On May 10, 1775, less than 3 weeks after Lexington and Concord and 240 years ago, Ethan Allen marched north 80 miles from Bennington and in a brazen attack captured massive Fort Ticonderoga for America’s First Victory. Fort Ticonderoga had over 100 canon and 40 foot walls.
Starting in Bennington with only a handful of the legendary Green Mountain Boys at the Catamount Tavern (a statue on Monument Avenue marks the spot of the tavern), Allen went north on Monument Avenue (the original route 7A) through where the Bennington Battle Monument is today. He then went up 7A which is now the Shires Byway through Shaftsbury, Arlington, Sunderland and Manchester recruiting Green Mountain Boys as he went. Green Mountain Boys were sent to guard the roads so the British would not discover this expedition. So hastily was this group formed, one person who was unarmed actually “borrowed” a gun in Arlington. In Manchester, Allen recruited John Roberts and his 5 sons which was the largest immediate family with Allen at Ticonderoga. John Roberts’ grave is in Dellwood cemetery.
Allen left Manchester via Manchester West Road and took what is now route 30 and continued on to Hands Cove which is opposite Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Chamlain. Although Allen had recruited a total of about 250 men, mostly Green Mountain Boys, he only had enough boats to get 83 men across Lake Champlain. A teenager, Nathan Beaman, guided Allen into Fort Ticonderoga. Nathan Beaman’s name is on the War Memorial in Manchester as is John Roberts.
As you drive or bike north on the Shires Byway(route 7A) from Bennington to Manchester, remember you are retracing part of the route Ethan Allen took to capture Fort Ticonderoga for America’s First Victory.
Richard (Dick) Smith is a bestselling author on Vermont history and gives tours for Backroad Discovery Tours.