THE BATTLE OF BENNINGTON
RENSSELAER COUNTY, NEW YORK, AUGUST 17, 1777
In the spring of 1777 a British Army under General John Burgoyne started down the
Hudson River from Canada. As Burgoyne marched south, patriot militia began to gather
in Vermont and New Hampshire. John Stark, a veteran soldier, was given command of
the 1500-man New Hampshire Brigade. Hearing that Burgoyne was planning a raid into
Vermont, Stark marched his men to Bennington. There they were joined by militia
regiments from Vermont and western Massachusetts.
On August 11, Burgoyne sent out a mixed force of some 800 Canadians, Loyalists, Indians,
British, and Hessian (German) mercenaries on a foraging expedition. This mostly-German force
was harassed by small bands of militia, and its Hessian commander sent for reinforcements; he
stopped to await them a few miles from Bennington. With the enemy force position on and
around a large hill, General Stark decided to use his 2,000 militiamen to surround them.
"Yonder are the Redcoats," Stark is supposed to have said. "We will defeat them or
Molly Stark will sleep a widow tonight."
Small bands of militiamen, pretending to be loyal Tories, worked their way behind enemy
positions. When firing began, these men turned on the Hessians and Tories around them.
Those not killed fled into the woods, pursued by the militiamen. Other Americans surged
up the hill to the Hessian breastworks, and for two hours the battle raged. Hessian
commander was mortally wounded when, ammunition exhausted, he and his Dragoons attempted
to hack their way off the hill with their swords.
When the battle was at its height reinforcements arrived from Burgoyne. Luckily, the Vermont
militia came up or about the same time to reinforce Stark, and again the fighting raged.
American victory was assured when the militiamen drove off the Hessian reinforcements.
The proud traditions of the militia who fought so well at Bennington are today carried
on by units of New Hampshire and Vermont Army National Guard.
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