August 16 – Bennington Battle Day in Vermont

Posted on August 16, 2016

Many states in the U.S. have “state holidays” that are celebrated only in that state. This is one such – today Vermonters commemorate an American victory over the British, on this date in 1777, during the Revolutionary War. The battle is called the Battle of Bennington (Bennington being a town in Vermont).

Strangely enough, the actual battle took place in New York, not Vermont! 

You see, the British forces involved were on their way to raid Bennington, where the Revolutionary forces had horses, oxen, and supplies. Bennington is very close to the New York border - and when Revolutionary troops met the British troops in battle, they happened to be in New York.

The British general needed supplies, and he needed horses, especially pack horses. He thought that Bennington, Vermont, had little in the way of defense, so he sent 700 of his soldiers to raid the town and steal the supplies and animals the British army needed.

Like I said, he thought that Bennington had little in the way of defense...But he was wrong.

Bennington was guarded by General John Stark and about 1,500 Vermont militiamen, including Colonel Seth Warner and some of the Green Mountain Boys. Stark's army surrounded the British soldiers, took a lot of prisoners, killed the leader, and were ready to call the battle over – when reinforcements for both sides arrived, so the battle got started again.

Still, Stark and Warner and the Vermonters were able to inflict heavy casualties and drive away the rest of the reinforcements, reducing the British troops by about 1,000 soldiers (about 200 died and about 700 were captured)! This victory also caused some of the Indian groups who were willing to soldier for the British to abandon them. Last but not least, the American victory deprived the British forces still in the region of much-needed supplies – which is why that portion of the British army surrendered later that year.

Because of the victory, colonists were inspired to support the Revolutionary forces even more strongly, and this victory was also an important factor in France deciding to enter the war on the rebel side.

By the way...

When I read things like “The British general sent 700 of his soldiers,” I picture soldiers who came over from Great Britain – you know, England, Scotland, Wales – to fight against the rebelling American colonists. But this particular group of 700 was apparently mostly German-soldiers-for-hire (most of them called Hessians), plus some Canadians, some colonists who were loyal to Britain (called Loyalists), and some Indians!

How is Bennington Battle Day celebrated?

There is a battle re-enactment, of course. There is also a parade and other “festivities.” I am not sure what the festivities consist of, but I hope there is a healthy dose of wild rumpus-ing. (I'm a huge fan of Where the Wild Things Are.)

Also on this date:

Independence Day in Gabon

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