Battle of Bennington Summary
The Battle of Bennington was fought between the United States of America and Great Britain on August 16, 1777, during the American Revolutionary War. It was part of the British invasion of New York that was led by General John Burgoyne. Burgoyne laid siege to Fort Ticonderoga and forced the American commander, General Arthur St. Clair to evacuate. St. Clair has his men load supplies and artillery onto boats and sent them in the direction of Skenesborough. Then St. Clair led the rest of the army south toward Hubbardton. Burgoyne divided his forces and chased after the Americans, however, the pursuit and the battles that took place took a toll on the British. They suffered heavy casualties and used up valuable supplies that put the goal of capturing Albany in jeopardy. Burgoyne sent Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum with support from Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich von Breymann toward Bennington, Vermont. Burgoyne instructed them to seek out and capture supplies and warned that Seth Warner and the Green Mountain Boys were in the area. Baum’s army was important to Burgoyne’s operation, so much so that Burgoyne wrote, “your corps is too valuable to let any considerable loss be hazarded on this occasion.” However, Burgoyne did not know General John Stark was also in the area with about 1,500 New Hampshire Militia. Stark attacked Baum’s camp on August 16. The Americans were able to breach the British defenses, despite intense hand-to-hand fighting. The Americans overwhelmed the British and Baum was mortally wounded. Many of Baum’s men — Loyalists and Native American Indian warriors — fled from the field. British reinforcements arrived, led by von Breymann, but they also suffered heavy casualties when Warner and his men entered the battle. Around 100 of the 1,000 British forces escaped. The rest were killed or captured. The Americans also captured cannons and weapons. The loss of so many men and guns weakened Burgoyne’s army and Baum was unable to secure the supplies that were so important to Burgoyne’s plan. Baum said Stark and his men “fought more like hell-hounds than soldiers,” and died from his wounds. General George Washington commented on the victory and called it “the great stroke struck by General Stark near Bennington.”
This illustration depicts General John Stark on horseback, during the Battle of Bennington. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.
Quick Facts About the Battle of Bennington
- Date Started: The Battle of Bennington started on Saturday, August 16, 1777.
- Date Ended: The battle ended on August 16, 1777.
- Location: The Battle of Bennington took place in Walloomsac, New York, about 10 miles northwest of Bennington, Vermont.
- Military Campaign: The Battle of Bennington was part of the Saratoga Campaign, which is also known as Burgoyne’s Campaign.
- Who Won: The United States of America won the Battle of Bennington.
Key Events in the Battle of Bennington
- John Stark raised an army of volunteers from New Hampshire and marched toward Bennington.
- When Stark reached Manchester, he was joined by Seth Warner and the Green Mountain Boys.
- British forces under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum marched to Bennington for the purpose of capturing supplies that were in the town.
- As Baum approached Bennington from the west, he learned that Stark was at Bennington, waiting for him, so he had his men build fortifications outside of Bennington.
- After two days of rain, Stark attacked Baum on August 16th, around 3:00 in the afternoon.
- Intense fighting carried on through the afternoon Although Baum and his men had the high ground, they were overwhelmed, and Baum was mortally wounded.
- Hessian reinforcements arrived to assist Baum, but Warner and his men routed them.
The Battle of Bennington Overview and History
In the fall of 1776, British forces pushed the American Northern Army out of Canada, from Quebec City all the way to Lake Champlain in New York. The British forces, under the command of Guy Carleton, chased after the Americans but were delayed by the Battle of Valcour Island. At that battle, a small American navy, led by Benedict Arnold, gave the army enough time to take refuge at Fort Ticonderoga and other fortifications. By the time the British broke through it was too late in the year to continue the chase. The British withdrew and in November and December 1776 they started to plan their next campaign against the United States.
Planning the Saratoga Campaign
Over the course of the winter of 1776–1777, General John Burgoyne developed the play for the British military campaign, which would be carried out in the spring of 1777. The plan, known as Burgoyne’s Campaign, called for a large force, under his command, to move south out of Canada and into western New York. A second force, led by Barry St. Leger, would move into the Mohawk River Vally. Finally, a third army, under the command of General William Howe, would move north out of New York City. Burgoyne believed if the plan was successful, the British would be able to take control of the Hudson River Valley and then isolate New England from the rest of the colonies, effectively cutting the United States in two. It would allow the British would be able to restore order to New England and the other colonies would fall in line.
This painting by Joshua Reynolds depicts John Burgoyne. Image Source: Wikipedia.
Early Success for the British Slows to a Crawl
The British plan to capture Albany, take control of New York, and isolate New England from the rest of the colonies was progressing, but not as quickly as Burgoyne had hoped. His forces had captured Fort Ticonderoga and won battles at Skenesborough and Fort Anne, but his progress toward Albany had slowed to a crawl by late July, due to his pursuit of the American forces. The Americans had also cut down trees as they moved away, which blocked the roads and forced the British to cut new roads. The delay caused the British to use up more supplies than they had expected.
The British supply lines from Canada were growing longer and less secure, and American resistance was growing, as was shown by the valiant effort of Colonel Seth Warner and the Green Mountain Boys at the Battle of Hubbardton. Burgoyne also lacked enough horses to ride into battle, and the army was short of beef, wagons, and animals to pull wagons and artillery. Meanwhile, he waited for St. Leger to take control of the Mohawk River Valley, but he was engaged in a siege at Fort Stanwix.
New Hampshire Turns to John Stark
Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, the leader of the House of Representatives, John Langdon, offered to pay to raise a brigade. He was certain that John Stark would lead it, and would be victorious over Burgoyne and the British. A messenger was sent to inform Stark he was needed and Stark appeared in front of the New Hampshire Assembly to hear what they had to say. Stark told them he would accept the commission, but only if he had complete authority over his men. He would not take orders from any other officer. The Assembly agreed to his terms.
Warner and the Green Mountain Boys Join Stark — August 9
Stark raised his volunteers and then marched to Bennington for weapons, ammunition, and supplies. Afterward, Stark marched to Manchester where he met with Seth Warner and his men, who were also known as Warner’s Regiment. Warner and many of his men had been Green Mountain Boys and were with Ethan Allen when Fort Ticonderoga was captured in 1775. Warner and his Regiment were added to Stark’s army, which marched to Bennington and arrived there on August 9.
At Bennington, Stark received orders from General Philip Schuyler to march to Stillwater and join the main army. Stark refused and went about the business of setting up defenses around Bennington. Stark sent letters to Schuyler and explained that he intended to cut Burgoyne off from his supplies and attack the British army in the rear and anywhere else he could.
Burgoyne Sends Baum to Bennington
Burgoyne sent a detachment of about 800 troops under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum out from Fort Miller toward Bennington. Baum’s army was made up of German regulars, British infantry, dragoons on foot, Native American Indian warriors, and Loyalists. Baum also had two field pieces with him, and he was accompanied by Colonel Philip Skene who was acting as a scout. On August 12, Baum learned that reinforcements were on their way to him, under the command of Brigadier General Simon Fraser.
Baum Prepares Defenses — August 13
On August 13, 1777, Baum learned Stark had arrived. He ordered his forces to stop at the Walloomsac River, about four miles west of Bennington, and sent a request for reinforcement to Fort Miller. Next, Baum had his men take defensive positions on the high ground and start building fortifications. It started raining, and his men built a small redoubt on the crest of the hill. Meanwhile, Stark decided not to attack while it rained and sent scouts to gather intelligence on the British positions.
Stark Attacks Baum — August 16
The weather finally cleared on the 16th, and Stark prepared to attack. He has men in the woods, who were keeping an eye on Baum’s camp. When Baum saw the men in the woods leave, he thought they were finally falling back, or maybe moving on. However, Stark had seen that Baum’s forces were spread out and so he decided to attack both flanks and charge the redoubt, which was in the center of Baum’s line.
Around 3:00 in the afternoon, Stark launched the attack on the British flanks. Legend has it he shouted, “There they are, boys. We beat them today, or Molly Stark’s a widow!” The attack resulted in many of the Loyalists and Indian warriors running off, which exposed the British center. Baum and his German dragoons were on the high ground in the center, but they had no horses, and could not escape. Intense hand-to-hand fighting took place. When Baum was wounded, the dragoons surrendered. Soon after, von Breymann arrived with reinforcements, but they were met by Seth Warner and the Green Mountain Boys, who engaged and overwhelmed them. The British lost nearly 1,000 men at Bennington, which significantly reduced Burgoyne’s army. Stark and his men also captured four cannons from the British.
This image, which is from an old postcard, shows the “Molly Stark Cannon,” which was captured by Stark and his men at Bennington.
Commanders at the Battle of Bennington
Prominent American Leaders
Prominent British Leaders
- Friedrich Baum
- Heinrich von Breymann
Casualties at the Battle of Bennington
- The total estimated casualties at the Battle of Bennington were around 990 killed, wounded, or missing.
- The Americans suffered around 70 casualties.
- The British suffered somewhere from 920-1,000 casualties, including 700 captured.
Results of the Battle of Bennington
- The outcome of the Battle of Bennington was an American victory.
- It was a precursor to the defeat of the British army roughly two months later at Saratoga, which was a major turning point in the American Revolutionary War.
- On October 4, 1777, Stark was recognized by Congress for his actions at Bennington and was appointed Brigadier General in the Continental Army.
Interesting Facts About the Battle of Bennington
- Although it is named after the town of Bennington, the battle was actually fought in Walloomsac, New York, a few miles west of Bennington.
- Burgoyne wrote a letter to Lord Germaine, and said, “The New Hampshire Grants in particular, a country unpeopled and almost unknown in the last war, now abounds in the most active and most rebellious race on the continent and hangs like a gathering storm on my left.”
- The State of Vermont, originally called New Connecticut, was established on January 15, 1777, when delegates from towns in the New Hampshire Grants declared independence from land claims of New York and other colonies. On June 2, Dr. Thomas Young, Ethan Allen’s mentor, suggested changing the name to Vermont, which was agreed to.
- In 1854, a movement was started to erect a monument on the site where the battle took place. The monument was designed by John Phillipp Rinn, an architect from Boston. The contractor hired to build the monument was William Ward of Lowell, Massachusetts. It was dedicated in 1891.
- August 16 is recognized as “Bennington Battle Day” in Vermont.
Significance of the Battle of Bennington
The Battle of Bennington is important to the history of the United States because the loss of 1,000 troops weakened Burgoyne’s army, which contributed to the British surrender at Saratoga in October. John Stark and Seth Warner are also remembered for their bold leadership of American forces during the battle. On October 4, 1777, Stark was finally recognized by Congress for his bravery and service to the American cause. He was appointed Brigadier General in the Continental Army and thanked for his actions at Bennington.
Timeline of the Battle of Bennington
This timeline shows how the Battle of Bennington fits into the events of the Saratoga Campaign.
- July 2–July 6, 1777 — Siege of Fort Ticonderoga
- July 6, 1777 — Battle of Skeneseborough
- July 7, 1777 — Battle of Hubbardton
- July 8, 1777 — Battle of Fort Anne
- August 2, 1777 — Siege of Fort Stanwix
- August 6, 1777 — Battle of Oriskany
- August 16, 1777 — Battle of Bennington
- September 18, 1777 — First Battle of Saratoga, Freeman’s Farm
- September 19, 1777 — Second Battle of Saratoga, Bemis Heights
- October 17, 1777 — Surrender of Burgoyne’s Army
Battle of Bennington Video
This short documentary from “Across the Fence,” provides an overview of the battle by Vermont historian, Howard Coffin.