Bennington Battle Day honors local tradition and heroes

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BENNINGTON — The community celebrated the 239th anniversary of the Battle of Bennington this weekend with historical re-enactments, the annual parade and more.

The Bennington Battle Day Weekend featured three days packed with events, from a barbecue to kids events to a softball game. It's the 52nd year of the annual celebration, and the Bennington Village Fire Department has led the planning for about 50.

The Vermont State Firefighters Association also met in town this weekend, holding its annual banquet, a memorial and competitions.

On Aug. 16, 1777, a colonial force of at least 1,500 New Hampshire and Massachusetts militiamen defeated a detachment of 700 British soldiers, under the command of Lt. Colonel Friedrich Baum.

Driven by a need for ammunition, food and arms, General John Burgoyne had sent Baum to raid the Bennington storehouse for supplies. But Baum's detachment was met by the militia, led by General John Stark and Colonel Seth Warner.

Burgoyne's army — comprised of German, or "Hessian" soldiers, as well as Canadians, loyalists and Indians — was reduced by a quarter, with 200 killed and another 700 captured. Baum himself was mortally wounded and died two days later. Of the rebels, about 20 were killed and 40 wounded. Historians credit the rebel victory as leading to Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga.

"The Battle of Bennington" was fought in nearby Walloomsac, N.Y., and is commemorated by the Bennington Monument. The 306-foot tall stone obelisk, the tallest man-made structure in Vermont, was dedicated in 1891. It was built at the site of the storehouse that Burgoyne's army tried to raid.

It was at the monument where a popular annual tradition was held again on Saturday: The 11th annual Battle Day 5K road race, a popular event run by the Friends of the Monument non-profit group.

The state-run historic site also hosted historical re-enactors from the Royal British Loyalists. They led drills and presentations for visitors.

At noon, former crew members and families of the USS Bennington attended the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the town offices. The ship, commissioned in 1944, was decommissioned in 1970 after seeing combat in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Names of all former crew members who died in the last year were read. The ship's bell, which stands on the town office's lawn, was rung after each list of names was read.

The weather forecast looked ominous at times with a chance of thunderstorms throughout the weekend. The region saw storms on Saturday evening, but the annual parade still saw a good turnout on Sunday afternoon.

Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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