General John Stark
General John Stark, born in Londonderry in 1728, was New Hampshire’s foremost Revolutionary War hero and author of New Hampshire’s motto “Live free or Die. Death is not the worst of evils.”
In the spring of 1777 the outcome of the American Revolution was very much in question. A large British army in Canada began to move south along the New York side of Lake Champlain as part of a plan to cut off New England from the rest of the colonies. In early July, Fort Ticonderoga in New York was captured and nearby Mount Independence in Vermont was evacuated by the Americans. The British were now in need of the supplies and stores located in the general depot at Bennington, VT. Vermont had only recently declared its independence and now asked for assistance from New Hampshire against the invading army. With General Stark in command, 1400 men enlisted for 30 days, and departed for Bennington from Charlestown, New Hampshire.
Upon their arrival, General Stark was given command of all militia and made plans for battle with the advancing British. On the afternoon of August 16th, the battle began and by nightfall the British were in full retreat without the supplies they so badly needed. This victory by General Stark would prove to be critical.
As the British regrouped near Saratoga, New York, many of the New Hampshire men were sick and their 30 day enlistment had expired. Nearly half of them left for home. On September 19, the day after General Stark left for home to recruit new troops, the British attempted to resume their march south. They were not able to breach the American lines and after several days both forces settled in to strengthen their position.
On October 7, the British again attacked and after heavy casualties withdrew behind newly built barricades. Their only hope was to return to Canada. It was at this point that General Stark returned with his new brigade and closed off the last escape route. On October 16 the British army of 8000 surrendered. The brilliant victory of General Stark at Bennington had set the stage for success at Saratoga and he had returned in time for the surrender that was the turning point in the Revolution.
General Stark died at the age of 94 in 1822 and is buried in the Stark Family Gravesite, along with his beloved wife “Molly” and other members of his family, in Stark Park in Manchester, NH.