The Battle of Bennington took place on August 16, 1777 near the present village of Walloomsac, New York, which is just across the state line from Bennington, Vermont. This was one of the key battles of General John Burgoyne's northern campaign, as it would lead directly to his defeat at the Battles of Saratoga.
After the events at Fort Ticonderoga and the Battle of Hubbardton earlier in the year, the colonies of New England began to panic. The northern Hudson River valley was left exposed to the British troops marching down from Montreal, which had already penetrated as far south as Glens Falls. It seemed entirely possible that General Burgoyne and his forces could be spending the winter in Albany, with the rebelling colonies around him disconnected from each other.
However, the British forces were having a problem. The supply lines for the army extended all the way back through the Adirondack Mountains to Canada, leaving them perilously over-extended and vulnerable to attack. The army was slowly running out of rations and draft horses, and had to find someplace to obtain the supplies necessary to attack Albany. General Burgoyne received information about a large cache of weapons and supplies located in Bennington, and decided to set up a camp at Fort Edward and send an expedition. He sent Colonel Friedrich Baum out into the foothills of Vermont to secure what was needed.
The information that Burgoyne received was flawed. There was no large cache of supplies waiting in Bennington. Instead, there was a force of about 1000 men under Seth Warner camped there. Upon hearing that Baum was coming to Bennington, Warner joined together with John Stark and the 1500 strong New Hampshire militia, and directed his troops to the road that ran from Bennington to Fort Edward.
The British force under Baum left Fort Edward on August 11, 1777. The force consisted of 400 German mercenaries, and another 400 Loyalists, Canadians, and Indians. Their progress was slow, as Baum demanded that his troops follow strict European military formalities. Three days later, they encountered a group of scouts from the New Hampshire militia, and easily beat them off. However, Baum now knew that he would not reach Bennington without a fight, and sent to Burgoyne for reinforcements. The force reached a hill that overlooks the Walloomsac River, about four miles outside of Bennington, and decided to wait for the reinforcements to arrive. In the pouring rain, Baum's troops dug trenches and set up makeshift fortifications on top of the hill, and waited.
Stark and Warner could see the British troops from the city, and decided the best plan of attack was to surround the hill with their larger group, and attack when the weather cleared up. Two columns were sent around to the other side of the hill, while the bulk of the main force remained in front of the British. At 3:00 p.m. on August 16th, the battle began.
When the first shots were fired, nearly a third of the British force either surrendered or ran off into the woods. The majority of the remaining force consisted of the German Calvary, which dismounted and began a counter-attack. However, now outnumbered and surrounded, it was a matter of time before they we decimated. Stark would later describe the battle as "one continuous clap of thunder," and the rebels routed the British in about two hours of fighting. Colonel Baum himself was killed trying to fight off the rebels.
As the rebels began to clear the battlefield, the British reinforcements, under Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich von Breymann, arrived. Observing the disorganized state of the rebels, von Breymann ordered his troops to storm the field and attack. This happened at the same time that Seth Warner was bringing the Green Mountain Boys around to the west side of the hill, and the fighting began again. Warner repelled the reinforcements, and chased them back down the road until the sun went down.
The battle was a disaster for the British. Baum was killed, his force of 1000 had either been killed or surrendered to the rebels. But, more importantly, the British were unable to secure the supplies they desperately needed to continue the campaign to Albany.
The rebels, on the other hand, received a morale-boost by beating the crap out of the British. John Stark was promoted to Brigadier-General, and was thanked by Congress and George Washington. The rebels would go on to fight the British twice at Saratoga, leading to the surrender of Burgoyne's Army.
Vermont is the only state in the union with a state holiday commemerating an event that didn't take place within the state. Bennington Battle Day is celebrated August 16th, with state offices closed all day. There is also a monument to the battle built at the location of the armory Colonel Baum was sent to capture.