Battle Day plan includes cannon fire at Monument

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BENNINGTON — The schedule for Battle Day events at the Bennington Monument will once again include the occasional roar of a Revolutionary War cannon, according to the state's historic preservation officer.

Laura Trieschmann said this week that, while final details of the Battle Day weekend events are being worked out, and will be released soon, the cannon will be part of the festivities.

"We have invited the re-enactor with the cannon to participate on August 17 and 18," Trieschmann said in an email.

The tentative schedule, she said, includes firing the cannon at 9:30 and 11 a.m. on Saturday to start and end the annual 5K road race, and at 3 p.m. to end the day's events at the Monument.

On Sunday, the cannon is expected to fired at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Trieschmann said.

Complaints filed

Following complaints from two residents of Old Bennington who live near Monument Circle and the 306-foot obelisk that commemorates the Aug. 16, 1777, Battle of Bennington, the state briefly considered banning cannon fire during the events. Those include an encampment at the circle by colonial era re-enactors and several blasts of a cannon.

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But after opposition to the proposed ban erupted in late April and was reported in a Banner article, Trieschmann and other officials dropped that idea, saying the state had received a flood of emails, letters and other comments in support of retaining cannon fire as appropriate for a boisterous, patriotic American holiday.

Local state lawmakers also became involved by lobbying state officials and Gov. Phil Scott in opposition to a cannon ban.

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Bennington also marks the battle each August with an afternoon parade along Main and other streets and a number of other events over the long weekend. The parade this year is scheduled for Aug. 18.

Also planned in the preliminary schedule of Monument events, Trieschmann said, are the arrival of the re-enactors group on Friday afternoon to set up camp on the circle lawn, and welcoming ceremonies at noon on Saturday, including remarks by Trieschmann and state Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington.

The Moodus Fife & Drum corps will perform three sets on Saturday afternoon, and there will be a Vintage Visitors Presentation and tea at 2 p.m. at the Old First Church barn just off the circle.

The re-enactors will break camp and depart late Sunday afternoon.

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Outpouring of support

In May, Trieschmann said a cannonfire ban had been considered in an attempt to preserve a balance between the concerns of neighborhood residents and those celebrating the famous battle.

Secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development Michael Schirling said after an outpouring of support for keeping the cannon that, "until today, we hadn't heard a lot of pro-cannon feedback."

He said that was true even among the re-enactor community, as in fact, no cannons were ever fired at the site during the Battle of Bennington. That took place in nearby Hoosick, New York, where New Englanders rushed to face a contingent of Hessian troops attached to British Gen. John Burgoyne's invading army and bent on confiscating military and other supplies stored in Bennington.

The American victory here was a factor in the defeat and surrender of the remainder of Burgoyne's 8,000-man force at Saratoga, New York, on Oct. 17, 1777. It was considered a major turning point in the colonists' fight for independence from Britain.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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