Beginning of the American Revolution



In the meantime an army of patriots were gathering around Boston with a determination to confine the British troops to the peninsula, or drive them to their ships and out to sea. On the morning of the day after the massacre at Lexington and Concord, and the fight on the retreat, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety sent a circular to all the towns of the province, saying: "We conjure you, by all that is dear, by all that is sacred; we beg and entreat you, as you will answer it to your country, to your consciences, and, above all, to God himself, that you will hasten and arrange, by all possible means, the enlistment of men to form the army; and send them forward to headquarters at Cambridge with that expedition which the vast importance and instant urgency of the affair demands."

The call was answered by many of the people before it reached their ears. It arose spontaneously out of the depths of their own patriotic hearts. Men started from the desk, the workshop, and the field the moment when the dreadful tale was told. Many of them did not stay to change their clothing; they carried neither money nor food, intent only upon having their firelocks in order, their powder-horns well supplied, and their bullet-pouches well filled. The women on their way opened wide their doors and hearts for the refreshment and encouragement of the patriotic volunteers; and very soon all New England was represented at Cambridge. Veterans of wars with the Indians and the French appeared as leaders; and before the close of April a fluctuating army of several thousand men were forming camps and piling fortifications around Boston, from Roxbury to the Mystic River, along a line of about twenty miles. So early as the afternoon of the 20th, General Artemas Ward, the senior military officer appointed by the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, was on the ground, and assumed the chief command. That Congress, like the Committee of Safety, worked day and night in patriotic duty. They appointed military officers; organized a bureau of supplies, and issued bills of credit for the payment of the troops to the amount of three hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, for the redemption of which the province was pledged. They declared that no obedience was thenceforward to be rendered to General Gage, and that he ought to be "considered and guarded against as an unnatural and inveterate enemy to the country." They took legislative and executive power into their own hands, and so abolished royal government in Massachusetts; and they forwarded deputations to the Second Continental Congress that assembled early in May, suggesting the necessity for making provision for organizing an army competent to oppose the troops expected from Great Britain.

GAGE now saw the real peril of his situation, surrounded as he was by an army of exasperated men outside of Boston, and deadly foes within it. Instead of relaxing his rigor, he increased it for a moment in order to secure an unfair advantage. He forbade all intercourse with the country, and no one was allowed to leave the town. Their supplies of food and fuel thus cut off, famine stared the people in the face. The worst horrors of civil war were impending; and at that moment of their agony of dread, Gage offered to give safe conduct out of Boston to all who wished to go, provided they would surrender their arms, and promise not to join in an attack on his troops or works. In their extremity they accepted his proposition, and delivered their arms at Faneuil Hall. The exodus immediately began, when the Tories interfered. They begged Gage to keep the patriotic citizens as hostages. He violated his solemn pledge, and kept many of the disarmed inhabitants there, some of them separated from portions of their families, and exposed to bitter insults.

The patriots now determined on aggressive movements to weaken the British power on the continent. It was believed that the ministry entertained a scheme for separating New England from the rest of the colonies by a military occupation of the Hudson Valley and Lake Champlain, the latter the Indian "door of the country" opening between the Hudson and the St. Lawrence. On Lake Champlain were the two powerful fortresses of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, which might be made most efficient in executing the proposed scheme, for they would secure free intercourse with Canada. Are the Canadians friendly to us? was then a question of great importance for the patriots. In March, Samuel Adams and Dr. Warren, members of the Committee of Correspondence, sent John Brown of western Massachusetts, as a secret agent of that province, to seek an intelligent answer. He sent word that the Canadians were lukewarm, at the best, and advised the seizure of Ticonderoga and Crown Point the moment the impending conflict should be commenced; and he assured them that the Green Mountain Boys, as the men of Vermont (then the New Hampshire Grants) were called, whose leader was sturdy, patriotic, honest Ethan Allen, were ready to undertake the enterprise.

When the blow was struck on the 19th of April, it was resolved to secure the lake fortresses at once. Samuel Adams and John Hancock conferred personally on the subject with the governor of Connecticut, at Hartford, when funds were appropriated from the public treasury for the expedition, and powers delegated to two citizens as a committee to superintend the expedition. An express was sent to Allen, asking him to hold his "Boys" in readiness. The whole movement was done in secret, yet hints of it reached the ears of Benedict Arnold, who was about to leave for Cambridge with a Connecticut company of which he was captain.

The committee gathered sixteen men at Salisbury, and marched to Pittsfield, where they were joined by Brown and Colonel Easton, with a small force of Berkshire volunteers. Pushing on to Bennington, they were joined by Allen and his men; and on Sunday, the 7th of May, 1775, they rendezvoused at Castleton. There they were joined by Arnold. On his arrival at Cambridge he had proposed to the Provincial Congress an expedition against the forts, and received from them a commission of colonel, and authority to raise and lead not more than four hundred men against the lake fortresses. By virtue of this commission, he claimed the leadership, though he came with only one man. The militiamen chose Allen as their leader, and Arnold accompanied the expedition as a volunteer.

On the evening of the 9th of May, the expedition was at Shoreham, opposite Ticonderoga. Only a few boats could be found there. In these, eighty-three men, with Allen at their head and accompanied by Arnold, passed over. The boats were sent back for more men under Colonel Seth Warner; but as a surprise of the garrison was necessary, and the day was dawning, the intrepid leader resolved not to wait. "It is a desperate attempt," said Allen to his men, in a low voice: "I don't urge it contrary to will; you that will undertake voluntarily, poise your firelocks." Every musket was poised. The men followed Allen up the bank to the sally-port, led by a lad familiar with the fort. The sentry snapped his fuzee, and ran into the fortress through a covered way, closely followed by Allen and his men. As they rushed into the parade they gave a tremendous shout, and ranged themselves in two lines against opposite walls. The aroused garrison leaped from their beds, seized their arms, and hastened to the parade, only to be made prisoners by the New Englanders.

Captain Delaplace, the commandant of the garrison, awakened by the shout, sprang from his couch, followed by his alarmed young wife, and without dressing hastened to the door of his quarters in the upper story. Allen had already ascended the outside steps leading to that door, and giving three loud raps with the hilt of his sword, shouted, "Come out instantly, or I will sacrifice the whole garrison!" As the captain opened the door, the pretty face of his frightened wife peering over his shoulders, Allen said, in a loud voice: "I order you instantly to surrender!" Delaplace and Allen were old friends. The astonished captain exclaimed: "By what authority do you demand a surrender?" Allen raised his sword and thundered out: "In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!" The captain began to speak, when Allen pointed to his men, and ordered him to be silent and surrender immediately. Delaplace obeyed; and the strong fortress, which had cost the British government millions pounds sterling and many lives, passed into the possession of a few undisciplined men without the loss of a drop of blood. The Continental Congress, as an organized body, were not in existence until some hours after the surrender; but Allen knew they were to assemble on that day, the 10th of May, 1775. With the fort were surrendered about fifty men, more than a hundred cannon, mortars, howitzers and swivels, many small arms, and a considerable quantity of ammunition and stores. Some of the great guns were afterward used by the patriots in the siege of Boston. Colonel Warner had crossed the lake with the remainder of the volunteers, and reached the fort at the moment of the surrender. On the 12th he led a detachment, in boats, against Crown Point, and captured that strong fortress without bloodshed.





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