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HISTORY OF RUTLAND COUNTY.

CHAPTER VI.

THE BATTLE OF HUBBARDTON.


Effects
of the Battle--Condition of the People Immediately Preceding the Affair --Colonel Warner's Appeal to the Vermont Convention-- General St. Clair's Appreciation --Effects of the Abandonment of Ticonderoga --The Retreat --The Attack--Allen's Detailed Description of the Battle Incidents.

The
events at Hubbardton in July, and Bennington in August, 1777, caused the flood tide of invasion from the North to ebb. They led immediately to the important results at Saratoga in October; also the appreciation by the courts of Europe of the powers of the American soldiery and the ability of the colonists to maintain the cause of independence. It led to an open treaty of alliance between the United States and France just seven months after the battle of Hubbardton. It was the prophecy of the surrender of Yorktown.
A
brief statement of the condition of the people just preceding this engagement will be of interest as preliminary to an account of the battle. The people of Western Vermont were in much alarm from the apprehension of an invasion by the British army from Canada, under General Burgoyne, for which preparations had been made under the direction of the English ministry. An army of ten thousand veterans, one-half of them German hirelings, equipped and furnished with every warlike material that wealth and skill could supply, had been collected in that province and attended by a formidable body of savages, and a corps of Tories, was approaching the American post at Ticonderoga. Its commanding general confidently expected, after an easy conquest of that post, to march triumphantly through the country to the seaboard, crushing all opposition to British rule. General St. Clair, who commanded at Ticonderoga, had sent Colonel Seth Warner to gather reinforcements from the militia; Colonel Moses Robinson's regiment was already at Hubbardton, and others were on their way.
On
the second of July Colonel Warner wrote the State Convention, then in session at Windsor, that he had just received an express from General St. Clair, who expected an attack at any hour and who had ordered him to call out the militia of this State, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and join him as soon as possible. This letter also asked all the men that could possibly be enlisted, saying that the safety of the post depended on the exertions of the country; that their lines were extensive and but partially manned for want of men. Warner, in the same communication, makes this graphic appeal: "I should be glad if a few hills of corn unhoed should not be a motive sufficient to detain men at home, considering that the loss of such an important post can hardly be remedied." On the receipt of this letter by the convention, a

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THE BATTLE OF HUBBARDTON.

communication was sent to the General Assembly of New Hampshire, then in session at Exeter, enclosing Warner's appeal for help, and adding that the militia from this State were principally with the officer commanding the Continental army at Ticonderoga, the remainder on their march for the relief of that distressed post, and requesting further aid from that State. Colonel Joseph Bowker, of Rutland, president of the convention, immediately wrote General St. Clair, giving information of what had been done and the exertions being made to aid him.
The
efforts of the Vermont Convention for the relief of Ticonderga were duly appreciated by General St. Clair. He wrote a letter from Colonel Mead's in Rutland, dated July 7, giving a brief explanation of the necessity he was under to evacuate the post at Ticonderoga, in which he remarks: "The exertions of the convention to re-enforce us at Ticonderoga merit my warmest thanks, though they have been too late to answer the good purpose for which they were intended." In another letter General St. Clair says: "I have just now received a letter from General Schuyler, directing that Colonel Warner's regiment, of your State, should be left for the protection of the people." He gave information to the Vermont Convention that he was proceeding to join General Schuyler as fast as possible, and hoped that there would be sufficient force called to check the force of the enemy, and added that "your conventions have given such proofs of their readiness to concur in any measure for the public safety, that it would be impertinent to press them now."
By
the retreat of the American army from Ticonderoga, the whole western frontier of the State north of Massachusetts, comprising more than half of the inhabitants residing west of the Green Mountains, was left wholly unprotected and exposed to the immediate ravages of the enemy. General Burgoyne had issued a boastful proclamation threatening ruin and destruction to all who should oppose him, but offering protection and security to those who should remain peaceably at their homes, and payment in gold for any provisions they might furnish. Many who were not his well-wishers, in the distressed and apparently desperate condition in which they suddenly found themselves, felt it necessary to accept his written proclamation, while others, more patriotic or in a better situation to remove, fled to the southward with such of their effects as they were able to take with them. Some of these fugitives stopped with their friends in the south part of the State, while others passed further on. No part of the territory could be considered safe against any rapid incursion of the enemy, especially as a considerable number in their midst were believed to be friendly to the invaders, and alarm and confusion everywhere prevailed.
By
the 5th of July Colonel Seth Warner had reached Ticonderoga with nine hundred militia, mostly from Vermont, but the fort even after this re-enforcement was altogether untenable against the well-appointed army of Bur-

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HISTORY OF RUTLAND COUNTY.

goyne. On the evening of that day a council of war dictated that the fort should be abandoned before daylight the next morning, which was done. All the cannon and most of the provisions and military stores fell into the hands of the enemy, and the army retreated rapidly toward Castleton.
The
retreat began about two o'clock in the morning of the 6th, when St. Clair and the garrison left the fort, and about three o'clock the troops on Mount Independence were put in motion and a part were conveyed to Skenesboro (now Whitehall) in bateaux, while the main body of the army proceeded by land on the old military road, which had been cut during the preceding war from Number Four, now Charlestown, N. H., to Ticonderoga. The retreat was conducted in silence, unobserved by the enemy, until a fire by accident was set which illuminated the whole of Mount Independence, and at once revealed their movements to the enemy. At about four o'clock the rear guard of the American army left Mount Independence and were brought off by Colonel Francis in good order. When the troops reached this place they were halted about two hours. Here the rear guard was placed under the command of Colonel Seth Warner, with orders to follow as soon as those behind came up. General 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 General Fraser, who was soon followed by General 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. General Fraser made an attack upon the Americans while they were at breakfast. The force under Warner's command consisted of Green Mountain Boys, Colonel Haile's regiment of Connecticut River men, with a Massachusetts regment under Colonel Francis, amounting to nearly 1,000 men. Those under General Fraser were 2,000 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 English army.
The
following description of the battle is in Allen's peculiarly graphic and descriptive language.
He
says: "The 6th day of July, 1777, General St. Clair and the army under his command evacuated Ticonderoga and returned with the main body to Hubbardton into Castleton, which was six miles distant, when his rear guard, commanded by Colonel Seth Warner, was attacked at Hubbardton by a body of the enemy about 2,000 strong, commanded by General Fraser. Warner's command consisted of his own and two other regiments, viz., Francis and

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THE BATTLE OF HUBBARDTON.

Haile, and some scattered and enfeebled soldiers. His whole number, according to information, was near or quite 1,000 men, part of which were Green Mountain Boys. About 700 were brought into action. The enemy advanced boldly and the two bodies formed within about sixty yards of each other. Colonel Warner, having formed his own regiment and that of Colonel 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 Colonel Haile, being apprized 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. An English account gives their loss in killed and wounded at 183 including among the former twenty officers. The American loss is estimated at about 324 killed, wounded and prisoners.
The
conflict was very bloody. Colonel Francis fell in the battle, but Colonel 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 mean time 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 General Reidsel arrived with a reinforcement, and led them immediately into action, and decided the fortunes of the day.
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. But had it been an American victory it would not have lessened the sorrow for the fall of the gallant Colonel Francis.
The
general account of this engagement has passed into the history of the county and more of the details and documentary evidence need not be given. A few personal incidents, however, will be of interest to illustrate the character and sufferings of the people of this section in the few days of terror before and after the battle.
About
half a mile east of Castleton village on the northwest corner of the east and west road and the Hubbardton road, stood the house of George Foote, where religious worship was held on the Sabbath. Upon the corner opposite was a school-house. A mile and a half north of this, on the Hubbardton road, lived Captain John Hall. Still further north, on what is known as the Ransom farm, was a building appropriated to recruits. On the Sabbath, July 6, while the

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HISTORY OF RUTLAND COUNTY.

people were gathered for religious worship, the alarm is given that the enemy is approaching. At the same time the recruits come flying down the road and take shelter in the school-house and in the house of Mr. Foote. Women and children take shelter in the cellar. There is brisk firing from both sides for a considerable time, but the casualties are few, the one party covered by the trees of the forest. There is a closer conflict. Captain Williams, a volunteer from Guilford, Vt., is wounded in the groin, but will not yield; and in a hand to hand fight, deals a heavy blow upon a British lieutenant. He is then bayoneted through the body, and expires in a few moments. Captain John Hall receives a shot in the leg, and as he lies profusely bleeding calls for water. As his wife is bringing it to him, a Tory named Jones kicks the dish from her hands. Captain Hall died of his wounds not long after. One of the British infantry was mortally wounded and another shot through the body; but recovered through the kind attention of Mrs. Hall — rendering good for evil. One of Captain Williams's sons was wounded in the heel in the early part of the engagement and fled to the woods. He finally reached Rutland in a famishing condition. Two sons of Captain Hall, Elias and Alpheus, George Foot and others, were taken prisoners and carried to Ticonderoga, but made their escape after a few weeks. The body of Captain Williams, wrapped in a blanket, without a coffin, was rudely buried at the foot of a tree near by. Forty-four years after his remains were disinterred and the bones carefully gathered and laid together in exact order by Luther Deming — a man perfectly blind — and reburied in the village graveyard with appropriate ceremonies. Captain Williams had been at Ticonderoga during the French War, and was anxious to go there again.
After
this most unequal conflict, in which the British, Tories and Indians outnumbered nearly ten to one, the victorious party returned to Hubbardton, rifling houses and gathering plunder on their way. It was on this same day that General St. Clair evacuated Ticonderoga, and marched his forces to Castleton. His route was by the old military road to Hubbardton, thence south by the Hubbardton road. The van of St. Clair's army encamped that night near the place where Williams and Hall had just fallen. One division of the army under Colonol Bellows encamped about two miles south of Hubbardton. The foraging party engaged in the skirmish at Castleton came near falling into the hands of St. Clair's army on their return; but meeting some of his soldiers who were straying in advance, they learned of the approach of the army, and, taking these prisoners, they turned into the woods, and so escaped. They encamped that night within a short distance of Colonel Warner's command — so near, says Mr. Hall, one of the prisoners, that the noise of the battle was distinctly heard, and great anxiety was felt as to who were the combatants and what the result. The same party commanded by Captain Sherwood took several more prisoners in Hubbardton, all of whom they carried to Ticonderoga.

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THE BATTLE OF HUBBARDTON.

There
is a question who was the commander of this foraging party. Lieuenant Hall, a prisoner with the party, says it was commanded by Captain Fraser. Thompson's history says the same. Other authorities say that Capain Fraser was certainly on the west side of the lake, a few days before, leading the attack on the American lines.
Besides,
Captain Sherwood is said to have been the commander of the foraging party in Hubbardton which was probably the same as that at Castleton.
A
single incident may here be stated. Sometime in 1828 Rev. Joseph Steele, pastor of of the Congregational Church at Castleton, met an aged man in Kingsboro, N. Y., a worthy deacon in the Congregational Church, who was in the battle, and who gave him the following particulars. He stated that his mess were just making their breakfast, when they were saluted by a volley of musketry. That the nemy came up over a rise of ground on the west, and rushed down upon their encampment. The Americans were soon formed, and the battle raged fiercely. Compelled to retreat, they fled eastward down through the valley and then up a steep hill; halting occasionally and firing upon their pursuers — and that passing over the hill or mountain, they made their way to Rutland. "When climbing the hill," he added, "my coat collar was cut away by a musket ball." He had not visited the place since, but his description of the ground was perfect. After this battle, St. Clair proceded to Fort Edward and joined General Schuyler. The British forces advanced to Castleton, where they remained for several weeks — one regiment, under General Fraser, encamping in the west side of the town, the other, under General Riedsel, a little to the east of the village, where the skirmish had been. During the events above described there were times of great excitement, and some families fled in alarm; but the greater part remained. The year following the battle of Hubbardton a fort was built near the spot where the first blood had been spilled in Castleton, furnished with two cannon, and garrisoned under different commanders till the close of the war. All able-bodied men in the settlement were enrolled as minute-men, ready to repair to the fort at the call of the signal gun. "Many soldiers' graves, whose names have long since been forgotten, a few years ago were visible near the site of the fort."
The
following incident will illustrate the trials of those trying days: Very early one morning the alarm gun is heard and Mr. Lake, living a mile and a half from the fort, shoulders his gun and obeys the summons, leaving his wife and two children unprotected in their log cabin, remote from any neighbor. Soon a Mrs. Eaton who lived one-fourth of a mile distant, came flying in with her two children hurried from their bed, greatly alarmed. In her haste she had left her bread in the oven and her children without anything to eat. What can these mothers do? Terrified and alarmed they resolved to flee for safety, although it was still dark and raining fast. With all possiblle haste they make

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HISTORY OF RUTLAND COUNTY.

their way over hills through the woods, quite to the southern border of the township to the house of a Mr. Richmond. It was a difficult and fatiguing tramp, wet and weary, the children crying from hunger and cold; they rejoice at the sight of a habitation, and hope for shelter and warmth. As they approach the door, the voice of prayer from within fills them with joy. They listen — but what is their dismay when they hear loud and earnest petitions for the triumph of the British arms, and the overthrow and destruction of all who oppose. It is the prayer of a Tory. Wet and weary as they are — and the children crying for bread, they turn away with indignation to look for some more kindly shelter. Many other incidents equally touching there were, no doubt, which have not been preserved, but from this we get a glimpse of those trying times.
It
should be remembered the battle of Hubbardton occurred at a dark period of the Revolution. When General Burgoyne commenced his campaign Washington had been driven from New York and the American forces from Canada.
Colonel
Warner ordered his men to meet him at Manchester, when the remnant of the regiment, mustering about one hundred and fifty effective men, assembled a few days afterward. General St. Clair, with the main body of his army, took a circuitous route to the Hudson River by way of Rutland, Dorset and Arlington, and joined General Schuyler at Fort Edward on the 12th.
Colonel
Seth Warner was a prominent figure in this battle; he was a Connecticut man whose life is so interwoven with the early history of this section, that history almost accords him a residence here. As a military leader he was honored and confided in by the people above all others, and his bravery and military capacity appear to have always been appreciated by intelligent officers of both armies.
In
the evacuation of Ticonderoga he was in command of the rear guard, by which he was involved in the action at Hubbardton. This description of him has been given: "Colonel Warner was of noble personal appearance, very tall, not less than six feet two inches; large frame but thin in flesh and apparently of great bodily strength. His features were regular, strongly marked and indicative of mental strength, a fixedness of purpose, and yet of much benevolent good nature." Colonel Moses Robinson, Bennington, who, with his regiment, participated in the battle, was one of the famons Council of Safety that carried Vermont successfully through the bloody campaign of 1777. He was chief justice of the Supreme Court and governor.
After
the battle the bones of those who fell were all buried in one grave, which remained until the last half of the century unmarked. Money was subscribed in 1858 for the erection of a monument, which was unveiled July 7, 1859, with appropriate ceremonies. On the base is the following inscription:

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COUNTY ORGANIZATION-WAR OF 1812.

"Hubbardton battle fought on this ground July 7, 1777." On the north side, "Colonel Warner commanded, Colonel Francis killed, Colonel Hale captured. The Green Mountain boys fought bravely." On the south side, "This monument was erected by the citizens of Hubbardton and vicinity." On the west side, "The only battle fought in Vermont during the Revolution." The centennial was observed with commemorative services July 7, 1877.