Speech Before The Battle Of Bennington Quotes

John Stark

"Tonight The American Flag Floats From Yonder Hill Or Molly Stark Sleeps A Widow!"

Context: Born in Londonderry, New Hampshire, John Stark gained fame as an American Revolutionary soldier. Having achieved the rank of colonel in 1775, he led the American forces against the British at Breed's Hill and aided in the fortification of New York. In the following year he commanded brilliantly both at Princeton and Trenton. In the spring of 1777, when a new promotion list failed to include his name, Stark resigned his commission and returned to his farm. Meanwhile, General Burgoyne was effecting a successful march, and New Hampshire was called upon to raise forces in her defense. Stark was requested to take command of the troops, but he refused to do so unless his command be decreed independent of all save the state. His conditions accepted, he encamped at Bennington with his independent troop. Burgoyne, having heard of the dissension in the American ranks, determined to send Colonel Baum to cut off Stark's detachment and thus crush the New England resistance. These events precipitated the Battle of Bennington, fought, not at Bennington, not even in Vermont, but about seven miles from the former place and two miles inside the New York state line. Under Baum were one thousand Tories, Canadian rangers, marksmen, chasseurs, Hessians, and Indians. Stark's force totaled more; but, whereas Baum's men were seasoned fighters, Stark's militia had seen no action of any sort. On the morning of August 14 Stark formed his troops for attack and delivered his now-famous address. The result was an overwhelming American victory, including the capture of substantial materials and over seven hundred troops. More important, the success breathed new spirit into the American cause, and, with greater confidence, the Colonies defeated Burgoyne at Saratoga. In his speech Stark struck sharply at the difference between the professional fighters of the enemy and the home guard of his own command:

. . . My men, yonder are the Hessians. They were bought for seven pounds and ten pence a man. Are you worth more? Prove it. To-night the American flag floats from yonder hill or Molly Stark sleeps a widow!