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“Thank you, Mr. Deane, for your help in the taking of Fort Ticonderoga and the Battle of Saratoga.”
These are words that have probably never been found in writing assignments of school children today. But they are perfectly appropriate and Silas Deane Online hopes to show you how much Silas Deane contributed to the taking of Fort Ticonderoga and the Battle of Saratoga.

The taking of Fort Ticonderoga in May of 1775 and the Battle of Saratoga in October of 1777 were two successes for the colonies in the early years of their conflict with England. Ethan Allen (see signature) and Benedict Arnold are the more obvious names brought to mind for the surprise attack on and capture of Fort Ticonderoga on the night of May 10, 1775. General Henry Knox is also remembered for his successful transport of the Fort’s heavy guns and cannons to help General Washington in Boston a few months later in the winter of 1775.

Benedict Arnold was again instrumental in bringing about the surrender of British General Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga on October 14, 1777. Other names associated with that colonial victory are John Stark and Horatio Gates. Silas Deane receives no mention or credit in any high school textbook (yet found) for either Ticonderoga or Saratoga, but careful research will show that his actions were important and determining factors for each.

On June 18, 1775, Deane wrote his wife that his colleagues at the Second Continental Congress had nicknamed him Ticonderoga (Doc. 10). Why, you ask? He was obviously nowhere near Lake Champlain on May 10, 1775 as that was the opening day of Congress in Philadelphia. He was not a member of Ethan Allen’s raucous Green Mountain Boys, although the Colony of Connecticut, not Vermont (which was not even a colony!) officially sponsored that group. Nor was he a member of General Arnold’s more organized and nicely uniformed troops who represented Massachusetts. And in the following winter Deane was not traveling from Lake Champlain to Boston with General Knox as he moved the artillery pulled by oxen over frozen rutted paths to help General Washington during the siege on Boston. At that point Deane was still in Philadelphia having received the upsetting news that he was no longer even a member of the Second Continental Congress (Doc. 14). So why was he called Ticonderoga by his associates? And how are we going to show that he helped at all with the Battle of Saratoga two years later when he was in France?

The First Continental Congress recessed in October 1774, and the Second was convened on May 10, 1775. Silas Deane spent much of that recess raising the funds that enabled the taking of Fort Ticonderoga. At its recess, the members of the First Continental Congress were not unanimous in their feelings toward England. Some delegates were confident that a peaceful resolution with England was possible for the future. Others, Deane among them, along with George Washington and John Adams, were inclined to believe that war with England and King George (see signature) would be inevitable.

It is important to now look at the date when the Second Continental Congress convened and what big event had occurred just the month before to bring more of the delegates to the side of Deane and Washington and Adams. April 16, 1775 was the day that British Red Coats marched from Boston to Lexington and Concord, rallying the Minutemen to defend their ammunitions. So by May 10, when the delegates met again in Philadelphia, many more of them were inclined to support war with England. In fact, by mid-June, George Washington had been chosen by the Congress to be the head of an army to defend American liberty.

As Washington made the long trip north from Virginia to Massachusetts to take command of his troops, one of his stops along the way was the Deane house in Wethersfield. Silas Deane, still in Philadelphia, wrote to his wife Elizabeth to expect a visit from Mr. Washington (Doc. 56 and 57). Now would be a good time for you to visit the front parlor of the Deane House on the virtual tour and picture Mrs. Deane pouring tea for the General who was to become the first hero of the United States. Also look at the Lesson Plan on Slavery on Silas Deane Online to learn about the slaves in the Deane’s house who would have been doing the work to prepare for General Washington’s visit; and be sure to tour the Deane house kitchen on the virtual tour.) Jeremiah Wadsworth, an important Connecticut patriot during the Revolution in charge of providing General Washington’s army with supplies, wrote an interesting letter to Governor Jonathan Trumbull describing that meal with Mrs. Deane (Doc. 59).

But back to Deane’s work for the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. We assume because of his belief that war was inevitable at such an early time, Deane saw the necessity of defending the colonial borders from attack by the British through Canada to the north. Deane therefore spent the time between the congresses convincing the Connecticut General Assembly that funds should be made available for this purpose. He and others on the Secret Committee on Safety worked together on this plan. Thus Deane enabled Connecticut to equip Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys who attacked and captured Fort Ticonderoga from the British on the night of May 10, 1775. General Benedict Arnold arrived at about the same time with orders to take the Fort. So the two military leaders, who had not worked together in planning the capture, succeeded in taking the Fort because of the financial support from Connecticut and Massachusetts. The artillery from that Fort was eventually taken to Boston by General Knox to help with the siege that Washington and his new troops were experiencing in that city in the early days of the Revolution. Thank you, Mr. Deane!!

Silas Deane also deserves the thanks of the American people for helping with the victory at Saratoga in October of 1777. This time the help Deane provided came from France. He had been successful in procuring from the French arms, ammunition, and clothing for the colonial soldiers, (A list of the supplies sent by the French can be found in the Biography section of this website, Silas Deane Online). The ships that brought some of those goods left France and landed in New Hampshire in time to help equip the fledgling American Army as it pulled off one of its biggest and most important victories after a long series of defeats for Washington’s army. It is said that news of the victory at Saratoga was one of the determining factors that led to France’s official entrance into the Revolutionary War on the side of the colonies as they fought England. A treaty was signed in Paris on February 8, 1778 with Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane and Arthur Lee representing the Colonies (see: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/diplomacy/france/fr1788-2htm). Again, thank you, Mr. Deane, for succeeding in procuring from the French supplies for Saratoga in 1777 and then for being in Paris in 1778 for the treaty signing securing the aid of the French army and navy, which eventually led the Americans to win their War of Independence in 1783.

If you visit the historical sites in New York commemorating the history of Fort Ticonderoga and the Battle of Saratoga, you will probably be able to find no mention of Silas Deane. The names mentioned at battle sites are rightfully reserved for the heroes who fought valiantly and hard for the glory of their country. Those that helped with funds and supplies and other behind the scenes operations are not to be found but should not be completely forgotten. So remember Silas Deane as a Revolutionary War hero because of his contributions to the successful taking of Fort Ticonderoga and the victory at the Battle of Saratoga.

 

 


Silas Deane
Ticonderoga

Silas Deane
Saratoga


Silas Deane

Silas Deane
Benedict Arnold

Silas Deane
Fort Ticonderoga

Silas Deane
Knox moves heavy guns


Lexington Green


tea table

Silas Deane
General Henry Knox

Silas Deane
General John Burgoyne

Silas Deane
War ships

 
           
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