Baum Site 24: The First Battle of Bennington

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Bennington Battlefield SHS. Photo by Andrew Alberti.

That night, Baum stayed midway up the hill with the baggage, as the Dragoons went to the top to set up their defenses. Burgoyne had received Baum’s August 14th dispatch, and by dawn on the morning of August 15th over 500 troops with two 6-pound cannons, were dispatched to assist Baum. This detachment, under the Command of Brunswick Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich Christoph Breymann,  had to travel the same route Baum had covered, but the heavy rain delayed their march.The heavy rain also prevented Stark from leading an attack against Baum, although Rebel sharpshooters were spotted behind trees by Baum and his men. Baum used the opportunity to reinforce and enhance his position.

The Dragoons were posted at the top of the hill, which is why it is later dubbed “Hessian Hill.” Breastworks of logs and mud were constructed on the northwest corner of the hill, where the hill was less steep and vulnerable from enemy attack. Baum and the Indians were with the baggage at the bottom of the hill, guarding the road from where they had come the day before. A quickly constructed fortification was established on the southeast perimeter, on the opposite side of the single-span bridge. The Loyalists occupied this fortification, which is why it is later dubbed the Tory or Loyalist Fort. Baum posted the artillery behind the Loyalist Fort on the other side of the Walloomsac, above where the train tracks cross Caretaker Road.

This morning the attack upon the right wing started again. Under the command and direction of Capt. Fraser, the Tories and a few Englishmen had to lay out a small entrenchment with big trees at our left wing. The squadron of Maj. Gen. von Riedesel occupied it under the command of Captain to the Cavalry Fricke and Cornet Strutzer.

A report came that the Breymann Corps was on its way to help us. Would that this be true or that we would withdraw but the bridge at Sancoick. We would be much safer there than here where every 40 paces a man is standing behind a tree. The inhabitants living around here come and go through our camp; they will surely give the enemy information of our weaknesses. Soon I am afraid they will no longer be deterred by our 3-pound cannon but take them and all the rest of us. The Savages are all lying behind the baggage, dispirited; they do not want to go forward. The attack continues the whole day. Also today, we have neither dead nor wounded, the Tories and Canadians, however, have had losses both yesterday and today. We have more than 180 oxen, also the horses are on the increase; the officers have all they need. On our left wing it has been completely quiet today. Every 2 hours, patrols were sent out who have not seen anything in particular up to tonight.

Julius Wasmus, August 15, 1777

During the evening of August 15th, while Baum and his men settled in for an uneasy night, the Vermont militia and the Berkshire County Massachusetts militia arrived at Stark’s camp, increasing the advantage of the American troops to almost 3 to 1. Everyone awoke the morning of August 16th to clear weather, and Col. Skene was dispatched to hurry Breymann along. Meanwhile, Stark laid out his plan to overtake the enemy position.

At about 3:00 in the afternoon, the attack happened all at once, with Baum’s men immediately taking casualties. Rebels attacked the Loyalist Fort, driving them from the entrenchment with just one volley. Simultaneously, Rebel forces in the woods attacked the Hessian Hill breastworks from two directions. As the fighting intensified, the Indians retreated into the woods. Baum was overrun and pushed down the hill.

This morning, 100 oxen were sent to our army. Everything is quiet; we neither see nor hear anything of the enemy and the patrols that were sent out have not seen anything of the enemy as far as one hour’s march away.

This morning, we took possession of many other horses. All noncommissioned officers of the regiment and several dragoons in each squadron have horses. If this continues, the regiment will soon be mounted. The 2nd patrol that had been sent out from our left wing brought he news that some of the enemy has appeared not far from us in the woods and in the brush. This was immediately reported to our commander.

He sent Capt. O’Connell to reconnoiter, who indeed saw men in front of our line in the brush. After he had gone, it became increasingly lively in the brush in front of our line, [a fact] which was also reported by our Major Meibom.  A cannon was therefore requested, which was sent with the reminder: one should not consider a few individuals to be a line or a regiment.

The strangest of all was that our commander did not know where we were standing. He had not visited us in these last 3 days and as Adjutant Liet. Breva had to keep running from one wing to the other, the orders were transmitted through our Auditeur Thomas.

All the Savages came onto our mountain, lay down behind the trees and refuse to go forward against the enemy. Now came the news that the Breymann Corps was very near and would soon arrive. Everyone wished they were here already.

The enemy is marching in force against our right wing and it appears that they want to encircle us. There is also some shooting on our right wing. After 12 o’clock, a patrol was sent out from our lines and was driven off by the enemy, who fired at them. Half an hour later, a violent volley of fire erupted against the entrenchment that was occupied by 35 dragoons. Our dragoons fired up volleys on the enemy in cold blood and with much courage, and it did not take them long their carbines behind the breastworks. But as soon as they rose to take aim, bullets went through their heads. They fell backwards and no longer moved a finger. Thus, in a short time, our tallest and best dragoons were sent into eternity. The [German] cannon shot balls and grapeshot sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left and then gain forward into the brush. The Savages made terrible faces and ran from one tree to the next.

I had chosen a very big oak tree close behind our entrenchment, behind which I dressed the wounded. The Savages also came behind the tree and 4 or 5 of them lying down on top of men almost crushed me to death. From the enemy side, the fire became increasingly heavy and they [the enemy] pressed harder.

When the Savages saw that, one of them, probably the oldest, emitted a strange cry, which cannot be described; whereupon they all ran down the mountain toward the baggage. The cannon in our entrenchment was quiet because the sergeant artificer, who commanded it, had been shot; the 8 men at the cannons were either shot or wounded.

Julius Wasmus, August 16, 1777

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Baum’s Fourth Letter to Burgoyne

Sir, I HAD the honour of writing to your excellency, and to General Fraser, this morning at four o’clock acquainting you to the disposition I had made, as well as the situation of the enemy, to which I take the liberty of referring; since when I received intelligence from two men who lived on the spot the enemy occupy, it is a strong post which commands a long defile on the road to Bennington: those men declare to have seen yesterday 300 men, who were retreating as my corps advanced, when they were reinforced by 800 men from Bennington.

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