Postcard History: Bennington Monument

 

By Carla Charter

BENNINGTON, VERMONT – In the City of Bennington is a 306-foot tall monument built as a memorial to the Battle of Bennington, fought in 1777.

The Bennington Monument itself was actually built 100 years after the battle.  “Veterans and descendants of the Battle of Bennington would meet on Battle Day, Aug 16, every year. They eventually noticed interest waning in the event and discussions began regarding the building of a monument to the battle.  Highland Hall, a former Vermont governor, historian and author of the History of Vermont, was instrumental in creating the monument,” according to Marylou Chicote, Site Administrator at the Bennington Battle Monument.

Congressman Justin Smith Morrow wrote legislation to fund the monument.  The cost of the monument was approximately $112,000 including the land.  The money came from federal funds as well as from the states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire who had veterans who served at the Battle of Bennington. Private funds and pennies saved by school children were also donated.

Architect J. Phillip Rinn of Lowell, Ma. designed the monument.  The cornerstone was laid in 1887, with President Rutherford B. Hayes speaking at the event.  The stonework was finished in 1889. Over the next two years the grounds, steps and remaining work were completed. The monument is built of Dolomite stone, from Hudson Falls, N.Y. as well as from local quarries was used. The stone was brought from Hudson Falls by train to the monument site.

The Steam Engine Derricks would lift the stone. The lower three quarters of the monument were constructed with double stone, meaning there is a wall of stone on the outside and another wall of stone on the inside.

The monument was dedicated on August 19, 1891, to coincide with the Centennial of Vermont as a state. “There were a thousand people here. President Benjamin Harrison spoke at the dedication. Calvin Coolidge, who was 19 at the time, attended the event, saying of Harrison ‘He was a personal representation of the glory and dignity of the United States.’  “It could have been what inspired Cal Coolidge to run for office,” Chicote said

The Green Mountain Boys who fought in the Battle of Bennington, came from Bennington, Arlington and Poultney, Vermont. The group originally formed to protect the area from New York tax collectors. Ethan Allen was the most infamous of the Green Mountain Boys wasn’t there for the Battle of Bennington. He had been captured at Fort Ticonderoga and jailed as a Dissident Against the Crown. Bth Brigadier General John Stark and Colonel Seth Warner fought at the Battle of Bennington.

The Bennington Battlefield is 9 miles from the monument, in New York. “Vermont was wilderness at the time,” she continued. The British and German were led by General John Burgoyne. Burgoyne’s objective was to go to Bennington, acquire supplies there, then go to Saratoga and barricade the Hudson River Waterway which was important to shipping in New York. “We would be in Canada right now had they done that,” Chicote said.

“Saratoga was a turning point in the revolution,” Chicote stated.  “What happened here impacted what happened in Saratoga. Had the British not been weakened by a rear-guard attack at Hubbardton which weakened their army and fought at the Battle at Bennington where they had gone for supplies, Saratoga may have turned out differently.”

The next Bennington Battle Day is on August 16, 2018. On that day all state historical sites are free. In New York there will be a ceremony at the battlefield at 6 p.m. Battle Day has been celebrated in Bennington every day since the battle in 1777.

On August 18 and 19, there will be a Battlefield Weekend with a 5K Battle Day Road race which benefits other events held at the monument.  There will be a Reenactors encampment, although the battle will not be reenacted.  In the afternoon there will be the Moodus Fife and Drum will march around the monument and then will hold a concert.  The Moodus Fife and Drum are descendant from the original Fife and Drum unit which played at the dedication of the monument in 1891.

On Sunday the 19th at 3 p.m. there will be a fashion program at the monument, featuring children, women and men clothes, ranging from the time of the Battle of Bennington in 1777 until the time of the time the monument was dedicated in 1891.

More information on the Bennington Monument can be found at www.benningtonbattlemonument.com