Book Review: A Few Lawless Vagabonds: Ethan Allen, the Republic of Vermont, and the American Revolution


by David Bennett

Philadelphia: Casemate, 2014. Pp. 276. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN: 1612002404

Ethan Allen and Revolutionary Vermont

In A Few Lawless Vagabonds Prof. Bennett (McGill), weaves together several little told but quite interesting stories to give us an informative and revealing look at one of the heroes of the American Revolution and that curious corner of in the Revolutionary War, the self-proclaimed “Republic of Vermont.” 

Bennett’s tale revolves around the life and adventures of Ethan Allen, an iconic hero of the war . As he reminds us, like many heroes, Allen’s exploits have been heavily embroidered, occasionally by himself . Bennett asks questions about Allen and what we generally “know” about the man. For example, given that Allen was an avowed Deist, did he actually invoke “the Great Jehovah” when demanding the surrender of Ft. Ticonderoga?

Bennett’s account does not stop with the capture of Ticonderoga, where most accounts of Allen’s life more or less end. He carries the story of Allen and the “Republic” of Vermont through the Revolutionary War, during which there were British campaigns and raids against the mountaineers, as well as efforts by both New York and New Hampshire to claim the territory, and battles not only in the field but also in Congress, and even gives a thoughtful little essay on “The Political Philosophy of Ethan Allen.” In the process he touches upon English colonial policy, disputed land claims, “state” rivalries, contemporary religious thought, local loyalties, woodland warfare, frontier “democracy,” Patriot, Royal, Vermont policy and strategy, and more. 

From Bennett’s account, Allen emerges less as an American patriot than as a Vermont patriot, as well as a successful businessman and self-promoter. An very interesting book.


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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