His Life and Times
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In the storm-tossed hours since midnight, only two waterlogged workboats had managed to cross the narrow neck of wind-whipped Lake Champlain. Just eighty-nine of Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys had been able to get from the tree-shrouded shore of Vermont to the steep protuberance of New York less than a mile away. Now the protective darkness was fading as a white morning fog cast a faint glow on the massing rebels. Soon that would burn off, exposing Allen’s amateur assault force to British sentinels patrolling Fort Ticonderoga’s looming ramparts. All night, Allen had waited for more commandeered vessels to arrive, for more of the two thousand men he’d promised he could muster for the attack, but by five o’clock on the morning of May 10, he realized he could wait no longer. Without even the two hundred chosen men waiting to join him from their hiding place behind a screen of spruces on the Vermont shore, he would have to assault the most formidable British fortress in the American colonies.
Only two weeks earlier the shocking news had reached Ethan Allen that the first shots of the American Revolution had been fired. Reports wrapped in rumors of massacre had spread like a crown fire over the forests and mountains of New England. Initially, few details could be confirmed, but at least one conclusion was indisputable: on April 19, 1775, in a deadly clash of arms between Massachusetts militia and British regulars in the outskirts of Boston, a decade of ideological ferment and partisan protests over England’s fumbling attempts to formulate imperial policies had finally turned into open rebellion.
The announcement of the birth of the United States at Lexington and Concord quickly reached the thousands of transplanted New Englanders on the Vermont frontier. From the minutemen on the village green of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Lexington to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “shot heard round the world” at the “rude bridge that arched the flood” in Concord, the strands of patriotic embroidery were already being laced from town to town by the volunteer couriers of Massachusetts’ revolutionary movement.
Reprinted from ETHAN ALLEN: His Life and Times by Willard Sterne Randall. Copyright © 2011 by Willard Sterne Randall. Used by permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
The man who almost single-handedly brought the state of Vermont into the Union, Ethan Allen was blessed with an extraordinary intellect and a predisposition for action. Allen projected himself as a populist frontier philosopher on horseback. His prolific writings and heroic actions inspired many Americans, including Thomas Paine and James Madison. Although he embodied the virtues and vices of the nation's Founding Fathers more colorfully than any of his more venerated and aristocratic counterparts, Allen is most often defined by his daring predawn attack on Fort Ticonderoga in 1775.
From Pulitzer Prize finalist Willard Sterne Randall, Ethan Allen is the first comprehensive portrait of the frontier Founding Father in half a century. Randall, whose previous works include Thomas Jefferson: A Life, draws from an impressive collection of new source material, including previously ignored evidence of Allen's inhuman treatment as a prisoner of war. He vividly chronicles Allen’s upward struggle from childhood poverty to command of the largest American paramilitary force on the eve of the Revolution.
One of eight children, Allen was largely self-educated. A determined populist and creative leader, Allen wanted to build a new state in which hard-working people of modest means could own and maintain the land with little government interference. He decried classism and believed that success should be measured by personal merit. All his life, he fought against tyranny and intolerance, insisting on separation of church and state and championing the right to speak out freely against both.
For five years, Allen systematically thwarted the Crown officials who claimed that New Hampshire had no right to have sold settlers some three million acres of hardwood forests in the Green Mountains. At the behest of the settlers, Allen organized and trained a regiment of men to intercept and rebuff sheriffs attempting to seize homesteads for resale by New York’s royal officials. The largest paramilitary force in North America, Allen’s Green Mountain Boys defended the 29 settlements between Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River in the border war over conflicting land grants.
A month after the start of American Revolutionary War, Allen led the Green Mountain Boys in an early morning surprise attack on the British-manned Fort Ticonderoga in northern New York. Allen famously hollered for the British commander to “come out of there, you damned old rat.” The fort yielded a large store of cannons and munitions, which would later prove pivotal in ending the Siege of Boston.
Ethan Allen is the seminal biography of a man whose resilience and determination helped define a nation. Randall succeeds in capturing Allen in all his complexity.
Hardcover Book : 640 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co. Inc. ( July 15, 2011 )
Item #: 13-391800
Product Dimensions: 6.25 x 9.25 x 1.64inches
Product Weight: 35.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
Good, entertaining read. At times the book seemed more about "his times" than his life, but over all a very good telling of a little known Revolutionary figure. One criticism is that the book ended rather abruptly. One can image the author deciding that 550 pages was enough and then typing, "he died." It might not be that abrupt, but it wasn't much longer.
Reviewer: Raymond S
This book inspiring!
The author ties the dispute between New York and New Hampshire over what is now Vermont directly to the Revolutionary. Ethan Allen was in effect fighting the war against the New York aristocracy before the break with England. Another important aspect of the time the author brings forward is the religous conflict occuring in the colonies at the time. I loved this one -- great history with a unique viewpoint.
Reviewer: Kevin C