Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Allen and Arnold 8

30 Days to Glory: May 11-14
Previous: May 9 - May 10
Next: May 15 - May 17

Thursday, May 11:

Benedict Arnold, a social climber who aspires for the respect of polite society finds himself powerless amid wild, lawless men. He complains in a second letter to the Massachusetts Committee of Safety that "The power is now taken out of my hands, and I am not consulted, nor have I a voice in any matters. There is here at present near one hundred men, who are in the greatest confusion and anarchy, destroying and plundering private property, committing every enormity, and paying no attention to public service." This last point is no small matter: the Green Mountain Boys have no interest in transporting the cannon from Ticonderoga to the American army outside Boston, and it's only a matter of time before the British forces in Canada learn that the fort has fallen and attempt to retake it.

Ethan Allen also has no illusions about what more his Green Mountain Boys can accomplish at Ticonderoga. He writes to the Albany Committee of Correspondence: "You know Governor [Guy] Carleton of Canada will exert himself to retake [Ticonderoga]; and as your county is nearer than any other part of the colonies, and as your inhabitants have thoroughly manifested their zeal in the cause of their country, I expect immediate assistance from you both in men and provisions. You cannot exert yourselves too much, in so glorious a cause. The number of men need be more at first, till the other colonies can have time to muster. I am apprehensive of a sudden and quick attack. Pray be quick to our relief, and send us five hundred men immediately — fail not.”

The Connecticut expedition has begun to disperse. John Brown is en route to Albany, and on about this date, Edward Mott heads for Connecticut while James Easton sets off for Massachusetts. Brown seeks provisions, Mott seeks men, and Easton seeks personal recognition.

The schooner at Skenesborough is rechristened the Liberty and sets sail for Fort Ticonderoga. Although Major Skene was captured by a party of Green Mountain Boys, the vessel is manned by men that Benedict Arnold recruited in western Massachusetts. They are trying to catch up with their commander.

Seth Warner sets off a second time for Crown Point. En route, his men sweep up suspected Loyalists lest they alert the fort's garrison. One Loyalist would complain about “a party of thirty armed American stragglers under command of a nominal captain or leader [see Note 1], who rushed impetuously into my grounds, where I was at work with my servant men labouring the fields, and calling us villains, robbers, and interloping Tories, ordered us to surrender; and having struck me with some severity, instantly made me prisoner, without giving any reason for this assault. Dragging us along in this violent manner, we were tossed promiscuously into one open boat upon the lake hard by, and there confined under a guard until that party had assaulted and taken Crownpoint… at four miles' distance from my settlement.”

Crown Point, a once mighty fort, burned down 2 years earlier, and the ruins (in which there are numerous cannon) is guarded by 1 sergeant and 12 men of the 26th. They surrender without a fight.

Friday, May 12:

Seth Warner writes Ethan Allen with alarming news. A “bark canoe” was seen traveling down the lake towards Canada, “by which means we suppose Governor [Guy] Carleton will hear what we have done.” Warner notes that Carleton “is a man of war; you can guess what measures he will take.” He then states “We determine to fight them three to one, but he can bring ten to one, and more. We should be glad of assistance of men, provisions and powder, and beg your advice whether we shall abandon this place and retire to Ticonderoga, or proceed to St. Johns [i.e., Fort Saint-Jean] etc., etc. The latter we should be fondest of.”

Bernard Romans captures Captain John Nordberg at Fort George. This was the last remaining British post between New York City and the Canadian border. [cf. New York: May, 1775].

John Brown meets with the Albany Committee of Correspondence, which has already twice rebuffed officers from the Connecticut expedition. Brown complains that “unless they are immediately assisted, they are afraid they will be obliged to abandon the fort, and leave the artillery behind, of which there are about two hundred pieces, great and small.” Again, Albany defers to New York, who has not yet responded to their urgent appeals. Albany writes pleadingly, “We hope you will no longer keep us in suspense.” The Committee records that Brown “is dissatisfied with our answer, and went away abruptly.”

Saturday, May 13:

The Albany Committee of Correspondence at last hears from New York. However, rather than provide encouragement, the New York Committee writes that “the powers invested in... us, are too limited... to take an active step in the matters proposed, before we have the opinion of the Provincial or Continental Congress.” The Albany Committee shares this news with John Brown, who then determines to go to Philadelphia and speak directly with the Continental Congress.

Ethan Allen’s position at Fort Ticonderoga is weakening as his men return to their farms and families. Meanwhile, Benedict Arnold’s position is growing stronger. Late in the day, the Liberty arrives at Ticonderoga, carrying about 50 of his men. The past few days have been hellish for Arnold and he is glad to be a commander again. He complains in his regimental memorandum book, about how he has spent the past several days “in the garrison as a private person, often insulted by [Allen] and his officers, often threatened with my life and twice shot at by his men with their fusees.”

Sunday, May 14:

By this time, Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold have learned that the British sloop is at old Fort Saint-Jean and that Canada will soon know of the capture of the lake forts. Tensions ease as Allen's men depart and Arnold's arrive; indeed, they settle into a kind of friendly rivalry. The two commanders agree on taking the sloop, but their efforts will be independent of each other.

Arnold has his men prepare two vessels for a raid on Saint-Jean. The Liberty is armed with four cannon and six swivel guns; a bateau is equipped with two swivel guns. Although winds are unfavorable, the two boats with 50 men set out for Crown Point, where they arrive late in the day. Allen’s expedition is larger in size but slower to get under way. By combining the resources he has at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, he will take into Canada 90 men in four bateaus. [see Note 2]

Before departing Arnold pens a letter to the Massachusetts Committee of Safety in which he is uncharacteristically contrite, writing “I am extremely sorry matters have not been transacted with more prudence and judgment.” He adds, “I hope soon to be properly released from this troublesome business, that some more proper person may be appointed…” In the meantime, Arnold has at least one indispensable ally: Bernard Romans, whom Edward Mott was glad to cast off [cf. May 4]. Arnold entrusts Romans with purchasing supplies in Albany and transporting cannon from Ticonderoga to greater safety at Fort George.

Note 1: possibly Levi Allen or Peleg Sutherland, who are known to have accompanied this expedition. The account makes clear that it was not Warner.

Note 2: This version of events is based on Arnold’s correspondence and memorandum book and the journal of Eleazer Oswald. No mention is made of the presence of Allen’s boats at this time, implying that Allen and Arnold did not quite set out together. Ethan Allen’s later (and less trustworthy) memoir claimed that the two forces did leave Ticonderoga together, but in his version of events, Arnold had only the schooner, and the schooner sailed faster than his bateaus.

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