The newborn nation was to have a baptism of fire. The invasion of General Burgoyne from Canada was a serious threat to Vermont, although its aim was to crush the general rebellion in America. Fort Ticonderoga had fallen on the 7th of July 1777, leaving the frontier vulnerable. Receiving reinforcements from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the Vermonters prepared to defend against the invaders, who came down to Bennington in force to capture the important supply depot there. The force consisted mainly of 500 Hessian mercenaries, with a few hundred Canadian and loyalist militia and Indians as well . The defense of Bennington was undertaken by the continental militia as well as basically every able bodied male resident of the town. The Vermonters and Americans won a stunning victory, killing or capturing 900 men and taking only 70 casualties, weakening Burgoyne’s army considerably and keeping Vermont out of the hands of the British . The young republic was able to survive its first major test.
The Battle became part of Vermonter legend, and a song was penned after the Battle called the “Riflemen of Bennington”
Why come ye hither, Redcoats, Your minds what madness fills? In our valleys there is danger, And there’s danger in our hills.
Oh hear ye not the ringing Of the bugle wild and free? Full soon you’ll know the ringing of the rifle from the tree.
chorus: For the rifle, for the rifle. In our hands will prove no trifle.
Ye ride a goodly steed, Ye may serve a foreign master; Ye forward come with speed, But ye’ll learn to back much faster,
When ye meet our mountain boys And their leader, Johnny Stark, Lads who make but little noise, Lads who always hit the mark!
Have ye no graves at home Across the briny water, That hither ye must come Like bullocks to the slaughter?
If we the work must do, Why the sooner ’tis begun, If flint and trigger hold but true, The quicker ’twill be done!
- Stalhope, Robert E. Bennington and the Green Mountain Boys:The Emergence of Liberal Democracy in Vermont, 1760-1850. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1996. 172
- Ibid. 172-173.