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Green Mountain State
Vermont is a U.S. state located in New England. The state ranks 43rd in land area (9,250 square miles), and its population (608,827) ranks as the second smallest of the fifty states. As the only New England state with no coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, Vermont is noted mainly for the Green Mountains in the west and Lake Champlain in the northwest. It borders Massachusetts to the south, New Hampshire to the east, New York to the west, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north.
Originally inhabited by Native American tribes (Iroquois, Algonquian and Abenaki), the territory that is now Vermont was claimed by France but became a British possession after France's defeat in the French and Indian War. For many years, rightful control of the area was disputed by the surrounding colonies. Settlers who held land titles granted by the Province of New Hampshire, through their Green Mountain Boys militia, eventually prevailed. Vermont became the 14th state to join the United States, following a 14-year period during and after the Revolutionary War as the independent Republic of Vermont.
Famous for its scenery, dairy products and maple syrup, Vermont has long been known for its liberal politics and staunchly independent political thinking. The state capital is Montpelier, while the largest city is Burlington.
Little is known of the pre-Columbian history of Vermont. The western part of the state was originally home to a small population of Algonquian-speaking tribes, including the Mohican and Abenaki peoples. Between 8500 to 7000 BCE, glacial activity created the Champlain Sea, and Native Americans inhabited and hunted in Vermont. From 7000 to 1000 BCE was the Archaic Period. During the era Native Americans migrated year-round. From 1000 BCE to 1600 CE was the Woodland Period, when villages and trade networks were established, and ceramic and bow and arrow technology was developed. Sometime between 1500 and 1600, the Iroquois drove many of the smaller native tribes out of Vermont, later using the area as a hunting ground and warring with the remaining Abenaki. The population in 1500 is estimated to be around 10,000 people.
The first European to see Vermont is thought to be Jacques Cartier, in 1535. On July 30, 1609, French explorer Samuel de Champlain claimed the area of what is now Lake Champlain, giving to the mountains the appellation of les Verts Monts (the Green Mountains).
France claimed Vermont as part of New France, and erected Fort Sainte Anne on Isle La Motte in 1666 as part of their fortification of Lake Champlain. This was the first European settlement in Vermont and the site of the first Roman Catholic mass.
During the later half of the 17th century, non-French settlers began to explore Vermont and its surrounding area. In 1690, a group of Dutch-British settlers from Albany under Captain Jacobus de Warm established the De Warm Stockade at Chimney Point (eight miles or 13 km west of present-day Addison). This settlement and trading post was directly across Lake Champlain from Crown Point, New York (Pointe à la Chevelure).
In 1731, the French arrived. Here they constructed a small temporary wooden stockade (Fort de Pieux) on what was Chimney Point until work on Fort St. Frédéric began in 1734. The fort, when completed, gave the French control of the New France/Vermont border region in the Lake Champlain Valley and was the only permanent fort in the area until the building of Fort Carillon more than 20 years later. The government encouraged French colonization, leading to the development of small French settlements in the valley. The British attempted to take the Fort St. Frédéric four times between 1755 and 1758; in 1759 a combined force of 12,000 British regular and provincial troops under Sir Jeffrey Amherst captured the fort. The French were driven out of the area and retreated to other forts along the Richelieu River. One year later a group of Mohawks burnt the settlement to the ground, leaving only chimneys and giving the area its name.
The first permanent British settlement was established in 1724 with the construction of Fort Dummer in Vermont's far southeast under the command of Lieutenant Timothy Dwight. This fort protected the nearby settlements of Dummerston and Brattleboro in the surrounding area. These settlements were made by the Province of Massachusetts Bay to protect its settlers on the western border along the Connecticut River. The second British settlement was the 1761 founding of Bennington in the southwest.
During the French and Indian War, some Vermont settlers, including Ethan Allen, joined the colonial militia assisting the British in attacks on the French. Fort Carillon on the New York-Vermont border, a French fort constructed in 1755, was the site of two British offensives under Lord Amherst's command: the unsuccessful British attack in 1758 and the retaking of the following year with no major resistance (most of the garrison had been removed to defend Quebec, Montreal, and the western forts). The British renamed the fort Fort Ticonderoga (which became the site of two later battles during the American Revolutionary War). Following France's loss in the French and Indian War, the 1763 Treaty of Paris gave control of the land to the British.
The end of the war brought new settlers to Vermont. A fort at Crown Point had been built, and the Crown Point Military Road stretched from the east to the west of the Vermont wilderness from Springfield to Chimney Point, making traveling from the neighboring British colonies easier than ever before. Three colonies laid claim to the area. The Province of Massachusetts Bay claimed the land on the basis of the 1629 charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Province of New York claimed Vermont based on land granted to the Duke of York (later King James II) in 1764. The Province of New Hampshire also claimed Vermont based upon a decree of George II in 1740. In 1741, George II ruled that Massachusetts's claims in Vermont and New Hampshire were invalid and fixed Massachusetts's northern boundary at its present location. This still left New Hampshire and New York with conflicting claims to the land.
The flag of the Green Mountain BoysThe situation resulted in the New Hampshire Grants, a series of 135 land grants made between 1749 and 1764 by New Hampshire's colonial governor, Benning Wentworth. The grants sparked a dispute with the New York governor, who began granting charters of his own for New Yorker settlement in Vermont. In 1770, Ethan Allen—along with his brothers Ira and Levi, as well as Seth Warner—recruited an informal militia, the Green Mountain Boys, to protect the interests of the original New Hampshire settlers against the new migrants from New York. When a New York judge arrived in Westminster with New York settlers in March 1775, violence broke out as angry citizens took over the courthouse and called a sheriff's posse. This resulted in the deaths of Daniel Houghton and William French in the "Westminster Massacre."
On January 18, 1777, representatives of the New Hampshire Grants convened in Westminster and declared their land an independent republic. For the first six months of the republic's existence, the republic was called New Connecticut.
On June 2, a second convention of 72 delegates met at Westminster, known as the "Westminster Convention." At this meeting, the delegates adopted the name "Vermont" on the suggestion of Dr. Thomas Young of Philadelphia, a supporter of the delegates who wrote a letter advising them on how to achieve statehood. The delegates set the time for a meeting one month later. On July 4, the Constitution of Vermont was drafted during a violent thunderstorm at the Windsor Tavern owned by Elijah West, and was adopted by the delegates on July 8 after four days of debate. This was among the first written constitutions in North America and was indisputably the first to abolish the institution of slavery, provide for universal manhood suffrage and require support of public schools. The Windsor tavern has been preserved as the Old Constitution House, administered as a state historic site.
The Battle of Bennington, fought on August 16, 1777, was a seminal event in the history of the state of Vermont. The nascent republican government, created after years of political turmoil, faced challanges from New York, New Hampshire, Great Britain and the new United States, none of which recognized its sovereignty. The republic's ability to defeat a powerful military invader gave it a legitimacy among its scattered frontier society that would sustain it through fourteen years of fragile independence before it finally achieved statehood as the 14th state in the union in 1791.
During the summer of 1777 the invading British army of General Burgoyne slashed southward from Canada to the Hudson River, captured the strategic stonghold of Fort Ticonderoga, and drove the continentel army into a desperate southward retreat. Raiding parties of British soldiers and native warriors freely attacked, pillaged and burned the frontier communities of the Champlain Valley and threatened all settlements to the south. The Vermont frontier collapsed in the face of the British invasion. The New Hampshire legislature, fearing an invasion to the east, mobilized the state's militia under the command of General John Stark.
General Burgoyne received intellegence that large stores of horses, food and munitions were kept at Bennington, then the largest community in the Grants. He dispatched 2,600 men, nearly a third of his army, to sieze the colonial storehouse there, unaware that General Stark's New Hampshire troops were then traversing the Green Mountains to join up at Bennington with the Vermont continentel regiments commanded by Colonel Seth Warner, together with the local Vermont and western Massachusetts militia. The combined American forces, under Stark's command, attacked the British column at Hoosik, New York, just across the border from Bennington. The American troops were defending their homes, families and property. General Stark reportedly challenged his men to fight to the death, telling them that: "There are your enemies. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!" In a desperate, all-day battle fought in intense summer heat, the army of yankee farmers killed or captured virtually the entire British detachment. General Burgoyne never recovered from this loss and eventually surrendered the remainder of his 6000-man force at Saratoga, New York on October 17.
The Battles of Bennington and Saratoga are recognized as the turning point in the Revolutionary War because they were the first major defeat of a British army and convinced the French that the Americans were worthy of military aid. Stark became widely known as the "Hero of Bennington" and the anniversary of the battle is still celebrated in Vermont as a legal holiday known as "Bennington Battle Day." Under the portico of the Vermont Statehouse, next to an heroic granite statue of Ethan Allen, there is a brass cannon that was captured from the British troops at the Battle of Bennington.
Vermont continued to govern itself as a sovereign entity based in the eastern town of Windsor for 14 years. Thomas Chittenden, who came to Vermont from Connecticut in 1774, acted as President of Vermont from 1778 to 1789 and from 1790 to 1791. In 1791, Vermont joined the Union as the 14th member–the first state to enter the union after the original 13 colonies, and a counterweight to Kentucky, which was admitted to the Union shortly afterward.
The gold leaf dome of the Vermont State House (Capitol building) in Montpelier is visible for many miles around the city. The Capitol building is in the Greek Revival architectural style and was completed in 1859. It is built of Barre granite from the famous quarries in the nearby town of Barre, and has a portico with columns in the Doric style. Montpelier became the state capital in 1805.Vermont had a unicameral legislature until 1836.
The northernmost land action of the American Civil War took place in Vermont on October 19, 1864. In this incident, one of the most unusual in American history, Bennett H. Young led Confederate forces. Young had been captured in John Hunt Morgan's 1863 raid in Ohio, but escaped to Canada in the fall of that year. Morgan went to the south, where he proposed Canada-based raids on the Union as a means of building the Confederate treasury and forcing the Union army to protect their northern border as a diversion. Young was commissioned as a Lieutenant and returned to Canada, where he recruited other escaped rebels to participate in the October 19, 1864 raid on St. Albans, Vermont, a quiet town 15 miles (25 km) from the Canadian border.
Young and two others checked into a local hotel on October 10, saying that they had come from St. John's in Canada for a "sporting vacation." Every day, two or three more young men arrived. By October 19, there was 21 men. Just before 3:00 p.m., the group simultaneously staged an armed robbery of the three banks in the town. They announced that they were Confederate soldiers and stole a total of $208,000. As the banks were being robbed, eight or nine of the Confederates held the townspeople prisoner on the village green as their horses were stolen. One townsperson was killed and another wounded. Young ordered his troops to burn the town down, but the four-ounce bottles of Greek fire they had brought failed to work.
Vermont also sent over 30,000 men into the service of the Union Army, of which some one out of three did not return, a higher proportion of men sent and lost than any other state. The most famous Vermont unit was the hard-fighting First Vermont Brigade. This unit remains the hardest-fighting brigade in the history of the United States military.
The first election in which women were allowed to vote was on December 18, 1880, when women were granted limited suffrage and were allowed to vote in school board elections.
Large-scale flooding occurred in early November 1927. During this incident, 85 people died, 84 of them in Vermont. Another flood occurred in 1973, when the flood caused the death of two people and the loss of millions of dollars in property damage.