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Battle of Bennington

Fought on August 16, 1777, this battle allowed Vermont to declare its independence.

By early August 1777, British General John Burgoyne was in need of horses and food for his troops, who had been traversing the forests of western New York during the Saratoga Campaign. On August 11, Burgoyne sent a mostly German force (along with Canadians, British sharpshooters, Tories and Indians) under Colonel Friedrich Baum into the Connecticut River Valley to gather horses, saddles, cattle, etc. The original orders did not specify where Baum was supposed to go, but they were amended at the last minute to send Baum to Bennington, Vermont, where a significant supply of horses and cattle was said to be only lightly defended.

Baum's forces met resistance from the beginning of their march, but it wasn't until they met and routed a small scouting party that they learned Bennington was better defended then had been believed. On August 14, Baum sent a message to Burgoyne saying that he would need reinforcements in order to take the needed supplies.

map of the Battle of Bennington
map of the Battle of Bennington

When Baum arrived at Walloomsac, New York, about 10 miles outside Bennington, Vermont, on August 16 he saw a much larger American force, led by Brigadier General John Stark, waiting for him. The outnumbered Germans took up fortified positions on a hill overloking the Walloomsac River and hoped that the heavy rain then falling would delay the Americans long enough for reinforcements to arrive. The rain subsided by mid-afternoon, and Stark began his assault on the hill at about 3 pm. The Germans fought valiantly for about two hours, but Stark's men succeeded in taking the hill. Baum was among the Germans killed during the assault.

General Stark leads the charge at Bennington
General Stark leads the charge at Bennington

The Americans were on the verge of a complete victory when a German relief column under Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich von Breymann arrived on the battlefield. Unfortunately for the Germans, however, Seth Warner also arrived with a combined force of regular army and Green Mountain Boys, and by nightfall the Americans had prevailed. By the end of the battle 207 British and German troops had been killed and another 700 captured; by contrast, the Americans suffered 30 killed, 40 wounded, and none captured.

The Battle of Bennington cost Burgoyne almost a third of his army and left him seriously short on supplies, and that loss ultimately led to his surrender at Saratoga later that year. The role of the Green Mountain Boys in the American victory gave Vermont the confidence to declare its independence from both British and Continental Congress control, and August 16, 1777, is still celebrated as Vermont Independence Day.


British Battles
Virtual Vermont

See Also

John Burgoyne
John Stark
Seth Warner

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The Robinson Library >> The Revolution, 1775-1783 >> Campaigns and Battles

This page was last updated on August 16, 2018.