Bernard A. Drew: Our Berkshires: Strong Berkshire presence in Bennington battle

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GREAT BARRINGTON >> If we'd gone a day later, Aug. 28, we could have celebrated Gen. John Stark's birthday. It would have been the New Hampshirite's 288th (he lived from 1728 to 1822), and someone baked a cake for a gathering at the Bennington battlefield, which is actually a half dozen miles from that village. It's actually in Walloomsuc, N.Y. Now a state park, the site tells part of the story of the encounter Aug. 16, 1777, that showed the British army what New Englanders and New Yorkers were made of.

British Gen. John Burgoyne expected to sweep down the Champlain valley, split rebel forces and quickly take Albany. He led British redcoats, German hired forces, Canadians, American Indians and American loyalists. Stark had various militias from New Hampshire, Vermont and Western Massachusetts.

Constantly harassed as he made his way south, Burgoyne dispatched Lt. Col. Friedrich Baum to raid Bennington for powder, food and other supplies. Baum never got there. Encamped on a bluff east of North Hoosac, N.Y., he dug in. Our side prevailed, despite a hectic, late-inning joust between British relief forces, under Col. Heinrich Breymann, and Seth Warner's Green Mountain Boys. British soldiers numbered upwards of 1,200, Americans closer to 2,000.

Donna and I walked the perimeter of the state park memorial and found the Massachusetts stone. The 1931 bronze relief by William Gordon Huff (1903-1993) — an artist known for his paleontology scenes — shows Parson Thomas Allen of Pittsfield, Col. Joab Stafford, Col. Benjamin Simonds, Col. David Rossiter and Stockbridge Indians. All were from Berkshire. Rifles shouldered, soldiers walk into the woods. Allen carries a Bible. Stockbridge Mohicans are on the lookout.

Allen (1743-1810), who is remembered in a marker on the Park Square oval in Pittsfield, was known as the fighting parson. Stafford, who died in 1802, farmed on Stafford Hill in Cheshire. He led a militia company. A 1927 round, stone memorial commemorates his grave.

Simonds (1725-1807), a Connecticut native, had a long history in the military, having served during King George's War (1744) and having been posted at Fort Massachusetts in North Adams. He also led a militia company.

Rossiter (1735-1811), an early Richmond settler, come from North Guilford, Conn. He served in Col. John Brown's regiment. Stockbridge Indians — who had served with Rogers' Rangers during the French & Indian Wars — were led by Capt. Solomon Uhhaunauwanumt.

The memorial omits Col. John Ashley's company from Sheffield, and from Pittsfield Col. James Easton, Capt. Charles Goodrich and Capt. William Francis. All served with distinction. There was only so much room on the bronze.

Volunteer patriots

A copy of the bronze relief made in 1932 — George Washington's bicentennial year — was installed at the Cheshire cemetery on Route 8, dedicated by Eugene Bucklin Bowen. It credited "six hundred and more volunteer patriots of Berkshire County," and added the names of Col. Samuel Low, Capt. Daniel Brown, John Bucklin, Jeremiah Bucklin, Joseph Brown, John Eaton, Luther Topliffe, Ephraim Bliss, Joshua Smith, Daniel Smith, David Bowen, Samuel Bowen, Benjamin Slocum, Simeon Brown, Samuel Aldrich and David Cushing.

Two of my favorite minute men were sons of Great Barrington's Israel Dewey: Justin and Hugo. They served together at Walloomsuck. A third brother, Benedict (1736-96), was there too, and a fourth, Paul.

Hugo (1752-1933) was the first Dewey to enlist, as a private in Capt. Enoch Noble's Company, Col. John Brown's Regiment, for 30 days beginning June 29, 1877. He re-enlisted Aug. 15 with Capt. Silas Goodrich's company, Col. John Ashley's regiment, and with 45 other Great Barrington men raced to Vermont to serve under Stark. Hugo was discharged after seven days.

Justin (1751-1832) was a private in the same Goodrich company, then a corporal in Capt. John King's company, under Ashley, in late June and early July 1780, marching to the defense of West Point. The next year he was in Capt. Thomas Ingersoll's company under Ashley's command at Stillwater.

Back in civilian life, Justin and Hugo lived in the vicinity of where Rite Aid is now on Main Street and worked in their father's grist and saw mill behind the present St. Peter's Church. Both married, the former having two daughters, the latter one. They eventually purchased adjoining farms near the Alford line.

"Justin and Hugo Dewey were notable characters," according to Great Barrington historian Charles J. Taylor, "and in some respects remarkable men. Both were large and portly; both were genial and sociable; and a fondness for mirthfulness equally characterized both. They were brothers in every sense of the word. Living but a short distance apart, they were almost constantly in each other's company. They tilled their farms and harvested their crops together. If they went to church, they went together; if they visited the village tavern it was together, and together they told their stories and sipped their mug of flip. Their lives were of that peaceful, unruffled nature which tends to happiness and longevity, and which in their case won the esteem and respect of their townsmen."

Bernard A. Drew is a regular Eagle contributor.


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