Walter Hill Crockett.

Vermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 1) online

. (page 32 of 34)
Online LibraryWalter Hill CrockettVermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 1) → online text (page 32 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

crown all our fatigues, risks and labours; to fail of
victory will be an eternal disgrace, but to obtain it will
elevate us on the wings of fame." The enthusiastic tone
of this letter would indicate that Colonel Allen himself
was somewhat elevated, in anticipation, "on the wings
of fame," by the reception accorded him by the Cana-
dian people.

General Montgomery wrote on September 19: 'T
have sent Colonel Allen to Chambly to raise a corps.
Thus far Allen's efiforts had been successful, and Gen-
eral Carleton wrote Lord Dartmouth that the American
emissaries "have injured us very much."


Having passed through all the parishes on the Riche-
lieu River to its mouth, Allen followed the St. Lawrence
River to Longueuil, nearly opposite Montreal. On the
morning of September 24, he set out with a guard of
about eighty men for Laprairie, from which place he in-
tended to proceed to General Montgomery's camp. He
had advanced less than two miles from Longueuil when
he met Col. John Brown, who desired to have a private
conversation with him. Entering a house, a conference
was held, in which Brown proposed, according to Allen's
''Narrative," that if Allen would return to Longueuil,
procure canoes and cross the St. Lawrence River a little
north of Montreal, he (Brown) would cross a little south
of the town with nearly two hundred men, and they
could make themselves "masters of Montreal."

Allen's party consisted of about one hundred and ten
men, thirty English-Americans having been added to
his numbers. The greater part of the night was spent
in transporting the men across the river, only a few
canoes being available, and the stream being wide at this
point. Soon after daybreak on the morning of Septem-
ber 25, Allen posted guards with orders to permit no
persons to pass along the highway. Waiting until the
sun was two hours high for the signal that Colonel
Brown had landed on the other side of Montreal, which
was to be three huzzas on the part of his men, the un-
welcome truth dawned upon Allen that Brown had
failed to cooperate with him, and that he was in an ex-
ceedingly perilous position. He had canoes sufficient to
transport only a third of his men, and an attempt to
recross the river would be discovered, and the men left


behind almost certainly would be captured. Therefore,
he determined to defend himself to the best of his ability,
and dispatched two messengers asking for aid, one being
sent to Colonel Brown and another to Thomas Walker
at Assomption, who was a friend of the American cause.
Certain persons approached the guards, pretending to be
friends, but were made prisoners. Unfortunately for
Allen one of these escaped and exposed the weakness of
the attacking party.

There was a great tumult in Montreal when it was
reported that an American force was at the gates of the
city, according to Allen's ''Narrative," and General
Carleton is said to have made preparations to embark
on the British ships, with other government officials, but
the news brought by the spy who had escaped from
Allen's detachment, put a different aspect upon affairs.
Carleton assembled the inhabitants in the Champ de
Mars and a force was organized under Major Campbell
for the defence of the city. According to Allen, this
force "consisted of not more than forty regular troops,
together with a mixed multitude, chiefly Canadians, with
a number of English who lived in town, and some
Indians; in all to the number of five hundred." James
Livingston said General Prescott engaged a number of
people in the suburbs at a half a joe per man to go out
against Allen.

Encouraging his men to defend themselves bravely,
and expressing the hope that help would come soon.
Colonel Allen made the best possible disposition of the
few men under his command. Richard Young, with a
detachment of nine men as a flank guard, was posted


under the cover of the bank of the river. The enemy
began the attack between two and three o'clock in the
afternoon, firing from buildings, behind woodpiles and
in ditches. The fire was returned, the engagement con-
tinuing for some time without decisive results. At
length about half the British force attempted a flank
movement on Allen's right, which he attempted to
check by ordering John Dugan, with about fifty Cana-
dians to make a stand at a ditch, and prevent the prog-
ress of the flanking movement. Instead of opposing the
enemy, Dugan's party on the right and Young's detach-
ment on the left, took to their heels, leaving Allen with
only about forty-five men, some of whom were wounded.
He retreated about a mile, being hard pressed by his pur-
suers. Of this experience Allen says: ''I expected in
a very short time to try the world of spirits; for I was
apprehensive that no quarter would be given to me, and
therefore had determined to sell my life as dear as I

According to the Ainslie Journal the British loss in
this afifray was four killed and three wounded, two of
those killed being Major Garden of the Royal American
regiment and Alexander Patterson, a Montreal mer-
chant, who was mortally wounded.

Seeing that there was no chance of success against
such overwhelming odds, Allen called to an officer with
whom he had exchanged shots, a natural son of Sir
William Johnson, that he would surrender, provided he
would be treated with honor and assured of good quar-
ters for himself and men. This promise was made, and
was confirmed by another officer. The surrender was


made, and included thirty-one effective men and seven

Shortly after he had handed his sword to the officer
whom he addressed, a naked, painted Indian, whose
features, Allen says, expressed "malice, death, murder,
and the wrath of devils and damned spirits," attempted
to shoot him. Seizing the officer to whom he had sur-
rendered, Allen used him as a shield, whirling round and
round, and protecting himself until help came.

The prisoners were taken to the barracks at Mon-
treal, a distance of two miles, or more. On the way
Allen conversed with some of the regular officers, who
expressed their pleasure at seeing him, to which Allen
replied that he would have preferred to meet them at
General Montgomery's camp. Arriving at headquar-
ters, Allen was brought before General Prescott. When
this officer learned that his prisoner was the man who
captured Ticonderoga, he flew into a towering rage,
shaking his cane over the head of the captive, and calling
him many abusive names. Allen was not the man to
endure such treatment with meekness, although a pris-
oner, and he shook his brawny fist in the face of General
Prescott, telling him "that was the beetle of mortality
for him if he dared to strike" ; that he would do well not
to cane him, for he was not accustomed to such treat-

Prescott then ordered a sergeant's command with
fixed bayonets to come forward and kill thirteen Cana-
dians included among the prisoners. As they were
wringing their hands in terror, Allen stepped in front
of the condemned men, and told General Prescott to kill


him if anybody must be killed, as he was responsible for
their taking up arms. With an oath Prescott replied:
''I will not execute you now, but you shall grace a halter
at Tyburn." Allen was then taken on board a ship of
war, the Gaspee, and confined in irons. The few Ameri-
cans wounded were taken to a hospital and the other
prisoners were shackled together in pairs, like criminals,
and put on board vessels lying in the St. Lawrence

Brook Watson, a British merchant, afterward Lord
Mayor of London, who had professed to be a friend of
the American cause, but whose friendship Ira Allen
doubted when he conducted him from Crown Point to
the Canadian border in June, 1775, wrote to John Butler
on October 19: "Colonel Allen, who commanded this
despicable party of plunderers (they were promised the
plunder of the town) was with most of his wretches
taken. He is now in irons on board the Gaspee. This
action gave a sudden turn to the Canadians, who be-
fore were nine-tenths for the Bostonians." This is
rather an illuminating description of the attitude of the
Canadian people.

The comments made by various American leaders on
Allen's ill-starred attack is not without interest.
Colonel Warner, writing to General Montgomery from
Laprairie, September 27, said: "His (Allen's) defeat
hath put the French people into great consternation.
They are much concerned for fear of a company coming
over against us. Furthermore, the Indian chiefs were
at Montreal at the time of Allen's battle, and there were
a number of the Caughnawaga Indians in the battle


against Allen, and the people are very fearful of the

In writing to General Schuyler on September 20, Gen-
eral Montgomery lamented '*Mr. Allen's imprudence and
ambition, which urged him to this affair single handed,
when he might have had a considerable reinforcement."

General Schuyler, always rather inclined to be touchy
when the Green Mountain Boys were mentioned, wrote
to John Hancock, on October 15, saying: "I am very
apprehensive of disagreeable consequences arising from
Mr. Allen's imprudence. I always dreaded his im-
patience of subordination; and it was not until after a
solemn promise, made me in the presence of several offi-
cers, that he would demean himself properly, that I
would permit him to attend the army ; nor would I have
consented then had not his solicitations been backed by
several officers."

On October 26, General Washington wrote to General
Schuyler as follows : ''Colonel Allen's misfortune will,
I hope, teach a lesson of prudence and subordination to
others who may be too ambitious to outshine their gen-
eral officers, and, regardless of order and duty, rush
into enterprises which have unfavorable effects to the
publick and are destructive to themselves."

The truth of the old adage, "Nothing succeeds like
success," cannot be controverted, but the converse of
the saying is equally true. Because Allen failed, he has
been condemned with general unanimity of opinion for
his rashness, his overweening ambition, and his lack of
subordination. While there may be an element of jus-
tice in the verdict there is also the possibility that it


contains no small degree of injustice. It is true that
Allen was impulsive, enthusiastic, somewhat inclined to
boast fulness, and probably by no means a stranger to
rashness. He had never had the benefit of training in
the army during the Colonial wars, like some of his con-
temporaries, but he had had the benefit of an experience
in the border warfare against New York that sharpened
his wits, and with his natural qualities of leadership he
might, under favorable circumstances, have been a
powerful aid to the American cause if his career in the
War for Independence had not been ended so soon after
its beginning. There are two or three important facts
in connection with this episode that historians generally
have overlooked. The first is, that, according to Allen's
story, the inception of the idea of attempting the capture
of Montreal should be credited to Col. John Brown
and not to Allen. Brown proposed the plan, and Allen
acquiesced in it readily, and, it may be presumed, joy-

Moreover, it is not unreasonable to presume that had
Brown kept his part of the compact, Montreal might
have been captured. Brown had a larger force than
Allen, and with Montreal in a state of terror, and at-
tacked on two sides, its capture would have been far
from difficult. Ira Allen's insinuation that there was
something dishonorable in Brown's action cannot be
accepted, in the light of Brown's subsequent patriotic
service, but his failure to notify Allen of his change of
plan was a neglect that proved costly.

Very likely Allen was ambitious, but admitting the
truth of this accusation, it may be observed with safety


that he was not an original sinner in that respect, and
the evil did not die with him. Naturally he desired to
restore the prestige damaged by his defeat for the posi-
tion of commander of the regiment of Green Mountain
Boys, and the taking of Montreal would have accom-
plished this purpose, and would have added new honors
to the fame already won.

If Montreal had been captured on this particular Sep-
tember morning, history would have had little to say of
Ethan Allen's rashness, and the exploit would have
ranked with his capture of Ticonderoga. If Allen is
justly charged with rashness, then he paid dearly for
his error, for presently he sailed out of the St. Law-
rence River, a prisoner loaded with irons; and at the
same time sailed out of the current of the events of the
American Revolution, which made great names for many
of the men who participated in that contest.

The capture of Fort Chambly situated about six miles
north of St. Johns, on October 18, by Colonel Brown
and James Livingston, with a force of about fifty Amer-
icans and three hundred Canadians, went far to ofifset
the efifects of the capture of Allen upon the fluctuating
temperament of the Canadian people. Boats had been
piloted past St. Johns in the darkness, bringing a few
nine-pounders, and with these such good execution was
done that Major Stafford surrendered, with eighty offi-
cers and men, and a quantity of provisions and ammuni-

The siege of St. Johns, conducted by General Mont-
gomery, did not make rapid progress. There was con-
siderable sickness among the American troops, and be-


tween July 20 and September 25, sixteen men of
Colonel Warner's regiment were discharged on account
of illness. Soon after their arrival the Green Mountain
Boys and a detachment of Colonel Hinman's regiment
were commanded by Colonel Bedel of New Hampshire.
Col. Seth Warner was stationed at Laprairie the latter
part of September, and writing to General Montgomery
from that place on September 27, he said: "If I must
tarry here I should be glad of my regiment, for my party
is made up with different companies in different regi-
ments." He was also stationed at Longueuil, three
leagues east of Laprairie, and two miles from Montreal,
and evidently received his regiment, as official records
show that at Longueuil he commanded the Green Moun-
tain Boys and two companies of the Second New York

The British forces at Montreal made frequent attacks
on Warner's position, and shots were exchanged almost
daily. On October 20, Montgomery wrote to Schuyler :
"Colonel Warner has had a little brush with a party
from Montreal. The enemy retired with the loss of five
prisoners and some killed. Some of the prisoners
(Canadians) are dangerous enemies, and must be taken
care of."

These attacks continuing, Warner made several ap-
plications to Montgomery for some field pieces, but
failed to receive them. At length the officers united in a
petition for two field pieces, and they arrived late on
Sunday evening, October 30. This was a fortunate
circumstance, for the very next day. General Carleton
and St. Luc la Corne, a leader of savage tribes, with Ca-


nadians, and one hundred Indians, in thirty- four boats,
attacked the Americans at Longueuil "with great resolu-
tion." (Some accounts say there were eight hundred
troops.) The purpose of the British forces was to
effect a landing, unite with Colonel McLean who had
collected a few hundred Scotch emigrants and taken post
at the mouth of the Richelieu River, and march to St.
Johns with the intention of raising the siege.

Perceiving the approach of the enemy, Warner, who
had about three hundred men under his command, dis-
patched Captain Potter's company to a point nearly
opposite Grant's Island, where after a short skirmish
they were able to prevent an attempted landing of
Indians, the savages losing four men killed and three
prisoners. Meanwhile a party of the enemy, taking ad-
vantage of wind and current, approached Longueuil,
expecting to make a landing, but a force posted by War-
ner at the river's edge opened so effectively upon the
boats with grape shot from the two field pieces and well
directed musketry fire, that Carleton believed reinforce-
ments must have been received, and he retreated to Mon-
treal. Not a man of Warner's party was killed or
wounded. About fifty of the attacking party were killed
and wounded, some reports making the list of casualties
still greater. Five Indians were slain. Three Cana-
dians and two Indians were taken prisoners. Colonel
McLean therefore abandoned his post at the mouth of
the Richelieu and returned to Quebec.

The following morning, November 1, Capt. Heman
Allen, an older brother of Ethan Allen, was sent to Gen-
eral Montgomery's headquarters at St. Johns with dis-


patches and the three prisoners taken before his arrival,
with the welcome news. The American commander
sent a flag of truce to Major Preston, commandant at
St. Johns, accompanied by an account of the defeat of
General Carleton by Colonel Warner, and mentioning
the name of one of the prisoners taken, a man of impor-
tance. Major Preston requested that hostilities might
be suspended, and that the prisoner mentioned might
be permitted on his parole of honor, to come into the
fortress and remain two hours. The request was
granted and negotiations were begun which led to capitu-
lation on November 2. About five hundred regular
troops and one hundred Canadians were surrendered,
Lieut. John Andre being among the prisoners who were
ordered to Reading, Lancaster and York, Pa. A large
quantity of military stores was taken, including seven-
teen pieces of brass artillery and a considerable number
of iron cannon.

Thus Warner and his Green Mountain Boys not only
had valiantly repulsed a force twice their number, led
by the British commander in Canada, but the news of
their victory had proved to be the magic key which un-
locked the important fort at St. Johns, after a stubborn
resistance to its besiegers. It was an exploit that de-
serves far more credit than it has received.

Less than two weeks later, the Americans took posses-
sion of Montreal. The Indians and the Canadian
militia deserted, the townspeople were frightened, and
with less than one hundred and fifty soldiers the com-
mander could not hope to make an adequate defence,
therefore he made his plans for escape. On November


13, the American soldiers marched into the city. Carle-
ton had attempted to reach Quebec, but was wind bound
near Sorel, where the Richelieu River discharges the
waters of Lake Champlain into the St. Lawrence.
Meanwhile Colonels Brown and Easton had erected a
battery at Sorel, and a gunboat had arrived from St.
Johns, which interfered naturally with the progress of
the British commander toward Quebec.

Therefore Dr. Jonas Fay of the Green Mountain Boys
wrote a spirited letter demanding an immediate sur-
render of the fleet without any destruction of those on
shipboard, and declaring that the Americans were
strongly posted at Sorel. Col. James Easton signed the
letter and Lieut. Ira Allen, under protection of a white
flag, carried the message on November 15 to General
Carleton on his flagship in the St. Lawrence. He was
followed by Colonel Brown and Doctor Fay, with a
second flag, and a truce was concluded until the follow-
ing morning. During the night Carleton concealed in a
small birch canoe, under some straw, succeeded in get-
ting past Sorel, and so reached Quebec. The next day
the British fleet was surrendered and returned to Mon-
treal, where the fortunes of war made General Prescott
a prisoner. No longer could he shake his cane over
Ethan Allen or any of his fellow Americans, and curse
them as rebels.

Warner's regiment was honorably discharged from
the service by General Montgomery, November 20. In
Daniel Chipman's "Memoirs of Col. Seth Warner," it
is said that the reason for this discharge was that they
were "too miserably clothed to endure a winter campaign


in that severe climate." General Schuyler complained,
however, in his correspondence with John Hancock that
the term of enlistment of Warner's men did not expire
until the end of December, and that they took advantage
of a promise made to the Connecticut troops by Mont-
gomery that all those who w^ould follow him to Mon-
treal should have leave to return, this promise being
made on account of hesitancy to advance further on
account of the approach of winter. General Sullivan,
in a letter to the New Hampshire Assembly, intimated
that the Green Mountain Boys under Warner thought
they had been ill used by General Montgomery.
Whether this refers to the delay in getting cannon for
use at Longueuil, or to some other cause, does not appear.
While General Montgomery and his army were con-
ducting the siege of St. Johns a further attempt upon
Canada was made by a force under the command of
Benedict Arnold, which left Massachusetts about the
middle of September, sailing to the mouth of the Kenne-
bec River. Proceeding up the valley of that stream they
crossed the carrying place to the head waters of the
Chaudiere and descended to the St. Lawrence valley,
arriving there early in November. The hardships and
suffering endured on this awful march through the wil-
derness were almost incredible. By the narrowest of
margins did the army escape actual starvation. Only
indirectly does the story of Arnold's Canadian journey
have a bearing upon Vermont history. The commander
of the detachment which brought up the rear of
Arnold's army was Lieut. Col. Roger Enos of the Con-
necticut regiment, who became a prominent citizen of


Vermont following the close of the American Revolu-
tion, and whose daughter Col. Ira Allen married several
years later.

Finding that there was a shortage of provisions, only
three days' supplies being left, and being one hundred
miles from the English settlements and fifteen days
march from the French-Canadian inhabitants, a council
of war was called, at which it was decided to turn back,
without orders to that effect. Colonel Enos proposed to
go forward without his men, but his officers protested
against such action.

This course on the part of Colonel Enos and his
officers brought forth severe censure. Washington ex-
pressed his surprise and by his direction Enos was placed
under arrest. A court of inquiry held at Cambridge,
Mass., November 29, 1775, was made up of Major Gen-
eral Lee, president. Brigadier General Greene, Brigadier
General Heath, Colonel Nixon, Colonel Stark, Major
Durkee, and Major Sherburne. This court decided as
follows: "The court are of opinion, after receiving all
the information within their power, that Col. Enos'
misconduct (if he has been guilty of misconduct) is not
of so very heinous a nature as was first supposed, but
that it is necessary for the satisfaction of the world
and for his own honor, that a court martial should be
immediately held for his trial."

The court martial was held at headquarters at Cam-
bridge, December 1, 1775, its presiding officer being
Brigadier General Sullivan. After deliberation the
court was unanimously of the opinion that Colonel Enos
"was under a necessity of returning with the division


under his command, and therefore acquit him with
honor." In a statement issued April 28, 1776, General
Sullivan expressed the opinion, "that had Colonel Enos
with the division proceeded it would have been the means
of causing the whole detachment to have perished in the
woods for want of sustenance." A statement was also
issued "to the Impartial Publick" concerning Colonel
Enos' case, by General Heath, Col. John Stark, Samuel
H. Parsons and twenty-two other officers, vindicating
his character, and declaring him to be a "prudent, faith-
ful officer, and deserves applause rather than censure."
Colonel Enos on January 18, 1776, asked permission of
General Washington to resign his commission. The
afifair was one which aroused much controversy, but the
decision of the court martial must be considered the
fairest possible judgment of a disputed matter.

Although the progress of the American cause for a
time seemed very encouraging, following the taking of
St. Johns and Montreal, the conquest of Canada was far
from being an easy task. Quebec offered a stubborn re-
sistance. In the early morning hours of the last day of

Online LibraryWalter Hill CrockettVermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 1) → online text (page 32 of 34)