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

Ticonderoga

T HE Green Mountain Boys, led by Ethan Allen, and accompanied by Benedict Arnold as a volunteer, managed to collect a few boats at Orwell, and eighty-three of the men crossed Lake Champlain early in the morning of May 10, 1775, and landed at Ticonderoga. The boats were sent back for the rest of the expedition, but the commander realized that if he was to take the enemy by surprise he could not wait until the others arrived. Dawn was just breaking over the mountains as Ethan Allen drew up his little band in ranks. According to history he said to them, "Friends and fellow-soldiers, we must this morning quit our pretentions to valor, or possess ourselves of this fortress; and, inasmuch as it is a desperate attempt, I do not urge it on, contrary to will. You that will undertake voluntarily, poise your firelock."

Every man raised his firelock. "Face to the right!" cried Allen. He took his place at the head of the centre file, and with Arnold beside him, led the march to the gate of the fortress. The gate was shut, but the wicket in it was open. A sentry fired through it, and then the Americans broke down the gate and dashed upon the few guards and captured them. The attackers raised the old Indian war-whoops of the days of Montcalm, and quickly formed a hollow square on the parade ground, one side facing each of the barracks. One of the sentries showed Allen the door of the British commander's room. "Come out instantly, or I will sacrifice the whole garrison!" cried Ethan Allen. Delaplace, the British commander, jumped out of bed and gazed in amazement at the American. "Deliver to me the fort instantly," said the American. "By what authority?" asked the British officer. "In the name of the great Jehovah, and the Continental Congress!" answered Ethan Allen.

Delaplace started to speak, but Allen threatened him with his drawn sword, and called for his surrender. Then the commander capitulated, and ordered the garrison to give up their arms. By this sudden attack a few almost undisciplined volunteer soldiers won in about ten minutes a fortress that had caused the British troops many campaigns against the French and Indians. The Green Mountain Boys took a large number of prisoners at Ticonderoga, more than one hundred pieces of cannon, and stores of powder and arms. They sent a band of their men to the other fortress of Crown Point, and took that as easily as they had captured the larger and more important one.

Coming as it did, at the very beginning of the War of Revolution, the success of the Green Mountain Boys gave the greatest cheer to the colonists from Massachusetts to Georgia.

Ticonderoga

by V. B. Wilson

The cold, gray light of the dawning

On old Carillon falls,

And dim in the mist of the morning

Stand the grim old fortress walls.

No sound disturbs the stillness

Save the cataract's mellow roar,

Silent as death is the fortress,

Silent the misty shore.


But up from the wakening waters

Comes the cool, fresh morning breeze,

Lifting the banner of Britain,

And whispering to the trees

Of the swift gliding boats on the waters

That are nearing the fog-shrouded land,

With the old Green Mountain Lion,

And his daring patriot band.


But the sentinel at the postern

Heard not the whisper low;

He is dreaming of the banks of Shannon

As he walks on his beat to and fro,

Of the starry eyes in Green Erin

That were dim when he marched away,

And a tear down his bronzed cheek courses,

'Tis the first for many a day.


A sound breaks the misty stillness,

And quickly he glances around;

Through the mist, forms like towering giants

Seem rising out of the ground;

A challenge, the firelock flashes,

A sword cleaves the quivering air,

And the sentry lies dead by the postern,

Blood staining his bright yellow hair.


Then, with a shout that awakens

All the echoes of hillside and glen,

Through the low, frowning gate of the fortress,

Sword in hand, rush the Green Mountain men.

The scarce wakened troops of the garrison

Yield up their trust pale with fear;

And down comes the bright British banner,

And out rings a Green Mountain cheer.


Flushed with pride, the whole eastern heavens

With crimson and gold are ablaze;

And up springs the sun in his splendor

And flings down his arrowy rays,

Bathing in sunlight the fortress,

Turning to gold the grim walls,

While louder and clearer and higher

Rings the song of the waterfalls.


Since the taking of Ticonderoga

A century has rolled away;

But with pride the nation remembers

That glorious morning in May.

And the cataract's silvery music

Forever the story tells,

Of the capture of old Carillon,

The chime of the silver bells.


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