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The Storming Of Stony Point
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The General Armstrong Privateer
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The Battle Of Trenton
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The Death Of Stonewall Jackson
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George Rogers Clark And The Conquest Of The Northwest
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Sheridan At Cedar Creek
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King's Mountain
Our fortress is the good greenwood, Our tent the ...

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Hampton Roads
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Remember The Alamo
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The Burning Of The Philadelphia
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General Grant And The Vicksburg Campaign
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Charles Russell Lowell
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Daniel Boone And The Founding Of Kentucky
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Farragut At Mobile Bay
Ha, old ship, do they thrill, The brave two hundre...

The Cruise Of The Wasp
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Lieutenant Cushing And The Ram Albemarle
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John Quincy Adams And The Right Of Petition
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Robert Gould Shaw
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We are but warriors for the working-day;
Our gayness and our guilt are all besmirch'd
With rainy marching in the painful field;
There's not a piece of feather in our host
(Good argument, I hope, we shall not fly),
And time hath worn us into slovenry.
But, by the mass, our hearts are in the trim,
And my poor soldiers tell me, yet ere night
They'll be in fresher robes.
--Henry V.

The battle of Saratoga is included by Sir Edward Creasy among his
fifteen decisive battles which have, by their result, affected the
history of the world. It is true that the American Revolution was saved
by Washington in the remarkable Princeton and Trenton campaign, but
it is equally true that the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, in the
following autumn, turned the scale decisively in favor of the colonists
by the impression which it made in Europe. It was the destruction of
Burgoyne's army which determined France to aid the Americans against
England. Hence came the French alliance, the French troops, and, what
was of far more importance, a French fleet by which Washington was
finally able to get control of the sea, and in this way cut off
Cornwallis at Yorktown and bring the Revolution to a successful close.
That which led, however, more directly than anything else to the final
surrender at Saratoga was the fight at Bennington, by which Burgoyne's
army was severely crippled and weakened, and by which also, the hardy
militia of the North eastern States were led to turn out in large
numbers and join the army of Gates.

The English ministry had built great hopes upon Burgoyne's expedition,
and neither expense nor effort had been spared to make it successful. He
was amply furnished with money and supplies as well as with English and
German troops, the latter of whom were bought from their wretched little
princes by the payment of generous subsidies. With an admirably equipped
army of over seven thousand men, and accompanied by a large force of
Indian allies, Burgoyne had started in May, 1777, from Canada. His plan
was to make his way by the lakes to the head waters of the Hudson, and
thence southward along the river to New York, where he was to unite with
Sir William Howe and the main army; in this way cutting the colonies in
two, and separating New England from the rest of the country.

At first all went well. The Americans were pushed back from their posts
on the lakes, and by the end of July Burgoyne was at the head waters of
the Hudson. He had already sent out a force, under St. Leger, to take
possession of the valley of the Mohawk--an expedition which finally
resulted in the defeat of the British by Herkimer, and the capture
of Fort Stanwix. To aid St. Leger by a diversion, and also to capture
certain magazines which were reported to be at Bennington, Burgoyne sent
another expedition to the eastward. This force consisted of about five
hundred and fifty white troops, chiefly Hessians, and one hundred and
fifty Indians, all under the command of Colonel Baum. They were within
four miles of Bennington on August 13, 1777, and encamped on a hill just
within the boundaries of the State of New York. The news of the advance
of Burgoyne had already roused the people of New York and New Hampshire,
and the legislature of the latter State had ordered General Stark with
a brigade of militia to stop the progress of the enemy on the western
frontier. Stark raised his standard at Charlestown on the Connecticut
River, and the militia poured into his camp. Disregarding Schuyler's
orders to join the main American army, which was falling back before
Burgoyne, Stark, as soon as he heard of the expedition against
Bennington, marched at once to meet Baum. He was within a mile of the
British camp on August 14, and vainly endeavored to draw Baum into
action. On the 15th it rained heavily, and the British forces occupied
the time in intrenching themselves strongly upon the hill which they
held. Baum meantime had already sent to Burgoyne for reinforcements,
and Burgoyne had detached Colonel Breymann with over six hundred regular
troops to go to Baum's assistance. On the 16th the weather cleared, and
Stark, who had been reinforced by militia from western Massachusetts,
determined to attack.

Early in the day he sent men, under Nichols and Herrick, to get into the
rear of Baum's position. The German officer, ignorant of the country
and of the nature of the warfare in which he was engaged, noticed small
bodies of men in their shirtsleeves, and carrying guns without bayonets,
making their way to the rear of his intrenchments. With singular
stupidity he concluded that they were Tory inhabitants of the country
who were coming to his assistance, and made no attempt to stop them. In
this way Stark was enabled to mass about five hundred men in the rear
of the enemy's position. Distracting the attention of the British by a
feint, Stark also moved about two hundred men to the right, and having
thus brought his forces into position he ordered a general assault,
and the Americans proceeded to storm the British intrenchments on every
side. The fight was a very hot one, and lasted some two hours. The
Indians, at the beginning of the action, slipped away between the
American detachments, but the British and German regulars stubbornly
stood their ground. It is difficult to get at the exact numbers of the
American troops, but Stark seems to have had between fifteen hundred and
two thousand militia. He thus outnumbered his enemy nearly three to
one, but his men were merely country militia, farmers of the New England
States, very imperfectly disciplined, and armed only with muskets and
fowling-pieces, without bayonets or side-arms. On the other side Baum
had the most highly disciplined troops of England and Germany under
his command, well armed and equipped, and he was moreover strongly
intrenched with artillery well placed behind the breastworks. The
advantage in the fight should have been clearly with Baum and his
regulars, who merely had to hold an intrenched hill.

It was not a battle in which either military strategy or a scientific
management of troops was displayed. All that Stark did was to place his
men so that they could attack the enemy's position on every side, and
then the Americans went at it, firing as they pressed on. The British
and Germans stood their ground stubbornly, while the New England farmers
rushed up to within eight yards of the cannon, and picked off the
men who manned the guns. Stark himself was in the midst of the fray,
fighting with his soldiers, and came out of the conflict so blackened
with powder and smoke that he could hardly be recognized. One desperate
assault succeeded another, while the firing on both sides was so
incessant as to make, in Stark's own words, a "continuous roar." At the
end of two hours the Americans finally swarmed over the intrenchments,
beating down the soldiers with their clubbed muskets. Baum ordered his
infantry with the bayonet and the dragoons with their sabers to force
their way through, but the Americans repulsed this final charge, and
Baum himself fell mortally wounded. All was then over, and the British
forces surrendered.

It was only just in time, for Breymann, who had taken thirty hours to
march some twenty-four miles, came up just after Baum's men had laid
down their arms. It seemed for a moment as if all that had been gained
might be lost. The Americans, attacked by this fresh foe, wavered; but
Stark rallied his line, and putting in Warner, with one hundred and
fifty Vermont men who had just come on the field, stopped Breymann's
advance, and finally forced him to retreat with a loss of nearly one
half his men. The Americans lost in killed and wounded some seventy men,
and the Germans and British about twice as many, but the Americans took
about seven hundred prisoners, and completely wrecked the forces of Baum
and Breymann.

The blow was a severe one, and Burgoyne's army never recovered from
it. Not only had he lost nearly a thousand of his best troops, besides
cannon, arms, and munitions of war, but the defeat affected the spirits
of his army and destroyed his hold over his Indian allies, who began
to desert in large numbers. Bennington, in fact, was one of the most
important fights of the Revolution, contributing as it did so largely to
the final surrender of Burgoyne's whole army at Saratoga, and the utter
ruin of the British invasion from the North. It is also interesting as
an extremely gallant bit of fighting. As has been said, there was no
strategy displayed, and there were no military operations of the higher
kind. There stood the enemy strongly intrenched on a hill, and Stark,
calling his undisciplined levies about him, went at them. He himself was
a man of the highest courage and a reckless fighter. It was Stark who
held the railfence at Bunker Hill, and who led the van when Sullivan's
division poured into Trenton from the river road. He was admirably
adapted for the precise work which was necessary at Bennington, and he
and his men fought well their hand-to-hand fight on that hot August day,
and carried the intrenchments filled with regular troops and defended by
artillery. It was a daring feat of arms, as well as a battle which had
an important effect upon the course of history and upon the fate of the
British empire in America.

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