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THE BENNINGTON CENTENNIAL

VERMONT consecrates to-day her first historic monument. But not hers alone. New Hampshire and Massachusetts, who fought with her and for her at Bennington, have joined in erecting this memorial of their common history. And they are here, by a splendid representation, to share in the triumph of its completion, and to give to the occasion, by the distinction of their presence, a higher dignity, a more generous grace.

The day has a still larger significance. It is trebly fortunate. It marks not only the anniversary of the battle, and the happy consummation in this structure of the exertions of fifteen years, but likewise the centennial of the entrance of Vermont into the Federal Union. It unites in its suggestions the great memories and the great hope in the life of our commonwealth, the expiring century and the limitless future. It is fit that we should signalize such an occasion. Well may Vermont throw open this day her gates and her heart. Well may she call her children home. And with a display uncommon to her simple life, with trumpets, and banners, and acclamations, and the triumphant voice of cannon, offer unbounded welcome to the great concourse that has gathered to her festival. It is appropriate and gratifying that the chief magistrate of the nation should be at such a time our most honored guest. In this scene, party differences are forgotten. We are only Americans. And in loyalty to that great office, and respect for the incumbent who fills it so well, we are all this day on the President's side.

History is full of battles. All its pages are stained with blood. Instruments, for the most part, of ambition, of tyranny, and of crime. It would have been well for the world to be spared the misery they wrought. It would be well for its history if their memory could perish. But there have been battles nevertheless whose smoke went up like incense; consecrated in the sight of Heaven by the cause they maintained. Such was that for which this shaft shall henceforth stand.

If battles were to be accounted great in proportion to the numbers engaged, Bennington would be but small. In comparison with Marathon, and Waterloo, and Gettysburg, it was in that view only an affair of outposts. But it is not numbers alone that give importance to battle-fields. The fame of Thermopylæ would not have survived had the Greeks been a great army instead of three hundred. It is the cause that is fought for, the heroism and self - sacrifice displayed, and the consequences which follow, moral and political as well as military, that give significance to conflicts of arms. Judged by these standards, Bennington may well be reckoned among the memorable battles of the world.

It was, on our side, the people's fight. No government directed or supplied it; no regular force was concerned; it was a part of no organized campaign. New Hampshire sent her hastily embodied militia, not the less volunteers. In Vermont and Massachusetts it was the spontaneous uprising of a rural and peaceloving population, to resist invasion, to defend their homes, to vindicate their right of self-government. Lexington and Bunker Hill were in this respect its only parallels in the Revolutionary war.

The march of Burgoyne from Canada to the Hudson had been till then a continuous victory. He was a brave and skilful soldier, leading a well-appointed and powerful army. Ticonderoga, the key and stronghold of the northern frontier, had fallen unexpectedly without a blow. The Vermonters retreating thence had been overtaken and utterly defeated at Hubbardton. The advance of the British to Stillwater had been almost unopposed; and there was as yet no promise of effectual resistance. Even Washington, steel-proof against despair, wrote that he saw not how Burgoyne's march to Albany could be checked.

The situation of the inhabitants of the Hampshire Grants was most critical. Their whole frontier was open to the incursions of an enemy whose allies were savages. They had been totally neglected by Congress; not a step had been taken for their relief. Scattered sparsely through the country upon their farms, without any organized State government, almost destitute of the material of war, except the firearms in their houses, they still had no thought of flight or submission. They called upon God first, in a day of fasting and prayer, appointed by their Convention, and not only appointed but solemnly kept. And then they called upon New Hampshire and John Stark. New Hampshire, ablaze with patriotic feeling, issued instant orders for her militia to march. Stark's reply was brief, for he was not a man of words. "I am on the way,” said he, “with all the men I can muster.” With the eye of a born soldier, he saw that the Vermonters were right when they declared, that there could be no frontier but a frontier of armed men. That the Hampshire Grants must be held, because no enemy could be resisted to whom the gates of the country were thus thrown open. And that the effectual blow against Burgoyne must be struck on his flank.

Full justice has been done, in history and tradition, to the bravery and the patriotism of John Stark. But his great qualities as a general have not been set forth as they deserve. No better piece of military work was seen in the Revolution than he did in that brief and sudden campaign. He concentrated the scattered militia at Charleston with a rapidity that was marvellous. He was impeded by the want of the most necessary and ordinary supplies. Detained, he wrote for lack of bullet moulds; "but one pair in town;" for they had their own bullets to cast; destitute, he wrote again, even of camp kettles; striving in vain to get three or four field - pieces mounted; the powder he had depended upon half spoiled. Yet, receiving his orders on the 22d of July, while the militia were all at their homes, he marched with the last of them from Charleston, on the 3d of August. On the 7th he was at Manchester, through the wilderness and across the Green Mountains, by incapable roads, and without any adequate transportation. On the oth he was at Bennington, with his own forces and the Massachusetts and Vermont men organized and in hand.

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