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There were sixteen men from Connecticut, forty from Massachusetts, and nearly one hundred and fifty Green Mountain Boys. They waited anxiously for the boats which were to come from the southern tip of the lake. These did not arrive until nearly morning. They included scows, skiffs, dugouts, and yawls, but not enough to transport half the force. Allen and eighty others embarked and soon had crossed to the other shore. The boats returned for the rest of the men, but day was now at hand, and Allen decided to move forward without further delay. He was completely successful, and the great stronghold with all its cannon and military supplies fell into the hands of the Americans and cost them not a single life.
Two years later, Burgoyne's army made its way down from Canada and retook Ticonderoga. When he reached the southern end of the lake in midsummer the settlers of western Vermont were panic-stricken. They feared that the Indian allies of the expedition would be turned loose on them, and all the farms in the exposed district were deserted. The main highways leading southward were crowded with horsemen and footmen, and with lumbering vehicles carrying women, children, and household goods, and with straying flocks and herds. Mudholes and streams that had to be forded, added to the difficulties of the flight.
A call was sent out for the Vermont militia to assemble; General Stark brought troops from New
Hampshire, and other troops came from western Massachusetts.
Provisions were becoming scarce in Burgoyne's army, and he determined to seize for his use the stores which the Americans had collected at Bennington. To accomplish this he despatched a Hessian officer, Colonel Baum, with a force of three hundred unmounted dragoons, who were to provide themselves with horses on the foray, one hundred Indians, and four hundred other troops. Lieutenant Colonel Breyman with six hundred more men was ready to support Baum if needed.
The latter approached Bennington on August fifteenth, but encountered the Americans in such force that he halted his troops in a commanding position on a hill and had them prepare to defend themselves there.
That night rain began falling and increased to a downpour. It continued to fall heavily from a leaden sky all the next day, but in spite of the drenching rain Baum kept his men busy with axes and spades extending and strengthening their defences.
On the following morning the sun rose clear, and the raindrops glittered on forest and meadows, corn-fields, , and ripening wheat, and filmy vapors rose from the pools and swollen streams. The Americans began early in the day to assault the British position from different sides, and as Stark led a charge he shouted to his men, “Those redcoats are ours to-day, or Molly Stark is a widow !”
Few of the Yankee farmers wore uniforms. Most of them fought in their shirtsleeves, for the weather was intensely hot, and they wore no badge but a cornhusk or a green twig in the hatband. So vigorous was their onset that the Indians stole away in affright, glad to escape with their own scalps and without plunder.
For two hours the roar of conflict was, as Stark said, “like a continuous clap of thunder.” The enemy had two small cannon, but presently the cannoneers were shot down, the guns taken, and the Yankees swarmed over the breastworks. Few of the British escaped death or capture.
About this time Breyman, who had been delayed by the rain and the wretched condition of the roads, arrived. A part of the Americans had gone to the town with the prisoners, and the rest were scattered over the blood-stained field in quest of spoil. For a little while it looked as if they might be overwhelmed. The small force that at first was able to oppose the enemy gradually fell back until the militia rallied in sufficient strength to make a stand. A warmly contested engagement continued until after sunset, and then Breyman hastily retreated. Stark pursued him till it was impossible to aim a gun or distinguish friend from foe in the gathering gloom.
Breyman escaped with less than one hundred men. The American loss in killed and wounded during the day was seventy. Two of the cannon captured from the Hessians in this battle are to be seen in the State House at Montpelier.
Ethan Allen took no part in the Bennington fight. He had fallen into the hands of the British the same year that he captured Ticonderoga, while engaged in an expedition that invaded Canada. For three years he was held a prisoner, most of the time in England. Then he was brought back and exchanged. On his arrival at Bennington the people thronged into the hamlet to greet their old leader, and though powder was scarce and precious a cannon was charged, and it thundered forth a salute of thirteen guns for the United States, and one for Vermont. In his last years Allen lived at Burlington, where he died in 1789.