Vermont was not one of the 13 colonies.
In 1609 French explorer Samuel de Champlain claimed part of the region for France. Several suggest French explorer Samuel de Champlain referred to it as “Verd Mont” (green mountains).
(However, Vermont Historical Society states, “The word Vermont (or alternate renderings) does not appear in the publications of Champlain, Des sauvages and Les Voyages (1613 and 1632 versions), or on the maps which he prepared or published.”) A Vermont lake is named for Champlain.
The state’s name comes from two French words vert (green) and mont (mountain), which explains Vermont’s nickname, the “Green Mountain State.” (Library of Congress)
Samuel de Champlain was followed by missionaries, traders, settlers, and soldiers who identified rivers and other physical features of the Champlain watershed.
Families from southern New England who settled in the ‘Grants’ (as the New Hampshire titled lands were known) created communities similar to the ones they had left behind. They were confident that if they moved their families, built farms, and worked the land, their claims would be justified.
They believed that the royal governments of New Hampshire and New York, representing the king, wouldn’t deny the rights of citizens who tamed the land, organized governments, paid taxes, and obeyed the laws.
When the ‘Yorkers’ (as the New York landholders were called) started to stake their claims, the troubles began. (Vermont Historical Society)
The Green Mountain Boys at present-day Bennington, Vermont, was an unauthorized militia organized to defend the property rights of local residents who had received land grants from New Hampshire.
New York, which then claimed present-day Vermont, disputed New Hampshire’s right to grant land west of the Green Mountains.
When a New York sheriff, leading 300 militiamen, attempted to take possession of Grants farms in 1771, he was met with resistance. A determined group of Bennington militia led by young firebrands Ethan Allen and Remember Baker blocked his efforts.
Several Grants towns then organized committees of safety and military companies to protect their interests against the Yorkers. These military groups called themselves “The New Hampshire Men” while New York authorities referred to them as the “Bennington Mob” and rioters.
By 1772, they were called the “Green Mountain Boys.”
Their leader Ethan Allen declared they were fighting for their “liberty, property, and life,”
“Those bloody law-givers know we are necessitated to oppose their execution of law, where it points directly at our property, or give up the same:”
“but there is one thing is matter of consolation to us, viz. that printed sentences of death will not kill us when we are at a distance; and if the executioners approach us,”
“they will be as likely to fall victims to death as we: and that person, or country of persons, are cowards indeed,”
“if they cannot as manfully fight for their liberty, property and life, as villains can do to deprive them thereof.” (A Vindication, Ethan Allen)
The Green Mountain Boys stopped sheriffs from enforcing New York laws and terrorized settlers who had New York grants, burning buildings, stealing cattle, and administering occasional floggings with birch rods.
The Catamount Tavern was the gathering place of men who played vital roles in the creation of the state of Vermont. Built in the mid-1760s by Stephen Fay, one of Bennington’s original settlers, it was first called the Green Mountain Tavern. It was one of three taverns in the town that served people journeying to their new homes on the frontier.
Dr. Jonas Fay, Ethan Allen, Remember Baker, and Thomas Chittenden were some of the patriots that gathered in the Catamount’s rooms. They plotted the course of the Green Mountain Boys, the Council of Safety, and later the government of the new Republic of Vermont.
The Westminster confrontation was a continuation of the Grants vs. Yorkers dispute. The farmers needed to put off their creditors until the fall harvest when they would have money to pay off their debts. They resented the New York land speculators they owed and feared being jailed or losing their land.
Up until this time, most Grants settlers on the east side of the Green Mountains had peacefully negotiated any disputes with New York.
When one hundred unarmed farmers occupying the county courthouse at Westminster refused to leave, a Yorker sheriff ordered his men to shoot them. Panic ensued and forty men, including the wounded, were herded like animals into the courthouse jail and left to die.
Massachusetts and New Hampshire militia came to the farmers’ aid the next day and arrested the sheriff. The Westminster Massacre of March 13, 1775 is viewed by some as the first battle of the American Revolution.
They had not been enthusiastic supporters of the Green Mountain Boys. The New York sheriff’s actions changed their minds, and they were happy when Ethan Allen’s men rode into town the next day.
Green Mountain Boys in the American Revolution
Under the joint command of Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, the Green Mountain Boys immediately joined the Revolution.
(Benedict Arnold, later known as a traitor during the American Revolution, was an important part of fighting for the American cause. He created a navy for Lake Champlain, battled the British at Valcour Island, and burned the boats in what is now Arnold Bay during retreat from that battle, effectively stopping the British from gaining a foothold in the area.)
A Green Mountain Boys regiment was authorized by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1775 and they became part of the Continental Army (they were part of the Northern Army).
Control of Lake Champlain was a crucial military objective during the Revolutionary War.
The British strategy was to unite their Canadian forces with those in New York. If they succeeded they would cut off New York and New England from the other colonies.
The Champlain Valley was the site of several bloody encounters. Settlers in this no man’s land fled their homes for the duration of the war, fearful of the British and their Iroquois Indian allies.
The British had several victories, but the Americans fought hard and delayed their advance south. These delays allowed the American armies to regroup.
When the British were defeated at Bennington and again at Saratoga, they gave up their plan to control Lake Champlain.
This was a turning point in the war, as it allowed the Continental Army to turn southward and convinced France to enter the war as an ally of the Americans.
Ethan Allen (born January 21, 1738, Litchfield, Connecticut – died February 12, 1789, Burlington, Vermont) was a soldier and frontiersman, and leader of the Green Mountain Boys during the American Revolution.
After fighting in the French and Indian War (1754–63), Allen settled in what is now Vermont. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, he raised his force of Green Mountain Boys (organized in 1770) and Connecticut troops and helped capture the British fort at Ticonderoga, New York (May 10, 1775).
Later, as a volunteer in General Philip Schuyler’s forces, he attempted to take Montreal (September 1775), in the course of which he was captured by the British and held prisoner until May 6, 1778.
Congress gave Allen the brevet rank of colonel with back pay, but he did not serve in the war after his release. Instead, he devoted his time to local affairs in Vermont, especially working for separate statehood from New York. Failing to achieve this, he attempted to negotiate the annexation of Vermont to Canada.
It was not a certainty in 1777 that Vermont would become the fourteenth state in the Union. America was still at war and victory wasn’t assured. New York, an important part of the American effort, wasn’t going to give up title to the Grants without a fight.
Vermont didn’t improve its chances of acceptance when it began negotiating with Great Britain to become part of greater Canada. The American Congress was suspicious of the new republic and became even more frustrated when Vermont tried to annex more lands—this time from New Hampshire.
Finally, in 1790 New York and Vermont settled their long-standing differences over the Grants. In January 1791 Vermont delegates met in Bennington and ratified the US Constitution. On March 4, 1791, Vermont was accepted into the United States of America, as the fourteenth state.
Click the following link to a general summary about the Green Mountain Boys: