Grand River Branch
United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada
Selected Reprints from the
Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches
"The Spirit of Bennington Vermont Prevails"
Angela E.M. Files, November 2002, Vol.14 No.2, Page 4
About 150 miles northwest of Boston, and west of the Green Mountains, lies the half-shire historical town of Bennington, Vermont. In quaint, firm , New England spirit, the town is still comprised of the villages of Bennington, Old Bennington and North Bennington. The villagers are a proud and independent people with a great respect for the work of their forefathers, Canadian Tories, Loyalists. They are friendly and make strangers feel at home.
Twenty-one years ago, in 1981, Jim and I travelled to Bennington in order to gain a broader understanding of Jim's Loyalist ancestor's flight from this Vermont area to Canada. Through the extensive historical insight of our hospitable Vermont cousin Danby Livingston, a genealogical researcher since his teen years, it was possible for us to recapture one of the events of the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Bennington. May I share some of my impressions with you? May the spirit of Bennington, the friendly independent spirit, coupled with the attempt to preserve and respect the past prevail in you also!
On August 16, 1776, the Battle of Bennington was fought on Walloomsac Heights. General John Burgoyne (1723 - 1792) an English general, later to become a playwright, was short of military supplies. He sent about 700 Brunswickers under Lt.-Col. Friedrich Baum, a German military officer, to capture the military stores and scour the countryside for horses. With 2000 New England militiamen, Colonel John Stark (1728 - 1822) surrounded Colonel Baum and destroyed his forces. The later reinforcements were destroyed by the Green Mountain Boys. The Battle of Bennington halted the British attempt to cut the colonies in two. As I stood on the heights of the battle site, I could almost hear the shouts of the gallant soldiers. Each side felt their cause was just and right! The battle site is a reminder to all generations that the Spirit of Bennington was a spirit of heroism despite some misguided causes!
Near a 305-foot high granite monument, the Bennington Battle Monument commemorates the victory of the colonial independence and the loss of 30 American lives, 207 British lives and 700 captured men and teen-age boys. As I stood at the top of the monument, peering out over the peaceful Green Mountains along with others, I wondered how these very same mountains rang out the clarion cry of revolution 200 year ago, over a hostile King George III (1738 - 1820), an English monarch who lived more than 4000 miles away.
Then it struck me -- taxing the human spirit beyond endurance is cruel and unjust; so the Spirit of Bennington is a memorial to all, showing what can happen if leaders are not concerned about the suffering of their people.
Surrounded by old stately maples and elms, west of the monument, is the most photographed cemetery in the world, The First Congregational Church Cemetery, containing the graves of Hessian, Brunswick, Tory and Rebel soldiers and my favourite contemporary poet, Robert Frost. Tears fell from our eyes as we read on the inscriptions of the monument and graves that some Hessian mercenary soldiers were only 14-16 years old!
For those collectors of tombstone inscriptions, the large cenotaph, among hundreds of other military graves, reads as follows:
In every war, the listing of the dead is the tragedy of unfinished lives, hope and dreams. As we wandered through this large military cemetery we realized that our Loyalist ancestors fled through these very mountains to Lake Champlain, while the rebels his in the mountains from their Tory enemies. The sacrifice and tragedy and both sides is also the Spirit of Bennington!
On one side of the churchyard lies the simple unpretentious tombstone of the American poet, Robert Frost who contemplated and criticized the world but also regarded everything in it with amusement, love and pity. To me he was a poet who rose above family grief, financial difficulties and scattered hope through his poetry. The spirit of hope and dreams for a better world and people is also the spirit of Bennington!
For poetry lovers, the tombstone inscriptions read as follows: