The records of the towns of Rockingham, Vermont, and Charlestown and Walpole, in New Hampshire, furnish some interesting accounts of the part that the inhabitants of this section of the Connecticut River Valley took in the events that preceded the Battle of Bennington on August 16th, 1777.
The main army of Burgoyne, in January of that year, had reached the upper Hudson, driving all before it. The alarm of the threatened invasion reached Rockingham by horseback riders the middle of June, and hurried meetings were held. Arrangements were made for raising a company here to assist in defending the New England Colonies. The company of men was quickly raised, and under command of Captain Joseph Wood started out upon their long and tedious march across the mountains. The exact date of their departure cannot be ascertained, but it must have been after June 23rd, as a portion of the men whose names are recorded as having “marched” are included in the list of those who took the oath of fidelity to the United States on that day, before William Simonds, the Town Clerk. It is probable they left within the next few days, and possibly all took the advice of Colonel Warner and left “a few hills of corn unhoed,” as it was the time of year when hoeing corn was the duty of the farmers.
The records are silent as to whether this company reached Ticonderoga previous to its evacuation, July 5th, and whether they took part in the battle of Hubbardton, on July 7th, with the regular United States army, or not. It is, however, safe to assume that they were at both places, and later took part in the Battle of Bennington.
The records show the complete list of this company as those who “marched to Ticonderoga” and the amount of powder and lead furnished to each. It aggregated 21 pounds of powder and 30 pounds of lead. A list of the company that “marched to Manchester” with powder and lead is also given.
Following the events in the progress of the campaign, the evacuation of Ticonderoga and the battle of Hubbardton, in which another company of Rockingham men were shown to have taken part, the Vermont Council of Safety, July 7, 1777, issued a call to all officers of militia to send on all men to Manchester that they could possibly raise. They were there to meet the gathering remnants of Col. Warner’s forces that had been ordered to “take to the woods and meet him at Manchester.”
This call for assistance, as well as the terrifying reports from Ticonderoga and Hubbardton, brought by those returning from there, greatly excited the settlers of all towns on both sides of the Connecticut River. The British general had made public his purpose to cross the mountains by the old military road to Charlestown, and to continue as far south as Brattleboro, in order to separate the Colonies and cut off their communications with one another.
Excitement ran high in Rockingham and Walpole, and particularly in Charlestown, where the military headquarters of this vicinity was, at the fort known as “No. Four.” Colonel Benjamin Bellows of Walpole, who had been with the expedition to Ticonderoga, but had returned to Walpole on account of the illness of his father,
Col. Bellows, Sr., wrote as follows to the New Hampshire Committee of Safety, under the date of July 13th, 1777: “Gentlemen:
“You no doubt heard of the disaster we have met with at the westward; so shall not undertake to give you the Particulars, but to sum it up in short; we have lost all our stores and baggage, with some of our men, the number I am unable to ascertain. I shall represent to you something of the distressing situation of our Frontiers, especially of persons who are easily intimidated as well as women and children, and it is my humble opinion if some resolutions are not adopted and speedily put into execution the people’s hearts will fail and conclude it is a gone case; and this part of the country will be deserted, I fear, and left without anybody to receive hay or grain etc. I submit to Superior Wisdom, as to the best manner to prevent these evils we dread, and hope that the most strenuous efforts will be made by the Government at this most critical time; and as the inhabitants on the other side of the river in New York State (now the State of Vermont) would try to keep their ground, if they could in some measure be supported, if we could lend them any assistance, it would answer as good a purpose as tho’ done to ourselves, as there must be a Frontier; the people on Otter Creek have many of them moved off already.
“Should think it best to keep out the frontier in New York State (Vermont) if possible. By the best information I can get, there is not short of six or seven hundred men above this place on York side of the river that are destitute of fire arms; if there could be found out any way to supply them it would answer a good purpose. I must further inform you that when we retreated from Ticonderoga, that many of the Continental Troops, instead of following the army, steered for their homes. “I am, Gentlemen, your very humble servant To the Honorable Committee of Safety.
Ira Allen also wrote to the New Hampshire Committee of Safety for assistance in making a stand against the enemy in Vermont, and the President of the State Council replied that New Hampshire had already determined to send for assistance one-fourth of her militia, under Brig. Gen. John Stark. Accordingly, on the 19th, Gen. Stark received orders to repair to No. 4, Charlestown, N. H., to take command.
Without doubt, the Rockingham Company, whose record is so tersely given upon our records, went to Charlestown, and there joined the forces of the general and with him “marched” across the mountains of Vermont, and with him shared the glories of that ever memorable battle at Bennington on the 16th of August, 1777.
Based on: The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire: historical sketches, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., Marble City Press, 1929.