One of my favorite pieces of Revolutionary War lore revolves around the Green Mountain Boys. This band of Vermont militiamen played an important role in the war, and their ranks once included Colonel Benedict Arnold. They also unsuccessfully attempted to capture Montreal, in an effort often referred to, somewhat charitably, as “bungled.”
But perhaps my favorite factoid about Ethan Allen’s boys was that one of his top lieutenants had a delightful nickname. Namely, Jabez Bleeker was known by the distinctive moniker “Old Cottonmouth” to his fellow militiamen. This has always delighted me.
But the Green Mountain boys were deeply involved in the northern portion of the war. As Wikipedia explains:
With several hundred members, the Green Mountain Boys effectively controlled the area where New Hampshire grants had been issued . . . By the 1770s, the Green Mountain Boys had become an armed military force and de facto government, which was also a militia, that prevented New York from exercising its authority in the northeast portion of the Province of New York.
Remember that, at the time, the colonies, upon declaring independence, were each sovereign nations. Ethan Allen, Jabez “Old Cottonmouth” Bleeker, and the rest of the Green Mountain Boys were part of the origin story of the independent spirit that persists in Vermont to this day.
I’m in 8th grade and writing a paper on the Green Mountain Boys. Thanks Dr. Austin for your insight!
My fifth grade teacher (in Shelburne, VT) used to call us all Cottonmouths when we got unruly. Thanks for the blast from the past, Mike!