The History of the Green Mountain Boys
One of the most famous Revolutionary War–era militia was the Green Mountain Boys. They influenced and shaped the character and state of what we now know as the United States.
If you’re an American—especially if you’re an American from the Northeast—you’ll be interested in their story. And even if you’re not, the history of the Green Mountain Boys is an interesting one, and well worth your time.
While they worked outside the law, many believe this group’s influence to be supremely positive and necessary: let’s take a quick look at their story to learn who the Green Mountain Boys were and what they did.
The Green Mountain Boys was a militia made up of Vermont settlers and land speculators. The group was formed before the Revolutionary War, in 1760s. Most of the Green Mountain Boys were relatives of Ethan Allen, their original leader.
While Ethan Allen was the head of the group, his brother Ira Allen, and their cousin Seth Warner also held leadership roles, with Seth taking over most leadership responsibility in later years. (You can see a monument of Seth Warner to the left). During the height of their existence, the Green Mountain Boys had several hundred members, and at one point, they operated as the de facto government and military preventing New York from controlling the land in the northeast part of the Province of New York.
The Green Mountain Boys still exist today, in the form of Vermont’s National Guard.
Ethan Allen’s militia marched north at the start of the Revolutionary War, capturing Fort Ticonderoga from a small garrison of British soldiers. After capturing Fort Ticonderoga, they drug the fort’s artillery to Boston harbor and forced the British to abandon their siege of the city. While minor, these victories were important strategic victories. Taking control of the fort protected the colonies from an attack from the North, through Canada, impeded the British’s communication, and broke a standoff in Boston. Their actions were an important contribution to the Americans’ success during the war.
The Green Mountain Boys also fought in the Battle of Bennington, the Battle of Hubbardton, and an invasion of Quebec.
The Green Mountain Boys were originally created to prevent New York authorities from controlling their land. They employed somewhat harsh (but nonlethal) tactics against New York surveyors and others wishing to take control of their land, at one point even tying a New York sympathizer to a chair, which they then tied to a tavern sign before making him sit there for hours. They gained a reputation for chasing the settlers with New York–issued grants out of their homes and stealing their possessions, and generally raised havoc when provoked.
Their actions prompted the New York authorities to place warrants on many of the Green Mountain Boys’ leaders.
Their leader, Ethan Allen, was also known as a man who exaggerated his own contributions. The capture of Fort Ticonderoga was done in tandem with another military leader, Benedict Arnold, but Allen and his men did all they could to minimize the other’s contributions—going so far as to “lose” his memoir.
The Green Mountain Boys’ flag is one of the more well-known flags from the Revolutionary War era. It features a primarily green background and a blue canton in the upper-left corner with 13 white stars. The green is a symbol of Vermont’s green mountains, and the 13 stars represent the 13 American colonies.
The flag of the Green Mountain Boys is still used by Vermont’s National Guard.
A wooden replica of the Green Mountain Boys flag is available at PatriotWood.com—head there to get one for yourself!
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