The Greatest Leaders of the American Revolution You Have Never Heard Of

When a historian, author, or student of the American Revolutionary War mentions the following three words, “Green Mountain Boys” there is usually one name that comes to the forefront.

Seth Warner is usually not that name. Yet, he is one of the two names that should be forever linked with the great history of the “Green Mountain Boys.”

For those that are drawing a blank, the other name usually associated with this famous unit is Ethan Allen.

aseth

Seth Warner Statue (courtesy of The Monument & Markers of Vermont; http://historicsites.vermont.gov/)

Warner, born in hilly Woodbury, Connecticut on May 17, 1743, the fourth of ten children to Dr. Benjamin Warner and Silence Hurd Warner. The young Seth was a product of the western frontier, growing up on the fringes of the English world, and thus learning from an early age to live and survive in the woods, rivers, and hills of Connecticut and what would become Vermont.

He did attend what limited schooling was available and from his father, rudimentary medical practice. In an 18th century biography, Warner was remembered to have vast information on the nature and uses of indigenous plants.

During the French and Indian War, Warner served two summers fighting in the cause of the British and would serve as a captain in the “Green Mountain Boys” following the French and Indian War. One biography states that Warner was part of the famous ranger outfit known as Major Roger’s Rangers, yet there is no primary evidence that supports this biographical claim.

With war on the horizon following the action at Lexington and Concord, Warner was elected third in command, with Ethan Allen being elected in top command, on May 8, 1775 for the task of capturing Fort Ticonderoga in western New York.

Born where Native American still threatened the westward-minded colonists, with the training during two summers in the last major war on the American Continent, Warner would now play a major role in the upcoming American Revolution.

With that, Seth Warner and the “Green Mountain Boys” marched off to help make the dream of American independence a reality. Following Ethan Allen, Warner found himself embroiled in the first campaign outside the environs of Boston when on May 10, 1775 he took part in the American capture of Fort Ticonderoga in western New York. Following up the next day, Warner, serving as second-in-command, attacked and captured the British garrison at Crown Point, approximately 13 miles away from Fort Ticonderoga.  When news broke of the exploit, the “Green Mountain Boys” and subsequently Warner quickly became a household name for the patriot cause.

With the turn of the season to summer, Allen and Warner appeared in Philadelphia to appeal directly to the Continental Congress. Their aim was to achieve recognition as a regiment for the “Green Mountain Boys.” On June 23, 1775, the day the two men appeared in front of the governing body of the American cause, the Congress agreed and sent the endorsement to the state of New York. After some debate in provincial Congress of the Empire State, the endorsement was finally agreed upon.

With the ensuing vote of officers, surprisingly, Allen was not elected as commander, but Warner survived in an officer capacity, garnering 41 of 46 votes for lieutenant colonel. No reason or notes from this convention, held on July 6, 1775 has ever surfaced.

Before 1775 was out, Warner, who would lead the command, found themselves on the way to Canada. Initially stationed along the St. Lawrence River on the way to Montreal and near the end of October, Warner’s men repulsed an amphibious landing and attack by Sir Guy Carleton, the British Governor-General of Canada. With the repulse, at the Battle of Longeuill led to the surrender of Fort St. John on November 3, 1775.

Ten days later Montreal fell to the American forces and Warner and his “Green Mountain Boys” entered the fallen city later that same day. The American commander, General Richard Montgomery wanted this crack unit to continue with him by canoe to Quebec but because of the lack of winter clothing, the command was forced to head south, for supplies.

Not to stay in a support role for long, Warner’s men marched north shortly after the turn of the year in January 1776 to reinforce the Americans laying siege to Quebec. While there Warner showed the depth of his concern for the welfare of his men. With the smallpox epidemic ravaging the American ranks–in fact more American soldiers would die of that disease than any single other cause–Warner allowed his men to be inoculated, which was not not akin to what inoculations are like today.

Click this link, courtesy of Mount Vernon, on what smallpox inoculation was like in Colonial America.

After the return from Canada, on July 5, 1776, Warner was elevated to the rank of colonel and tasked with raising another regiment from the New Hampshire Grants (the area now comprising Vermont). Yet, it was one year and one day later that Warner showed how valuable his role as a general officer was.

During the Battle of Hubbardton, Warner oversaw the rearguard of General Arthur St. Clair’s retreating American forces. Outside this frontier settlement, Warner’s men suffered more casualties and eventually yielded the field to the British, but the toll extracted from the British (over 200 killed, wounded, and captured) was high enough to cause the British to stop their pursuit of the retreating American army.

A month later, on August 16, 1777, Warner played another critical role in the American victory at Bennington. Under the overall command of General John Stark–another of the fiery, yet competent, and overlooked American general officers–Warner provided invaluable assistance because of his familiarity with the region. His home was a scant few miles from where the engagement would unfold.

Warner would oversee the left wing of the American assault and have as his goal the “Tory Redoubt” that fell on the east side of the Walloomsac River, which would be a dominant feature in the ensuing battle.

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Battle of Bennington (courtesy of British Battles)

The Americans routed the German, British, and Loyalist forces, even halting a 600-man reinforcement column under German Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich Breymann who arrived on the field in the latter stages.

Stark reported to Congress that Warner showed “superior skill in the action.”

Unbeknownst to Warner at the time, the campaign that culminated with British General John Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga, was the defining moment in Warner’s American Revolutionary War career. Warner would stay in the service, reaching the rank of brigadier general, bestowed upon him in 1778 by the new state of Vermont courtesy of the state legislature. That made him the only brigadier general in the newly formed state. On September 6, 1780 Warner received his only wound of the war, in an ambush by Native Americans outside Fort George in New York.

Unfortunately for the old “Green Mountain Boys” commander, the years after his retirement in 1780 were not kind. He fell out of favor with his former commander, Ethan Allen which led Warner to confront him in 1781 about contact with the British when Allen was a prisoner-of-war. This was all in conjunction with some contact Vermont had with British Canada about possible negotiations in reunifying Vermont with the British Empire. The extent of the negotiations and the seriousness of the idea has been in question by historians ever since.

Regardless, Warner, in failing health in 1784, returned to Woodbury, where he died on December 26, 1784, at the age of 41. Warner’s remains lay in Roxbury, Connecticut.

 

*For more information on the campaigns of New York in which Warner played a role in, consult Michael O. Logusz’s two-volume “With Musket and Tomahawk” series published by Savas Beatie LLC. at http://www.savasbeatie.com*

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This entry was posted in Armies, Battles, British Leadership, Campaigns, Common Soldier, Continental Leadership, Hessian (German), Monuments, Northern Theater, Revolutionary War, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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