Year
1738

Ethan Allen is born

On this day 1738, Ethan Allen, future Revolutionary War hero and key founder of the Republic of Vermont, is born in Litchfield, Connecticut.

Allen’s father, Joseph, intended Ethan to attend Yale University, but his death in 1755 precluded that option. Instead, Ethan, the oldest of seven children, took over the family landholdings. Two years later, Ethan made his first visit to the New Hampshire Grants, land that is now within the state of Vermont, as part of the Litchfield County militia during the Seven Years’ War.

Having acquired land in the area, in 1770 Ethan Allen became the colonel-commandant of the Green Mountain Boys, a militia founded in what is now Bennington, Vermont, to defend the New Hampshire Grants. In an inter-colonial fracas, both New Englanders, like Allen, and colonial New Yorkers claimed land in the Green Mountains. Although Allen’s vigilantes took no lives, they were willing to use lesser forms of physical intimidation to scare New Yorkers into leaving the area.

Allen and his boys proposed political independence for their district between the Connecticut River and Lake Champlain before the American Revolution caused their attention to shift towards independence from Britain. In 1775, Allen and the Green Mountain Boys captured Fort Ticonderoga from the British in a joint effort with Colonel Benedict Arnold, who had been commissioned by Massachusetts and Connecticut to stage an attack to prevent British forces from marching on Boston. The same force took control of Crown Point, New York, the following day without facing any opposition. The two easy victories garnered for the Patriots much-needed cannon that they then used to drive the British from Boston. Later in the year, the British captured Allen during the botched Patriot attempt to seize Quebec.

In 1777, Vermonters formally declared their independence from Britain and their fellow colonies when they created the Republic of Vermont. After the war concluded, the independent Vermont could not join the new republic as a state, because New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut all claimed the territory as their own. In response, frustrated Vermonters, including Allen, went so far as to negotiate with the Canadian governor, Frederick Haldimand, about possibly rejoining the British empire.

Ethan Allen died on his farm along the Winooski River in the still independent Republic of Vermont on February 12, 1789. Two years later, Vermont finally managed to join the new republic as its 14th state.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Women’s March

On the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency, hundreds of thousands of people crowd into the U.S. capital for the Women’s March on Washington, a massive protest in the nation’s capital aimed largely at the Trump administration and the perceived threat it represented to ...read more

Vladimir Lenin dies

Vladimir Lenin, the architect of the Bolshevik Revolution and the first leader of the Soviet Union, dies of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 54. In the early 1890s, Lenin abandoned his law career to devote himself to Marxist study and the provocation of revolutionary activity ...read more

King Louis XVI executed

One day after being convicted of conspiracy with foreign powers and sentenced to death by the French National Convention, King Louis XVI is executed by guillotine in the Place de la Revolution in Paris. Louis ascended to the French throne in 1774 and from the start was unsuited ...read more

Concorde takes off

From London’s Heathrow Airport and Orly Airport outside Paris, the first Concordes with commercial passengers simultaneously take flight on January 21, 1976. The London flight was headed to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, and the Paris to Rio de Janeiro via Senegal in West Africa. ...read more

President Carter pardons draft dodgers

On this day in 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter grants an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War. In total, some 100,000 young Americans went abroad in the late 1960s and early 70s to avoid serving in the war. Ninety ...read more

General Weygand is born

On this day, French Gen. Maxime Weygand is born in Belgium. He was one of the commanders who accepted the German surrender at the close of World War I only to advise the French government to surrender to the Germans early in World War II. Although born in Belgium (his actual ...read more

Battle for Khe Sanh begins

One of the most publicized and controversial battles of the Vietnam War begins at Khe Sanh, 14 miles below the DMZ and six miles from the Laotian border. Seized and activated by the U.S. Marines a year earlier, the base, which had been an old French outpost, was used as a staging ...read more

Carter pardons draft dodgers

On this day in 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardons all Vietnam War draft dodgers. During his presidential campaign, Carter had announced his intention to pardon those who had failed to register for the draft or left the country to avoid service. In a televised debate with ...read more

Gun designer John Browning is born

John Moses Browning, sometimes referred to as the “father of modern firearms,” is born in Ogden, Utah. Many of the guns manufactured by companies whose names evoke the history of the American West-Winchester, Colt, Remington, and Savage-were actually based on John Browning’s ...read more

Hilary Swank moves on

On this day in 1998, Hilary Swank makes her final appearance in a multi-episode arc on the Fox prime-time soap opera Beverly Hills, 90210. Barely two years later, in a somewhat unexpected turn of events, Swank would be standing onstage at the Academy Awards to accept the Oscar ...read more

Ferry sinks off Indonesian coast

On this day in 1996, an overloaded ferry sinks in an unexpected storm off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, killing 340 people. The 555-ton Gurita was typically used to ferry passengers between Indonesia’s islands. On January 21, it was scheduled to make the short trip from ...read more

Switzer of Our Gang murdered

Carl Dean Switzer, the actor who as a child played “Alfalfa” in the Our Gang comedy film series, dies at age 31 in a fight, allegedly about money, in a Mission Hills, California, home. Alfalfa, the freckle-faced boy with a warbling singing voice and a cowlick protruding from the ...read more

Alger Hiss convicted of perjury

In the conclusion to one of the most spectacular trials in U.S. history, former State Department official Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury. He was convicted of having perjured himself in regards to testimony about his alleged involvement in a Soviet spy ring before and during ...read more

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin dies

In Moscow on the evening of January 21, 1924, shock and near-hysterical grief greets the news that Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the radical socialist Bolshevik movement that toppled the czarist regime in 1917 and head of the first government of the Union of Soviet Socialist ...read more