Page images

Pursuit of the Enemy. Loss in the Battle. Stark's Popularity. Visit to the Battle-ground. Anecdotes,

to draw off his men to prevent them from firing upon each other in the gloom of evening. Seven hundred of the enemy were made prisoners, among whom was Colonel Baume. He was wounded, and died soon afterward. “Another hour of daylight,” said Stark, in his of ficial report, “ and I would have captured the whole body.” Besides the prisoners, four pieces of brass cannon, two hundred and fifty dragoon swords, several hundred stand of arms, eight brass drums, and four ammunition wagons were secured. Two hundred and seven of the enemy were killed. The loss of the Americans was about one hundred killed, and as many wounded. General Stark had a horse killed under him, but was not injured himself The total loss of the enemy in killed, wounded, and prisoners was nine hundred and thirtyfour, including one hundred and fifty-seven Tories." This victory was hailed with great joy throughout the land. It was another evidence of the spirit and courage of the American militia when led to the field by a good commander.” It also crippled the strong arm of Burgoyne, and revived the spirits of the American army at Cohoes and Stillwater. The loud commendatory voice of the people forced Congress to overlook the insubordination of General Stark, which seemed so “highly prejudicial to the common cause,” and on the 4th of October resolved, “That the thanks of Congress be presented to General Stark, of the New Hampshire militia, and the officers and troops under his command, for their brave and successful attack upon, and signal victory over, the enemy in their lines at Bennington; and that Brigadier Stark be appointed a brigadier general in the army of the United States.” When I visited the Bennington battle-ground, every ancient resident in the vicinity, who had been familiar with the locality, had departed, and I was unable to find a person who could point out the exact place of the German intrenchments. A vendue, a few miles distant, had attracted the men from home; but, through the general familiarity with the scenes of Mr. Richmond, of Hoosick Four Corners, who accompanied me, and aided by the map of Lieutenant Durnford, which I had with me, the points of interest were easily recognized. Ascending the rough hills northeast of Mr. Barnet's, we soon found, upon the highest knoll on the crown of the timbered heights, traces of the German intrenchments. Portions of the banks and ditches are quite prominent, and for several rods on all sides the timber is young, the spot having been cleared by the enemy. Descending the gentle slope northward, we emerged into cleared fields, whence we had a fine view of the valleys of the White Creek on the north and of the Walloomscoick" on the east. Here was the place where Colonel Nichols made his first attack upon the rear of the enemy's left. The view of the Walloomscoick Valley was one of the finest I ever beheld. From our point of vision it stretched away to the eastward, its extremity bounded by the lofty Green Mountains, about nine miles dis


* Gordon, Ramsay, Thacher, Marshall, Allen, Burgoyne's Defense, Stedman, Everett's Life of Stark.

* There are several anecdotes related in connection with this battle, which exhibit the spirit of the people and the soldiers. Thacher says that an old man had five sons in the battle. On being told that one of them was unfortunate, he exclaimed, “What, has he misbehaved? Did he desert his post or shrink from the charge?” “Worse than that,” replied his informant. “He was slain, but he was fighting nobly.” “Then I am satisfied,” replied the old man; “bring him to me.” After the battle the body of his son was brought to him. The aged father wiped the blood from the wound, and said, while a tear glistened in his eyes, “This is the happiest day of my life, to know that my five sons fought nobly for freedom, though one has fallen in the conflict.” This was an exhibition of old Spartan patriotism.

When Warner's regiment came into the field, Stark rode up and ordered a captain to lead his men into action. “Where's the colonel [Warner]? I want to see him first,” he coolly replied. The colonel was sent for, and the captain, in a nasal tone, said, “Well, colonel, what d'ye want I should do?” “Drive those red-coats from the hill yonder,” replied Warner. “Well, it shall be done,” said the captain, and in an instant himself and men were on the run for the thickest of the battle.

* Journal of Congress, iii., 327. In passing the last clause of the resolution, the yeas and nays were required and taken. There was but one dissenting voice, Mr. Chase, of Maryland. The delegates from Virginia did not vote.

*This is said to be a Dutch word, signifying Walloom's Patent. It is variously spelled. On Durnford's map it is Walmscock. On Tryon's map of the state of New York, 1779, it is Wallamschock; and others spell it Wallamsac, Wolmseec, and Walmsook. The orthography which I have adopted is that which the New York records exhibit, and is doubtless correct.

View of the Walloomscoick Valley. Incident while Sketching. Insurrection in that Vicinity. Its Suppression.

tant, which formed a line of deeper blue than the sky, the tint broken a little by gray cliffs and bald summits reflecting occasional gleams of the evening sun. Through the rich intervales of the broad basin, the winding Walloomscoick, traversed by the highway, glistened at various points among the groves that shade its banks; and the whole valley, dotted with farm-houses, presents one picture of peaceful industry. On the right, seven miles distant, and nestled among the hills near the Green Mountains, lies Bennington, the white spire of whose church was seen above the intervening forests. From the heights we could plainly discern a brick house in the valley, that belonged, during the Revolution, to a Tory named Mathews. It is remarkable only for its position, and the consequences which sometimes resulted therefrom. It stands upon the line between New York and Vermont, and in it center the corner points of four towns—Bennington, Shaftsbury, Hoosick, and White Creek; also, those of the counties of Bennington, Washington, and Rensselaer. The occupant had only to step from one room to another, to avoid the operation of a legal process that might be issued against him in any one of the counties or four towns. Descending the heights, we crossed the bridge at the old ford, near Barnet's, and went down the river, on its southern side, to Starkville. From the hill a few rods south of the place where Peters's Tories were intrenched (slight traces of the mounds were still visible) we had a fine view of the whole battle-ground. I tarried long enough upon the brow of the hill, near the river, to make the sketch on page 396. While thus engaged, a low bellow, frequently repeated, attracted my attention, and, seeming to approach nearer, induced me to reconnoiter. Toward the foot of the hill a huge bull was pawing the earth, and making menacing advances up the slope. He had mistaken my cloak, fluttering in the wind, for a formal challenge to combat, and seemed about advancing to the charge. Regarding an honorable retreat as a wiser measure than the risk of a probable defeat, I gathered up my “implements of trade,” and retired to the fence, thinking all the way of the similarlychased negro's use of Henry Laurens's motto, “Millions for defence.” It was sunset when we reached Van Schaick's on our return, and I had barely light sufficient to complete the drawing of the old mill on page 391, for heavy clouds were gathering. The twilight was brief, and darkness was upon us when we arrived at Hoosick Four Corners. There was an insurrectionary movement among the militia in this vicinity in 1781. Situated above the north line of Massachusetts, the country was within the claimed jurisdiction of the New Hampshire Grants. The animosities between the state government of New York and the people of the Grants, which the active Revolutionary operations in that quarter had, for a time, quieted, now that those operations had ceased, were renewed in all their former vigor. So warm became the controversy, that, on the 1st of December, an insurrection broke out in the regiments of Colonels John and Henry K. Van Rensselaer. The regiment of Colonel Peter Yates also became disaffected, and, indeed, a large portion of the militia between the Batten Kill and the Hoosick seemed disposed to take sides with the lawless people of the Grants, who disregarded the urgent demands of patriotism at that juncture. These disturbances arose in “Scaghticoke, St. Coych,' and parts adjacent.” The insurgent regiments belonged to General Gansevoort's brigade, He heard of the defection on the 5th, and immediately directed Colonels Yates, Van Vechten, and Henry K. Van Rensselaer, whose regiments were the least tainted, to collect such troops as they could, and march to St. Coych, to quell the insurrection. An express was sent to Governor Clinton, at Poughkeepsie, who readily perceived that the movement had its origin among the people of the Grants. With his usual promptness, he ordered the brigade of General Robert Van Rensselaer to the assistance of Gansevoort, and gave the latter all necessary latitude in raising troops for the exigency. Gansevoort repaired to Saratoga, and solicited troops and a field piece from General Stark, who was stationed there. The latter declined compliance, on the plea that his troops were too poorly clad to leave their quarters at that season, and also that he thought it in


* This place was Van Schaick's Mill, now North Hoosick. The name was variously written by the early historians—St. Coych, Sancoix, Saintcoix, &c.

Stark and Governor Chittenden. End of the Insurrection. Ride to Troy. The Housatonic Walley. Danbury.

proper to interfere without an order from General Heath, his superior. Governor Chitten. den, of the Grants, had just addressed a letter to Stark, requesting him not to interfere; and, as his sympathies were with the Vermonters, that was doubtless the true cause of his withholding aid from Gansevoort. The latter, with what volunteers he could raise, pushed on to St. Coych, where he discovered a motley force of about five hundred men, advancing to sustain the insurgent militia. Having only eighty men with him, Gansevoort retired about five miles, and attempted to open a correspondence with the leaders of the rebellion. He was unsuccessful, and the rebels remained undisturbed. Early in January following, Washington wrote a calm and powerful letter to Governor Chittenden, which had great effect in quelling disturbances there, and no serious consequences grew out of the movement. September, I left Hoosick at nine on the morning of the 28th, on the Bennington mail-coach, * for Troy. It was full inside, and the driver was flanked by a couple of passengers. The only vacant seat was one covered by a sheep-skin, upon the coach-roof–a delightful place on a pleasant morning, but now the lowering clouds betokened a storm. It was “Hobson's choice,” however, and, mounting the perch, I had a fine view of a portion of the Hoosick Valley. The high hills that border it are cultivated to their summits, and on every side large flocks of Saxony sheep were grazing." As we moved slowly up the ravine, the clouds broke, the wind changed, and, when we reached the high rolling table-land west of the valley, a bleak nor'wester came sweeping over the hills from the distant peaks of the Adirondack and other lofty ranges near the sources of the Hudson. Detained on the road by the cracking of an axle, it was nearly sunset when we reached Troy. I had intended to start for Connecticut that evening, but, as the cars had left, I rode to Albany, and departed in the early morning train for the Housatonic Valley and Danbury. The country from Albany to the State Line,” where the Housatonic and Western Rail-roads unite, is quite broken, but generally fertile. Sweeping down the valley at the rate of twenty miles an hour, stopping for a few minutes only to take in wood and water, the traveler has very little opportunity to estimate the character of the region through which he is passing. The picture in my memory represents a narrow, tortuous valley, sometimes dwindling to a rocky ravine a few rods wide, and then expanding into cultivated flats half a mile in breadth, with a rapid stream, broken into riffs and small cascades, running parallel with our course, and the whole surrounded on all sides by lofty hills, densely wooded with maples, oaks, hickories, and chestnuts. At New Milford the narrow valley spreads out into a broad and beautiful plain, whereon the charming village stands. Thence to Hawleyville the country is again very broken, but more generally redeemed from barrenness by cultivation. At Hawleyville I left the rail-road, and took the mail-coach for Danbury, seven and a half miles westward, where we arrived at two o'clock. This village, one of the oldest in the state, is pleasantly situated upon a plain on the banks of a small stream, about twenty miles north from Long Island Sound. Its Indian name was Pahquioque, and the first eight families that settled there, in 1685, purchased the land from the aboriginal proprietors.” There is nothing remarkable in its early history, aside from the struggles, privations, and alarms incident to a new Christian settlement in the midst of pagans. In truth, it seems to have enjoyed more than ordinary prosperity and repose through the colonial period, but a terrible blight fell upon it during our war for independence.


* Wool is the staple production of this region. The first flock of Saxony sheep in Hoosick was introduced by a German named H. De Grove, about 1820. The price at which these sheep were then held was enormous, some bucks having been sold as high as five hundred dollars. But the great losses incurred in speculations in merino sheep, a few years previous, made people cautious, and the Saxony sheep soon commanded only their fair value. In 1845 the number of sheep of this fine breed in the town of Hoosick was fiftysix thousand.

* The State Line station is upon the boundary between New York and Massachusetts, thirty-eight miles from Albany and eleven from Pittsfield.

* Their names were Taylor, Bushnell, Barnum, Hoyt, two Benedicts, Beebe, and Gregory. They were all from Norwalk, on the Sound, except Beebe, who came from Stratford.—See Robbins's Century Sermon, 1801

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

“When Yankees, skill'd in martial rule,
First put the British troops to school;
Instructed them in warlike trade, *
And new maneuvers of parade;
The true war-dance of Yankee reels,
And manual exercise of heels;
Made them give up, like saints complete,
The arm of flesh and trust the feet,
And work, like Christians undissembling,
Salvation out with fear and trembling.”


HE expedition to Danbury, in the spring of 1777, conducted by Governor Tryon, of New York, in person, was, in its inception, progress, and result, disgraceful to the British character, no less on account of the barbarity and savageism displayed than of the arrant cowardice that marked all the movements of the marauders. Sir William Howe did well for his own character, in disclaiming any approval of the acts of Tryon on that occasion, and in endeavoring to excuse the leader of the expedition by pleading the apparent necessity of such harsh measures. Every generous American should be ready to accord all the honor, skill, bravery, and humanity which often belonged to British officers during the war, for some of them, despite the relation which they held to our people struggling for freedom, demand our admiration and regard. But these very officers, guided by a false philosophy, and the instructions of ministers grossly ignorant of the temper and character of the colonists. planned and executed measures which every true Briton then condemned, and which every true Briton now abhors. The destruction of Danbury, and, two years later, of Norwalk and

* This is quoted from a political poem in three cantos, by John Trumbull, LL.D., called “M'Fingal,” which gained for the author much celebrity in America and Europe. The first part of the poem was written in 1775, and published in Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress was then in session. Numerous editions appeared, and it was republished in England. It was not finished until 1782, when the whole was printed at Hartford, in three cantos. It is in the Hudibrastic strain, “and,” says Griswold, “is much the best imitation of the great satire of Butler that has been written.” The author was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1750. So extraordinary was the development of his intellect, that he received lessons in Greek and Latin before he was six years old, and was pronounced fit to enter Yale College at the age of seven. He entered college at thirteen, and went successfully through the whole course of studies. In 1771 he and Timothy Dwight were elected tutors in Yale, and in 1773 he was admitted to the practice of the law. He went to Boston, entered the office of John Adams, and there, in the focus of Revolutionary politics, his republican principles had full play. He commenced the practice of law in New Haven toward the close of 1774, and there he wrote his “M*Fingal.” He had already acquired considerable celebrity as a poet. He removed to Hartford in 1782. Joel Barlow, Colonel David Humphries, and Timothy Dwight were among his most intimate literary friends. He was one of the “four bards with Scripture names” whom a London satirist noticed, in some verses commencing,

“David and Jonathan, Joel and Timothy,
Over the water set up the hymn of the,” &c.

In 1800 Trumbull was elected a member of the Legislature, and, the year following, a Judge of the Superior Court. He was Judge of the Supreme Court of Errors from 1808 to 1819. His poems were collected and published in 1820, and in 1825 he removed to Detroit, where he died in 1831, in the 81st year of his age. C C

Life of the Author. Fairfield; the massacre of Baylor's corps at Tappan and Wayne's detachment at Paoli, are among the records which Britons would gladly blot out. Aside from the cold-blooded murder and incendiarism involved, there was cowardice displayed of the most abject kind. In each case, when their work of destruction was effected, the troops displayed the


Landing of the British at Compo. Object of the Expedition. Rising of the Militia. Character of the People.

“Manual exercise of heels”

when fleeing back to their respective camps. On Friday, the 25th of April, 1777, twenty-six sail of British vessels appeared off Norwalk Islands, standing in for Cedar Point. It was a mild, sunny afternoon. The inhabit. ants of Norwalk and Fairfield, aware of their approach, took measures for the defense of their respective towns. But both villages were, at that time, spared. A little before sunset about two thousand well-armed troops landed upon the long beach at the foot of the beautiful hill of Compo, on the eastern side of the Saugatuck River, and near its mouth. They

Distant View of Coxipo.1

were commanded by Governor William Tryon, assisted by Generals Agnew and Sir William Erskine. The expedition had been fitted out by Sir William Howe at New York, its ostensible object being the destruction of American military stores at Danbury. The force marched about seven miles into the country that evening, where they rested until toward daylight. Clouds had gathered during the night, and rain began to fall. Resuming their march, they reached Reading, eight miles southeast of Danbury, at eight in the morning, where they halted and breakfasted. General Silliman, who was attached to the Connecticut militia, was at his residence at Fairfield when the enemy landed. He immediately sent out expresses to alarm the country and collect the militia. The call was responded to,” and early the next morning he started in pursuit. He reached Reading about noon, where his force amounted to five hundred men. He was there joined by Generals Wooster and Arnold, with a small number of militia. These officers, who were at New Haven, on hearing of the invasion, started immediately to the aid of Silliman. The Americans continued the pursuit as far as Bethel, within four miles of Danbury. They did not reach Bethel until eleven o'clock at night, owing to a heavy rain. There they determined to halt and postpone their attack upon the enemy until he should attempt to return to his shipping. April 26, The British, piloted by two young men of Danbury—Stephen Jarvis and Eli 1777. Benedict—reached the village between one and two o'clock in the afternoon. They

* This view is from the top of a high hill northeast of the dwelling of Mr. Ebenezer Smith, near Norwalk. Its long sand-bar is seen stretching into the Sound on the right, and over the lowest extremity of the point the shade trees of Fairfield are visible. The water on the left is the mouth of the Saugatuck River, and that in the distance, on the right, is Long Island Sound.

* The people of this region were extremely patriotic, and never hesitated a moment when their country called. Before actual hostilities commenced (March, 1775), a company of one hundred men was enlisted in Danbury, for the colonial service, and joined a regiment of Connecticut troops, under Colonel Waterbury. They were engaged in active service until Montgomery reached Montreal, in December, when they returned home without the loss of a single man. The last survivor, David Weed, died in Danbury, June 13th, 1842, aged ninety-four years. When this little band of one hundred men left for Lake Champlain, their friends regarded them as lost. When they all returned, many of those very friends were in their graves, swept away by a prevalent dysentery.

« PreviousContinue »