October 26th, 2016

The Battle of Hubbardton, a Turning Point to the American Revolution

The Battle of Hubbardton was the only Revolutionary War battle fought entirely in Vermont, and it marked the beginning of the end for British General John Burgoyne and his strategy to continue to New York and divide New England from the rest of the colonies.

American Major General Arthur St. Clair, retreating from Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, had left at Hubbardton about 1,000 men to form a rear guard. Through this maneuver, St. Clair was not only able to escape after the British arrived with his weary and tattered main army, but he also stopped the pursuing forces.

The American forces at Hubbardton were comprised of Vermont’s Colonel Seth Warner with a detachment of Green Mountain Boys; a detail of Massachusetts militia, and the 2nd New Hampshire Continental Regiment. The pursuing British units of General John Burgoyne’s Army were seasoned regulars. Some 850 men were led by Brigadier General Simon Fraser, one of Burgoyne’s best line officers. Fraser was ably supported by a detachment of 200 or so Brunswick troops under Major General Baron von Riedesel, a competent field officer.

About dawn, on the morning of the battle, the stage was set. The British pursued the retreating Americans from Mount Independence to Hubbardton. As the British column reached Sucker Brook, the Americans were attacked. The Americans then retreated to positions atop Monument Hill. The British deployed and attacked the hill, but were immediately repulsed and even pursued in their retreat to their former position. The Americans returned to the hilltop and again the British attacked and were repulsed. Thus, the battle continued over an hour as the British attempted to flank the American defense.

At this point, the Brunswick troops under von Riedesel reached the scene and immediately attacked the American right with fixed bayonets. By this time, General St. Clair’s troops had safely reached Castleton and the American troops could withdraw. Although the Americans were defeated, they had actually done precisely what was required in a rear guard action. They had fought the fully deployed enemy to a standstill and had given their main force time to move on. They had done so with skill and courage. Warner’s men left the field with a great moral victory.

The Battle of Hubbardton involved about 2,000 troops and resulted in a total of about 600 casualties, or roughly 30 percent of all participating troops. The losses were approximately equal on both side.

The Hubbardton Battlefield Monument was erected in 1859. It is constructed from Vermont marble and surrounded by a cast iron fence. The monument marks the place where Colonel Ebenezer Francis is believed to be buried. The leadership qualities and bravery under fire, shown by Colonels Warner and Francis during the conflict, had earned the highest respect of their adversaries. General von Riedesel had especially admired these two youthful American officers. When Francis’s body was found after the battle, Baron von Riedesel personally saw to it that this galiant young Colonel received a Christian burial, with full military honors rendered by a detachment from the Brunswick troops.

— Information from Hubbardton Historical Society

Senator Bill Doyle serves on the Senate Education Committee and Senate Economic Affairs Committee. He teaches government history at Johnson State College. He can be reached at 186 Murray Road, Montpelier, VT 05602; e-mail wdoyle@leg.state.vt.us; or call 223-2851.

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