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Sipp Ives, a man from New Providence — known today as Cheshire, Mass. — enlisted on Feb. 14, 1777 for three years of service in Colonel Seth Warner's Continental regiment during the American Revolutionary War.

Sipp Ives, almost exactly six months after enlisting, trudged in the pouring rain on a muddy road (the future Vermont 7A) before camping overnight a mile north of Bennington.

Sipp Ives, along with about 130 fellow Green Mountain Boys, dried his equipment, picked up ammunition in Bennington and continued seven miles west to the battlefield in Walloomsac, New York.

Sipp Ives fought and helped win victory over General John Burgoyne's hired German soldiers as well as British, loyalist, and indigenous men on Aug. 16, 1777.

Sipp Ives suffered wounds in the fighting and died on Aug. 17, 1777.

Sipp Ives happened to be the only Green Mountain Boy to fall in the Battle of Bennington.

Sipp Ives also happened to be black.

New light, old history

On Saturday, the second day of Black History Month, the Bennington Museum will host a free community day, and local historians Lion Miles and Phil Holland will provide a presentation on Ives as well as other black soldiers of the American Revolution.

Miles, who lives in Stockbridge, Mass., has studied primary source documents from the Battle of Bennington in great depth. He came across Ives in one of 80,000 pension applications filed by veterans of the Revolutionary War.

One pension application included the deposition of Daniel Brown, a Lanesborough, Mass. man who testified on behalf of a widow of a former captain in Col. Seth Warner's Continental regiment. Brown fought in the Battle of Bennington, and as he recounted his memories of the former captain, he remembered something else that might have sounded tangential at the time but became vital to Miles' discoveries about Ives.

"This one fellow said, `I was at the battle and I saw a black man mortally wounded on the ground,'" Miles said. "Taking it from there, I was wondering who this black man could be."

A 1780 muster roll showed Ives as the only man in Colonel Seth Warner's Continental regiment who was killed in the Battle of Bennington. Another clue lay in the name "Sipp," which was a reference to the legendary Roman military commander Scipio Africanus and a common name for African-American men in the 18th century.

"The black man mortally wounded had to be Ives," Miles said.

The uncovering

This discovery about Ives wasn't something Miles necessarily looked for. His interest in the Battle of Bennington stemmed from his own American Revolutionary War ancestor, a German solider captured in the Battle of Saratoga.

He has, for instance, tracked down the German soldiers captured at the Battle of Bennington, some 400 of them.

"I come from a family intrigued by family history," Miles said.

He researched whenever he could, wherever he could, throughout the U.S. as well as Germany. When he worked as a commercial pilot for American Airlines, Miles would bid for flights to the cities containing the archives where he wanted to visit next.

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"I'm a drudge," he said. "On layovers for the airline, I would go off to the local historical society."

Miles recorded his findings in 60 or so thick, filled-up notebooks that now sit on his living room couch. Included in their pages are the details of Ives, details Miles didn't think to share until he met Phil Holland.

Holland, who lives in Shaftsbury, was researching in the Bennington Museum archives for his 2016 book, "A Guide To The Battle of Bennington & the Bennington Monument," when he came across an address that Miles gave in 1981 about the Battle of Bennington soldiers buried in the Old Bennington Cemetery.

"I was kind of taken aback by the depth of the research in the German archives," Holland said. "You don't see everyone do that."

He drove to Stockbridge to meet Miles. The two historians kept in touch over time, and about six months ago, Miles mentioned to Holland the case of Ives.

"I said, `A black Green Mountain Boy dying on the field of battle?' That surprised me, and I thought it was a story that needed to be told," Holland said.

While there are facts he still can't know — Sipp Ives' age, for instance, or whether he was a slave or a free man — Holland said his further research into black figures of America's Revolutionary War era has filled in pieces of history he's been missing until now.

By reading things like William Cooper Nell's 1855 book, "The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution," he added, "I've had a pleasant project of self-education." The initial surprise Holland felt at Ives' role as a black Green Mountain Boy sounds na ve to him, now.

"African-Americans were here and fighting side by side with white Americans for liberty," he said. "Black people did not arrive in Vermont or fight for Vermont only recently — they have been there from the beginning."

Changing narratives

Holland is sensitive to the fact that he and Miles, who are both white, will be the presenters for Saturday's event. As Holland has prepared — including reaching out to several local branches of the NAACP — he said he has paid particular attention to how white people have appropriated, caricatured and misrepresented black people.

"Whatever assertions are made should be backed up by a scholarly level of evidence," he said. "If I've distorted the historical record I would correct myself or become more aware."

This work, the often-uncomfortable work of white Americans educating themselves and getting the history straight, is what NAACP-Berkshire County Branch President Dennis Powell is asking for as black Americans continue to experience racial prejudice, harassment and discrimination.

"Let's face it, white people wrote history, and they wrote it to benefit themselves — that's why we've got such a divide," Powell said. "We have to learn to be uncomfortable if we're going to change the narrative."

He pointed out that his organization provides these narrative-changing, education opportunities all the time. These include a regular series of website posts called "Desegregating American History," which feature different famous black figures; black-history-focused field trips for area schoolchildren; and a special exhibit at the Berkshire Museum with photos, objects and recorded, oral history from black members of the local community.

Powell sees the Sipp Ives presentation as another narrative-changing education opportunity, and he plans to attend Saturday.

"I think it's very important that it is being brought forward," he said. "Anybody who's willing to bring real history to paper or film or theater, I'm all for it."

If you go: Lion Miles and Phil Holland will present their findings on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Bennington Museum. Admission is free. Prior to their presentation, museum curator Jamie Franklin will provide a short introduction and discuss a newly acquired tintype of Lt. Jonathan Holton, who was a Battle of Bennington soldier.


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