Title: Those Turbulent Sons of Freedom: Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys and the American Revolution
Author: Christopher S. Wren
Genre: Nonfiction – history
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of Pages: 320
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Wren tells the stories of the Green Mountain Boys including Ethan Allen and Ethan’s relatives, and he shows how they shaped the early history of Vermont.
By the end of this book, I realized the word “turbulent” was actually a compliment. These men were tough, brave, and wild. They were homesteaders who cared about their families and were willing to die for their country. They were also quite the characters.
This book doesn’t focus on Ethan Allen but instead includes him along with a number of other people. I loved how the book wove together multiple stories.
The narrative is excellent. Wren is a master storyteller with a subtle and easygoing writing style. It was fun to read and kept me interested. I do love history anyway, but even so, sometimes I don’t enjoy a historical book. But this one is a great one.
Just to focus on Ethan Allen for a minute (even though he isn’t the sole focus of the book), the capture of Fort Ticonderoga is all I knew about him before. But there’s much more to his story. Ethan was an interesting person and had his contradictions. He was a rough backwoodsman with a silver tongue. He was also a staunch patriot who almost betrayed his country.
I think the back cover description is a little misleading. It says, “Wren overturns the myth of Ethan Allen as a legendary hero of the American Revolution and a patriotic son of Vermont and offers a different portrait of Ethan and his Green Mountain Boys.” I almost didn’t read the book because I was afraid it would vilify Ethan, but it didn’t and so I’m glad I gave it a chance.
The book’s tone is sympathetic toward Ethan and it doesn’t overturn his status, it just gives a more rounded and complete portrait of him. For 2/3 of the book, Ethan does heroic deeds. Later in the war, and the book, he tries to become the next Benedict Arnold (which is strange because he despised Benedict Arnold), though he doesn’t succeed. His motives are unknown.
Also, I was surprised to learn that soon after Ticonderoga, Ethan and the Green Mountain Boys parted ways and went down totally separate paths in the war (although Ethan’s brother continued to serve with them).
I loved learning more about the Green Mountain Boys and the northern part of the war. There are so many great stories in this book! Like the one about a wounded teenage drummer who had to make his way through enemy lines at night. Or the one about the time soldiers built military fortifications out of ice. Or the time soldiers went on a 600-mile trek through snow and water up to their waists, nearly starving to death along the way. There are so many amazing stories of danger and hardship. Stories of spies hiding in the woods, and ambushers getting ambushed. Of troops so low on supplies, they had to be armed with spears instead of muskets.
The northern war and all the people involved in it are lesser known than other parts of the war, so this is an important and fascinating book. I highly recommend it!
I recommend this to:
- History buffs.
• Here is what happened in this wild and neglected corner of the American Revolution, as told through a strapping trio of Green Mountain Boys.
• Hindsight assures us that the American Revolution would succeed, but those who fought on both sides could not foretell the outcome. This is their story too.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
What are your favorite historical nonfiction books?