Fort Ticonderoga held greater significance in the French and Indian War due to its location on the border of two great empires. Its significance in the American Revolutionary War was its supplies and it became a launching point for the unsuccessful invasion of Canada.
The Americans had bottled up the British in Boston due to the Battles of Lexington and Concord. General Thomas Gage was left in a precarious situation that would eventually bring General William Howe into the picture and culminate in the Battle of Bunker Hill.
However, Before the Battle of Bunker Hill, Ticonderoga was captured with very little effort and would supply the Americans which much needed ammunition to drive out the British in Boston. It would not happen immediately, but the Continental Army under General George Washington would begin the Siege of Boston. The Americans were able to bottle up the British, but unable to drive them out until General Henry Knox brought in much needed artillery that would dislodge the British from Boston. In order for all of that to happen, Fort Ticonderoga had to be captured.
It was a small event that is merely a bold print word in history books, but it is laced with much drama. It would be here that the seeds were sown for the most notorious traitor in American history, Benedict Arnold. It is Colonel Ethan Allen who often gets the credit for the forts capture and the name Benedict Arnold is never mentioned.
Benedict Arnold Commissioned
Captain Benedict Arnold’s name is woven through much of the early years of the American Revolutionary War. He led an epic assault on Quebec, was pivotal in the Battle of Saratoga and was known for his bravery in battle.
Arnold was familiar with the grounds in and around Ticonderoga and when he arrived back in Massachusetts Bay Colony he spoke of its current state. The fort was old and dilapidated. It was poorly guarded and had quite a bit of useful ammunition. Ticonderoga was also vitally important due to its locations as it was situated on Lake Champlain and provided nice staging grounds for an assault on Quebec. Upon learning this the Massachusetts Committee commissioned Arnold as a colonel and told him to carry on with this “secret mission.”
Colonel Ethan Allens Preparations
At the same time Arnold was receiving instructions from the Massachusetts committee, Ethan Allen was receiving instructions from the Connecticut Committee. Allen recruited 100 of the Green Mountain Boys and was elected Colonel.
Once Arnold learned of the recruitment he quickly rode to meet up with Colonel Ethan Allen. When Arnold arrived he tried to take command of the militia but they would refuse and only planned on following Colonel Ethan Allen. Historians disagree on what happened next. Some believe that Arnold rode alongside Allen and others say he was nothing more than another man in the militia. Regardless, he was not in command.
Capture of the Fort
The actual capture of Fort Ticonderoga was anti-climatic. Very few men were garrisoned at the fort, only one sentry unit was on watch duty and the rest of the men were asleep. The Green Mountain Boys easily surrounded the fort and captured it without much effort. The British within the walls of the fort had no idea that the Battles of Lexington and Concord had even taken place.
Once captured Benedict Arnold led a detachment and captured a fort at Crown Point and would lead a raid on Fort Saint-Jean.
Eventually around 400 Green Mountain Boys would arrive at Fort Ticonderoga and they were unruly at best. They seized the liquor stores and plundered the fort repeatedly. Arnold disagreed with their plunders and even had words with Ethan Allen about it. However, he was not recognized as a commander therefore his words did not matter to them. Arnold and Allen’s words were so harsh that at times guns were drawn.
British Recapture the Fort
The British would eventually recapture Fort Ticonderoga and would quickly abandon it after General John Burgoyne’s army was destroyed at the Battle of Saratoga. At that point the fort was not too significant and the war was beginning to shift towards the south. Before its fall General Horatio Gates and General Schuyler defended it and the St. Lawrence River.
The capture was important for the Americans because it supplied much needed ammunition for the Americans, but it came with a small cost that would eventually result in treason. Benedict Arnold was given no recognition in its capture. His name was never mentioned by Ethan Allen. After the Green Mountain Boys had left the fort it was Arnold who repaired it. Soon the Continental Congress would strip Arnold of any decision making ability which would result in him resigning his commission and heading back into the field.