“What good is a revolutionary spirit if nobody gets shot? People need to get shot.” Yes, I said that. Once.
If you, my reader, are kind, you probably will try to make me feel good. “Oh, Erastus, that’s ‘cause you were young.”
Being young is no excuse for being wrong.
Do you like heroic stories? Then let me tell mine.
Many years have passed since the tales of glory, Ethan Allen, and the Green Mountain Boys set me to dreaming. Many years have passed since I marched off to Ticonderoga with Ethan Allen and the Boys from Pownal, but only now can I begin to make sense of it all. This is my tale of what happened to me during our Revolution; about the beginnings of the fourteenth original colony of these United States of America—Vermont; about self-serving patriots, sacrificing patriots, and ordinary patriots; about how we set out to fight the Yorkers and ended up defeating the British; and about banshees, witches, scalpers, and profiteers.
You undoubtedly have heard of Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and George Washington. Perhaps you have even heard of Seth Warner and John Stark. But I would bet you have never heard of Cotton Mather Dewey, Theophilus Bates, Pebonkas Kisos, Michael McGinness, Elizabeth Ross, Huntington Hungerford, Ann Story, Jacob Hintersass, and all those the politician John Adams catalogued as “Tories, Landjobbers, Trimmers, Bigots, Canadians, Indians, Negroes, Hanoverians, Hessians, Russians, Irish Roman Catholicks, [and] Scotch Renegadoes. . . .” Well, now you will. I knew them all.
My mother, brothers, sisters, and uncle have been as much a part of my adventures as all those folks, so you’ll find them here, too, especially my older twin sisters, Tryphena and Tryphosa. Frankly, some days I would rather not talk about those two, given the ways they have embarrassed me all the days of my life, but I suppose I owe them their due.
Ethan Allen himself charged me to write the history of the Green Mountain Boys, so I am fulfilling my obligation to him. If you are a schoolmaster searching for some theme so you can force your young scholars to memorize that theme and avoid seeing the real story, then this book is not for you. If you are one of those historians who mines remembrances of old soldiers so you can add a footnote to your already too tedious compendium of facts to prove your portentous theory, then you probably should go elsewhere for your primary sources. If you are a dreamer who wants to remember our American Revolution as a mass movement of patriots, all sacrificing for our common vision of a democracy, then you definitely should go find some other cloud to sit on.
I did walk among true patriots—true heroes. You will know them when you meet them here. You will also recognize those who claimed to be patriots, but whose words were braver than their actions, and those whose prejudice against others motivated them more than patriotism. We could fill New York City with all who now claim to have been with Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold when they took Fort Ticonderoga.
My story begins in 1774 and ends—for the most part and for all the reasons I confess to—in 1777, long before our Revolution ended. Please forgive me for what I reveal here, for I have been, as so many I have known, too, too human.
If you think my story pure unadulterated hogwash, you probably only have the quaint tales of school history books to judge it by. So I end by quoting Ethan Allen, without whose inspiration and exuberance I would never have joined the Green Mountain Boys from Pownal. “The critic will be pleased to excuse any inaccuracies in the performance itself, as the author has unfortunately missed a liberal education.”
Copyright 2007 by Raymond J. Rodrigues