BENNINGTON — In an effort to guide visitors through a historical path of the Battle of Bennington and the Bennington Monument, Shaftsbury resident Phil Holland self-published another piece of work that was released on Aug. 16, Battle Day.
"A Guide To The Battle of Bennington & the Bennington Monument" is a 56-page book filled with various illustrations, maps and memories of what made the town that exists today. Holland is an English professor at the Community College of Vermont (CCV) and published a booklet on Robert Frost in December. After visiting the Monument this spring, he realized that there wasn't a simple explanation of how certain landmarks came to be.
"I really noticed there was nothing kind of popular vein about the Battle of Bennington and the Monument itself," he said. "The books on sale there, and there's some good ones, tend to be scholarly and they cost $20 and up, which is not necessarily for the casual visitor. I wanted to try and produce something that would take in both the battle and the Monument and be accessible, affordable and have visual appeal as well as being historical."
Battle Day occurred on Aug. 16, 1777 when American militiamen from New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts along with the Green Mountain Continental Rangers defeated a British, German and Loyalist force that altered the course of the Revolutionary War, as stated in the book's synopsis. This year marked the 125th anniversary.
Holland revisits his patriotism through first person accounts, historians, librarians, art and re-enactments. While others might think the topic is exhausted, he decided to shed new light on small-town history. The battle may have happened seven miles west in Walloomsac, but Holland writes that the Battle of Bennington stuck due to staples that served a temporary home to militiamen and generals, i.e. the Catamount Tavern and the Walloomsac Inn.
He reflects on the participation of the Green Mountain Boys, the original proposed design of the Monument, the ammunition and artillery used in the battle, and that Thomas Jefferson even visited the battlefield with James Madison in 1791.
"I think it enhances anybody's life to know where we all came from, where this town came from, in a sense," Holland said. "The Monument reminds us of that every day, if you notice it. Not everybody even connects it to the battle. Bennington claimed [the battle] from an early time. It was the center of cultural power, especially in the later of the 19th century."
Another little known tip regards Grandma Moses' Battle of Bennington painting. There were two versions, and the second had the Monument painted in it with a reflection on the Walloomsac River below. Holland acknowledges her importance in the history of the battle and how immersed she and her family was in it, but that it wasn't known until later. The origin of the New Hampshire license plate phrase "Live free or die" is also explained. It evolved from Major General John Stark's commemoration toast in 1809.
"I guess I traveled the arch that a lot of people will also travel. It's a little complicated. A mostly New Hampshire force versus a mostly German force," Holland said. "I mean, do people realize that that's what went on? I got really fascinated by my subject and I wanted to pass on my excitement about what I was learning by doing my due diligence research in primary as well as secondary sources."
Holland said the first person literature he researched was very moving to learn about individuals in the middle of the battle or standing by.
"Fresh scholarship continues to be produce that I've benefitted from. In the last five years there's been some great writing that I could latch onto to retell the story," he said. "People have been retelling and re-enacting this story since the first anniversary of the battle for reasons of patriotism."
The guide can be found at the Monument store and the Bennington Bookstore. The design was done by local Leslie Noyes and it was printed in Pittsfield, Mass., which is also the town that sent militia to the battle. On Columbus Day weekend in October, Holland will do a book signing at the Monument.
For more information, visit philhollandvoiceandword.com.
Contact Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471.