The historical structures in Bennington, Vermont go far beyond covered bridges, and lead back to the very founding of our nation.
On August 17, 1777, Brigadier General John Stark and his men defeated General Burgoyne‘s British Army in what became known as the Battle of Bennington, a key turning point in the American Revolutionary War.
A monument was erected in 1889 to commemorate this battle, and Executive Producer Tony Dunne takes us there in this digital exclusive.
This story originally aired on November 11, 2015.
Read the full transcript:
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: The historical structures in Bennington, Vermont go far beyond just covered bridges and lead back to the very foundation of our nation.
On August 17, 1777, Brigadier General John Stark and his men defeated the British Army in what became known as the Battle of Bennington, a key turning point in the American Revolution.
A monument was erected in 1889 to commemorate this battle, and executive producer Tony Dunne takes us there.
Mike Chapman, Bennington Battle Monument: It’s the Bennington Monument, it’s place right in center Bennington, right on basically the main street of what was Bennington in 1777.
John Stark wanted to protect this village. And you don’t begin the fight of protecting your village, right in the village. So, he met them out on the Wallomsack River in North Hoosick, New York, and that’s where the actual battle took place. They all called it the Battle of Bennington because this is what was being protected.
Burgoyne was coming down from Montreal. He would propose the Three Point Plan of Attack. General Howe was to come up from New York and Barry St. Leger was to come over the Mohawk River and meet him in Albany. It was a good idea on paper, if it all worked out according to Hoyle. But in so many things in real life, don’t.
This one didn’t. Howe did not come up to Albany, he went after George Washington. Barry St. Leger fell kind of victim to a ruse by Benedict Arnold, who let out the rumor that he had 5,000 men coming after him and he only had about 500 himself, so he turned around, went back to Canada. So, Burgoyne was left on his own.
It got started around three in the afternoon, August 16. John Stark talks about it being just one cacophonous sound for the whole day, practically.
Mike Chapman: And they lost about 200 men; we lost about 25, but we captured about 700.
I think it was Jefferson who said the battle that was fought at Bennington was the first link in the long chain of events that would bring about the freedom of America, what we had today.
Welcome to the Bennington Battle Monument and let me show you inside.
The Bennington Battle Monument is an obelisk, and an obelisk has a long, narrow pyramid shape. This one is semi-conical in shape. It’s not flat like the Washington Monument. Dates back to the Egyptian times. They lifted the stones using steam powered hoists and derricks and Lewis holds.
The construction technique of this obelisk is a header and stretcher. And that means that it’s a little bit like the old Tetris game, where you stack one stone in headways, one crosses like a T, and it goes up. And there’s no iron in this. So, when you get to the top of this monument, you don’t get any sway like you do in a modern building.
The monument was built in 1887. It was completed in 1891, and it was dedicated on the 100th anniversary of Vermont becoming America’s 14th state.
One of the primary movers and shakers for this and was a fellow named Hyland Hall, became our governor. He was our first historian. The fellow who was our architect was J. Phillip Rinn out of Boston. He had a way of telling kind of a story using architecture.
306 feet, four- and one-half inches to the top of the star. The two bands you see up there, the lower one, the narrow one, is eight feet tall. It just happens to be the total number of years of the Revolution. The wider band that you see up there is 13 feet tall. We got 13 colonies. The observation level is at the 177.7 feet, those are the digits that are in the year of the actual battle.
Is this an important symbol? Yes.
Is it a great place to visit? Yes.
Is there something more? Most definitely.
Of those 700 soldiers who were made POWs — who were captured here — many of them said, “Look, we’ve got nothing for us back home. You’ve got all of this. If we lay down our arms, can we stay?” Essentially, we said, “Yeah.”
And you can follow the corridor to New York and you can follow the corridor to Boston, and you will find villages and cities and towns that have families that can trace their roots back to this afternoon, this August 16, 1777. That’s what makes this important to understand. They became citizens, you know? They are part of what America is. This is why we’re here.