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Green Mountain Boys

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Flag of the Green Mountain Boys
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Flag of the Green Mountain Boys

The Green Mountain Boys (also spelled Green Mountain Boyes) were a paramilitary group organized in Western Vermont in the decade prior to the American Revolutionary War. They comprised settlers and land speculators who held New Hampshire titles to lands between the Connecticut River and Lake Champlain, what is now modern Vermont. New York was given control of the area by a decision of the British crown and refused to respect the New Hampshire Grants and town charters. Although a few towns with New York land titles, notably Brattleboro on the Connecticut River, supported the government in Albany, the vast majority of the settlers in the sparsely populated frontier region rejected the authority of New York.

The Green Mountain Boys were a paramilitary force several hundred strong that effectively controlled the area where New Hampshire grants had been issued. They were led by Ethan Allen, his brother Ira, and their cousin Seth Warner. They were based at the Catamount Tavern in Bennington, ironically only a short distance from the New York seat of government in Albany. By the 1770s, the Green Mountain Boys had become an armed military force and de facto government that prevented the Albany government from exercising its authority in the northeast portion of the Province of New York. New York authorities had standing warrants for the arrests of the leaders of the rebellious Vermonters, but were unable to excercise them. New York surveyors and other officials attempting to exercise their authority were prevented from doing so and in some cases were severely beaten.

When the American Revolutionary War started in 1775, Ethan Allan and a force of his guerillas, along with Massachusetts Colonel Benedict Arnold, marched up to Lake Champlain and captured the important military posts at Fort Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Fort Ann, and the town of St. John (now St. Jean, Quebec). The Green Mountain Boys later formed the basis of the Vermont militia which selected Seth Warner as its leader. Some of the Green Mountain Boys preferred to stick with Ethan Allen and were captured along with Allen in August 1775 in a bungled attack on the city of Montreal.

Vermont eventually declared itself an independent country in January of 1777, and organized a government based in Windsor. The army of the Vermont Republic was based on the Green Mountain Boys. Although Vermont initially supported the American Revolutionary War and sent troops to fight John Burgoyne's British invasion from Canada at Hubbardton and Bennington in 1777, Vermont eventually adopted a more neutral stance and became a haven for deserters from both the British and colonial armies. George Washington, who had more than sufficient difficulties with the British, brushed off Congressional demands that he subdue Vermont. The Green Mountain Boys/Vermont Army faded away after Vermont eventually joined the United States as the 14th U.S. state in 1791.

Today, the Vermont Army National Guard and Vermont Air National Guard are collectively known as the "Green Mountain Boys," this despite the inclusion of women in both branches since the mid-20th Century. Both units use the original flag of the Green Mountain Boys as their banner.

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