Battle of Bennington, 16 August 1777
Minor battle during the American War of Independence that played an role in weakening Burgoyne's army before its defeat at Saratoga. Burgoyne had reached Fort Edward on the Hudson on 30 July 1777, but had found the fort an empty ruin. The British force was desperately short of supplies after their march through the wilderness, and their supply line back to Ticonderoga was long and slow. Baron Friedrich Adolph von Riedesel, the commander of the German contingent, suggested a raid eastwards towards the Connecticut River where food could be found for the troops as could horses for the now horseless Brunswick dragoons. The British were aware that there was an American magazine at Bennington, a town close to 30 miles to the south-east of the main British position across very wild countryside. Convinced by reports that the area was strongly Loyalist, and would rush to the aid of any British army, and that the magazine was only guarded by a militia detachment, Burgoyne sent a detachment only 600 strong, commanded by Lt. Colonel Baum, a German who spoke no English.
This force departed on 11 August. It was soon clear that they faced stronger opposition than had been expected, and against his orders, which were to keep moving, Baum sent back a report of his situation, and settled down into a defensive position, for which he was posthumously much blamed by Burgoyne. A relief column was dispatched on the 14th, but failed to arrive in time to help. Meanwhile, on 15 August Baum found himself surrounded by a militia force twice the size of his own expedition, commanded by Brigadier General John Stark.
The following day, having received news of the relief column, Stark attacked. Baum's force had been deserted by their Indian allies and had not received the influx of loyalists that they had expected. Nevertheless, they fought on until they ran out of ammo, at which point they attempted to break out armed just with their swords. This too failed, and almost the entire force was killed or captured. Baum himself was amongst the dead. Later on the same day the relief column arrived, to find Baum and his force destroyed, and the American militia now reinforced by a detachment of Continentals. This relief force suffered the same fate as the original detachment.
All in all, Bennington cost Burgoyne close to one thousand casualties, men he could not replace, and helped to weaken the morale of his army, previously quite high. Burgoyne would march to Saratoga without adequate supplies.
Middlekauff, Robert, The Glorious Cause, The American Revolution 1763-1789
. A very well researched book that is especially strong on the events that led up to the Revolution, which take up the first third of the book. Unlike many similar books it also covers the years immediately after the war and up to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (2 May 2003), Bennington, battle of, 16 August 1777, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_bennington.html