HISTORY OF RUTLAND COUNTY.
THE BATTLE OF HUBBARDTON.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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-
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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:
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.