Gateway to the Classics: Historic Poems and Ballads by Rupert S. Holland
Historic Poems and Ballads by  Rupert S. Holland

The Green Mountain Boys

S OON after the first armed encounters between the British troops stationed in Boston under General Gage and the minutemen of Lexington and Concord and other villages, a large army of recruits collected outside Boston. There were nearly twenty thousand of these men who had hurriedly left homes and farms and hastened to besiege General Gage and his regulars. The leaders, however, did not consider the time ripe to attack such a strong British force. The recruits were eager and warlike, and it was soon seen that their martial spirit must be given some outlet. It was then that Benedict Arnold, captain of a volunteer company from Connecticut, suggested that a march be made against the British fortresses at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, on Lake Champlain. These were of great strategic value, as they commanded the approach to the Hudson River on the north.

This idea met with a quick response. Arnold was made a colonel, and started to raise a regiment among the colonists in the Berkshire Hills. Meantime, however, a number of other men were raising recruits in the country which was known as the New Hampshire Grants, now the state of Vermont. Ethan Allen was one of the leaders here, and while some of the captains were on the march from Boston, he sent an alarm from the town of Bennington through the hills and valleys of the Green Mountain country. The settlers came hurriedly at his call, and on May 7, 1775, one hundred Green Mountain Boys, as these patriots were called, and about fifty men from Massachusetts, met at Castleton. Benedict Arnold joined them, but, although he already had a military commission from the Massachusetts committee of safety, the recruits disregarded his claim, and unanimously elected Ethan Allen their commander.

The fortress of Ticonderoga was strongly guarded with cannon, and the Green Mountain Boys knew that if they were to capture it they would have to take the British garrison by surprise. As secretly as they could, therefore, they set out from Castleton, heading for Lake Champlain. On May ninth they camped at Orwell, and planned to make their attack on the next day.

The Green Mountain Boys

by William Cullen Bryant

Here halt we our march, and pitch our tent

On the rugged forest-ground,

And light our fire with the branches rent

By winds from the beeches round.

Wild storms have torn this ancient wood,

But a wilder is at hand,

With hail of iron and rain of blood,

To sweep and waste the land.

How the dark wood rings with our voices shrill,

That startle the sleeping bird!

To-morrow eve must the voice be still,

And the step must fall unheard.

The Briton lies by the blue Champlain,

In Ticonderoga's towers,

And ere the sun rise twice again,

Must they and the lake be ours.

Fill up the bowl from the brook that glides

Where the fireflies light the brake;

A ruddier juice the Briton hides

In his fortress by the lake.

Build high the fire, till the panther leap

From his lofty perch in flight,

And we'll strengthen our weary arms with sleep

For the deeds of to-morrow night.

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