The Robinson Library

The Robinson Library >> The Revolution, 1775-1783 >> Individual Biography
Seth Warner

co-founder of the Green Mountain Boys

statue of Seth Warner at Battle of Bennington Memorial

Seth Warner was born to Dr. Benjamin and Silence Hurd Warner in Roxbury, Connecticut, on May 6, 1743; he was the fourth of ten children. In 1763, he moved with his family to Bennington, Vermont, then in the New Hampshire Grants. About this same time he married Esther Hurd, who bore him three children (Asahel, Abigail, Seth Jr.). Little else is known about his early life except that he was a well-respected surveyor, botanist and huntsman.

In 1770, New York courts ruled that land titles in Vermont (the New Hampshire Grants) were invalid and that the settlers must either buy their land a second time or face removal. Many of the settlers refused to comply with either option, however, and chose instead to resist the ruling, by force if necessary. Warner and his cousin Ethan Allen formed the Green Mountain Boys, which spent the next several years harassing New York surveyors, sheriffs, and settlers. In response, the Governor of New York offered rewards for both men, but they were never collected.

As tensions between Britain and her American colonies grew tense, Warner and Allen decided that the Green Mountain Boys should mount an attack on Fort Ticonderoga, a minor British outpost at the southern end of Lake Champlain, to keep it from being used by the British to launch an attack on Vermont. On the morning of May 9, 1775, Allen and a "force" of about 83 men approached Fort Ticonderoga, where they "encountered" a British garrison consisting of 45 "old, wore out, and unservicable" officers and men. Not surprisingly, the Green Mountain Boys took the fort easily, and within two days they had taken control of Lake Champlain, with no casualties suffered by either side. Although neither Warner nor the men under his command took part in the initial "assault," they did participate in the taking of Crown Point two days later, again with no casualties suffered by either side.

The successes of the Green Mountain Boys led the Continental Congress to recommend to New York that it raise them to an official regiment of infantry. Despite New York's antipathy toward Warner and Allen it agreed to Congress's recommendation on July 4, 1775. Soon after, the Assembly of the New Hampshire Grants made Warner Lieutenant Colonel and gave him command of the Regiment, over Allen's objections. The Green Mountain Boys subsequently spent the next few months harassing British units wherever they encountered them.

In the latter part of 1775, Warner's Regiment was assigned to Brigadier General Richard Montgomery's wing. After participating in the siege of St. John's, Quebec, the Regiment met and defeated a British relief column led by Sir Guy Carleton at the Battle of Longueil, on October 30, 1775. The Regiment was discharged in November and Warner returned to Bennington.

Warner's Regiment was recalled to active duty on January 6, 1776, to support Benedict Arnold's siege of Quebec. The siege failed badly, however, and Arnold was forced to retreat in May. During the retreat, Warner commanded the Northern Army's rear guard and successfully evacuated hundreds of sick and wounded. On July 5, 1776, the Continental Congress re-authorized Warner's Regiment as one of five Extra-Continental Regiments not specifically attached to a state, and Warner was commissioned a full Colonel. Warner and the Green Mountain Boys spent most of their time over the subsequent months in and around Vermont. On July 5, 1777, Warner commanded the Northern Army's rear guard during its evacuation of Fort Ticonderoga. His Green Mountain Boys were then assigned to hold off General John Burgoyne's forces until the main body of the Northern Army could escape and regroup in the New Hampshire Grants. On July 7, they engaged advance elements of Burgoyne's army at Hubbardton, Vermont, and although they were forced into an orderly retreat they succeeded in delaying Burgoyne's main army long enough for the Northern Army to complete its withdrawal. The Green Mountain Boys spent the next few weeks gathering and protecting cattle and forage in the Grants.

On August 16, 1777, Brigadier General John Stark engaged a combined British and German army led by Colonel Friedrich Baum at Walloomsac, New York, about 10 miles outside Bennington. Stark's men were in the process of completly routing Baum's army when a relief column under Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich von Breymann approached the battlefield. The tide would have turned in the Germans' favor had Warner's Regiment not appeared at about the same time. By nightfall the Americans had prevailed. By the end of the battle 207 British and German troops had been killed and another 700 captured; by contrast, the Americans suffered 30 killed, 40 wounded, and none captured.

Having successfully defended Vermont from a British invasion, Warner's Regiment began a series of raids and skirmishes against British supply lines and succeeded in taking Mount Independence, Fort Ticonderoga, and the portage connecting Lakes George and Champlain (Lake George Landing) before being forced to retreat on September 21st. The Battle of Bennington combined with the subsequent raids by the Green Mountain Boys ultimately forced General Burgoyne to surrender; Warner was among the officers present at the surrender.

Warner was officially listed as ill from November 1777 through February 1779, but visited garrisons from Albany to Fort George when he was well enough to travel. The Vermont Legislature named him Brigadier General of the State Militia in March 1778. Warner's Regiment was officially disbanded in 1781, and Warner, by now in poor health and deeply in debt, removed with his family to a 51-acre plot in Roxbury, Connecticut. Like most of his fellow officers, Warner had used his own money to win American independence. Unlike most of those officers, however, he had never actually had the money to spend. Although the proprietors of many Vermont towns had voted him land as a reward for his services, most of the grants went to payment of taxes and he never personally benefitted from any of them. He died in Roxbury on December 26, 1784, and was buried in that city's Old Burring Ground. In October of 1858, his remains were moved to Roxbury's Center Green, where a monument still marks his grave today.

Warner had died virtually penniless, forcing his widow to appeal for charity. In 1786, she tried to get the Continental Congress to posthumously pay her late husband for his services, but Congress lacked the ability to do so. In 1787, she petitioned the Vermont General Assembly to grant her land as compensation. Her petition was approved within four days, but it took four years for Vermont to formally grant her a charter of just under 2,000 acres in Essex County. Now known as Warner's Grant, the land proved too rocky and mountainous to be of any value and it was never occupied; it remains vacant land to this day.

See Also

Ethan Allen
John Burgoyne
Battle of Bennington

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> The Revolution, 1775-1783 >> Individual Biography

This page was last updated on December 26, 2018.