“like the messenger of death” – Vermont Classic Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin

The Vermont Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin tells the story of the raid on the Vermont towns of Royalton, Sharon and Tunbridge in the early morning hours of October 16, 1780.

From their base in Canada, the British gathered over 250 Mohawk warriors to assist with their attack on the towns of Vermont.

The group traveled along the White River in eastern Vermont burning the towns, killing livestock and taking hostages.

Later, one of the captives wrote of his experience. He described the warriors in the initial raids, “Like the messenger of death, silent and merciless, they were scarcely seen till felt.”

In addition to taking men from the towns as hostages, the British allowed the warriors to take young boys.

One mother, however, was determined to get her son back.

Hannah Handy, a 27-year-old mother, saw them take her nine-year-old son. She screamed, “I’ll follow you to Canada before I give up my boy” to the warrior who had taken her son, Michael.

Following words with action, Hannah crossed the cold October White River following the British-led band of Mohawks.

She proceeded to berate Lieutenant Houghton, the British leader, for taking her son along with several other young boys.

Hannah did not just plead for her son’s safety; she attacked the British man’s honor as a “civilized” gentleman. She also promised that Houghton would suffer eternal damnation if he did not return the boys.

Moreover, she castigated the British officer loudly in front of the men of the raiding party. All of the Mohawk warriors watched as Hannah shamed the British officer while pleading for the boys’ return.

Her efforts were not in vain.

She succeeded in obtaining the release of nine boys including her son.

The raiders allowed the small group to return across the river to their families – the members that were left – and to their almost destroyed settlement.

In the early 1900s, the people of Royalton erected a memorial to Hannah Handy and her bravery.

The monument’s design featured a stone archway. Beneath the arch, which reads “The Handy Memorial 1780,” they memorialized Hannah Handy and another hero of the raid, Phineas Parkhurst, with inscriptions on the front of the monument. On the opposite side, they listed the names of the four men killed, the twenty-five people taken prisoner, and the nine children rescued during the raid of October 16, 1780.

The Vermont Classic Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows against a colorful maple tree.

Vermont Classic Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin