Baum: Epilogue

In about three hours, the Battles of Bennington were over. Total German and British losses amounted to about 200 dead and 700 captured, while the Americans recorded 30 dead and 40 wounded. It was a lopsided victory for the Americans and a decisive defeat for the British. Stark will later describe the battle as “one continuous clap of thunder,” and lamented that “had the daylight lasted one hour longer … we should have taken the whole body of them.”

Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum and Francis Pfister were mortally wounded in the area where Baum led a sabre charge, near the bend in the Walloomsac. They were carried to the Matthews House, just opposite the New York and Vermont border, where they both die. Baum is buried west of this house, on the north bank of the Walloomsac River. His exact gravesite is unknown and may have been washed away by the meandering river.

Julius Wasmus was among the men taken prisoner. When an American finds him hiding behind a tree he shakes hands with the man and calls him “Freund und Bruder,” “for what does one not do when in trouble.” When they heard that he was a CHIRURGUS [surgeon], they immediately set him to work bandaging troops. He attempted to help some of the fallen German artillerymen, but they did not give him the time and pulled him along by force. The prisoners were taken to Bennington before they marched to Boston as POWs, and the loyalists were sent to their home state to be tried.

Not all the troops were taken prisoner. As the fighting intensified, many of the soldiers
were able to flee through the woods. Many of the Germans who came to America to fight for the British stayed after the war ended, settling on the fertile land they admired while marching through the wilderness. Not a single Native was taken prisoner. In a council following the battle, many of the Natives decided to go home.

Burgoyne’s army was preparing to cross the Hudson when word of the battle arrived. His troops marched toward Bennington believing that reinforcements may be necessary, but he received a notice that Breymann and what remained of his force were returning to camp. Lieutenant William Digby reported that “the corps was not to move that day and to keep a very sharp look out on which we naturally supposed something extraordinary would happen. Soon after an engineer came out to us with a number of men to throw up a breast work. Still it looked suspicious but we were soon made acquainted with the melancholy report that the detachment which marched from us on the 11th were all cut to pieces by the enemy at Bennington, their force being much superior.”

The effect on Baum’s defeat in Bennington on Burgoyne’s campaign was significant. Not only had he lost nearly 1,000 men, but he also lost the crucial Indian support. The failure to bring in nearby supplies meant that he had to rely on supply lines that were already dangerously long. Facing an army of nearly 13,000 Rebels at the heights of Stillwater, Burgoyne stockpiled his supplies before abandoning the supply line to make an all out effort toward Albany. With Howe heading towards Philadelphia by sea, Clinton firmly planted at New York Harbor and St. Leger’s defeat in the Mohawk Valley; Burgoyne’s situation worsened. On September 10, he would abandon his headquarters at the Duer House, crossing the Hudson prior to the Battles of Saratoga.

American General John Stark would follow in the footsteps of Baum’s men along the Continental Road, taking up headquarters at the Smyth House (Old Fort House Museum), which they renamed Fort Stark. Following the second Battle of Saratoga on October 7, where Breymann would meet his demise, and Burgoyne’s hasty retreat to the area around Victory Woods, Stark took an eminent position on a rocky bluff north of Saratoga at a place now called Stark’s Knob, which prevented Burgoyne’s retreat to the north. The Germans camped in the area around what is now Schuylerville Central School before Burgoyne surrendered on October 17.

Today, the Battles of Bennington are an oft-forgotten prelude to the Battles of Saratoga, which is heralded as the Turning Point of the American Revolution and one of the most important battles of the last 1,000 years. Bennington Battle Day is observed on August 16. It is Vermont’s only official state holiday, and commemorates an event that didn’t even take place within the state’s borders. The Bennington Monument is built upon the storehouse that was the object of Baum’s excursion.