1927 2¢ Vermont Sesquicentennial
Issue Date: August 3, 1927
First City: Bennington, VT and Washington, DC
Issue Quantity: 39,974,900
Vermont served mainly as a hunting ground for the tribes of the Algonquian Indians before white settlement. France’s Samuel de Champlain was the first European to explore the Vermont area. He reached Lake Champlain, which bears his name, in 1609. Champlain claimed all of Vermont for France. In 1666, the French built a fort on Isle La Motte in Lake Champlain. The English built a fort at Chimney Point, west of today’s Middlebury, in 1690. However, the first permanent settlement was Fort Dummer, near today’s Brattleboro, built by colonists from Massachusetts in 1724. This fort was needed to protect western Massachusetts from attacks by the French and Indians. Vermont was a battleground during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The war resulted in England’s control of Vermont and most of North America.
Land Disputes with New Hampshire and New York
The royal governors of New Hampshire and New York both made land grants to settlers in the Vermont area. Unfortunately, their claims often overlapped. In 1764, England ruled that the claims made by New York were legitimate, and ordered settlers with New Hampshire grants either to pay New York or else leave. This resulted in the formation of the Green Mountain Boys, a military force organized to protect land claims granted by New Hampshire. The Green Mountain Boys drove the New York settlers from Vermont.
Vermont and the War for Independence
Vermont provided many soldiers in the fight against the British during the American Revolution (1775-1783). In May 1775, Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and a force of more than 80 Green Mountain Boys took Fort Ticonderoga from the British. Fort Ticonderoga was located in New York on Lake Champlain. Colonial troops held the fort until 1777. When the patriots were driven from the fort, the British pursued. A rear guard action commanded by Seth Warner delayed the British long enough for the patriots to escape. Although the Battle of Bennington, fought on August 16, 1777, is associated with Vermont, it took place in New York. The Battle of Bennington and the surrender at Yorktown ended British occupation of the northern colonies.
14 Years as an Independent Republic
As the Revolutionary War continued, the land disputes involving Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire remained unresolved. On January 15, 1777, Vermont settlers declared the area an independent republic named New Connecticut. In July 1777, Vermont adopted its first constitution and took its present name, which is taken from the French “vert mont,” or “green mountain.” In 1783, George Washington wrote that he believed it would take force to end Vermont’s independence. However, no efforts were ever made to do so.
In 1790, Vermont paid New York $30,000 to resolve its land claims. New Hampshire relinquished its claims in Vermont. As a result, Vermont joined the Union on March 4, 1791. Vermont was the first state admitted to the Union after the 13 original colonies.
Vermonters fought the British during the War of 1812 in the battles of Chippewa, Lundy’s Lane, and Plattsburgh. Yet, the war was very unpopular in Vermont, as the state depended on trade with the British colony of Canada. The end of the war marked the start of a period of economic decline. In fact, when the economy revived from 1823-36, many people left the state, afraid that recession would return. These people moved to better farmland in the Midwest or took factory jobs in cities in other states.
The completion of the Champlain Canal in 1823 allowed the state’s farmers to find markets for their products. The canal linked Lake Champlain and New York’s Hudson River. This meant farm products could be sent quickly to New York City. The market for wool was especially lucrative. By 1840, Vermont had six sheep for every person in the state. Soon after, competition from Midwestern farmers caused wool prices to drop. Vermont farmers sold their sheep for meat, and by 1860, the sheep population had been cut in half. This crisis forced Vermont to become a dairy-farming state.
About 34,000 Vermonters served in the American Civil War (1861-65). History records that the northernmost land action of the war took place in Vermont. A group of 22 Confederate soldiers robbed banks in St. Albans, and then fled to Canada with over $20,000.
The Decline of Agriculture and Expansion of Industry
Farming became even less profitable after the Civil War. Large numbers of farmers left the state for factory work or to claim land in the Midwest. However, French Canadians and European immigrants continued to move to Vermont’s cities. During the late 1800s, Vermont’s wood-processing and cheese-making industries began to flourish.
Entering the 20th Century
From 1900 to 1920, the value of Vermont’s manufactured goods more than tripled. Tourism also grew in importance. During the early 1900s, many resort hotels and camping areas were constructed. In 1911, Vermont created the nation’s first official tourist bureau.
Vermonter Calvin Coolidge became the nation’s 30th President in 1923. Elected Vice President, Coolidge became Commander-in-Chief when President Warren G. Harding died in office. To much of America, the quiet and shy Coolidge represented the “typical Vermont conservative.”
In November 1927, Vermont experienced the greatest flood in its history. The Winooski River and several branches of the Connecticut River washed away large portions of several towns. The flood resulted in 60 deaths and millions of dollars in property damage.
The Great Depression of the 1930s hit Vermont particularly hard. Many smaller businesses, factories, and lumber mills closed. Farm products brought lower and lower prices. The state’s economy did not improve until the late 1930s.
World War II brought an end to the Great Depression in Vermont. Vermont factories supplied many products for the war effort. In 1949, the state established The Vermont Development Department, which successfully attracted many new industries to the area. Over time, agriculture continued to diminish while manufacturing increased. The tourist industry, centered in the state’s beautiful Green Mountains, generates nearly $700 million in revenue each year. In 1970, Vermont passed one of the strictest environmental laws in the U.S., to protect the state’s natural resources.
The Capture Of Fort Ticonderoga
On May 10, 1775, Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold led a small colonial militia to capture Fort Ticonderoga from the British.
Fort Ticonderoga has been nicknamed “The Key to a Continent.” The fort earned this name due to its strategic location on Lake Champlain in New York; it controlled the water route from Lake Champlain to Lake George. In Colonial days, almost everything had to move by water. So this route was essential for any invading force coming into the colonies from Canada. The French built the fort in 1755 but lost it to the British during the French and Indian War.
By the start of the American Revolution, the fort did not appear to have as much strategic importance as it had in the past. The fort only housed a small detachment of two officers, 46 men, and 25 women and children. Although the fort had fallen into disrepair, it was heavily stocked with cannons, howitzers, mortars, and other heavy artillery the American patriots needed. On May 3, 1775, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety gave Benedict Arnold a colonel’s commission and put him in charge of a “secret mission” to capture the fort.
At the same time, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont were on their way to the fort for the same reason. Although Arnold had formal authorization for the capture, he and Allen agreed to work together.
After approaching by water in the early hours of May 10, 1775, the patriots stormed the fort, waking the sleeping troops at gunpoint and confiscating their weapons. Allen, Arnold, and a few others stormed the officers’ quarters, first encountering Lieutenant Jocelyn Feltham, assistant to Captain William Delaplace. When asked on whose authority they were entering the fort, Allen replied, “In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress.”
When Delaplace emerged from his quarters, he was fully dressed and willingly surrendered his sword. No one was killed in the capture, though a bayonet injured one American. For years after the capture, Allen and Arnold had a war of words over which one deserved the most credit, offering varying accounts of the day. Later in 1775, Henry Knox would transport the heavy weapons captured at Ticonderoga to Boston for the Continental Army.
Two years later, in June 1777, British General John Burgoyne launched his Saratoga Campaign, aimed at dividing the rebel colonies. Part of his plan included retaking Fort Ticonderoga before proceeding down the Hudson River Valley. With an army of about 7,000 regulars and 800 Native Americans, he greatly outnumbered the 2,500 understrength American defenders. On July 2 there was a brief skirmish, during which there were no injuries or damage, but one British soldier was captured and tricked into revealing the size of the attacking force.
In the meantime, the British discovered nearby Sugar Loaf, a mountain overlooking Ticonderoga that would prove strategically useful. They quietly began moving large weapons up the mountain and prepared for a surprise attack that they would launch when German Baron Riedesel was in a position to attack the retreating Americans. However, on July 4 British-allied Native Americans lit fires on the mountain, alerting the Americans to their presence.
Completely outnumbered, the American General Arthur St. Clair knew he had a tough decision, stating he could “save his character and lose the army” by defending the fort or “save the army and lose his character” by retreating. He chose the latter and planned to evacuate the following night under the cover of darkness. His men filled more than 200 boats with weapons, injured soldiers, civilians, and supplies. The remainder of the army then evacuated the fort and crossed to Mount Independence toward Castleton. The British took the fort without firing a shot on July 6, though there were small skirmishes and battles in the area in the days that followed.
The British victory at Ticonderoga became world news. King George reportedly exclaimed, “I have beat them! I have beat all Americans!” and threatened the French and Spanish to close their ports to America. While the time at Ticonderoga did not slow Burgoyne on his journey to Saratoga, he left more than 900 men behind there.
In September, American General Benjamin Lincoln would lead an attack on Ticonderoga, though he was later called back. The British left Ticonderoga in November and Lake Champlain was free of their troops by the following month.
After the war, the fort was dismantled; its stone was used locally for building. It was rebuilt in 1908, and a museum was opened there.
Click here for more about Fort Ticonderoga.