July 05, 2009

Special Patriotic Independence Day Post: Ethan Allen's Life After Death

In honor of July 4th, here's some interesting information about Ethan Allen, Revolutionary War hero and leader of the famed Green Mountain Boys, the Vermont militia that captured Fort Ticonderoga from the British without using force.

Ethan Allen was a bit of a loose cannon and a freethinker. He was also a Deist, and wrote a book called Reason, the Only Oracle of Man, that outlined his unorthodox religious views. It was an attack on Christianity, the Bible and the clergy. Unsurprisingly, it got bad reviews.

In 1785, which was late in his life, Ethan Allen discussed metaphysics with J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, a Frenchman who became an American citizen and wrote a series of popular books titled Letters from An American Farmer. Ethan Allen remarked that if the transmigration of souls was indeed true, he hoped to return to earth as a magnificent white stallion so he could roam the hills of Vermont.

Allen died in 1789. Although the public viewed him as a national hero, clergymen took a dimmer view, one going so far to call him "one of the wickedest men that ever walked this guilty globe."

According to B.A. Botkin's Treasury of New England Folklore, shortly after Allen's death a large white stallion, unclaimed by any farmer, was seen roaming freely across the green hills of Vermont. Ethan Allen's remains have never been located by modern historians.

6 comments:

whatwas said...

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whatwas said...

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Anonymous said...

I have always liked the story of Ethan Allen's last words. As you have noted, although old he remained an atheist and a reprobate to the end of his life. When it became clear in his town that his days were numbered, a minister was called -- needless to say, it was the youngest minister in town, as the others knew the Colonel well and were reluctant to waste their time on him.

The young parson walked gingerly into Allen's bedroom and saw him lying on the bed. When Allen asked with a growl what the minister wanted, the minister said "Colonel Allen, the Angels are waiting!"

Allen turned a fierce eye on the minister and said "Well, God damn them, let them wait!" The Colonel then turned his face to the wall and died.

Anonymous said...

From Abby Maria Hemenway's Vermont Historical Gazetteer: Published 1867:
Burlington, Vermont Chittenden County.

"...On the 16th [Feb1789] his remains were interred with the honors of war. He was buried in the grave yard at Winooski Falls.
His Epitaph: "The mortal remains of Ethan Allen, fighter, writer, statesman, and philosopher, lie in this cemetery beneath the marble statue. His spirit is in Vermont now."

Anonymous said...

The town of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, is named after Hector St. John de Crevecoeur.

-- DK, New Brunswick
(third cousin seven-times-removed of Ethan Allen)

Anonymous said...

What a 'load of crap'. According to an accounting passed down by my ancestors, whom were among the original settlers of the Connecticut River valley of Vermont, Ethan Allen was nothing more than a non-trustworthy opportunist, a land thief and a drunk. Setting all 'religious/atheist/deist' considerations aside, Allen has been glorified as an exemplary military 'leader & strategist' by the media of his day seeking a hero they could wrap their cause around. The whole "In the name of the great Jehovah" line associated with the taking of Fort Ti was not 'tongue in cheek'... it was never said at all. (I personally suspect it was more like "Where do you keep the officer's wine stock?"). While an effective motivator of fellow over-consuming, tavern patrons, he wasn't much of a 'thinker'. The moron led an inferior force in a futile attempt to overtake the British military stronghold at Montreal and got them all killed or captured. I wouldn't have followed an idiot like that to the outhouse, never mind into battle. Further... the words attributed to him while on his death bed were nothing but 'poppycock' as well. Contrary to a multitude of varying reports as to the cause of his death, Ol' Ethan died after consuming too much rum, and falling in a drunken stupor from a hay sled while crossing the ice of Lake Champlain with a load that had been harvested in the Islands. he broke his useless neck and never regained consciousness to offer orders for either angels, demons or his dog for that matter. While, in the interest of creating tourist 'bait', someone's remains were disinterred and relocated beneath the statue erected in his honor in Greenmount Cemetery, Colchester Ave., Burlington, VT, it is doubtful that they are those of Ethan Allen. According to my grandmother, his remains were more likely fed to the pigs and crapped all over the barnyard of his Winooski River delta farm.