BENNINGTON -- Throughout Bennington this weekend, residents and visitors -- some in historically accurate garb -- celebrated the 237th anniversary of the Battle of Bennington, and the 50th annual Bennington Battle Day Parade.
On Saturday, the official holiday, the Bennington Battle Monument offered free admission and hosted a re-enactment of life in a Revolutionary War camp. Demonstrations of cannon and musket firings were performed throughout the day, including at 9:30 a.m. to kick off the Bennington Battle Day 5K, which benefitted the Friends of the Bennington Battle Monument. The day came to a close the same way it ended -- loudly -- with fireworks shot off from Willow Park.
Sunday's parade, led by Grand Marshal Rick Knapp, a former Bennington fire chief and current volunteer who has organized the parade for 17 years, saw several notables attend, including Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott and Smokey the Bear. Scott gave a speech in which he talked about the history of the parade and thanked all of the firefighters in attendance for their service. Bennington state representative Mary Morrissey also spoke, saying, "I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our awesome volunteer fire department."
The fire departments were indeed the highlight of the parade, with at least 17 departments from three states participating. The departments present included Bennington Village; Bennington Rural; Shaftsbury; Rutland; Adams, Ma.
The parade was emcee'd from the Four Corners by Magic 590am DJ Ben Patten, who, after the speeches were completed, joked, "We've only got the road blocked off until 3! Fire up the band, let's get this parade going!" At his cue the Mount Anthony Union High School Band began to play "God Bless America," and the parade began in earnest.
After the 5K was complete on Saturday, runners and other guests dispersed throughout the Revolutionary War encampment, where re-enactors chatted about their weaponry, gear, clothing, and how soldiers of that era dealt with cold, disease, and hunger while on campaign. One told the story of how enlisted men were very rarely issued candles, as almost none of them could read, and many would eat the candles, rather than burn them. This encampment, located at the site where the weapons cache the British had been trying to capture was located, was planned in conjunction with re-enactments of the battle itself across the border in New York.
Author Gregory T. Edgar was in attendance at the monument on Saturday, selling and signing copies of his books. Edgar, who has been researching the American Revolution for over 30 years has written four non-fiction books about the war, as well as two pieces of historical fiction about young adults, "Patriots" and "Gone to Meet the British."
Members of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, New Hampshire Air National Guard, visited the monument on Saturday as well, to have lunch after spending the early part of the day at the Bennington Battlefield in nearby New York. Under the command of Col. Paul Hutchinson, they took turns learning how to fire muskets, with help from one of the re-enactors, who was himself a former marine.
The guards-men and -women were visiting the monument and battlefield as part of a history lesson. The 157th occupies Pease Air National Guard Base, which itself has land in Portsmouth, Newington, and Greenland, New Hampshire. Soldiers from New Hampshire played a major role in the Battle of Bennington, as Brigadier General John Stark assembled 1,400 New Hampshire militiamen before crossing the Green Mountains to come to the defense of Vermont. A stone at the monument, gifted by the New Hampshire American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, commemorates this.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB