(the first skirmish in the War over Walloomsac August 14, 1777)
It was the third year of the American Revolution and the British army was well into a campaign designed to divide
the colonies in half with a massive three-pronged attack. The plan was for
General Burgoyne with the main force of over 8000 men, to drive south through
the Champlain Valley and into the upper Hudson Valley. General Howe was to
advance from New York City through the lower Hudson Valley. Colonel Leger was
to advance from Lake Ontario eastward through the Mohawk Valley. The three
forces were to meet in Albany before the winter of 1777 ended the campaign
season. By early August, Burgoynes army was slowed and weakened due to lack of
provisions. Burgoyne assigned Lieut. Col. Friedrich Baum to lead an
expeditionary force of about 500 men with a goal to capture military supplies
held at Bennington and to collect cattle and horses along the road from
Saratoga to Bennington for shipment back to the main army.
The following information is from Historical and Statistical Gazetteer of New York State by J. H. French, published in 1860.
Courtesy of: www.rootsweb.com
The Battle at Walloomsac was one of the most important of the military events connected with the expedition of Burgoyne in 1777. About the first of August, the British army reached the Hudson and took possession of Fort Edward. For several weeks they had been engaged in repairing the bridges and in clearing the roads from the impediments left by the retreating Americans; and, upon their arrival at the Hudson, Burgoyne congratulated himself that his troubles were at an end. His greatest source of embarrassment was in securing provisions for his army and in obtaining means of transportation. With 15 days' hard labor he was only enabled to bring 10 bateaux and 4 days' provisions from Lake George. Learning that the Americans had collected a large quantity of military stores, cattle, and horses at Bennington, he was persuaded by Major Skene, against the advice of his most experienced officers, to send a party to capture them. The detachment consisted of 500 Hessians, Canadians, and Tories, under the command of Colonel Baum. They were instructed "to try the affections of the county, to mount Reidsel's dragoons, to complete Peters's corps [of Loyalists], and to obtain a large supply of cattle, horses, and carriages." This accomplished, he was to scour the country from Rockingham to Otter Creek, go down as far at Brattleboro [Vermont], and join the main body by the great road to Albany. The detachment left the camp at Fort Edward on August 13; and on the evening of the same day they surprised and captured five Americans at Cambridge. On August 14, they advanced as far as the mill upon White Creek River, in the northeastern part of Hoosick, and within 12 miles of Bennington. General Stark, who commanded the American forces at Bennington, learning of the approach of the enemy, took immediate measures for defense. He sent an order to Colonel Warner, at Manchester, to march immediately with his regiment of Green Mountain Boys; he rallied the neighboring militia, and on August 13, he sent out an advance guard of 200 men, under Lieutenant-Colonel Gregg, to impede the progress of the enemy. On the morning of August 14, he marched with his whole force to the support of Gregg, and about five miles from Bennington, he met Gregg in full retreat, with the enemy within one mile of him. Both armies chose strong positions and threw up temporary entrenchments. Baum, alarmed at the number of Americans, sent for a reinforcement. On August 15, a heavy rain set in, and the day was spent in skirmishing and in preparing for the battle. Colonel Warner's regiment arrived at Bennington in the evening, and there stopped to dry themselves and recruit after their fatiguing march. Stark, fearing that the enemy might receive reinforcements, resolved to attack them early on the morning of August 16. Previous to the signal for attack, he made the following laconic speech to his men: "See there, men! There are the red-coats. Before night they are ours, or Molly Stark will be a widow." The attack was at once made simultaneously at all points. The Indians fled at the beginning of the conflict, and the Tories were soon driven from their posts, leaving the Hessians to sustain the weight of the engagement. After 2½ hours of hard fighting, the enemy gave way at all points, and commenced a disorderly retreat. While the Americans were busy in plundering the abandoned camp of the enemy, and in detached parties were engaged in pursuit, Colonel Breyman, with a reinforcement of 500 men, arrived. He met the flying fugitives about two miles from the scene of action and immediately charged upon the broken ranks of the Americans, the tide of battle driven helplessly from the field where they had so lately been victorious. At this moment Colonel Warner's regiment arrived from Bennington and checked the advance of the British. Stark rallied his broken forces behind the fresh troops, and soon the battle again became general. At sunset the British fled toward the Hoosick and were pursued by the Americans until dark. The Americans lost about 30 killed and 40 wounded. The British loss, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, was 934. The result of this battle was disastrous in the extreme to Burgoyne, and contributed more than any other event to his final surrender at Saratoga.