Grace Greylock Niles.

The Hoosac Valley, its legends and its history online

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! forty-five men, who were borne to their homes on feather

I beds, and the famous surgeon, Dr. William Porter of Wil-

liamstown, Mass., attended them the following morning.

Twenty-four hours after Colonels Baum and Van Pfister were

wounded, they expired at the Duer House. Capt. Samuel i^J-'-'

Robinson, left in charge of the dying officers, later related

k| that "a more intelligent and brave officer he had never seen,

than the unfortunate Lieut, -Colonel Baum." The German

34^ The Hoosac Valley

and the Tory commanders were buried side by side on the
north bank of the Walloomsac, in Shaftsbury, Vt., beneath
an elm tree in Charles B. Allen's meadow, a few rods west
of the Stark paper-mill. Their graves have never been
located nor marked.

After the victory of Bennington, the Council of Safety sent
a hogshead of rum to Stark's weary troopers encamped on the
gruesome Walloomsac battle-field. Many drank more than
they needed and overcome with heat, slept in a near-by corn-
field, where each soldier shared a corn-hill for a pillow. Gen-
eral Stark himself was ill two or three days after the battle.

The heroic Hessians slain during Baum's battle were
buried on William Mellen's farm, and during 1838 many of
their mouldering bones were unearthed in a potato field
near the present Bamet house.

After Breyman's battle, the dead scattered between
Mellen's Bridge and St. Croix, were gathered and buried in
two great hollows east of the brick schoolhouse at Sickles's
Mills, now Walloomsac hamlet. The Hessian prisoners who
died from their wounds were buried later in the centre of
the Old First Church burial-field at Bennington Centre.
Their graves are now marked by a monument.

The American trophies of war consisted of seven hundred
stand of arms, four brass cannon, brass barrelled drums,
several Hessian swords, about seven hundred prisoners.
The number of the enemy's wounded is unknown. Two
hundred and seven of the enemy were slain on the field.
Burgoyne's Orderly Book recorded Baum's and Breyman's!
loss, including killed, wounded, and prisoners, twelve hun-
dred and twenty men, Lieut. Joseph Rudd' of Bennington, j
in a letter dated August 26th, after the battles, states that,
"one thousand of the enemy were slain and captured."

General Washington considered the Victory of Benning-|

' See Note 22, at end of volume.

The Victory of Bennington 347

ton "a great stroke." General Lincoln declared it to be
" the capital blow of the Revolution," and historian Bancroft
records it as "one of the most brilliant and eventful strokes
of the Revolutionary War." The Rev. Wheeler Case, a
contemporary poet, has expressed it thus:

At Bennington, Stark gave the wound
Which, like a gangrene, spread around.

The Indians now ceased their scalping forays and two
hundred and fifty savages joined the American army at Old
Saratoga against the British.

The Tory prisoners were guarded in Capt. Elijah Dewey's
bam until September 4, 1777, and later removed to the log
schoolhouse and Old First Church. During January, 1778^
Capt. Samuel Robinson detached a party of prisoners under
guard to tread down the drifted roads over the Green Moun-
tains to Col. William Williams's home in Wilmington, Vt.
Others were banished from the Green Mountains, under
penalty of death should they return ; and a few were sent to
Simsbury Mines, the Revolutionary Newgate ' prison, located
in the abandoned copper mines of East Granby, Conn.,
where they died.

The two, small, three-pounder cannon, taken from Baum's
redoubt on Baum's Height, are now in the State House at
Montpelier, Vt. General Stark presented Massachusetts,
New Hampshire, and Vermont one Hessian gun and bayonet,
one broadsword, one brass-barrelled drum, and one Grena-
dier's cap. The trophies presented to Massachusetts were
suspended in the Senate Chamber at Boston, opposite the
Speaker's chair. The copy of the letter of thanks from the
President of the Committee of Safety to General Stark,
dated after the surrender of the British at Old Saratoga, is
of local interest to Hoosactonians :

' Lippincotf s Magazine, March, 1881.

348 The Hoosac Valley

Commonwealth of Massachusetts,

Boston, Dec. 5, i777-

The General Assembly of this State take the earliest

opportunity to acknowledge the receipt of your acceptable
present, the token of victory gained at the memorable
battle of Bennington.' The events of that day strongly
marked the bravery of the men, who, unskilled m war,
forced from their entrenchments a chosen number of veteran
troops of boasted Britons, as well as the address and valor of
the general who directed their movements, and led them on
to conquest. This signal exploit opened the way to a rapid
succession of advantages, most important to America.

These trophies shall be safely deposited in the Archives
of the State, and there remind posterity of the irresistible
power of the God of armies in the honors due to the memory

of the brave.

Still attended with like successes, may you long enpy the
reward of your grateful country. Jeremiah Powell,

President of the Council
To Brigadier-General John Stark.
The centennial celebration of Stark's Victory of Benning-
ton on August 16, 1877 was attended by thousands of de-
scendants of the Revolutionary heroes, on the Old Military
Parade grounds, southeast of Bennington Centre. Ruther-
ford B. Hayes, President of the United States, and Mrs,
Hayes were present, and the poet, Wallace Bruce of New
England, read a poem descriptive of "Fighting Parson"
Allen and the Berkshire Boys:

The Catamount Tavern is lonely to-night;

The Boys of Vermont and New Hampshire are here,
Drawn up in line in the gloaming hght

To greet Parson Allen with shout and with cheer.
» The Americans' victory was reported by contemporaries as the "Battle
Bennington," although won on banks of Walloomsac in Hoosac and \A,hit
Creek, N. Y. Both Baum and Van Pfister died and were buried m Shaftsbur)

Bennington Battle Monument marking site of the Americans' Continental store-
house of State Arms and Provision at the head of the Parade, Bennington Centre,
Vermont, August i6, 1777. It is the highest Battle Monument in the -world and
towers over 302 feet in height on the summit of Bennington Hill, overlooking
the entire Hoosac and Walloomsac Valleys. The corner-stone was laid at the
Centennial, August 16, 1877, ^^^d the monument dedicated August 16, i8qi,
a century after Vermont's admittance to the Union.

It needs no monumental pile The fair Green Hills rise proudly up

To tell each storied name. To consecrate their fame.

Rev. E. H. Chapin, Bennington Battle, 1837.



The Hoosac Valley

"To-morrow," said Stark, "there'll be fighting to do,
If you think you can wait till the morning's light,

And, Parson, I '11 conquer the British with you.
Or my Molly will be a widow to-night!"

One of the
mottoes ob-
served on the
banners float-
ing above the
streets of his-
toric Benning-
ton declared
that: "Molly
Stark did not
sleep a widow,
August I 6,


The B e n -
nington Battle
towering over
302 feet on the
site of the Pro-
vincial store-
house, is a c -
knowledged to be the highest battle monument in the world.
It was dedicated, August 16, 1891, by a salute from Baum's
cannon, captured August 16, 1777. General Burgoyne's
camp-kettle, recovered after the surrender of the British at
Old Saratoga, is now suspended in the main hall of the en-
trance to the Bennington Monument. Here, too, should hang
the portrait of General Stark, the " Hero of Bennington." He

Camp-Kettle of General Burgoyne captured after the
Surrender of the British at Old Saratoga, October 77, 1777.
The historic Kettle now hangs in the Hall of Entrance
to Betiningtoti Battle Monument.


The Victory of Bennington 351

was bom in Nutfield, now Londonderry, N. H., in 1728, and
made his residence later in Manchester, N. H. He was the
hero of two wars and the survivor of a third. At his death
in 1822 he was ninety-four years old, and the last but one
of the American generals of the Revolution. His monument
to-day commands a prospect several miles up and down the
Merrimac Valley, near his native town.

General Stark's Victory of Bennington proved to be the
opening skirmish which led to the surrender of Burgoyne
at Old Saratoga, two months later, on October 17, 1777.

True to its trust, Walloomsac long

The record bright shall bear;
Who came up at the battle sound.

And fought for freedom there.*

'Rev. E. H. Chapin, Bennington Batik, 1837.


surrender of the british at old saratoga
October 17, 1777

From Saratoga's hills we date the birth, —
Our Nation's birth among the powers of earth.

There to our flag bowed England's battle torn;
Where now we stand th' United States was born.

J. Watts De Peyster, The Surrender.

Old Saratoga — American and British Encampments — Battles of September
19th and October 7th — Burgoyne's Surrender — Evacuation of British —
Centennial — Battle Monument, 1877.

THE campaign ground of Old Saratoga, six miles in width
on both banks of the Hudson between the Mohawk,
Hoosac, Fish Creek, and Batten Kill, has witnessed many
conflicts. It is principally interesting to the historian by
having been the scene of the most decisive victory won by
the Americans during the Revolution.

Gen. Winfield Scott in 1857 visited the site of General
Schuyler's American fortifications, built by the Polish
engineer, Thaddeus Kosciusko, on Haver Island, below
Cohoes Falls, and on Bemis Heights in Stillwater. He
considered that those redoubts occupied the most formidable
position on the banks of the upper Hudson for the defence
of Albany. The Hudson Pass east of Bemis Heights, Bur-
goyne acknowledged later, he dared not attempt to force.
The slopes were crowned with battsries extending to the
river's edge, and the constant fire of those guns prevented


Surrender of British at Old Saratoga 353

the British from marching down the narrow Hudson Pass
to Albany.

The Old Saratoga intervale, located on both banks of the
Hudson, between the junction of the Hoosac and Batten
Kill, during Burgoyne's invasion consisted of a dense marsh-
land clothed with pine, oak, and mixed wood. Scarcely a
dwelling was to be found to a square mile between Fort
Half -Moon and Fort Saratoga. The hamlet of Schuyler's
Mills lay in the southwest angle of Fish Creek and Hudson
River. It contained the Provincial storehouse. Gen. Philip
Schuyler's mansion, mills, barns, and slaves' cottages.
Dominie Drummond's Dutch Church was located at the
junction of the road to Victory Village ; and the dwellings of
Abram Marshall, Thomas Jordan, and John McCarty stood
in the neighborhood. North of Fish Creek, lay the ruins
of Fort Hardy, known as " Montressor's Folly," begun
by Col. James Montressor in 1757, and Peter Lansing's
dwelling, built in 1773, known to-day as the Marshall House.
On the east bank of the Hudson, below the junction of the
Batten Kill, stood the farmhouses of Thomas Rogers and
Garret De Ridder.

At Coveville, two miles south of Schuyler's Mills, Jacobus
Swart built the Dovegat house about 1765 and was followed
by Col. Cornelius Van Vechten and his three sons. General
Burgoyne in 1777 made his headquarters at Dovegat House
— the haunt of the wild pigeons. The name has its origin
in the Dutch diiivenkot (dove-cote), according to Arnold
J. F. Van Laer, the Albany Archivist. A mile below Dovegat
stood the Sword House, and still farther south resided
Ezekiel Ensign, John Taylor, David Shepherd, the Vernon
and Van Denburgh families, and Fothem Bemis, at the base
of Bemis Heights. The slopes west of John Taylor's house
and Bemis' s Tavern were settled by Isaac Freeman, Fones
Wilbur, John Neilson, Asa Chatfield, Simeon Barbour,

354 The Hoosac Valley

George Coulter, Ephraim Woodworth, and the McBrides.

At Stillwater, three miles south of Bemis Heights, resided
several Dutch and English families, including Dirck Swart
and the Quakers, Gabriel and Isaac Leggett. Among other
Old Saratoga patriots may be mentioned Capt, Hezekiah
Dunham, Conrad Kremer, James Brisbin, John Walker,
John Woeman, William Green, Thomas Smith , John Strover
George Davis, Sherman Patterson, Daniel Guile, the Web-
ster, Cross, and Denny families.

General Schuyler on July 31, 1777, ordered General St.
Clair and General Arnold to march their regiments to
Schuyler's Mills. The Provincial stores were moved to
Albany, while General Schuyler and his officers explored the
Heights of Saratoga on horseback, hoping to locate a for-
midable position to repulse the British. He was unsuccess-
ful and on August 3d ordered his troops to Stillwater.
General Schuyler made his headquarters in the Dirck Swart
House, and on Wednesday, August 13th, while his men were
building redoubts, news of Gen. Nicholas Herkimer's Victory
of Oriskany on August 6th over Col. Barry St. Leger's
Britishers reached Schuyler's Stillwater camp.

A council of war was called at the Swart House about the
same time that General Stark and his officers were holding
a similar council at the Catamount Tavern at Bennington
Centre to repulse Col. Frederick Baum's Hessians on August
16, 1777. Notwithstanding the fact that General Schuyler
expected Burgoyne to break up his Batten Kill encampment,
he sent General Arnold with a detachment up the Mohawk
to defend Fort Schuyler against St. Leger's troops. St
Leger, however, informed Burgoyne that the Mohawk
Valley forts required a train of artillery of which he was not
master. General Washington's main army at that time
was watching the movements of the British under Generals
Howe and Clinton, located in the Delaware Basin and in

Surrender of British at Old Saratoga 355

New York Bay. He was unable to send reinforcements to
General Schuyler to hold back Burgoyne's ten thousand
troops from Canada.

After General Arnold's regiment marched up the Mohawk,
General Schuyler broke up his Stillwater encampment,
August 15th, and encamped at the "Sprouts of the
Mohawk," near Waterford. The same day the Berkshire
and Bennington volunteers rallied at General Stark's Wal-
loomsac encampment in Bennington, where they were des-
tined to win the Victory of Bennington, the following day.
General Schuyler made his headquarters at Van Schaick's
Mansion on Van Schaick's Island. His engineer, Kosciusko,
built earthworks on the crescent points of Haver Island,
south of the Fourth Sprout of the Mohawk, which are
reached to-day by the bridge at the foot of Second Street,
south of the Union Toll Bridge in Waterford.

General Schuyler's movements led the New Englanders
to brand him, however, as a coward and to suspect him as
disloyal to the Americans' Cause. Later, Congress retired
him, without the sanction of Gen. George Washington, and
appointed Gen. Horatio Gates in his place. Yet Gen. Philip
Schuyler's knowledge of Half-Moon and Saratoga manors,
his superior generalship, patriotism, and generous purse
proved his loyalty to and bravery in behalf of the Americans'
cause. Next to Robert Morris, the financier of the Revo-
lution, General Schuyler advanced a larger sum than any one
else, amounting to £20,000, much of which was neverreturned
to him by the United States.

General Gates arrived at Van Schaick's Mansion with his
commission as Commander of the Northern Department of
the American Army on August 19th, and General Schuyler
retired. A council of war was called to which Gates did not
invite Schuyler. Gouverneur Morris at the time said that :
"The new Commander-in-Chief . . . may, if he please,

356 The Hoosac Valley

neglect to ask or disdain to receive advice; but those whr
know him well, I am sure, are convinced that he needs it."

After the simultaneous clipping of both Burgoyne's right
and left wings at Oriskany on August 6th, and at Bennington
ten days later, six thousand American troops were set at
liberty and rallied at Schuyler's Hudson Valley encamp-
ments. Generals Lincoln and Stark marched their troojis
from Manchester and Bennington, Vt., to guard Loudon's
ferry on the east bank of the Hudson. General Arnold's
troops, after their return from Fort Schuyler, were postc^d
at the Mohawk ford on the west bank of the Hudson. Gen-
eral Gates, however, attributed this grand rally of New Eng-
land troops to his having been appointed, although most of
the volunteers were on the march at the time General
Schuyler retired.

Gates soon considered that his army was large enough
to repulse Burgoyne's army, and presently marched up the

The American army encamped at Stillwater, September
8th, and General Gates ordered his men to throw up en-
trenchments. Engineer Kosciusko considered Bemis Heights,
three miles north of Stillwater Village, a more formidable
position, and on September 13th, Gates moved his army
to that place. He made his headquarters at Fothem Bemis' s
Tavern and ordered a floating bridge built over the Hudson.
Batteries were mounted from the river edge westward to the
summit of Bemis Heights; and John Neilson's farmhouse'
was converted into Fort Neilson, where General Gates and
his officers made their headquarters. Willard, the famous
scout, posted himself with his field-glass on his own Mount
Willard, six miles east of Fort Neilson, and signalled Bur-
goyne's movements to the Americans on Bemis Heights.
Burgoyne, although unfamiliar with the swampy intervali^
of the Hudson, failed to send out scouts to locate Gates's

Surrender of British at Old Saratoga 357

army, yet he could hear the bugle-call and drum-beat of
the Americans each morning,

Burgoyne broke up his Batten Kill Camp and built a
pontoon bridge of scows 425 feet in length, over the Hud-
son September 13th. After General Riedesel's right wing
crossed over the bridge on the 15th, Burgoyne ordered the
bridge broken up and marched his army south, two miles
to Coveville. His headquarters were at Swart 's Dovegat
House and the next morning on horseback he explored the
slopes about Wilbur Basin, hoping to locate the American

On September 17th, Burgoyne moved his army one mile
south of Dovegat and encamped on the Sword farm. A
party of his men and women, while digging potatoes in a
field, were surprised by an ambuscade of Americans and
twenty were captured with their baskets of potatoes. Col-
onel Colburn with a party of New Hampshire scouts early
on September 19th climbed trees on the east bank of the
Hudson, opposite the Sword cottage, and gained a view of the
British encampment. They counted eight hundred tents
and observed movements indicating Burgoyne's advance,
after which the Americans made ready for battle.

About eleven o'clock Burgoyne's army began to advance
in battle order of three columns against the central line of
the Americans at Fort Neilson. General Arnold urged
Gates to advance his army and meet the British in the Mid-
dle Ravine, north of Freeman's clearing. But Gates did not
think well of this advice. However, at half-past twelve
Gates sent General Morgan and his Virginian Sharpshooters,
together with General Dearborn's New Hampshire troops,
forth to meet Major Forbes' s scouting brigade of Indians
near Freeman's cottage. Half an hour later, Burgoyne's
main army lined up on the north side of the clearing. Fra-
ser's brigade marched up on the western flanks and Riedesel's

358 The lloosac Valley

regiment was stationed on the eastern flanks along the
Hudson River Road.

At four o'cloek the battle ragetl furiously between Fraser
and Arnold. Each was dcterminetl on victory or ileal h.
The two armies met at the point of the bayonet, only to
break, retreat, and return again and again with renewed
fury. As twilight deepened Rietlesel's (lennaii (Irenatliers
and Breyman's Hessians rushed up the eastern slope of
Bemis Heights, mounted Captain Pausch's battery, vsouth of
Freeman's cottage, and forced Arnold's antl Morgan's sharp-
shooters to retreat. Darkness soon fell over the Saratoga
Hills atid Burgoyne ordered his men lo cease firing. The
Americans claimed the victory of the day, since they lost
only 319 men, ten per cent, of their forces, while the British
lost 600 men, twenty per cent. o( their troops engageti.

It was Burgoyne's intention to open a second battle the
next morning, but owing to a heavy fog hovering over the
hills and ravines of Old Saratoga initil late in the day, he
gave the afternoon to his men to rest, and for the care of the
wounded and burial of the dead. At that period jxacks of
wolves roamed throughout the Taconac and Catskill Moun-
tains, and their imcanny bowlings about the mounds of the
dead disturbed the wounded troopers' sleep in both the
British and American camps.

It was fortunate for the cause of the Americans that fog
lowered over the Hudson on the morning of September 20th,
as Gates was short of lead. Burgoyne could have easily
driven Gates's whole army ahead of him like unresisting
sheep down the Hudson to the sea. Kingsley wrote later
that "the Americans' victory in 1777 was due more to the
'strategy of Providence' than to superior generalship."

A message from General Clinton reached Burgoyne,
September 21st. He reported that he had cleared the log
boom and mammoth iron chain across the Hudson and had

Surrender of British at Old Saratoga 359

entered Newburgh Bay, September 19th. Burgoyne be-
lieved, therefore, that Gates would withdraw a part of his
troops to repulse Clinton's advance. He delayed his second
battle and built the Great Redoubt southwest of Freeman's
well on September 22d. He then awaited Clinton's reinforce-
ments. This delay gave General Schuyler time to send out
orders for the lead weights from all the Albany mansion win-
dows. These were converted into bullets, which were shipped
to Fort Neilson on Bemis Heights as soon as moulded.

Time passed, and on October 5th Burgoyne held a council
of war and reported that there were on hand, only sixteen
days' rations for his army. General Riedesel advised a
retreat to Canada ; General Philip remained neutral ; General
Fraser agreed with Burgoyne that retreat was impossible
to a Briton.

The deep blue heavens arched serenely above the autum-
nal woodlands, brilliant in their gold and crimson robes,
when on October 7th the British began active preparations
to invite a second battle with the Americans. At ten o'clock
Burgoyne, accompanied by Fraser, Riedesel, and Philip and
their brigades and artillery began their advance. A scouting
party of Indians and Canadians were followed by three
columns, consisting of 1500 of England's skilled marksmen.
When they arrived at a position overlooking the encampment
of the Americans, several officers climbed to the roof of Asa
Chatfield's log dwelling and with their field-glasses gained
a full view of Gates's Camp.

The attack that the Americans planned against Burgoyne's
army on October /th, proved to be similar to the plan
of attack of General vStark in surrounding Baum's troops
on the Walloomsac battle-field. General Morgan and his
Virginian sharpshooters were ordered to make a wide cir-
cuit to Burgoyne's rear right; General Poor and his New
York and New Hampshire troops were directed to make a

360 The Hoosac Valley

circuit through the forests to Burgoyne's rear left; and Gen-
erals Dearborn and Learned with their brigades of riflemen
were ordered to march against Burgoyne's centre column.
Upon the arrival of each regiment at its appointed post, at
a prearranged signal from Morgan's sharpshooters, a simul-
taneous volley of bullets broke upon the British rear, right,
and left flanks. The centre troops charged Burgoyne's front
ranks and broke through his column. This resulted in a
hand to hand struggle, which consumed half of the first
hour of fighting.

The deadly aim of Morgan's sharpshooters caused the
Earl of Balcarres's regiment on Burgoyne's western flank to
retreat. Major Williams was captured and the Americans
seized his 12-pounder gun. Major Ackland was seriously
wounded in both legs, and the fact that he was incapacitated
precipitated a panic among his Grenadiers. At that moment
Colonel Cilly leaped upon the British cannon and fired it
against the fleeing Britons and Germans. General Morgan
soon observed General Fraser advancing, and like a tornado
he forced the western ridge with his Virginians and displaced
Fraser's brigade of marksmen.

Meanwhile Gates had humbled Arnold by relieving him
of his command. Arnold begged permission to serve as a
volunteer soldier but was refused. At last he dared Gates

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