An August Day in 1777; Ethan Allen & The Legacy of the Green Mountain Boys

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DBF

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“Ho–all to the borders! Vermonters, come down,
With your breeches of deerskin and jackets of brown;
With your red woollen caps and your moccasins come,
To the gathering summons of trumpet and drum.” **

“Yet we owe no allegiance, we bow to no throne,
Our ruler is law and the law is our own;
Our leaders themselves are our own fellow-men,

Who can handle the sword, or the scythe, or the pen.” **

green-mountain-boys.jpg

Sketch of Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys
1st established in the 1760’s


* * *

242 years ago (84 years before the Civil War) a battle was fought that the State of Vermont commemorates; The Battle of Bennington. It was the day when approximately 2,000 colonists faced Hessians, German Brunswick dragoons, Canadians, Loyalists and Indians all under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baumon (of the Brunswick dragoons). They met on August 16, 1777 and by the day’s end, the Green Mountain Boys led by Seth Warner helped win the day. The American’s lost 30 men; compared to the 207 that was lost on the other side. It also was a demonstration that the Green Mountain Boys from the future Green Mountain State were dedicated and tough fighters and in turn they gave the state a legacy that is still strong today.

Originally founded by Connecticut born but Vermont adopted Ethan Allen, the Green Mountain Boys came from a territory that was nestled between the states of New Hampshire and New York. Together with his brother, Ira, and a mutual cousin Seth Warner they were the nucleus of the Revolutionary War Green Mountain Boys. It was Seth Warner along with New Hampshire native John Stark that were the victors that day.

Although not an original 13 colony the future state was then known as the Vermont Republic (recognized as an independent state in the Revolutionary War), Ethan Allen’s frontier men earned the right to be called “The Green Mountain Boys”. What began in the late 1760’s proved formidable in the 1770’s and was only the beginning of their heritage. When called upon in 1861 to fight - they were there ready, willing and able to serve.

The Green Mountain Boys in the Civil War

Perhaps the best way to view the service of the Green Mountain Boys is in their own words. The words of those boys that fought.

Lorenzo Dow Miles was born on October 5th, 1838 in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont; joined the 3rd Vermont Infantry, and came home to farm in Albany, Vermont. He died in 1923 and was the father of 3 children. Some excerpts from his letters - - -

A comparison between Vermont and the Southern Scenery - Spring, 1862

“I can imagine myself standing on Lowell Mountain just as I did that day about this time in the afternoon with my face turned to the Westward gazing at the beautiful scenery that then presented its self to me. The Green rang[e] of mountains that lay stretched out as far as my eye could discern the summit of the mountains from the blue skies. Then the little pond that lay so quietly at the foot of the mountain whose silver waters was not ruffled by the slight breeze & as I turned around the place of my destination could plainly be see[n] at a distance. The place of all others on earth. The most Dear to my heart such a scenery I never before or since witnessed. This part of (Dixie) cannot be called famous for its beauty. If it is so you might call Long Meadow or that swamp up back of Old Cobes & just about as well inhabited. Where there was an inhabitant in this part of the Country before the War broke out they have either left their homes on the account of either having to join the Southern Army or flee from them for their lives. Many of the buildings have been burned and we find but very few families living along on our road & most of them are Negroes. Occasionally there is some white woman to be seen but very seldom any men able to preform the duty of a Soldier. The land is very level and muddy around here especially in rainy weather and Infantry is having a very hard time in patrolling the roads and covering them with brush and dirt so they so they will be passable for heavy teams.” {4}

On July 28th he writes his father about his experience during Lee’s Retreat from Gettysburg - - -

“I suppose you are perfectly familiar with the movements of the Army of the Potomac which is not of much note since the Battle of Gettysburg only to those who have had their life about marched out of them in being raced around where the Rebs are reported to be. On Friday last we had another such a battle as was fought at Hagerstown M.D. only we did not go as far as to entrench ourselves. The way that I hear the story is that General Mead heard that Lee was making preparations to cross the Mountain West of Warrington at Chester Gap so He formed his plans to meet Lee at the Gap and give him battle. Our line of battle was formed along the East side of the Mountain while it was supposed that the Enemy was upon the opposite side but about noon on Friday General Mead found that instead of being engaged with Lees front Guard it was his rearguard as was the case at Williamsport M.D. and Johny Reb was making good His Ground for Richmond. As soon as the mistake was found out we were ordered to about face and toil back over the hard Mountains that we had struggled to get over in the forenoon through the broiling heat of the sun.” {4}

* * *

George “Oscar” French, was born in Castleton, Vermont on April 25th, 1844. He enlisted in Company C, 11th Vermont Volunteers and on April 3rd, 1865 his family received a letter than no family ever wants to receive. - - -

My dear Sir:

It becomes my very painful & unwelcome task to inform you that your son, Lt. French, was instantly killed in action with the enemy, yesterday morning.

He was shot through the head just above the right eye, by a minni ball.

This will be terrible shocking intelligence to you & I would break it to you as tenderly as possible. No other one can know the anguish of your heart.

Your son was a noble man & an excellent soldier & officer. He was respected & beloved by us all. We shall miss his tall & manly & imposing form moving with so much of dignity in our midst. We shall miss him especially in the hour of battle, for he was a brave man. It was his habit to tell the boys to come on & follow him.


Very dear Sir, you have made a very generous sacrifice in giving this noble son to your suffering country & the sacrifice will be fully appreciated.

Your son had an honorable wound. He fell, too, in one of the most memorable & successful battles of the war. It was a glorious day for our side & very damaging to the enemy.


The remains of your son are at the hospital. They have been embalmed & will be either sent home, or interred here decently for the present. I haven’t time to write more this morning.

Be assured of my tenderest sympathy in the deep affliction when it presses down your heart with sorrow.


Very sincerely yours, Arthur Little Chaplain 1st Vt Arty” {5}

* * *

James Willson (sometimes spelled as Wilson), was born in East Warren, Vermont, in 1842. He enlisted in Company B, 13th Regiment Vermont Volunteers in the fall of 1862. While he was helping a wounded soldier off the field, he was killed on July 3, 1863 - Gettysburg.

His last Christmas Letter, 1862 to his mother & sister - - -

Camp near Fairfax Court House,
Dec. 25 Dearest Mother and Sister

“I wish you both a Merry Christmas. It is the nicest day here today and the ground is not frozen at all. The ground birds are all around. The quails are silently and the boys in fine spirits. The boys in our Company are rather sadder than the rest of the Regt. Oscar Reed from Waitsfield is probably not alive by this time. He is dying XXXX the fever last Friday.”
{6}

Some things never change in family relationships as seen from this letter to his sister dated January 27, 1863 - - -

“I do not want to discourage you from writing but I see you make a great many mistakes in spelling. Your little words more so than your larger ones. I want you to take pains and improve. It does not make so much difference when you write to me. I know what you mean if it is not just so. If you were to write to others, it might make fun of you.” {6}

On June 28th his mother sent the following letter - never confirmed if James Willson every received or read it - - -

“How anxious I am about you. If you can only come home safe and well. It is all that I will ask but we cannot tell what a few days will tell. I wish that I could think up something to write to you that will comfort you in the dangerous position that you are placed in. Keep up good courage and put your trust in God of battles and I hope that he will care you safe through all your trials. . . . . .I can not write anymore this time so goodbye. Hoping I shall see you soon.”

From you Mother, Rosalind Willson
{6}

Sadly James fiancee, Delia (Fidelia) Porter 17 years old also from East Warren Vermont passed away on February 22, 1864. Her family reports she died of a broken heart.

* * *

Dan Mason from Glover, Vermont, enlisted as a Corporal in Company D, of the Sixth Vermont Volunteers September 26, 1861. He lived through the war and was given a leave of absence to marry his sweetheart in March of 1865. In a letter to his future wife Harriet written from Camp Griffin, March 7th 1862 - - -

“Your ever welcome letter bearing date Feb 28 came to hand last evening & was perused with the usual degree of satisfaction. How miserable I should be if I could not hear from you. though we can not converse face to face at the present time we can by aid of pen correspondence to each other (though hundreds of miles stretch out between us) & convey ideas that are interesting & pleasing especially to one in my situation in an enemies country far from the object of my affection. I experience a great deal of real enjoyment in perusing your letters.

I have often heard said that lovers lost or were apt to lose their love to some extent when absent from each other any great length of time. this saying does not fit my case, for the longer I am absent from you the more perfect you seem to me. I thought when at home that I loved you as much as possible for one to love, but I am aware of the fact that the longer I am absent from you the dearer you seem to me, there is scarce an hour passes but what I think of you.

In your letter you seen to think that I estimate your perfection to highly, but I think not. I don’t suppose that you are exactly perfect in the strict sense of the term but I think you come as near to it as any one I know. I wish that I was as perfect as you are. I am surrounded by all kinds of vice but I intend to return to my home with as good morals as when I left. I know that if my morality becomes impaired that I shall not merit your loving hand which I hope to possess it at some future day. at all events I am willing to acknowledge you my better half.” {6}

He fought and saw action in at the Battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg, and where ever duty called. Unfortunately his days of wedded happiness would be short lived as he would meet his death in November of 1865 while serving in Brownsville, Texas. Cause of his death - dysentery. He is buried in Glover Vermont.


From Ethan Allen - Today: The Legacy of the Green Mountain Boys

From the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq the men and (now) women from Vermont when called - served. Today they are known as the Vermont National Guard, comprised of both the Army and the Air National Guard, and the flag of Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys is still flown today.

fullsizeoutput_10c7.jpeg


The Stark flag, commonly attributed to the “Green Mountain Boys’
also used today by the Vermont National Guard

(Public Domain)

* * *

"And ours are the mountains, which awfully rise,
Till they rest their green heads on the blue of the skies;
And ours are the forests unwasted, unshorn,
Save where the wild path of the tempest is torn.

Come York or come Hampshire, come traitors or knaves,
If ye rule o'er our land ye shall rule o'er our graves;
Our vow is recorded–our banner unfurled,

In the name of Vermont we defy all the world!” **


* * *


**”The Song of the Vermonters 1779 by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

Sources
1. https://www.patriotwood.com/blogs/news/15588897-the-history-of-the-green-mountain-boys
2. http://www.sonofthesouth.net/revolutionary-war/patriots/green-mountain-boys.htm
3. https://www.connecticutsar.org/a-band-of-cousins/
4. https://vermonthistory.org/miles-letters
5. https://vermonthistory.org/documents/transcriptions/french/frenchPostDeath.pdf
6. https://vermonthistory.org/willson-letters
7. https://vermonthistory.org/mason-letters
8. Wikipedia - Battle of Bennington/Ethan Allen
 

NH Civil War Gal

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I've been in East Warren and Waitsfield. There isn't much of East Warren left really. Most farms have been left to either reforest or split up into vacation homes.
 
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James N.

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Of course one supreme irony is that the battlefield of the great victory at Bennington is actually in NEW YORK! I visited there back in the 1990's and although the New York State Park was already closed for the season, I naturally parked at the gate and hiked in anyway. This is a fascinating part of Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne's ill-fated Saratoga Campaign and along with another failure at Fort Stanwix (now Troy, N.Y.) likely cost him the campaign and his army. The Bennington Monument in nearby Bennington, VT was also closed but I saw it from the outside.
 

Kurt G

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Of course one supreme irony is that the battlefield of the great victory at Bennington is actually in NEW YORK! I visited there back in the 1990's and although the New York State Park was already closed for the season, I naturally parked at the gate and hiked in anyway. This is a fascinating part of Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne's ill-fated Saratoga Campaign and along with another failure at Fort Stanwix (now Troy, N.Y.) likely cost him the campaign and his army. The Bennington Monument in nearby Bennington, VT was also closed but I saw it from the outside.
I've been to Fort Stanwix a couple times . Very nice despite being in the town .
 

Cavalry Charger

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Ah, @DBF , you've done it again!

What a marvellous rendition of these men and their legacy.

My adopted Captain has a connection to Bennington, (his mother was born in Bennington County, Vermont, and had a direct ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary war) which is where he spent many of his growing years, enlisting in the Union army there in September 1861. Sadly, he was another that never returned home, and lies to this day in an unknown unmarked grave in Virginia. It was heartening to see that the bodies of some men were able to be returned home.

My particular favourite of the OP is the last letter sent to a fiancee. It is so heartfelt and probably an expression of what many men felt about their sweethearts during those long absences. It appears she fears he will see her as too perfect, and yet he reassures her that she comes as near to it as anyone he knows and acknowledges her as his 'better half'. Sad to think their moment of happiness was so swiftly taken away, yet better to have loved and lost, as they say.

Wonderful, wonderful thread, as always. And, as always, educational, too.
 

DBF

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Thanks CC - I loved the story all 4 tell in their letters - I have to say having an older brother I enjoyed James Willson admonishing his sister on her spelling. He’s so concerned with her bad spelling on the little words no for himself but for others - “might make fun of you”. After he died, she must have held that letter close to her heart. And I do agree with the you on the sentiments of the last letter.

How tragic for those left behind to never know what “could have been”. The last words of the mother are poignant when you know that she did not see him again - "I can not write anymore this time so goodbye. Hoping I shall see you soon. From you Mother, Rosalind Willson". Just one of many mothers with a broken heart.
 

Cavalry Charger

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I have to say having an older brother I enjoyed James Willson admonishing his sister on her spelling
No doubt there is a lot of admonishing that goes on between older and younger siblings :laugh: He did it in a very nice manner, though, which was sweet.

The last words of the mother are poignant when you know that she did not see him again
Yes, perhaps she wished she had said more, or differently :frown:
 
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