Rebel leaders turned to consideration of a more modest strike against the British. Fort Ticonderoga, a major point of contention during the French and Indian War, was now an inviting target for several reasons:
* It occupied a strategic point between lakes Champlain and George
* The fort held a supply of cannon and other artillery, items badly needed by the rebel forces
* The fort was lightly defended.
Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull, an ardent Patriot, enlisted the services of Ethan Allen, a frontier land speculator and agitator. Allen gathered his Green Mountain Boys at Castleton, Vermont, and prepared for a strike against Ticonderoga. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety chose Benedict Arnold to conduct the same task. Arnold, an extremely able military leader, was not interested in participating in the leisurely siege of Boston then in progress. This man of action was a natural for a stealth attack on the British stronghold. Arnold raised an army of 400 men, mostly Massachusetts residents. When he arrived in Vermont, his demand to take over command of the operation was met by jeers from the Green Mountain Boys.
The two leaders, neither lacking in self-esteem, resented the other’s presence and the issue of overall command was never settled. Despite their frequent bickering, a surprise attack was made on Ticonderoga in the early hours of May 10. A band under Allen crossed Lake George and marched silently to the fort when they were astounded to see the gate open and the sentry asleep. No shots needed to be fired. The defenders numbered only 42 men, about one-tenth of the fort's capacity. They were confused by the attack because they had not received word about the outbreak of fighting in Massachusetts. When Allen demanded the surrender of one of the British officers who had locked himself in a room, the officer asked on whose authority Allen was acting. Allen later recalled that he said, “In the name of the Great Jehovah ...