May, 1775: Battle of Fort Ticonderoga Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Control of Fort Ticonderoga on the bank of Lake Champlain was key to troop movements between Canada and New York. Lieutenant Colonel Ethan Allen’s militia, the Green Mountain Boys, already had plans to capture it when Colonel Benedict Arnold, commissioned by the Massachusetts Committee of Safety for the same task, tried to assume command. Allen’s men refused to serve under Arnold, so Allen led the raid with Arnold accompanying as a volunteer.

Control of Fort Ticonderoga on the bank of Lake Champlain was key to troop movements between Canada and New York. Lieutenant Colonel Ethan Allen’s militia, the Green Mountain Boys, already had plans to capture it when Colonel Benedict Arnold, commissioned by the Massachusetts Committee of Safety for the same task, tried to assume command. Allen’s men refused to serve under Arnold, so Allen led the raid with Arnold accompanying as a volunteer.

Benedict Arnold. From an 1879 engraving by H. B. Hall. (National Archives)

Lieutenant Colonel Ethan Allen’s arrest of Captain William Delaplace at Fort Ticonderoga. (National Archives)

Before dawn on May 10, Allen and Arnold crossed Lake Champlain with 83 men, surprised the lone sentry, and entered the open gate. Allen woke Captain William Delaplace and forced him at swordpoint to surrender his sleeping garrison, a 42-man company of the Twenty-sixth Regiment of Foot (Cameronians). When Lieutenant Colonel Seth Warner arrived with the rest of the men, Allen detached them to take Fort Crown Point, eight miles north of Fort Ticonderoga. Warner accomplished this easily on May 11 against a single Cameronian squad: one sergeant and eight privates.

After the Battle of Bunker Hill (June, 1775), the Americans were desperate for cannons. Under General George Washington’s orders, Colonel Henry Knox brought 30 of the 100 cannons captured at Ticonderoga, 29 of the 114 captured at Crown Point, and about 120,000 pounds of ordnance by sled to eastern Massachusetts. This artillery, mounted on Dorchester Heights, forced General Sir William Howe to abandon Boston (March 17, 1776).

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