.  I will qualify that the Green Mountain Boys had been operating as extra-legal paramilitaries for about five years, but neverhteless, this was the kind of thing one might have expected chasseurs, jaegers or highlanders to pull off, not militia.


[1] Capture of Fort Ticonderoga: Ethan Allen and Captain de Ia Place. Engraving from painting by Alonzo Chappel. 111-SC-94758.  National Archives,, accessed 10May12.
[2] Allen, Ethan., A Narrative of Col. Ethan Allen's Captivity., Goodrich, Burlinton, VT, 4th ed., 1846. (14-15).
[3] Dixon and Hunter, Virginia Gazette, No. 1243, 3 June 1775, (2), Rockefeller Library, Colonial Williamsburg, accessed 10May12.
[4] Jeffrys, Thomas, A Plan of the Town and Fort of Carillon, 1758, m. 1771., G 3804 T5 1758 J4 CAR, Biblotheque et Archives du Nacional Quebec,, accessed 10May12.

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