Ethan Allen did not have a self esteem issue. Regardless of his escapades, whether it be starting a bar brawl or leading his militia, Allen was always quite sure of himself and made sure he commanded the spotlight and was received in a positive light. Yet, it was this behemoth of a man, in stature and voice, who supposedly played a leading character in the birth of a state and a nation.
In his book, Ethan Allen Frontier Rebel, Charles A. Jellison takes us through Allen’s adventures, such as the personal fight to protect his land, at the front of his guerilla group, the Green Mountain Boys. In this case, land that the locals assumed was theirs, in what is now Vermont, was the subject of a dispute between established states New Hampshire and New York. Allen and his boys pestered their neighbors from the east and west to defend what they felt belonged to them.
Jellison brings us through the rugged wilderness to a standoff between Allen and American commander Benedict Arnold during the early portion of the American Revolutionary War. Their paths crossed while both were on a mission to capture the lightly guarded Fort Ticonderoga (New York) from the British. Allen’s men refused to follow Arnold’s lead, forcing the commander to take Allen along with him. When the mission was successfully completed, Allen ensured he received the credit.
We learn of Allen’s faults, as well, in an attempt to generate big headlines. For example, in a plan that was not properly planned for, he attached Montreal and was captured. We go with Allen as he spends several years on a British prisoners of war ship.
Allen’s time with the British allows him to foster relationships with people behind enemy lines. This potentially played a role in his further dealings the governor of Quebec regarding the establishment of Vermont as a British province. Allen made a few enemies once these negotiations were public, with many considering him treasonous.
Jellison takes the story to the end of Allen’s life, including his role in promoting an independent Vermont, as well as day to day life on his farm. In addition, Allen publishes a writing that attacked the method of Christianity, while offering an alternative naturalistic view of religion. We finally are brought to Allen’s untimely death at the relatively young age of 52 years old.