A Family History Epic
Compiled and Edited by Richard B. Warner
The back cover of a recent book publication, copyright 2001, titled:
“Seth Warner… this extraordinary American…”
By James E. Petersen,
States the following:
Vermonters have long overlooked the contributions of Seth Warner to the creation of their state, as well as to the new nation of the United States.
Seth Warner’s native Connecticut has been even more remiss in this respect.
U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman (D. Conn.) recognized the fact some years ago and is quoted in the Congressional Record as saying, “Tragically the accomplishments of this extraordinary American have not been properly heralded by history, and I believe the time is past for us to honor him.”
The following pages and writings are excerpts from the following”
“Seth Warner…this extraordinary American”,
By James E. Petersen.
“An outline of the Controversy of the New Hampshire Grants;
With a sketch of the Life and Services of Col. Seth Warner.
By George Frederick Houghton
“Memoir of Colonel Seth Warner”,
By Daniel Chipman
Ungeheuer, Frederick with Lewis and Ethel Hurlbut, Connecticut Heritage Press.
“Roxbury’s Early Days”,
By Norman Henry Hurlbut
(Compiled & Edited by Richard B. Warner)
“A BAND OF COUSINS”
Perhaps the most politically explosive time in American history occurred during the nation’s founding, when anextraordinary generation wrested control of the American colonies from England and gave birth to a new, democratic nation.
A “Band of Cousins” from Connecticut not only played equally important roles in the birthing of the State of Vermont but also a birthing of the United States of America.
Seth Warner (b: 1743, Roxbury, Connecticut) was the first to move from Roxbury, Connecticut to the New Hampshire “Grants” in 1763 with his father, Dr. Benjamin Warner and the other family members.
Dr. Benjamin Warner (b: 1709) had a sister named Tamar (b: 1718) who married Remember Baker, Sr. (b: 1712). They had a child named Remember Baker Jr. (b:
1737) who was born shortly after his father was killed in a hunting accident at Roxbury in 1737. Seth Warner and Remember Baker Jr. were 1st cousins.
Remember Baker Sr. had a sister named Mary Baker (b: 1708) who married a fellow named Joseph Allen (b: 1708). Joseph and Mary had seven children together; the first was Ethan Allen (b: 1738). Ethan Allen and Remember Baker Jr. were 1st cousins.
Seth Warner and Ethan Allen’s Uncle, Remember Baker Sr. was killed in a hunting accident in 1737 and their Cousin, Remember Baker Jr. (Capt.) grew up as close companions in their youth near Roxbury, Connecticut.
Seth Warner, with his parents, moved to the New Hampshire Grants, from Roxbury, in 1763 when Seth was age 20. Toward the end of his short life, Seth Warner left the Grants and moved back to Roxbury, Connecticut to die there in 1784 at the young age of 41. He gave his life in the defense of the “New Hampshire Grants” and his battles in the American Revolution. A monument has been erected in his memory on the Roxbury, Ct. town green.
Remember Baker, Jr. moved to the New Hampshire Grants with his wife, Desire Hurlbut, in 1764. He was killed by Indians at the young age of 38 in 1775.
Ethan Allen and his wife, Mary Brownson, with their five children, moved to the Grants in 1769, five years after Remember Baker Jr. and six years after Seth Warner. Ethan also died at an early age of 52.
“THE MOUNTAIN BOYS”
Norman Hurlbut wrote his own portrait of Roxbury’s revolutionary heroes Ethan Allen, Seth Warner, and their cousin and companion in arms, Remember Baker
Jr. even though their stories had been well told elsewhere. Perhaps he felt he had to write about them, because they were related. All of them intermarried with members of the Hurlbut crew.
Remember Baker, Jr. was the oldest. He was born in 1737, and according to Norman Hurlbut, was one of the greatest frontiersmen Roxbury ever sent out into the world. He was a tough, redheaded, freckle-faced young giant, a man with whom it was best not to tangle, if it could be avoided. Sheriff John Munro learned his lesson in March in 1772, when he and his gang thought they could take Remember to Albany, New York, and collect the reward that had been placed on his head. They never reached Albany, as will be shown later.
Town Historian Elmer Worthington wrote: “Remember Baker, Sr. was descended from John Baker and Sarah Hurlbut, a daughter of Joseph Hurlbut, reputedly the first man to finish a house near Shippauge Fort, and who gave John a plot of land on Good Hill in 1704.
John and Sarah were probably the first young couple to make their home here. Mary, the future mother of Ethan Allen, was one of their daughters, born in 1708. Their son, Remember Baker Jr., was born in 1737.
Mary Baker, daughter of John, was baptized in March 1709, and married Joseph Allen, March 11, 1736.
Shortly after Remember Jr’s birth in 1737, a Hurlbut killed his father, Remember Baker Sr., in a hunting accident in Roxbury.
Remember Jr. married Desire Hurlbut in 1760. They lived in Roxbury until 1764 when he joined his cousin Seth Warner in Vermont.
According to Norman Hurlbut, the John Baker house was undoubtedly the scene of Mary Baker’s wedding to Joseph Allen in 1736, and here Remember Sr. brought his bride, Tamar Warner, the sister of Dr. Benjamin Warner, Col. Seth’s father. And also here was brought Remember Baker Sr.’s body that June 1st, 1737, after the fatal hunting accident on Mine Hill.
The fatherless boy, Remember Baker Jr., grew up in his grandfather John Baker’s home and with the companionship of cousin Ethan and the soldiers at the fort, until September llth, 1755, when at the age of eighteen, he enlisted in the Northern army and served through most of the French and Indian War.
In 1758, Remember, now a non-commissioned officer was serving under General Israel Putnam, when Putnam’s forces met a detachment of French at Ticonderoga. With Putnam was Lord Howe, a young English officer much beloved by the men. During the action a stray bullet struck Howe. When the men saw their idol fall, they went wild and, fighting like tigers, tore diagonally through the French lines and then, receiving reinforcements, turned and attacked from the rear, killing some 300 men and taking 148 prisoners. A heavy price the enemy paid for a stray shot….
After the French and Indian war, whether Remember returned to his home in Roxbury or lingered on in the North Country is not known, but he was here in 1760 as in that year he married his cousin, Desire Hurlbut, the daughter of Consider Hurlbut. In fact, all three boys came back to Roxbury for their brides. Remember for Desire Hurlbut, Seth Warner for Esther Hurd, also a distant cousin, and Ethan Allen for Mary Brownson, the daughter of Cornelius Brownson, the miller of Southbury. Must be Roxbury girls were as pretty then as now.
It is not known where the young Bakers made their homes for the first years, but in 1764, Remember Jr. brought his little family, wife, and son Ozi, along a rude road to Arlington, Vermont, which town at Proprietors Meeting had offered to grant 50 acres of land to anyone who would build a grist mill to be in operation by November 1765. Remember had to settle down, what with tending his mill, building the home for his family, and hunting meat, he was a busy man. He was preceded by the Warner family and several of his wife’s relations, and still later, Ethan Allen arrived on the scene in time to join in the ‘scraps’ with the ‘Yorkers’.
In February 1770, Ethan was chosen as an agent for the Wentworth Title holders. He went to New York to present their claims but to no avail.
Ethan’s brother, Ira, soon arrived also and became engaged in land surveying with his cousin Remember Baker.
Not long after his arrival, Remember sent Seth Warner a message. He had seen New York surveyors going up country and he was worried. The settlers held their titles under grants from Bennington Wentworth, Governor of New Hampshire, and now the New York authorities claimed their titles invalid and they must repurchase under Gov. Tryon of New York. “I tell you Seth, we’ve got to drive ’em out or we’ll lose our homes, and if we do, they’ll have us in their courts.” Not long after, Committees of Safety were being formed in the various towns through the Grants, as they were called, and a meeting was called at the old Catamount Tavern kept by one Stephen Fay, who had mounted a stuffed wildcat atop a pole before his tavern.
Here, in the summer of 1771, gathered a motley number of the younger men of the hills, hardened hunters and rangers of the mountains, who were not disposed to submit tamely to injustice. The organization to be known as ‘The Green Mountain Boys’ was here begun with Ethan Allen as Col. Commander, and Seth Warner, Remember Baker, Robert Cochran, Peleg Sunderland, and Gideon Warner appointed as Captains.
Remember and others now made up a ‘Judgment Seat,’ a court for sitting in judgment on the usurpers from New York, and Ethan, Seth, Remember, and Cochran were named as judges. It was a court which some of the worst offenders later had excellent cause to respect.
Finally, the situation grew so serious that in November 1771, Governor Tryon placed a reward of twenty pounds on the heads of Seth, Ethan, and Remember. Ethan immediately offered a reward of fifteen pounds for certain New York officials, to be delivered at Fay’s tavern. Said he, “They ain’t worth as much as we be.”
One night in March 1772, the New York Sheriff John Munro gathered a posse and —coming to Remember’s home — broke in the door with axes. On their entry they were met by a fighting fury of a man armed with only a cudgel and a woman and child just roused from their bed. The fight raged for a time until the beset and outnumbered man sprang up the ladder to the loft and leaped out into the snow, where he was soon overpowered and, without dressing his wounded hand, the start was made for Albany. Remember asked leave to see his injured wife and child, but only gained the brutal reply, “She can see you at the jail.” This brought from Remember, “If she’s hurt bad, Munro, I’ll kill you.” He was told, “In the Albany jail, where you’ll be, you won’t kill anybody for quite some spell.”
But Remember didn’t get to the Albany jail, for his captors failed to realize the size of the hornet’s nest they had aroused. For hardly had they struck the road than the cry rang through the night, “It’s Remember, they got Remember.” Soon grim-faced men were riding in from all directions, and the pursuit was on. Taking a different road the pursuers raced ahead and came out on the Albany Road before Munro and his men who, when they saw them, scattered in the woods like frightened rabbits. Remember was carried back and his wounds dressed and his wife and son cared for.
The next day Seth Warner rode out to Munro’s place and demanded Remember’s gun. “What gun,” replied Munro. “The gun you stole the night you tried to murder him,” Seth said. With visions of that reward in his mind, Munro seized the bridle of Seth’s horse and called on his men to make the arrest. Rising in his stirrups Seth brought the flat of his sword down on Munro’s head, felling him to the ground, where he forgot all about making any arrest. A few days later, the town of Poultney, Vermont, voted Seth a hundred acres of land, “for his valor in cracking the head of the hated Yorker.”
Some time afterwards, when an opponent demanded his authority for his actions, Remember, holding up his mutilated thumb, declared, “There’s my warrant good in any court in the Green Mountains.”
By May 1773, Ira Allen and Remember Baker, as the “Onion River Land Co.”, owned some 45,000 acres of virgin land along the Onion River, near Burlington. That year there were no roads north of Castleton, and Baker and Allen cut a road through the forest for seventy miles so that supplies could be brought in from Lake Champlain and in the summer they settled on their land and built a stout log house across the river from Burlington, later called Fort Frederick. Ira, being unmarried, lived with Remember.
Soon came the outbreak with England, and forgetting their troubles with New York, they joined forces against the British, their common enemy.
On May 11, 1775, the day after the capture of Ticonderoga, Remember, at the Onion River was asked by Seth Warner to join him in the occupation of Crown Point. He started at once and on the way intercepted two boats sent by the British to warn St. Johnsbury of the fall of the fort. They did not deliver their message as Remember kindly took them along with him while he met with Seth. Remember was now in frequent demand for scout duty.
In August of 1775, Remember was sent by General Schuyler to gain information on the condition of the British forces in Canada, and on his return was immediately sent back for more details.
On August 19, Remember left Crown Point with 4 or 5 men, and on August 20, was on the schooner “Liberty” at the foot of Champlain, and next morning started down to Sorel River. Leaving a man named Griffin and an Indian on the west side of the river, he pushed on further. This is the last Griffin saw of Remember.
Hiding his canoe in the bushes, Remember crept up a little further, but on his return found that a party of Indians had discovered his canoe and were making off with it. He demanded they return it, and on their refusal opened fire, killing one of them. Then, his flint needing some adjustment, he leaned against a tree, when a shot struck him in the forehead and killed him instantly. The Indians returned, cut off his head and right hand with the mutilated thumb, and carried them to Canada to collect the bounty. So died one of Vermont and Connecticut’s great pre-revolutionary men.
At the time he was killed, one of the Indians took possession of Remember’s powder horn, and he kept it. But a day or two later, when the Indian was also killed, the horn came back to Remember’s friends, who sent it to his son, Ozi. Later it disappeared and was not found until 1928, when it was discovered behind a rafter in an old house. Now it is a treasured relic in the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont. On it is inscribed, cut into the horn: “Remember Baker, Bennington, Vt. Ye Sept. 9, 1774.”
“Captain Baker was the first man killed in the Northern department,” Ira Allen wrote some years later, “and being a gentleman universally respected, his death made more noise in the countryside than the loss of a thousand men toward the end of the American war.
Captain Remember Baker’s son Remember Baker III moved to Stafford, New York. He served as an officer and friend of General Winfield Scott during the war of 1812. His son, General Lafayette Baker, was born in Stafford in 1826. General Lafayette Baker became Chief of the National Detective Service under President Lincoln. He also wrote, ln 1867, the “History of the United States Secret Service.”
Lafayette’s grandson, Newton D. Baker, was Secretary of War in President Wilson’s Cabinet from 1913 to 1921.
In Roxbury still stands the old house by the crossroads, but the Baker family that lived there in those days is entirely forgotten. The level land that stretched northward from the Episcopal Church for three-fourths of a mile used to be known as the Baker Plains.
The lone white oak still stands by the road as an ancient landmark to the Baker clan.
ETHAN ALLEN AND SETH WARNER
Few of Roxbury’s famous men have so captured the imagination of their contemporaries as Brigadier General Ethan Allen. There are probably few American schoolboys who could not quote his famous summons to the commander of Fort Ticonderoga: “Surrender in the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress.”
Ethan Allen was one of the most daring, and popular soldiers of early American history. Gifted by nature with the frame of a giant, he added to nature’s gift by developing “a most excellent opinion of himself” and a confidence in his ability to handle any problem that confronted him.
Seth Warner was nearly six feet, three inches, and it was said that when walking together, Ethan towered far above Seth, so it is likely that Ethan was at least six feet, six inches tall.
The History of Ancient Litchfield County, published in 1881 by the J.W. Lewis and Co., Philadelphia, gives Roxbury as the place of Ethan’s birth. William Cothren in his History of Ancient Woodbury devotes a considerable space in support of his conviction that Roxbury was the place of Ethan’s birth. Can the statements in various publications be cast aside as of no moment? It is hardly possible. However, I believe that Ethan’s spirit, in whatsoever shades it may be wandering, would likely chuckle over the controversy over where he first entered this vale of sorrow, when all his life he was much more concerned as to where, when, and how he might have to leave it.
Ethan spent much of his youth at his grandfather’s home in Roxbury, which was also the location of his cousin, Remember Baker Jr. and not far away was the home of Remember’s cousin, Seth Warner. The three boys grew up on tales of military affairs.
Grandfather John Baker and Seth’s father Dr. Benjamin Warner and Grandfather Ebenezer Warner were prominent officers in the “train band,” somewhat similar to our militia of later days. Grandfather Baker’s home was but a stone’s throw from the fort on Sentry Hill. No doubt the boys spent many an hour listening to the soldiers. With the training from early boyhood in matters military, they were being fitted for the roles they were to play in the stirring times before and during the American Revolution.
Remember Baker Jr., enlisted in the Northern Army at the age of eighteen, and brought back tales of adventure and danger that helped to fan the imagination of Ethan and Seth. Remember was just half a dozen years older than Seth.
In 1762, Ethan started in the iron business in Salisbury. In the same year he was married to Mary Brownson, the daughter of Cornelius Brownson, the miller. He was married by the Rev. Daniel Brinsmade, paying him four shillings.
In 1764, while a resident of Salisbury, Ethan purchased a one-sixteenth interest in the mining rights of Mine Hill in Roxbury, but more exciting fields were calling. About 1769, leaving the scenes of his boyhood, he joined Remember and Seth in the new lands in the Green Mountains. Almost immediately he became, with Remember and Seth, an acknowledged leaders of the settlers in their resistance to the New York authorities over land titles, and the authorities of New York offered 50 pounds each for their apprehension.
On one occasion, about 1773, accepting a dare from his friends, Ethan mounted his horse and, riding to Albany, New York, entered a tavern and called for a bowl of punch. After attending to the punch, he placed his hands on his hips and announced to the company, “My name’s Ethan Allen, now who wants that reward?” Faced with such a giant, the bystanders apparently decided discretion was the better part of valor and let him return to the hills of Vermont.
Soon after, the outbreak of the Revolution pushed the differences with New York into
the background and in April 1775, plans for the capture of Ticonderoga were under way.
About four o’clock on the morning of May 10, 1775, Col. Ethan Allen, with Benedict Arnold at his side, was delivering his famous order to commander de la Place to surrender the fort “In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress.”
The next day, Seth Warner and Remember Baker and troops captured the fortress of “Crown Point” just north of Ticonderoga.
On June 22, 1775, Ethan Allen & Seth Warner appear before the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
On July 4th, the New York Assembly hears Ethan and Seth Warner and authorizes a Green Mountain Regiment to be formed at New York expense. The highest commander was to be that of Lieutenant Colonel and was to be elected by a vote.
A short time later, Ethan’s bravado and self-importance most certainly contributed to his defeat in the election at Dorset in July 27, 1775, when Seth Warner was chosen to command the “Green Mountain Boys” in place of Ethan. There was a vote conducted for the command of Lieutenant Colonel in which Seth Warner received 41 votes and Ethan Allen received five votes. Ethan Allen was stunned. He and his supporters had taken it for granted that he would head the regiment of Green Mountain Boys just as he had led them a few weeks earlier through the wicket gate at Fort Ticonderoga. Allen blamed his stinging defeat on the “old farmers of the New Hampshire Grants.” He wrote Governor Trumbull of Connecticut:
“Notwithstanding my zeal and success in my country’s cause, the old farmers of the New Hampshire Grants, who do not incline to go to war, have met in a committee, and in their nomination of officers for the regiment of Green Mountain Boys who are quickly to be raised, have wholly omitted me; but as the commissions will come from the Continental Congress, I hope they will remember me, as I desire to remain of service. I find myself in favor of the officers of the army and the young Green Mountain Boys. How the old men came to reject me, I cannot conceive, inasmuch as I saved them from the encroachments of New York.”
Anyway, for whatever reason, Seth Warner was in, and Ethan Allen was out, a circumstance that wrenched mightily at a lifelong relationship between the two men. They, who had stood shoulder to shoulder during a decade of defiance to the New York Colony, were never to campaign together again.
It has been alleged, with few details, that Warner and Allen privately quarreled over the election results. That ill feelings developed between their supporters is a matter of record.
The bold and defiant language of Allen in his writings and conversation was well calculated to encourage the timid, confirm the wavering and inspire confidence; and his personal courage cannot be questioned. But his vanity was great, always prompting him to claim, at least, all the merit he deserved, and sometimes rendering his manner overbearing and offensive; and he was not free from rashness and impudence.
Warner, on the other hand, was modest and unassuming. He appeared satisfied with being useful, and manifested little solicitude that his services should be known or appreciated. He was always cool and deliberate, and in his sound judgment, as well as his energy, resolution and firmness, all classes had the most unlimited confidence. As a military leader he was preferred to Allen.
On September 1, 1775, the Congress resolved, “… that Seth Warner be appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiment of Green Mountain Boys and resolved that Samuel Safford be appointed Major of the said Regiment.” The regiment, officially listed in New York records as “Colonel Warner’s Regiment in the Service of the United Colonies,” was also known as the Green Mountain Rangers.
That same month, on September 24th, 1775, Ethan, in an unfortunate attempt to capture Montreal, was taken prisoner by the British and carried by ship to England.
Colonel Warner continued in the battles against the British, throughout the three years of Ethan Allen’s captivity.
In October 1775, at Longueuil, Colonel Warner, with the Green Mountain Boys, defeated a large body of British and Canadians attempting to cross the St. Lawrence from Montreal. The Americans took prisoner Five hundred regulars and 100 Canadians. “Thus Warner and his Green Mountain Boys,” wrote historian Walter Crocket, “not only repulsed a force twice their number, led by the British commander of Canada, but the news of their victory had proved to be the magic key which unlocked the important fort at St. John’s. It was an exploit which deserved more credit than it has received.”
General Montgomery entered Montreal on November 13, 1775, and congratulated his troops for their brave fighting and made a strong pitch to them to continue to serve in Canada until the following spring. He recognized his promise to release them upon the capture of Montreal, he said, but he begged them not to “abandon in one day what had been gained with the Labour and Hardships of so many months.”
Several hundred soldiers, Seth Warner’s regiment among them, held Montgomery to his promise and headed back toward New England. “An unhappy homesickness prevails in the army”, General Shuyler observed.
Montgomery wasn’t particularly kind toward the Green Mountain regiment, despite its performance at Longueuil, writing to Shuyler from Montreal, “The rascally Green Mountain Boys have left me in the lurch.”
The Green Mountain Boys wasted little time in legging it south to their own firesides and one can expect that Seth Warner, who marched with them, anticipated a reunion with pregnant wife Hester Warner and their son Israel back in the house in Bennington. They hadn’t seen much of each other since the previous April when he went traipsing off to capture King George’s forts at Ticonderoga and at Crown Point. Their next baby, Abigail, was born on December 9, 1775.
Warner also had ample time to reflect upon the events that had transpired since his involvement in the capture of Ticonderoga and Crown Point. Although subordinate to Ethan Allen, both in chain of command and in the public eye when he captured Crown Point, he had since come into his own and rather favorably at that. He would have been less than human if he had not experienced some pleasure at his election to regimental commander at the Dorset convention, despite whatever self-doubts and pangs of regret for Ethan Allen it may have evoked.
On the first day of the New Year of 1776, in a howling blizzard, Benedict Arnold and General Montgomery launched a desperate joint assault on the fortified city of Quebec. It turned out to be a disaster, General Montgomery was killed and Benedict Arnold was wounded.
General David Wooster, who had succeeded Montgomery in command, wrote Seth Warner a long, frank letter, pleading for immediate reinforcements and predicting the direst circumstances if they were not forthcoming.
The General clinched his appeal by suggesting that “…unless we can be quickly reinforced, perhaps it will be fatal, not only to us who are stationed here, but to the colonies in general, especially to the frontiers”, knowing full well Warner’s concern for that portion of the frontier known as the New Hampshire Grants.
Prior to leaving for Canada, Warner was requested to attend a meeting at Dorset on January 16, 1776, which seemingly illustrates the regard in which the delegates from western towns held the Colonel from Bennington. In the absence of Ethan Allen, Seth Warner was unquestionably the military leader of the New Hampshire Grants. He also played a prominent role in the early stages of the formation of the state and would have continued to do so if more urgent matters of defense had not called him elsewhere.
Warner attended the Dorset convention on January 16 but it didn’t prevent him from the prompt recruiting of soldiers for the Canadian campaign. Some were on the march only eleven days after he received Wooster’s appeal.
Walter S. Fenton, in a brief biography of Seth Warner wrote, “Of Warner’s conduct it has been said: ‘Probably no Revolutionary patriot during the war performed a service evincing more energy, resolution and perseverance, or a more noble patriotism, than the raising of a regiment in so short a time, and marching it to Quebec in the fact of a Canadian winter. The men of this day would shiver at the thought of it.”‘
On their arrival to Quebec City they encountered an army shivering in tents, brush shelters, crude wooden huts, and short on food, short on firewood, short on morale and riddled with disease, caught in the grip of one of the worst winters in the history of Canada with snow piled up to the second story windows of dwellings in the city.
Sickness and disease were devastating the troops. Smallpox, which in those times was a loathsome, frequently disfiguring, often-fatal disease, was sweeping through the unwashed troops of the Northern Army like wildfire. Benedict Arnold, in a letter to Silas Deane at the end of March, reported, “In Colonel Warner’s company, 271 of the 373 men are sick with small pox.”
By late April it was evident that the Canadian Campaign had come to a disastrous end.
By June 17, the sick and hungry Americans had started their retreat and straggled into St. Johns where they torched the fort and barracks and commandeered boats to continue on.
Occupying a prominent place in the rear ranks of the Northern Army and serving as a buffer between it and the forces of General Burgoyne, were Seth Warner and his Green Mountain regiment. They had been there since leaving Quebec and they would remain there until the army reached Crown Point.
A trail of decaying corpses and nameless graves marked the passage of the desperately ill soldiers. They dropped into ditches and died, tumbled into streams and drowned, wandered off into the forest and perished miserably. They strayed away from the army in their delirium and were scalped by Indians or were reluctantly captured by the British or cursed and chased away by French-Canadian farmers who feared contamination.
Far more of them would have died if it hadn’t been for Colonel Warner and his captains who cajoled and threatened and dragged the sick along and hired carts to carry those too weak to walk and paid for treatment out of their own pockets on those rare occasions when civilian doctors were available.
When they weren’t caring for the sick, the Green Mountain Boys were fighting a series of desperate rear guard actions against overwhelming British forces.
Although the Northern Army was described by John Adams as “disgraced, defeated, discontented, dispirited, undisciplined and eaten with vermin”, and its ill-fated Canadian campaign was generally considered a failure, all was not lost. Notably, the campaign delayed invasion of the American colonies by the British and at the same time gave American troops some bitter but practical experience in warfare.
Warner, it is generally agreed, conducted himself like a veteran, preventing enemy troops from overwhelming the fleeing Americans while at the same time rounding up stragglers and the sick.
Historian Daniel Chipman wrote, “Warner brought off most of the invalids, and with this corps of the diseased and infirm, arrived at Ticonderoga a few days after the main army had taken possession of that post.”
Accounts of the campaigns in which he and his Green Mountain Boys were involved, strongly indicate that Seth Warner was well liked by his troops, if not always enjoyed by his superior officers. His men had seen him step down to hoist more than one pox-ridden wretch into his saddle. He also joined them as they tugged barges and boats loaded with the sick up the icy waters of the Richelieu River. They respected his calm courage and compassion. He was one of them!
George Washington is said to have had a soft spot in his heart for the tall, capable Colonel from Bennington. He knew him as a man who was there when needed and who knew how to get things done.
On July 5, 1776, one day after the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress had already recommended that a regiment be raised in the New Hampshire Grants, that it be officered by veterans of the Canadian campaign and specifically, that Seth Warner be in command. Selection of Lt. Col. Warner was obviously motivated by his performance at Longueuil, and that alacrity with which he recruited the “winter regiment.”
Unlike Warner’s previous two regiments, this was to be a Continental unit serving for three years or the duration of the war.
About the same time, representatives of several towns of the New Hampshire Grants met at Manchester and voted to recruit six companies of militia from inhabitants of the east side of Lake Champlain with Warner in command. So, in effect, Seth Warner had been chosen three times within less than two weeks by three different groups to recruit a new regiment. It was enough to make a man feel wanted!
On July 24, 1776, Seth Warner joined 48 other delegates from towns of the New Hampshire Grants at Dorset to pledge support to the “United American States” and to a break with Great Britain.
Contrary to the common misconception that most Americans supported the Revolution, it has been estimated that one third of the population were rebels, one third straddled the fence and another one-third favored British rule.
Before adjourning on July 25, the convention voted that “Col. Seth Warner and Col. Thomas Chittenden be a Committee to present a petition to the General and Commander in Chief of the Northern Department, requesting his assistance in guarding the frontiers to the northward on the said New Hampshire Grants.” Once this was out of the way, it can be presumed that Seth Warner returned home to Bennington before proceeding to recruit his new Continental regiment.
By June of the following year, 1777, the British were once again on the move and headed for fort Ticonderoga. General St. Clair at Ticonderoga immediately sent Seth Warner galloping across the Vermont hills toward Rutland with orders to “…raise a body of men to oppose the incursions of the savages that are gone by Otter Creek” and “to attack and rout them and join me again as soon as possible.”
By July 5, 1777, Warner and approximately 900 militiamen he had rounded up with the assistance of Ira Allen, James Mead, Colonel William Marsh and Captain Abraham Salisbury, were at the Lake Champlain forts.
In one of the colossal blunders of the Revolution, the general staff of the Northern Army had supervised a last minute strengthening of their defenses while ignoring a bit of nearby sheer sided, high ground, known as Sugar Hill, or Sugar Loaf Hill, which towered some 800 feet above the surrounding region.
Considered inaccessible to artillery by American military men (and by British and French officers during the French and Indian War) it was taken on the afternoon of July 4 by a unit of light infantrymen serving under the British General Fraser. A road was hacked out of the mountainside in the July heat and oxen up to the summit from which they could easily shell Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence dragged eight cannons. All was lost!
All the blood and sweat and tears and freezing and starving and dying that had taken place there since that May morning only little more than a year ago, when the jubilant Green Mountain Boys streamed through its gates, was for naught.
General Arthur St. Clair came to the sickening realization that the American army had no choice but to cut and run before it was too late. The disbelieving troops sullenly got together their pitifully few possessions, grabbed what food and ammunition was available, and drifted together in small groups to complain of treason and treachery.
They couldn’t believe that they were expected to scuttle off into the night like rats deserting a sinking ship!
When Ticonderoga was evacuated, on the night of the 6th of July 1777, the main body of the American army took the road through Hubbardton and Castleton. As before, Col. Warner was stationed at the rear to hold back the enemy and at Hubbardton, with the New Hampshire troops under Major Hale, and Col. Francis commanding the Massachusetts men, he made a stand to attempt to hold back the enemy under Gen. Fraser with the Hessians under Gen. Reidsel. Early in the engagement Col. Francis was killed and his men scattered. Major Hale surrendered leaving Col. Warner’s men to face very superior forces and were forced to leave the field to the enemy.
Hubbardton is listed in history as a defeat, but Col. Warner had been assigned the task of holding back the British and giving St. Clair time to draw off his forces, and he did just that, giving the British such a drubbing that they were glad to limp back to Skeenesborough to lick their wounds and St. Clair was saved from destruction. If one
performs the task assigned to him can you call it a defeat? I’d call it a victory. In
spite of his failing health Seth could have no rest. Burgoyne was coming and all stores, supplies and anything that could be of use to the invaders must be moved out of reach.
By August 15th, 1777, Seth was conferring with General Stark at Bennington. There had been some difference of record as to whether Warner was present at the first engagement at Bennington, or came up with his later. It may be well to quote a few passages from a letter written some years later by Israel Warner, eldest son of Seth, to Henry Stephen, Vermont Historian.
“Gen. Stark and my father consulted to send a letter to Gen. Stafford on Stafford Hill and father said, “Put Israel on a horse, and told me not to spare horse flesh, and not to speak to anyone but tell them that the enemy is just into Bennington”. (Israel at this time was a boy of eleven years of age and Gen. Stafford was commanding under Col. Warner). “When I got to Gen. Stafford, he came out and I gave him my father’s letter. He wanted me to stay till the next morning but I told him I must go back to give information. I rode the best part of the night but the volunteers did not arrive until the next day at evening, with old Major Rann at their head. My father went on with Rann in the first action and our regiment did not get there until after the first action, and at this crisis the enemy had a powerful re-enforcement and Gen. Stark ordered my father to ride on line and order a retreat into the middle of Bennington. My father said, “He be damned if he would”. “What,” said Gen. Stark, “You refuse to obey orders!” “Well, if it will bring heaven and earth together, I suppose I must.” My father swore he could get into action on the ground and Gen. Stark told him to go on. My father gave his men a pint of spirits with some gunpowder in it and they were as merry as if going to a New Year’s ball. Well they
licked Breyman, didn’t they?
Gen. Stark, in making report to Gen. Washington said that, “Col. Warner’s strategy and judgment was of extraordinary service to me”, and in recognition of his valor and service Seth was promoted to full rank of Colonel from Lieutenant Colonel.
The past two years had been a difficult time for Seth, fraught with constant danger, desperate decisions and long marches.
He had during this time fought at Longueuil and Hubbardton and Bennington against Indians, Canadians, British and Germans; struggled to protect his men from a deadly plague of smallpox, marched to Canada twice, once in the dead of winter; lived under the most primitive conditions; lost a cousin, Remember Baker, at St. Johns; a brother, Daniel, at Bennington; and seen a cousin and former friend and ally Ethan Allen, hauled off to captivity in England.
In March of 1778, Vermont’s new Legislature named Seth Warner to the recently created post of Brigadier General of the Militia. (Almost two centuries later, the General Assembly of Connecticut in a resolution adopted March 13, 1975, conferred a similar honor on Seth Warner, naming him posthumously an honorary Major General in the Connecticut militia).
Obviously, Warner’s commitment to his Continental command came first. There were even rumors that General Washington had offered him a Brigadier’s commission and that the Colonel had refused, citing his lack of education, and perhaps because of concern over his failing health. Anyway, Ethan Allen, back home after two years of British captivity, solved the matter by taking control of the state militia and was subsequently appointed Brigadier General by the Vermont Legislature.
Warner had all but abandoned his family during those long months of campaigning and no one could say that Seth Warner had stayed home in the time of need to “hoe a few hills of corn”!
It is thought that if Seth had retired from the service at this time he might, to a certain extent, have regained his health, but with him the needs of his country always took precedence over his own welfare and he is found defending his homelands from the ravages of the Indians and the ever present Tories until he could keep up no longer. Yet not for long could he remain idle.
For a time, Warner’s regiment operated in a wild and troubled region west of Lake George, in what proved to be an ill fated assignment. The area had been overrun by Tories and Indians, pillaging and burning.
On July 15, 1779, a party of 14 soldiers, two women and two children, left the fort to pick huckleberries on nearby Fourteen Mile Island, where they were ambushed by a British “scout” of 24 Indians and three whites. The Indians stripped and scalped the men, but after the first fire did not offer further violence to the women.
It was Warner’s turn in September of 1779 to tangle with the enemy in the same area of New York State. In command of the garrison at Fort George, he and two other officers were returning from a visit to Fort Edward on horseback when they rode into an Indian ambush.
“As they were passing Bloody Pond,” according to an account written many years later, “where some hostile Indians had hid themselves behind an old tree, they received a volley of musketry from their concealed enemies.”
“The two officers fell lifeless to the ground, and Colonel Warner was wounded, as was also the horse he rode. He put spurs to the bleeding animal and endeavored to escape. One of the officer’s horses accompanied him, and the Indians pursued. As he rode on, his own occasionally seemed ready to fall under him, and at other times would revive and appear to renew his strength. The other horse kept up with them, alternately increasing and relaxing his speed, to keep pace with his wounded companion. The Colonel in vain tried to seize the bridle that hung over the horse’s neck, an expedient that promised to save him if his own steed should fail. In this manner, and with all the horrid anticipation of a cruel death before him, he managed to outstrip his pursuers until he reached Glen’s Falls. There, as the un-injured horse came along side, he made another attempt to seize his bridle, and succeeded. He instantly dismounted, un-slung his own saddle, threw it over the fence, mounted the other horse and rode off at full speed. He saw no more of his pursuers from this moment, but reached Fort George in safety. Not however, without being really overcome by his exertion, fatigue, and loss of blood. What was also singular was the arrival of his wounded horse, which lived to do good service in the field.”
This time it was the end. He was back in his home in Bennington for two years trying to recuperate. Unable to sufficiently recover, he retired from military service in January 1781. He was burned out at the age of 39. It is believed that Warner was suffering from tuberculosis and a chronic form of arthritis, the result of cold and privation he suffered in the Canadian campaign.
Faced with a steady deterioration of his health, the ailing and despairing Warner finally decided to return home to Connecticut to die.
In 1783 he returned with his family to Roxbury, Connecticut and on October 16th, 1783, he purchased from one Noah Frisbie a tract of fifty-one acres about a mile easterly of the village with a dwelling house, blacksmith shop and other buildings standing thereon. He lingered in suffering and delirium for some months, when at times neighbors were needed to assist in his care. At last on December 26, 1784, relief came and his sufferings were ended.
Lying in a fold in the hilly country west of its parent town of Woodbury, Warner’s hometown of Roxbury is today a small, quiet village rich in early homes, stone walls, picket fences and greenery. No road signs or historical markers, (except for the one on the Green) proclaim that this is Seth Warner country, nor do any of the commercial establishments in the area attempt to cash in on the Revolutionary War hero’s name.
In fact, the entire State of Connecticut is strangely reticent about this native son who, aside from his contribution to Vermont, campaigned with the Northern Army on behalf of all New England and the United States as well.
Most of Seth Warner’s personal papers and military records were believed lost in two separate fires more than a century ago. Perhaps, as a result, neither the Connecticut State Library nor the Connecticut Historical Society offers more than the most basic reference material.
After Ethan Allen’s release from British captivity in 1778, he published a booklet giving an account of his experience as a prisoner of war. The preface, not written by Ethan, states the following: “Ethan Allen, the author and subject of the following narrative was certainly one of the most noted and notable men of his time. Bold, ardent and unyielding, he possessed an unusual degree of vigor both of body and of mind, and an unlimited confidence in his own abilities.
On February 9, 1784, Ethan is married to Frances Montresor Brush Buchanan (Fanny). In the summer of 1784, Ethan and Fanny move to Burlington, Vt.
On his retirement from military affairs he engaged in frontier farming and in writing his conclusions on various religious subjects. His “Conclusions” in these subjects scandalized the strict orthodox clergy of his day, some of whom referred to him as that “awful infidel.” But in my study of Allen, I believe he was not so much an infidel, but an agnostic, a searcher after truth, and one who could not accept the dogmatic teaching of the clergy of his time.
The year 1789 had been very unfavorable for farm operations. Late in the winter, Ethan’s supply of hay became nearly exhausted. His brother offered him a load, and he, with a Negro driver, came across the river with his oxcart and was to spend the night. By evening the news that Ethan was come had been noised about, and old cronies began to arrive at the Allen home. Stories of old days and memories of the war were told and retold with, of course, the rounds of drinks to quicken their memories. Late that night the old warriors withdrew and quiet reigned for a time, but in the morning, Ethan was astir and he and his driver started for home. As so often in his life, Ethan presents yet another unanswered question as to the manner of his death. He either suffered a stroke returning across the frozen lake, or, as popular legend tells it, fell from the loaded sleigh in a drunken stupor. Whatever the cause of the trauma, he did not regain consciousness, and late that night, February 12, 1789, Ethan Allen’s stormy life came to its end.
Ethan could never be browbeaten. On one occasion, when as a prisoner of war, he was walking the deck, an (sic) officer accosted him, “Sir, don’t you know that this deck is for gentlemen only?” His reply; “By God, I do, Sir. That’s why I’m here.”
One of the earlier stories from Roxbury is to the effect that certain of his friends thought to throw a scare into him, and donning white sheets, hid under a bridge, waiting for Ethan to pass by. On their appearance, Ethan halts and accosts the ghosts, “Well, if you’re angels of light, I’m happy to meet you, and if devils, come home with me, I married your sister.”
Norman Hurlbut was not averse to searching for deeper truths in history, and concluded his chapter on the Green Mountain Boys and Ethan Allen with the following reflection: “Before we take leave of Ethan, let us ponder a moment the vagaries of fate. Earlier in the chapter, I referred to the ill-advised attack on Montreal, but just at that moment. Careltone, believing a considerable force threatened him, was on the point of abandoning the town, when word reached him of the weakness of the enemy, and prepared for battle. Now, had Major Brown fulfilled his part of the strategy, it is quite likely that their combined forces would have taken the town. Then they could have heard the plaudits winging through the colonies: ‘The great Ethan Allen, the hero of Ticonderoga, has added to his laurels by the capture of the stronghold of Montreal.’ What a hero he would have become. But fate was looking the other way, and Ethan was a prisoner of war and his participation in the war was over.
“Again let us suppose that on that May morning at Ticonderoga, Commander de la Place had been warned of Allen’s approach and had prepared a reception for him. As Allen and Arnold came through that sally port, instead of being challenged by a single sentry, they would have faced the guns of an alert garrison, and the first volley would have killed both Allen and Arnold as well as many of the men while the survivors would never have been able to escape by the boats. Allen would have been branded as a harebrained enthusiast, who thought he could with a few men at his back take possession of the King’s fortress of Ticonderoga. But this time fortune or fate, whichever one wishes to call it, smiled, and Ethan Allen became one of America’s hero’s.”
None of these “Band of Cousins” from Roxbury, Connecticut; Seth Warner, Ethan Allen nor Remember Baker lived to see Vermont achieve statehood in 1791.