Read CHAPTER XXIX of The Hero of Ticonderoga / Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, free online book, by John de Morgan, on

Arrival in England.

Three days after his capture, Ethan Allen heard an extraordinary noise on the upper deck, and he knew that the Gaspee was about to sail. But its destination he did not know.

After the first day the prisoners were allowed to have one meal a day, for, as Prescott told Allen, he did not want to cheat the gallows.

The Gaspee was bound for Quebec, and the prisoners were overjoyed at the prospect of a change.

“It cannot be for the worse,” said one of the Americans to Allen; “therefore we shall be the gainers.”

“I wish they would hang us right away,” answered the hero of Ticonderoga, “for I am tired of this life.”

“We shall all be free ;”

“Yes, when in our graves.”

“Do not get downhearted, colonel; we have pulled through many a hard row before now.”

There was a consolation in having company, and the prisoners from the other ships had been crowded on the Gaspee.

“March out the rebels.”

All heard the order given, and each looked at his fellow with anxious glance.

It might be a farewell to them. Who could tell?

The leg irons were unlocked and the prisoners marched up the companionway to the upper deck.

As they reached the deck the fresh air was almost overwhelming, for they had not breathed any for several days.

They were marshaled in line and awaited their doom.

Soon a bedecked officer appeared on deck accompanied by one of the most villainous-looking seamen that ever stepped upon a deck.

“Are these all?” asked the English officer.

“Yes, general.”

“Which is Ethan Allen?”

Allen was pointed out, and the gold-laced, red-coated officer raised his pince-nez and looked at Allen as he would at any curiosity.

“Which is Eben Pike?”

The young scout was pointed out by the officer in charge, and he had to undergo a similar inspection.

“And these are rebels? Well, well! England has nothing to fear if this is a sample of those fighting against her. So you are Ethan Allen? You are the man who broke into Ticonderoga? Well, well, well! You achieved fame, but whether it will avail you much when you stand on the gallows is for you to say.”

The English officer had jerked out these sentences more to himself than to the prisoners.

He turned to the villainous old salt by his side.

“What do you think of your cargo?”

“I’d rather have pigs.”

“You show sense, but as you cannot have pigs you must take these. You are under bonds to land them in England ;how I don’t care ;only they must have strength enough to stand upright on the gallows, for Jack Ketch must not have too great a task.”

The seaman chuckled.

“I’ve carried lots of cattle afore, and I never lose any, save a few I toss overboard to save trouble. I’ll land these or give an account of ’em.”

Every word was uttered with a view of enraging the prisoners.

Allen learned afterward that the provocation was intended and deliberate, its object being to get him to commit some overt act so that he could be hanged or shot for insubordination.

The seaman was the captain of a sailing merchantman bound for England, who had been engaged to transport the Americans to that country.

After a list had been made of the prisoners they were marched off the Gaspee onto a barge, which was towed out to a merchantman lying in the bay. Four rowboats were engaged to tow the barge, and just as they started the hawser broke and the barge was adrift.

After several minor accidents the prisoners were landed on the deck of the merchantman, and soon found they had exchanged bad for worse.

A portion of the vessel had been boarded off by white oak planks, making a space about twenty-two feet long by twenty feet wide.

Into this space thirty-four American prisoners were pushed, handcuffed in pairs.

Allen refused to enter.

The captain asked who he was that he should dare to disobey orders.

“I surrendered to the British under a pledge that I should be treated as a prisoner of war, and I demand that we shall all be treated as human beings, not as cattle.”

The captain laughed brutishly.

“Ha! ha! ha! That is good! Do you think I would treat cattle that way? They would all be dead before they reached England. No, no, my dear rebel! you are treated as rebels, not cattle.”

Two seamen took hold of Allen and threw him into the little inclosure, closing the door as soon as he was within.

An hour later Allen was called out.

A lieutenant had asked to see him.

“So you are Ethan Allen?” the English lieutenant asked.

“That is my name.”

“Then, apart from the pleasure I have in seeing you here, I have but one greater joy, and that is that I am able to treat you like this.”

The officer spat in Allen’s face.

The Green Mountain hero’s hands were manacled, but he raised them and brought them down with such force on the man’s face that he fell headlong on the deck.

Instantly Allen was surrounded with bayonets.

He was considered dangerous, and had to be forced back into the prison inclosure.

The vessel set sail, and every day the captain taunted the prisoners with their captivity, and took every means to make them suffer.

Some days, when the weather was more than ordinarily oppressive, he would order that no water should be given, and as the food consisted of salt pork and bread, or ship’s biscuit, it can be well imagined how much they all suffered.

After the vessel had been out twenty days one of the prisoners crawled up to Allen and whispered into his ear:

“Can we live much longer like this?”

“I am afraid not.”

“Then let us put an end to it.”


“Will you agree to join us?”

“I cannot answer that until I know what is proposed.”

“If you do not want to join, you will not betray us?”

“What do you think of me? Have I ever been a sneak?”

“No, colonel, but the scheme is a desperate one.”

“What is it?”

“To seize the ship and then take her into port as a captured vessel.”

“How can it be done?”

“Jack ;you know Jack, the one who brings us tobacco?”

“Yes; he is a kind-hearted Englishman.”

“He isn’t English, he is Irish. Now, he will file off these handcuffs and give me the file. By working at every opportunity we can all be free in a few days; then all we have to do is to force our way out and seize the skipper. We will throw him overboard, and kill all who oppose us; then the ship will be ours and we can sell it and divide the prize money.”

“My good fellow, we cannot do it.”


“If we seized the ship we should have to sink it, for no one would purchase it. But I will not countenance murder.”

“It is not murder, it is war.”

“War is brutal, I know, but when it comes to seizing a captain on board his own vessel and killing him, that is not war, but murder, or piracy.”

“Well, you will not betray us?”

“No. Only give me a chance to fight openly and I will do so, but I will not kill a man in cold blood.”

“But, colonel, you will not interfere with us?”

“No. Only do not tell me anything you are doing.”

Allen did not understand that in war all things were justifiable.

He was a gentleman all the way through, and would not fight unless he could do so honorably.

Whether Jack failed to find the file, or that the prisoners decided not to mutiny, Allen never knew, but no attempt was ever made to secure freedom, and after forty days’ torture land was sighted.

The prisoners were ordered on deck.

It was a glorious change for them, for they had not breathed a breath of pure air for forty days.

As they stood on the deck the captain pointed out the distant land.

“Do you know what land that is?” he asked.

There was no response; the American prisoners were too much engaged in inhaling all the fresh air they could to care about talking.

“That is Land’s End, in England. You will soon be there, and then you will all be hanged. A short life and a wretched one will be yours from now on. That is all. Take the prisoners back to their palatial quarters.”

The captain may have thought he was inflicting torture on the prisoners, but he was mistaken. They were not afraid of the fate which awaited them.

If they were to die, they would prefer to die on land to being tortured to death in the hold of a small ship.

As one of the prisoners quoted the words of an older rebel in England:

“The noblest place for man to die
Is where he dies for man.”

So all felt that if they were to be hanged in England they would be tried, and on their trial they would be able to make their defense and let the world know under what grievances the American colonies were suffering.

In two days the vessel landed in Falmouth Harbor.

The news that the vessel had on board a number of American prisoners caused thousands of people to flock to the wharf.

The greatest curiosity was manifested.

Had a cargo of wild beasts entered port the curiosity could not have been greater.

In fact, Allen soon learned that the Americans were looked upon as wild beasts or savages, and certainly not as civilized beings.

The windows were filled with members of the fair sex, the sidewalks of the old English town were closely packed by men and children.

Hour after hour they waited to see the show.

A lot of detail, commonly called “red tape,” had to be attended to before the prisoners were allowed to land.

A military band escorted a regiment of redcoats down to the dock, and the necessary papers for the transfer of the prisoners were exchanged.

Then across the gangplank walked Ethan Allen and Eben Pike, handcuffed together.

The people on the dock pushed and stared at the Green Mountain men.

“Why, they aren’t green!” exclaimed one of the bystanders with disgust.

“No, they aren’t Americans; they’re Irish,” said another.

“Of course they’re Irish; Americans are black.”

“No, red.”

“Not by a long shot; they’re all as yellow as guineas.”

Absurd as it may appear at this day to have to record such ideas, it is an absolute fact that when it was rumored that the Green Mountain heroes were on their way to England the prevalent idea was that they derived their name from the color of their skin.

When the other prisoners disembarked the march was commenced to the barracks.

The people flocked round the prisoners so that progress was impeded.

The soldiers had to charge the crowd with bayonets many times.

“What did they mean by saying they thought we were Irish?” asked Eben. “I heard an Englishman say in New York that if it had not been for the Irish the Americans would not have rebelled. Of course it was nonsense, but the people do not know us yet, while they do know the Irish.”

At the barracks the prisoners were received with as much curiosity as we can imagine was shown by Ferdinand and Isabella when Columbus presented the American Indians in 1492.

Every man was made to answer a lot of questions, and many times over.

Allen was questioned about the strength of the American army, and replied:

“I know not its numbers, but it is well equipped and can beat all the armies you can send over there.”

“They are rebels, and only the lowest people sympathize with them.”

“Do you call George Washington a common man?” asked Allen.

“He is a rebel, and ought to know better.”

“And Richard Montgomery, who fought with you at Havana and Martinique?”

“Is he with the rebels?”

“I had the honor of serving under him.”

“He will be hanged, for he was a soldier of his majesty.”

“You will have to capture him first.”

They could not make anything of Allen, so they desisted questioning and sent all the prisoners to the guardroom.

It was a difficult question for the government of England to decide.

The men were locked up in the barracks at Falmouth, but England did not know what to do with them.

If the prisoners were hanged as rebels, England would be blamed by other civilized nations, and yet it would not do to pardon them.

There was a very powerful opposition among the English people to harsh measures, and, in fact, many English wished America success in its struggle with the tory ministry.

And so Allen and his friends remained in jail, simply because the ministry did not know what to do with them.