Before celebrating the 125th birthday of Vermont’s tallest man-made structure with some fun facts, let’s first explain why it is here. In 1777, British General John Burgoyne came down from Canada towards Saratoga to split the Colonies. Responding to Vermont’s plea for help, New Hampshire dispatched General John Stark with over 1000 militia to Vermont. Figuring that Burgoyne would run short out of supplies (e.g. food, ammunition) and try to capture the supply depot in Bennington (where the monument stands today), Stark brought his militia to Bennington to defend the supplies.
From his camp in northwest Bennington, Stark engaged the British on August 16, 1777 in the Battle of Bennington. It was a resounding American victory. Of the 1000 British (primarily Germans) sent, only a handful made it back to Burgoyne who without the supplies and loss of some of his best troops surrendered at Saratoga two months later resulting in the French entering the war on the American side.
The monument was built on the spot of the supplies the British never got, and was dedicated in 1891 by President Benjamin Harrison on the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Vermont becoming the 14th State.
The monument itself is 306’ 4 ½” tall, does not sway, and because it is on a hill it is higher than the Washington Monument. Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln could see the magnificent
monument from his home, Hildene, 22 miles away in Manchester.
The dramatic once a year changing of the
aviation light on top by the site administrator MaryLou Chicote is captured on a short Youtube video (go to Youtube.com then search Bennington Battle Monument GNAT-TV). Aviator Charles Lindbergh, on his celebration tour of the US in 1927, circled the monument several times in his “Spirit of Saint Louis” single engine plane.
John Stark’s statue is pointing to the west where the British were encamped not the rest rooms. Stark’s toast to the Battle of Bennington veterans “Live free or die” was adopted by NH after WWII as its motto.
The Mason influence is everywhere. Stark and Green Mountain Boy Seth Warner were Masons and the cornerstone and cap stone were placed with mason ritual.
The 2nd USS Bennington (a carrier) fought in the pacific in WWII and its bell is outside town hall. There is a smaller 75 foot monument at Fort Rosecrans Cemetery in San Diego honoring the first USS Bennington. The important Battle of Bennington has led to over 15 states having places named Bennington.
Be sure to visit the mass grave (British and Americans) in the Old First Church cemetery. The island in front of the church is where the 700 British(German) prisoners were brought.
Information can be found in a new exhibit inside the monument, at the Bennington Museum, and at the monument gift shop which is visited yearly by some 50,000 people. The monument staff is very knowledgeable about the battle and the monument.
For more information go to: www.benningtonbattlemonument.com