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CHAPTER XVII

BRITISH LOSSES—THEIR RETREAT

Work of the Council of Safety.--Safely and firmly did the Council of Safety hold the reins of government through these trying times, assuming all its powers, executive, legislative, and judicial, until a constitutional government was organized. The most active members of this council were Thomas Chittenden, president; Jonas Fay, vice-president; Ira Allen (youngest brother of Ethan Allen), secretary; and several others, among whom were Heman Allen (also a brother of Ethan Allen) and Moses Robinson.

It was now necessary that vigorous efforts should be made to protect the State from the ravages of the enemy; and the council proved themselves equal to the emergency. Under their direction, the officers of the militia were ordered to raise as many men as possible to oppose

the

enemy. Such of the militia as could be collected were placed at Manchester under Warner to repel a body of the enemy who had been stationed at Castleton, should they choose to ad. vance in that direction. They also made a most earnest appeal to Massachusetts and New Hampshire to forward troops to their assistance as soon as possible.

From the first there were some Tories in Vermont; and when Burgoyne made his advance up the lake, others placed themselves under his standard. Some of these were men of hitherto good standing among the grantees, and many of them possessed valuable property. Aside from the mi

means

ence.

litia a volunteer force was necessary to protect the frontier and also to keep strict watch of the Tory element among them. As the infant State possessed no funds to raise such a force, the Council of Safety now resolved that the property of all those who had gone over to the enemy should be seized and sold to raise the necessary funds.

By this a regiment of rangers was soon organized and put under the command of Colonel Samuel Herrick. In his history of Vermont, Ira Allen says, “This was the first instance in America of seizing and selling the property of the enemies of American Independ

This, however, was done in all the States afterward.

Stark's Army.-On the appeal of the Council of Safety, the New Hampshire assembly at once ordered into service a brigade of militia under John

John Stark. Stark, and as rapidly as possible sent men from Charlestown to join Colonel Warner at Manchester. Stark himself with about 800 men marched over the military road which he had helped to open, encamping at Peru, where in the year 1900 a fitting monument was erected to mark his camping-place. The militia from the country about had been flocking to Manchester ; and when Stark descended the mountains and arrived at that place the combined forces numbered 1,400 strong. Warner, leaving the remnant of his regiment, which now numbered only about 130, with Colonel Safford at Manchester, went on with Stark to Bennington. Stark now made the most of his time organizing and drilling his forces, while scouts scoured the country about for information concerning the movements of the enemy. These measures for defense were taken none too soon.

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Cause of the Battle of Bennington.-It was Burgoyne's design to attack Albany as soon as he could obtain the needed supplies. Provisions for his army were getting scarce, and fresh supplies must either be obtained from the enemy or brought from Montreal. He much preferred the former means of supplying his need ; and learning that the Americans had collected at Bennington a quantity of such stores as he needed, he resolved to send a force to seize them.

First Battle.—Hearing of the arrival of a party of Indians at Cambridge, N. Y., Stark sent a force of 200 men to oppose them. Learning from a messenger that they were the advance guard of a much greater force, that was closely following and was on its way to Bennington to seize the stores there, Stark promptly sent a messenger to Manchester to summon Warner's men and called all the militia of that vicinity to come to his assistance.

On the next day, August 14, he advanced toward the enemy. At the same time a British force consisting of 500 Hessians, 100 Indians, and a number of Canadians and Tories, under the command of Colonel Baum, was advancing toward Bennington. When Colonel Baum had come within six or seven miles of Bennington, he came upon Stark, who, halting, formed in line. This brought Colonel Baum to a standstill. Finding that Bennington was guarded by a much larger force than he had anticipated, he decided not to make an immediate attack; and halting in a commanding position, he began to throw up intrenchments, sending at the same time to notify Burgoyne of his position.

Stark called a council of war by whom it was decided that an attack ought to be made before the British had time for reenforcement; and by the advice of Warner and others, Stark ordered his men to be in readiness to make the attack on the following morning. To his disappointment, the day was too rainy to admit of active military operations; but while waiting, both parties to the contest were busy, the British in strengthening their intrenchments, and Stark with his officers and the Council of Safety in planning a line of action. During the day Stark was reenforced by several hundred militia from western Massachusetts, who had come in through the drenching rain, eager for service.

On August 16, the day being favorable, Stark advanced toward the British. He had divided his force, now numbering 1,600, so as to attack the enemy on all sides at the same time. By three o'clock in the afternoon the attacking columns had arrived at their allotted stations without attracting the attention of the enemy, who had kept close within their intrenchments. Directly a firing was heard in the rear of the British. This was the signal for assault; and the Americans rushed forward, Stark and Warner with the larger force attacking the front, and the remaining force, among which were Herrick and his rangers, the rear.

Baum's Indians fled at the first fire. The battle now raged for two hours; and, although the British sustained the attack with great bravery, they were at length overpowered, and nearly all taken prisoners. Among the prisoners was Colonel Baum himself, who was mortally wounded and who died a few days later. Stark had borne a part in the battles of Bunker Hill, Trenton, and Princeton, and yet he declared that this was the hottest he had ever seen, and was like one continual clap of thunder.

Second Battle.—Scarcely was the first battle ended and the prisoners, under guard, started off for Bennington, when a second body of British troops, nearly as large as Colonel Baum's, came up. They were commanded by Colonel Breyman, who had been stationed within easy distance and who had now been sent to reenforce Colonel Baum. As the American forces had become scattered, they were ill-prepared to meet fresh troops ; but, by rare good fortune, just at this critical moment, Warner's veterans came marching from Manchester, and proved a most effectual offset to Burgoyne's German troops. They had been well equipped by the recovery of the arms of Colonel Hale’s men, which had been stacked in the woods after the battle of Hubbardton ; and, although few in

numbers, they were a host in courage, and Colonel promptly took a position in front, covering the Baum's confusion of the militia, who now came hurrysword

ing in and forming into line in the rear. (taken by the Amer

A second severe battle ensued, which lasted icans at till sunset, ending in the utter defeat of the Benning- British and their hasty retreat. The Americans ton.)

followed them until they could no longer see, and would have captured the entire force if the retreat had not been covered by the darkness of the night. In his

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