|October 13, 2019
Although he died two years before Vermont became the 14th state in the Union, arguably no other individual is more responsible for its admittance than Ethan Allen. As such, he is commemorated with a towering monument in the Burlington cemetery where he was laid to rest in 1789. The statue that tops his memorial can be seen poking through a clearing amid the trees in this picture. The historical marker by the front of the burial ground professes that although General Allen’s body is confined to the cemetery, “his spirit is in Vermont now.”
The primary feature of the Allen gravesite is its granite column, which stands 42 feet tall. The marble statue that tops the pillar adds another eight feet to its height. Boston sculptor Peter Stephenson carved it from stone that originated in Carrara, Tuscany. Stephenson based the likeness somewhat on Larkin Mead’s statue of Allen from the Vermont State House. The completed monument was dedicated on Independence Day 1873.
This image offers a closer view of Stephenson’s sculpture of Allen. The revolutionary figure raises his left arm toward the sky, as if delivering a dramatic declaration. A print made by John Steeple Davis in 1875 depicts Allen in this same pose as he demands the surrender of Fort Ticonderoga. The New York fort was captured in May 1775 by Allen’s band of Green Mountain Boys and a Massachusetts militia led by Colonel Benedict Arnold. This relatively bloodless battle — in which only one participant was injured — marked the start of offensive military maneuvers launched by rebelling colonists against the British in the nascent war.
One of the unique details of Allen’s monument that caught my eye was its fence. Its metal posts are in the shape of muskets. These long firearms were typical weapons of the American Revolution period. So were canons, which serve as corner posts for the rectangular plot.
Although a tablet attached to the structure says Allen is “buried near the site of this monument,” he is most likely much closer. In October 2000, workers who were restoring the monument discovered a previously unrecorded crypt beneath it. Other affixed plaques recall Allen’s exploits at Fort Ticonderoga and his time as a prisoner of war after his September 1775 capture in Montreal. One heralds him as “the sagacious and intrepid DEFENDER of the New Hampshire Grants and Master Spirit in the arduous struggle which resulted in the Sovereignty and Independence of this State.” Using both his pen and his sword, Allen helped clear the path for Vermonters to have their own republic and then their own state, triumphing over land rights claims made by New Hampshirites and New Yorkers.
Born: January 21, 1738 in Litchfield, Connecticut
Spouses: Mary Brownson Allen (m.1762-1783); Frances Montresor Buchanan Allen Penniman (m. 1784-1789)
Highest Military Rank: Colonel — Continental Army; Major General — Vermont Republic Militia
Died: February 12, 1789 in Burlington, Vermont Republic
Cause of Death: Apoplexy
Interment: Greenmount Cemetery, Burlington, Vermont
"Undoubtedly your Excellency will readily Conceive, that this part of the Country have done more than their Equal Proportion in the War. And Tho’ they are greatly reduced as to materials to maintain standing forces, yet on sudden emergencies, their Militia is able and willing, to face any equal number of the Enemy, provided they should have no other Reward but the satisfaction of Defeating them."
- Ethan Allen
March 6, 1779 in a letter to General George Washington, written from Bennington, Vermont
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Allen, Ethan. “To George Washington from Ethan Allen, 6 March 1779.” Letter. From National Archives, Founders Online. Accessed November 22, 2022. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-19-02-0388.
Heller, Paul. “History Space: What did Ethan Allen look like?” Burlington Free Press. September 3, 2018. https://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/2018/09/03/history-space-ethan-allen-look-like/37689773/.
University of Vermont Students. Greenmount Cemetery: A Walking Tour of Burlington’s History. 2015. http://enjoyburlington.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/03/Greenmount-Cemetery-Booklet-from-UVM.pdf.