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Measure for defending New Hampshire. Langdon's Patriotism. Raising of Troops. General Stark.
and strenuous efforts were at once made for the defense of these states, particularly New Hampshire, which was lying nearest the scene of danger, The Committee of Safety of the New Hampshire Grants (now Vermont) wrote to the New Hampshire Committee of Safety at Exeter, apprising them of the pressing danger near, and imploring their assistance. The Provincial Assembly had finished their session, and had gone home, but a summons from the committee brought them together again in three days. Despondency seemed to pervade the whole convention when they met, until the patriotic John Langdon,' then Speaker of the Assembly, thus addressed them : “I have three thousand dollars in hard money. I will pledge my plate for three thousand more. I have seventy hogsheads of Tobago rum, which shall be sold for the most it will bring. These are at the service of the state. If we succeed in defending our firesides and homes, I may be remunerated; if we do not, the property will be of no value to me. Our old friend Stark, who so nobly sustained the honor of our state at Bunker Hill, may be safely intrusted with the conduct of the enterprise, and we will check the progress of Burgoyne.” Langdon's patriotic spirit seemed to be infused into the Assembly, for the most energetic measures were planned and put in operation. The whole militia of the state was formed into two brigades. The first was placed under the command of William Whipple (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence), and the second, of John Stark. They ordered one fourth part of Stark's brigade and one fourth of three regiments of Whipple's to march immediately, under the command of the former, to the frontiers of the state, and confront the enemy. The militia officers were empowered to disarm the Tories. A day of fasting and prayer was ordered and observed. - Stark was then a private citizen. He had been a brigadier with Washington at Trenton and Princeton, and, when the army went into winter-quarters at Morristown, returned to New Hampshire on a recruiting expedition. Having filled his regiments, he returned to Exeter to await orders, and there learned that several junior officers had been promoted by Congress, while he was left out of the list. Feeling greatly aggrieved, he resigned March, his commission and left the army, not, however, to desert his country in the hour of 1777. peril, for, like General Schuyler, he was active for good while divested of military authority. He was very popular, and the Assembly regarded him as a pillar of strength in upholding the confidence and courage of the militia of the state. That body offered him the command, and, laying aside his private griefs, he once more donned his armor and went to the field, stipulating, however, that he should not be obliged to join the main army, but hang upon the wing of the enemy on the borders of his state, strike when opportunity should offer, according to his own discretion, and be accountable to no one but the Assembly of New Hampshire. Joy pervaded the militia when their favorite commander was announced as their chief, and they cheerfully flocked to his standard, which was raised, first at Charleston and then at Manchester, twenty miles north of Bennington, where Colonel Seth Warner, with his Massachusetts men, was posted. This was only the remnant of the regiment that so gallantly opposed the enemy at Hubbardton on the 7th of July, and was then recruiting at
* John Langdon was born at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1740. He received a mercantile education, and for several years prosecuted business upon the sea, and, when the Revolution broke out, was a leading merchant in Portsmouth. He espoused the republican cause, and was one of the party which removed the powder and military stores from Fort William and Mary, at New Castle, in 1774. He was a delegate in the Continental Congress in 1775 and 1776. For a short time he commanded a company of volunteers in Vermont and on Rhode Island. He was Speaker of the Provincial Assembly of New Hampshire, and Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1776 and 1777. He was Continental agent in New Hampshire in 1779, and was again elected a delegate to Congress in 1783. He served in the Legislature of his state for several years, and in 1788 was chosen President of New Hampshire. The next year he was elected a member of the United States Senate, and in 1794 was re-elected for another term of six years. From 1805 till 1811 he was four years governor of the state, and then retired into private life. He was of Jefferson's political school, and in 1812 the majority in Congress selected him for Vice-president of the United States, but he declined the honor. He died at Portsmouth, September 18th, 1819, aged seventyeight years.
Stark's Refusal to accompany Lincoln.
Censure of Congress. The Result. Movements to oppose Baume. Life of Stark
Manchester. There Stark met General Lincoln, who had been sent by General
1777. Schuyler, then in command of the Northern Department, to conduct him and his re.
cruits to the Hudson. Stark positively refused to go, and exhibited the written terms upon which he had consented to appear in the field at all. His refusal was communicated to Congress, and that body August 19 resolved that the Assembly of New Hampshire should be informed that the instructions which they had given General Stark were “destructive of military subordination, and highly prejudicial to the common
General Stark to conform himself to the same rules which other general officers of the militia were subject to whenever they were called out at the expense of the United States.” This was sound military logic, but was not adapted to the circumstances in question. General Stark, as well as the Assembly of
New Hampshire, knew better
than Congress what policy, in the premises, was most conducive to the general good,
cause;" and the Assembly o ^. p/Z2.(~~2% and the sequel proved that
was desired “to instruct the apparent insubordination, which seemed so “highly prejudicial to the common cause,” was productive of great benefits to the country. It was at this very juncture that Burgoyne was planning his expedition to Bennington, and on the day of the date of Baume's instructions Stark arrived at that place.
Informed of the presence of Indians at Cambridge, twelve miles north of Bennington, and of their attack upon the party of Americans there," he detached Lieutenant-colonel Gregg, with two hundred men, to oppose their march. Toward night he received information that a large body of the enemy, with a train of artillery, was in the rear of the Indians, and in full march for Bennington. Stark immediately rallied his brigade, with all the militia that had collected at Bennington, and sent out an urgent call for the militia in the vicinity. He also sent an order to the officer in command of Colonel War. ner's regiment, at Manchester, to march his men to Bennington immediately. The order was promptly obeyed, and they arrived in the night, thoroughly drenched with rain. On the morning of the 14th, about the time when Baume was at Van Schaick's Mills, Stark.” with his whole force, was moving forward to support Colonel Gregg. He was accompanied by Colonels Warner, Williams, and Brush. The regiment of the former was not with him; they remained at Bennington, to dry themselves and prepare their arms for action. After marching about five miles, they met Gregg retreating, and the enemy within a mile
* August 13.
* Journals of Congress, vol. iii., 273.
* John Stark was the son of a native of Glasgow, in Scotland, and was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire, August 28th, 1728. His father removed to Derryfield (now Manchester), on the Merrimac, in 1736. While on a hunting expedition in 1752, young Stark was taken prisoner and carried off by a party of St. Francis Indians. He was redeemed by a Boston friend for the sum of one hundred and three dollars, to pay which he went on another hunting expedition on the Androscoggin. He served in Rogers's company of Rangers during the French and Indian war, and was made a captain in 1756. Repairing to Cambridge on hearing of the battle of Lexington, he received a colonel's commission, and on the same day enlisted eight hundred men. He fought bravely on Bunker Hill, his regiment forming a portion of the left of the American line, and its only defense being a rail inclosure covered with hay. He went to Canada in the Spring of 1776, and in the attack at Trenton commanded the van of the right wing. He was also in the battle of Princeton. In March, 1777, he resigned his commission, and retired to his farm. He commanded the New Hampshire militia at the battle of Bennington, in August, 1777, and in September enlisted a new and larger force, and joined the Continental army, under Gates, with the rank of major general. He served in Rhode Island in 1778 and 1779, and in New Jersey in 1780. In 1781 he had the command of the Northern Department at Saratoga. At the close of the war he left all public employments. In 1818 Congress voted him a pension of sixty dollars a month. He died on the 8th of May, 1822, in the ninety-third year of his age. He was buried on a small hill near the Merrimac, at Manchester, and over his remains is a granite obelisk, inscribed with the words MAJoR GENERAL STARK. A costly monument is now in contemplation,
Preparations for Battle. Disposition of the Enemy's Troops. English Plans of Battles. Errors, and Difficulties in Correction.
of him. Stark immediately disposed his army for battle, and Baume and his men, halting advantageously upon high ground near a bend in the Walloomscoick River, began to intrench themselves. Perceiving this, Stark fell back about a mile, to wait for re-enforcements and arrange a plan of attack. Baume, in the mean time, alarmed at the strength of the Americans, sent an express to Burgoyne for aid. Colonel Breyman was immediately dispatched with about five hundred men, but he did not arrive in time to render essential service. The 16th was August, rainy, and both 1777. parties employed the time - -- - in preparing for battle. - - - The Hessians and a corps - of Rangers were strongly - - --- - intrenched upon the high A o - o | o - - - - ground north of the Wal* > * → ++ = } N loomscoick, and a party - - - of Rangers and German grenadiers were posted at a ford (now the bridge near Mr. Barnet's), where the road to Bennington crossed the stream. Some Canadians, and Peters's corps of Tories, were posted on the south side of the river, near the ford. At the foot of the declivity, on the east, near the mouth of a small creek, some chasseurs were posted, and about a mile distant from the main intrenchments on the height, on the south side of the river, Peters's American volunteers, or Tories, cast up a breast-work. On the same side, upon the Bennington Road, Stark and the main body of his army were encamped. The Walloomscoick, though called a river, is a small stream,
Note.—The map here given is a copy, reduced, of one drawn by Lieutenant Durnford, and published in Burgoyne's “State of the Expedition,” &c. The Walloomscoick is there erroneously called Hosack (meaning Hoosick), that river being nearly three miles distant from the place of the Hessian intrenchments. I would here remark that we are obliged to rely almost solely upon British authorities for plans of our Revolutionary battles. They are, in general, correct, so far as relates to the disposition and movement of British troops, but are full of errors respecting the movements of the Americans, and also concerning the topography of the country, with which they were necessarily little acquainted. It is too late now to correct many of these errors, for the living witnesses have departed, and the hearsay evidence of a younger generation is not sufficiently certain to justify any important corrections in the published plans of the battles. I have, therefore, copied such maps as seemed most trustworthy, and endeavored, by slight alterations, and by descriptions in the text, to make them as correct as possible, as guides to a full understanding of the military operations of the time. In this particular, as well as in local traditions, great caution is necessary in receiving testimony; and, where the subject has historical importance, I have uniformly rejected traditions, unless supported by other and concurrent authority, or the strongest probability.
The group upon this map, composed of a drum without a head, a musket, sword, and grenadier's cap, is a representation of those objects thus arranged and hanging over the door of the Massachusetts Senate Chamber at Boston. They are trophies of the Bennington battle, and were presented by General Stark to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The grenadier's cap is made of a coarse fabric resembling flannel, dyed red, and on the front is a large figured brass plate. The drum is brass; the sword has an enormous brass guard and hilt; and the bayonet attached to the musket is blunted and bent.
Skirmishing in the Rain. The Hessian Encampment. A bellicose Clergyman. Stark's Promise and Fulfillment.
every where fordable when the water is of ordinary depth. Lying in the midst of high hills, its volume is often suddenly increased by rains.
Notwithstanding the rain fell copiously on the 15th, there was some skirmishing. The Americans, in small parties, fell upon detachments of the enemy; and so annoying did this mode of warfare become, that the Indians began to desert Colonel Baume, “because," as they told him, “the woods were filled with Yankees.” The Hessians continued their works upon the hill. By night they were strongly intrenched, and had mounted two pieces of ordnance which they brought with them.
THE BENNINGroN BATTLE-GRound."
During the night of the 15th, Colonel Symonds, with a body of Berkshire militia, arrived. Among them was the Rev. Mr. Allen, of Pittsfield, whose bellicose ardor was of the most glowing kind. Before daylight, and while the rain was yet falling, the impatient shepherd, who had many of his flock with him, went to Stark, and said, “General, the people of Berkshire have often been summoned to the field without being allowed to fight, and, if you do not now give them a chance, they have resolved never to turn out again.” “Well,” said Stark, “do you wish to march now, while it is dark and raining 7” “No, not just this moment,” replied the minister of peace. “Then,” said the general, “if the Lord shall once more give us sunshine, and I do not give you fighting enough, I'll never ask you to come out again.” Sunshine did indeed come with the morrow, for at the opening of the dawn the clouds broke away, and soon all Nature lay smiling in the warm sunlight of a clear August morning; and “fighting enough” was also given the parson and his men, for it was a day of fierce conflict. August 16, Early in the morning the troops of both parties prepared for action. Stark had
1777 arranged a plan of attack, and, after carefully reconnoitering the enemy at the dis.
* This view is from the hill on the southwest bank of the Walloomscoick, a little west of the road from the bridge to Starkville, looking northeast. The road over this hill existed at the time of the battle, and is laid down on the map, page 395. The river, which here makes a sudden bend, is seen at two points—near the cattle, and at the bridge, in the distance, on the right. The house on the left, near the bridge, is Mr. Barnet's, and the road that crosses the center of the picture from right to left is the road from Bennington to Van Schaick's or North Hoosick. It passes along the river flat, at the foot of the hills where the battle occurred. The highest point on the distant hills, covered with woods, is the place where the Hessians were intrenched. From that point, along the hills to the left, for about two miles, the conflict was carried on; and upon the slopes, now cultivated, musket-balls and other relics of the battle have been plowed up.
Commencement of the Battle of Bennington. Terror and Flight of the Indians. Victory for the Americans. Second Battle.
tance of a mile, proceeded to act upon it. Colonel Nichols, with two hundred men, was detached up the little creek that empties into the Walloomscoick above the bridge, to attack the enemy's left in the rear, and Colonel Herrick was sent with three hundred to fall upon the rear of their right, with orders to form a junction with Nichols before making a general assault. Colonels Hubbard and Stickney were ordered to march down the Walloomscoick with two hundred men, to the right of the enemy, and with one hundred men in front, near Peters's intrenched corps, in order to divert Baume's attention to that point. Thus arranged, the action commenced at three o'clock in the afternoon, on the rear of the enemy's left, by Colonel Nichols, who marched up from the deep-wooded valley, and fell furiously upon the Hessian intrenchments. At the same moment the other portions of the American army advanced to the attack. As soon as the first volley from Nichols's detachment was heard, Stark, who remained with the main body at his camp, sprang to his saddle and gave the word “Forward ” They pressed onward to the hill above the Tory intrenchments, and there the whole field of action was open to their view. The heights were wreathed in the smoke of the cannon and musketry, and along the slopes and upon the plains the enemy was forming into battle order." The Americans rushed down upon the Tories, drove them across the stream, and, following after them, the whole of both armies was soon engaged in the fight. “It lasted,” says Stark, in his official account, “two hours, and was the hottest I ever saw. It was like one continued clap of thunder.” The Tories, who were driven across the river, were thrown in confusion on the Hessians, who were forced from their breast-works on the heights. The Indians, alarmed at the prospect of being surrounded, fled at the commencement of the action, between the corps of Nichols and Herrick, with horrid yells and the jingling of cow-bells, and the weight of the conflict finally fell upon the brave corps of Reidesel's dragoons, led by Colonel Baume in person. They kept their column unbroken, and, when their ammunition was exhausted, were led to the charge with the sword. But they were finally overpowered, and gave way, leaving their artillery and baggage on the field. The Americans, like the dragoons, displayed the most indomitable courage. With their brown firelocks, scarce a bayonet, little discipline, and not a single piece of cannon, they ventured to attack five hundred well-trained regulars, furnished with the best and most complete arms and accouterments, having two pieces of artillery, advantageously posted, and accompanied by one hundred Indians. The mingled incentives of a defense of homes and promises of plunder" made the American militia fight with the bravery of disciplined veterans. As soon as the field was won, the Americans dispersed to collect plunder. This nearly proved fatal to them, for at that moment Colonel Breyman arrived with his re-enforcements for Baume. They had approached within two miles before Stark was apprised of their proximity. The heavy rain on the preceding day had kept them back, and, although their march had been accelerated on hearing the noise of the battle just ended, they could not reach the field in time to join in the action. They met the flying party of Baume, which made a rally, and the whole body pushed forward toward the abandoned intrenchments on the heights. Stark endeavored to rally his militia, but they were too much scattered to be well arranged for battle, and the fortunes of the day were, for a moment, in suspense. Happily the corps of Colonel Warner, which was left at Bennington in the morning, arrived at this juncture, fresh and well armed, and fell vigorously upon the enemy. Stark, with what men he had been able to collect, pushed forward to his assistance. The battle continued with obstimacy until sunset. It was a sort of running conflict, partly on the plains and partly on the hills, from the heights to Van Schaick's, where the enemy made his last stand, and then fled toward the Hoosick. The Americans pursued them until dark, and Stark was then obliged
* It was at this moment that Stark made the laconic speech to his men, which popular tradition has preserved: “See there, men there are the red-coats. Before night they are ours, or Molly Stark will be a widow !” This speech, it is said, brought forth a tremendous shout of applause from the eager troops, which greatly alarmed the Loyalists in their works below.
* General Stark, in his orders in the morning, promised his soldiers all the plunder that should be taken in the enemy's camp.–Gordon, ii., 244.