Fort Ticonderoga

After the the 1770 King Street Incident, popularly known as the Boston Massacre, Arnold continued his trading activities while meeting with other liberty-minded individuals and becoming a local leader. As a resident of New Haven, Connecticut, his home was roughly a third of the way between New York and Boston, the latter being the locus of anti-British sentiment. Arnold became a member of the Sons of Liberty, along with John Hancock, Sam Adams, Paul Revere, Joseph Warren and other prominent individuals.

When Lexington-Concord’s events broke out in April, 1775, Arnold—captain of a New Haven militia unit—marched his band of about sixty uniformed men to a meeting of selectmen and demanded the keys to the local supply of gunpowder, ammo and rifles. After a rejection, Arnold gave the selectmen five minutes to hand over the keys before he would break into it. "None but Almighty God shall prevent my marching!" he bellowed. He got the keys.

Capturing Fort Ti was not difficult, whereupon the “Boys” began boozing, carousing and looting. Arnold attempted to maintain order, but as a single individual this couldn’t realistically be achieved until the booty was depleted, the “Boys” drifted east back to the Hampshire Grants, and Arnold’s men arrived at the fort. Arnold then immediately armed a captured Loyalist schooner, and with thirty-odd men in two bateaux boldly sailed 100 miles north to St. John’s (present-day St.-Jean), where a raid produced a sloop, some bateaux, and a few cannons.

In the aftermath of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, about sixty British cannons were eventually transported to Boston, where their deployment forced the British to evacuate Boston harbor in March, 1776. Equally important, George Washington took note of Arnold’s valuable deeds in the Lake Champlain area, sensing his leadership potential. Perhaps even more important, Arnold gained the attention of the Second Continental Congress and several political enemies, namely the envious Ethan Allen and company—whose accounts of the events at Fort Ti belittled Arnold and aggrandized themselves.

During the march to Boston, Arnold met a Colonel Samuel Parsons, who mentioned the rebels’ lack of cannons at Boston. Arnold, familiar with British-garrisoned Fort Ticonderoga at the south end of Lake Champlain, told him that it was lightly defended and had scores of cannons just ripe for the plucking. Parsons would quickly pass along the idea to others, and it would find its way to the bombastic Ethan Allen of the New Hampshire Grants (present-day Vermont), who promptly enlisted his backwoods “Green Mountain Boys” to undertake the task.

In early May, after reporting same to the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, Arnold was given a colonel’s commission and authorized as commander of an expedition to capture Fort Ti. He was directed to recruit up to 400 men in the effort.

Arnold and Allen, two strong personalities, met by chance at a tavern on the way to the fort. Arnold produced his orders and announced that he alone was authorized to undertake the mission, and he was in command. The problem was that Arnold had no men with him and Allen did—and they would take orders only from Allen. Eventually the two leaders agreed, uneasily at best, to proceed jointly.