Today, the Vermont Classic Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers the only revolutionary battle fought in Vermont on this day 239 years ago.
And, no, the Battle of Bennington, though named after the town in Vermont, was actually fought in New York.
An excerpt from An historical address, delivered at Hubbardton, Vt, on the eighty-second anniversary of the battle of Hubbardton, July 7, 1859 by Henry Clark:
We are borne back to the 7th of July, 1777. We see the people come from every direction. Old men and young hasten to the scene of strife, and our presence here gives it a living power.
It should be remembered the battle of Hubbardton occurred at a dark period of the Revolution.
When Gen. Burgoyne commenced his campaign, Washington had been driven from New York, and the American forces from Canada.
Burgoyne arrived at Quebec on the 6th of May, and took command of the British army. On the 12th he was at Montreal collecting and forwarding all his stores to Lake Champlain.
On the 20th of June his entire army was assembled at Cumberland head, near Plattsburgh; thence embarking he proceeded up the lake, without opposition.
On the 21st of June he landed his force on the west side of the lake, at the mouth of the river Boquet, near Willsborough, N. Y.
At this point he was joined by three or four hundred Indians. Gen. Burgoyne made a speech to them, in which he exhorted them to lay aside their ferocious and barbarous manner of making war, to kill only such as opposed them in arms, and spare prisoners that should fall into their hands, and gave such directions to their “fierceness and cruelty as should best subserve his designs against the Americans.
On the 30th of June he advanced to Ticonderoga, with a well appointed fleet and disciplined army, and encamped for the night about four miles from the American lines.
The next day they took their position just within reach of the American cannon, and on the 2d of July, after a brief skirmish with a picket of sixty men, and forcing them to retire, advanced within sixty yards of the works, scattering themselves along the whole front of the American lines.
At this perilous period Gen. St. Clair, who commanded at Fort Ticonderoga, feared he should not be able properly to defend the garrison, although the place appeared strong, nevertheless the works were so extensive that he could not properly defend them, beside he had omitted to fortify a rugged eminence, called Mount Defiance, the top of which overlooked and effectually commanded the whole works.
St. Clair being sensible he could not sustain a siege, hoped Burgoyne would make an assault, against which he was resolved to defend himself to the last.
After the discovery by the Americans of the advantage the opposing forces had gained of them in the occupation of Mount Defiance, and their movements to construct a battery, a council of war was held, by which it was unanimously agreed to retreat that very night.
About two o’clock on the morning of the 6th of July, Gen. St. Clair, with the garrison, left Ticonderoga, and about three o’clock the troops on Mt. Independence were put in motion, and a part were conveyed to Skeensboro in batteaux, while the main body of the army proceeded by land, on the old military road, which had been cut during the preceding wars from No. 4, now Charlestown, New Hampshire, to Ticonderoga.
The retreat was conducted in silence, and unobserved by the enemy, till a fire by accident was set which illuminated the whole of Mt. Independence and at once, revealed their movements, to the enemy.
At about four o’clock the rear guard of the American army left Mt. Independence, and were brought off by Col. Francis in good order.
When the troops reached this place they were halted about two hours.
Here the rear guard were placed under the command of Col. Seth Warner, with orders to follow as soon as those behind came up.
Gen. St. Clair, with the main body, reached Castleton on the 6th of July.
The retreat from Ticonderoga was no sooner discovered by the British than a pursuit was made by Gen. Fraser, who was soon followed by Gen. Reidsel, with a greater part of the British forces.
Fraser continued the pursuit during the day, and having learned that the Americans were not far off, he ordered an encampment for the night.
Early on the morning of the 7th he renewed the pursuit and at seven o’clock the engagement commenced.
Gen. Fraser made an attack upon the Americans, while they were at breakfast.
The force under Warner’s command consisted of the Green Mountain Boys, Col. Haile’s regiment of Connecticut River Men, with a Massachusetts regiment under Col. Francis, amounting to nearly one thousand men.
Those under Gen. Fraser were two thousand strong, according to the account given by Ethan Allen in his narrative.
Much reliance is to be placed on Allen’s statements, as he undoubtedly had it from Warner himself, as well as from the confessions made to him while a prisoner in England by officers of the British army, who were in the engagement.
Permit me, therefore, in farther illustration, to give the description of the battle in his peculiarly graphic and characteristic language. He says:
“The 6th day of July, 1777, Gen. St. Clair and the army under his command evacuated Ticonderoga, and returned with the main body through Hubbardton into Castleton, which was six miles distant, when his rear guard, commanded by Col. Seth Warner, was attacked at Hubbardton by a body of the enemy of about two thousand strong, commanded by Gen. Fraser.
“Warner’s command consisted of his own and two other regiments, viz : Francis and Haile, and some scattered and enfeebled soldiers. His whole number, according to information, was near or quite one thousand, men, part of which were Green Mountain Boys.
“About seven hundred he brought into action. The enemy advanced boldly, and the two bodies formed within about sixty yards of each other. Col. Warner having formed his own regiment and that of Col. Francis, did not wait for the enemy, but gave them a heavy fire from his whole line, and they returned it with great bravery.
“It was by this time dangerous for those of both parties who were not prepared for the world to come. But Col. Haile, being apprised of the danger, never brought his regiment to the charge, but left Warner and his men to stand the blowing of it and fled, but luckily fell in with an inconsiderable number of the enemy, and to his eternal shame, surrendered himself a prisoner.
“The conflict was very bloody. Col. Francis fell in the same, but Col. Warner and the officers under his command, as also the soldiery, behaved with great resolution.
“The enemy broke and gave way on the right and left, but formed again and renewed the attack. In the meantime the British grenadiers in the center of the enemy’s line maintained the ground, and finally carried it with the point of the bayonet, and Warner retreated with reluctance.
“Our loss was about thirty men killed, and that of the enemy amounting to three hundred killed, including a Major Grant.
“After Warner’s men had thrown them into disorder, they formed and again advanced upon the Americans, who in their turn fell back. At this critical moment Gen. Reidsell arrived with a reinforcement, and led them immediately into action, and decided the fortunes of the day.”
Such, fellow citizens, were the stirring scenes which were enacted on this battle-field eighty-two years ago to-day — a strange contrast indeed to the one presented before us.
Gallantly and bravely did they do their duty, and nobly are you doing your duty in commemorating the event.
The battle of Hubbardton, although the number engaged was comparatively small, was one of the most determined and severe on record.
If it was a British victory, it was dearly purchased.
The Vermont Classic Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with a map of Vermont, circa 1796, with an arrow pointing to Hubbardton.