In the troubled times that preceded the Revolutionary War, the Vermont settlements were in armed dispute between the authorities of New York and the settlers who held their titles under the New Hampshire Grants. Many of the Green Mountain Boys, as the borderers called themselves, had been outlawed for their defiance of the New York Assembly. Among them was a young landowner named Captain Charles Warrington.
Early in April, 1775, Warrington and four of the Green Mountain Boys arrived at Lake Dunmore on their way to aid some wronged settlers of the region. Colonel Reed, a British officer holding a patent purchased in Albany, had built a log fort on the lower falls of Otter Creek and evicted the settlers living nearby. He had then returned to Canada, leaving the fort garrisoned by a detachment of former Highlanders under Sergeant Donald McIntosh. One attack on the fort had been repulsed; Warrington and his friends were planning a second attempt.
While the men were preparing to camp for the night, they learned that a band of New Yorkers led by Munroe, a York sheriff, was in pursuit. Neshobee, a friendly Indian, brought the warning, sent by Mrs. Ann Story, a widow who was resisting eviction from her half-cleared farm. Forewarned, Warrington and his men arranged an ambush for the Yorkers and took the attackers by surprise. They doused Munroe and several others in the lake. Munroe’s guide was Jacob Sherwood, a settler who pretended sympathy with his neighbors in the Grants but who was secretly in the employ of New York land-jobbers. Captured by Pete Jones, one of the Green Mountain Boys, Sherwood was treated to a beech-sealing—a beating with beech rods—before he was released.
The Green Mountain Boys then separated. Warrington and his friend Selden went to Mrs. Story’s cabin, which they found empty. Warrington, unable to sleep, was wandering near the cabin when he heard muffled singing. Because the voice resembled that of a woman whom he thought far from the wilderness, he investigated further, to find that the singing apparently came from underground. Mystified, he returned to the cabin and went to sleep. The next morning, Mrs. Story and her children appeared from the forest. Questioned, she admitted that a recent guest had departed, and she showed Warrington an underground chamber fashioned from a cave, a refuge in which her family and the guest had spent the night. To Warrington’s questions she replied cryptically that the hedge was too high for him to leap at that time.
Later in the morning, Munroe and his men appeared at the cabin and almost succeeded in trapping Warrington and Selden, who were hidden inside. Mrs. Story confronted them with her rifle, but the tongue-lashing she gave the sheriff was even more effective in putting that discomfited officer to rout. Before Warrington’s departure, Mrs. Story made him promise that he would not harm the family whom Neshobee served.
His force increased by other settlers from the Grants, Warrington attacked Reed’s fort, but McIntosh, warned by Sherwood, was ready to resist the onslaught from behind log barricades blocking the approach to the fort. While reconnoitering, Warrington and Selden discovered that the only two occupants were Jessy Reed, the colonel’s daughter, and Zilpah, her half-Indian servant. Climbing over the stockade, they were able to threaten the defenders from the rear. McIntosh asked permission to surrender formally, and Warrington allowed the sergeant and his men to depart under parole for holdings owned by Colonel Reed on the New York side of Lake Champlain. Jessy Reed preferred to go to the home of some friends, the daughters of Colonel Skene, at Skenesboro, and Selden was delegated to convey her there safely. On the way, impressed by her charms, he told her something about himself. He knew neither his name nor his birthplace. Several families had fostered him until at last a benevolent British nobleman had provided for his education abroad. Tiring of Europe, he had returned to the colonies and had drifted into the Grants, where he joined Warrington in his resistance to the harsh decrees of New York officials.
Warrington, after reestablishing the settlers along Otter Creek and sending a party in pursuit of a York surveyor reported in the neighborhood, traveled southward to the region opposite Crown Point. His own lands lay there in the shadow of Snake Mountain, and he was surprised to find that a part of the wilderness tract had been replaced by well-tilled fields. While he stood looking across Lake Champlain, he heard a woman scream. In a clearing nearby, a girl was being annoyed by a soldier from the opposite fort. The man fled when Warrington appeared, and Warrington found himself face-to-face with Alma Hendee, who addressed him as Mr. Howard. She told him also that her father held these lands under a York title and that she and her parent lived in daily dread of an attack by Warrington and his band of border ruffians.
Warrington did not reveal his true name. Several years before, while traveling as Mr. Howard, he had gone on a...
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