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HERE are several lives of the hero of Bennington, but none of any great merit, either personal or literary. The first one, which was prefixed to a reprint of Major Rogers's Expeditions with the New England Rangers, originally brought out in London in 1765, was published at Concord, New Hampshire, in 1831. It is the chief authority for all that have since appeared, and is, without doubt, authentic and trustworthy. It seems to have been written by some of the Stark family. It is largely drawn upon by Edward Everett, in his sketch of the life of Stark, contributed to "Sparks's American Biography;" VOL. XII.-35
the which sketch, by the way, is the foundation of the present paper. I have used its language freely wherever it would suit my purpose.
John Stark was born at Londonderry, New Hampshire, on the 28th of August, 1728. His father, Archibald Stark, was a native of Glasgow, Scotland. In his youth he removed to Londonderry, in Ireland, but not finding that locality agreeable, he emigrated with a party of his countrymen to the New World, in 1721, or thereabouts, and eventually settled in Nutfield, or Londonderry, as the town was named after their Irish home. Here John was
born, the second of four sons, and here the family remained until 1736, when they moved to Derryfield, or Manchester, as it is now called. The childhood and youth of the future hero were passed in obscurity. We hear nothing of him until 1752, his twenty-fourth year, when he went on a hunting excursion to Baker's River, in the northwestern quarter of the state. party consisted of four, John and his brother William, and two of their neighbors, David Stinson and Amos Eastman. Their hunting-ground was far beyond the English settlements, in an unbroken and dangerous wilderness. They were lucky for a time among the beavers on Baker's River, but were unfortunate enough to fall in with a band of St. Francis Indians. They came upon the trail of the red skins, and prepared to decamp quietly. William Stark and Stinson took to the canoe, and Eastman followed on the banks of the river. John remained behind to collect the traps. The Indians, numbering ten in all, came upon him suddenly, and made him a prisoner. They questioned him of the whereabouts of his companions, and he did what a brave man should do, under the circumstances, pointed in the wrong direction, and succeeded in leading the Indians two miles out of the way. His friends became alarmed at his prolonged absence, and fired off their guns to let him know where they This betrayed them to their enemies, who hurried down the river to intercept them. Eastman was captured, and John was ordered to hail the boat, and decoy his friends ashore. Instead of doing this he advised them to pull for the opposite bank. They took his advice, and were fired upon by four of the Indians. John knocked up two of the guns, and saved the fugitives for the moment. The rest of the Indians fired their pieces, two of which were again knocked up by the brave hunter. The last volley told, for Stinson was killed; William, however, succeeded in escaping. The savages were enraged with John, and but for the certainty of his being one day redeemed in good hard cash, they would have scalped him on the spot. As it was, they beat him soundly, and taking possession of the furs of the party, they retreated to Coos, near where Haverhill now is, bearing their two prisoners with them. The next day they sent three of their number with Eastman to St. ncis, retaining Stark, to help
them hunt. He shot one beaver, and trapped another, and was allowed to keep the skins. In about ten days the band returned to St. Francis, where the two pale faces were compelled to run the gauntlet. The young warriors of the tribe were ranged in two lines a few feet apart, and armed with rods. Down this lane of pitiless foes the captives of the Indians were made to run. When they reached the council-house, where the lines terminated, they were safe; but previous to reaching it they were at the mercy of their captors, who laid about them with a will. Eastman ran his gauntlet, and was severely whipped; but Stark, who had a ready wit, snatched a club at starting from the nearest Indian, and dashing it about right and left as he ran, reached the council-house with scarcely a blow, to the confusion of the young braves and his own delight. The old Indians enjoyed his prowess, laughing heartily at the discomfiture of their sons.
The two hunters remained among the Indians three or four months. We have no particular account of Eastman, whose bruises were doubtless healed at the proper time; but Stark seems to have caught the Indian spirit. They ordered him to hoe corn at first, but knowing that they regarded this sort of labor as only fit for women, he cut up the corn and spared the weeds, to show them that he was ignorant of such unmanly work. Failing to accomplish his object by these means, he at last threw his hoe into the river. "Hoeing corn," said he, "is the business of squaws, not warriors. I will hoe no more." They named him the young chief, and adopted him into the tribe. He was ransomed by a couple of gentlemen who were sent among the Indians by the General. Court of Massachusetts, for the purpose of redeeming some of the citizens of that province. Not finding the men they were in search of, they exceeded the letter of their instructions, and ransomed Stark and Eastman instead. Stark cost them one hundred and three dollars, Eastman only sixty. They returned home by the way of Albany, their former masters accompanying them, selling the very furs which they had stolen from them!
This passage from the early life of Stark, eventful as it may seem to us now, was nothing at that time. Scarcely a town in New England but could ow a
similar instance of captivity and adven- they pursued their journey, now on Lake
George, which was frozen over, and now on land, floundering through drifts of snow. They reached Lake Champlain in six days, striking it half way between Crown Point and Ticonderoga. Here they discovered a sled on the ice, passing' between the posts of the enemy. Stark and twenty men were ordered to intercept it in front; Rogers and another party threw themselves in the rear to cut off its retreat, leaving a third re-enforcement to guard the center. Stark and his men marched to the post assigned them. While they were on their way, Rogers, whose position in the rear enabled him to see the whole surface of the lake, discovered ten other sleds passing in the direction of the one first seen. Before he could apprise Stark of the fact the latter was seen by the teamsters, and they turned and fled to Ticonderoga, closely pursued by Rogers and his men. He took three of the sleds, and seven prisoners; the rest escaped. From the prisoners he learned that a large body of French and Indians were assembled at Ticonderoga, ready for service, at a moment's warning. This being more than he had bargained for, he drew off his men, and retreated to the station he had occupied the night before.
As his own state neglected or refused to pay his ransom money to Massachusetts, Stark started off in the following year to the head waters of the Androscoggin, on a hunting excursion, to raise the necessary funds for that purpose. We are not told of his success, but the report which he brought back determined the General Court of New Hampshire to explore the country. A company was formed, and Stark was engaged as their guide. The field of the intended exploration never having been brought within the acknowledged limits of the English settlements, was claimed by the Indians, and fearing the evils that might result to the colonies if New Hampshire should take forcible possession of it, the Governor of Massachusetts protested against the measure, and it was postponed. The next year (this was in 1753) it was rumored that the French were building a fort in this coveted region. The Governor of New Hampshire sent a party of thirty men with a flag of truce to remonstrate against this proceeding. Stark was the guide. He conducted them to the Upper Coos, leading them over the route which he had traveled when he was made a captive by the Indians, but finding no trace of the French they returned to New Hampshire.
In 1755 an expedition was planned against Crown Point. A corps of rangers was enlisted in New Hampshire, and Stark, whose reputation as a successful and daring scout was well known, received a lieutenant's commission. The regiment to which he belonged was stationed at Fort Edward, on the east side of the Hudson. A sharp battle took place here between the French and English forces, but as it does not appear that Stark was actively engaged in it I shall not describe it. The English were victorious.
In January, 1758, a party of the rangers was sent on an expedition to Lake Champlain. They were commanded by Major Robert Rogers, who afterward published in London an account of his American campaigns; Stark was his lieutenant. Altogether there were seventy-four men, including the officers. They marched from Fort Edward to Fort William Henry, where they prepared snow-shoes, and provisions for the expedition. This done
They retreated Indian fashion in single file, Rogers in front, and Stark bringing up the rear, the post of honor in a retreat. It was a rainy day, and their guns were wet, so they pressed forward to their former camping ground, where they knew their fires were still burning. They had scarcely marched a mile when the head of the band gaining the summit of a hill, fell in with the enemy, at least two hundred strong, drawn up in the form of a crescent, and waiting to surround them. The front men of the English received the enemy's fire at the murderous distance of five yards. Several were slain and wounded; among the latter was Major Rogers himself, who was shot in the head. He ordered his men to fall back to the opposite hill, where Stark and another officer, who commanded the rear, had posted themselves to cover the re
The retreat was made in good order, but the fire of the enemy was severe upon the English, several of whom were killed, while others were taken prisoners. Stark
and his hardy rangers blazed away from the hill, and avenged their comrades in gallant style, enabling Rogers and his party to place themselves to advantage. The French endeavored to flank them, but were driven back with loss. They then assaulted the rangers in front, but the latter had the advantage of the ground, and repelled them. They attempted to surround them, but without success. The action commenced at two o'clock in the afternoon, and continued till sunset, when Major Rogers received a second wound through his wrist, which prevented him from holding his gun. He began to think he had had enough fighting for one day, and was about to order a retreat, but Stark declared that he would shoot the first man who fled. "We have a good position," said he," and we will fight till dark, and then retreat. It is our only chance of safety."
At this moment the lock of his gun was broken by a shot from the enemy. He said nothing, but waited till he saw a French soldier fall, when he sprang forward, seized his gun, and resumed the action. The French used all their blandishments to induce the brave rangers to submit, assuring them that large re-enforcements were at hand, and would slaughter them without mercy, while if they surrendered they should be well treated. The rangers answered with their death-dealing rifles. At dark the fire of the French ceased, and the Americans withdrew. They retreated all night, and in the morning found themselves six miles south of the advanced guard of the enemy on Lake George. They had escaped safely, but they were still forty miles from Fort William Henry. As the wounded were unable to march any further on foot, Stark and two of his men volunteered to proceed to the fort, and return with sleighs. They had a difficult task before them, for the snow was four feet deep, on a level, and could only be traversed in snow-shoes; but the stalwart fellows performed it royally, reaching the fort by evening. The next morning saw them back with sleighs and a reinforcing party. The next night the whole band lodged in the fort. The English had fourteen killed, and twelve wounded and taken prisoners; one hundred and sixteen of the French were killed or mortally wounded. The difference was immensely in favor of the former; thanks to their
position, and the determined spirit of Stark. When the corps was reorganized he was promoted to the rank of a captain.
In July, 1758, an expedition was planned against Ticonderoga. The English force, numbering sixteen thousand men, started from Fort Edward on the morning of the 5th, and proceeded down Lake George in bateaux. They halted at dark at Sabbath Day Point, and Lord Howe, the commander of the English army, invited Captain Stark to sup with him in his tent. Stretched on a bear-skin the gallant young lord and the hardy New Hampshire ranger conversed about the coming battle. After a few hours' repose the march was resumed, Lord Howe leading the van in a large boat. At daybreak a reconnoitering party returned, and reported the French at the landing-place. The English army effected a landing at noon, and Stark and Rogers, with their rangers, were sent forward to clear the woods before the main body. They were directed open the way from Lake George to the plains of Ticonderoga. This route was intersected by a creek, which was crossed by a bridge. The bridge was in possession of the enemy. The van of the rangers, commanded by Rogers, halted as they drew near the French and the Indians, but Stark declared it was no time for delay, and pushed forward to the bridge, driving the enemy before him. The road being now free the main body came up, Lord Howe commanding the center, and heading his column. He fell in with a part of the advanced guard of the French, and immediately attacked and dispersed it; but exposing himself too eagerly he was slain at the first fire. His loss put an end to the fighting for that day; the advanced parties of the Americans were called in, and the French kept themselves within their intrenchments.
The next morning the rangers were ordered to their former post, and Stark with a strong detachment was sent forward to reconnoiter the fort. They returned in the evening, and the whole army passed the night on their arms. The French force was vastly inferior to that of the English, consisting of only six thousand men, but they were encamped before their fort, and had intrenched themselves behind a breastwork of trees. This breastwork was almost impervious to an advancing
foe, being eight or nine feet high, and pre- the ranks of the enemy, but he remained senting an unbroken front of sharpened firm and true to his convictions of right. branches and interwoven limbs. It was a Major Rogers, his old commander in the formidable defense. On the morning of Seven Years' War, adopted the British the 8th the troops moved to the attack, cause. His brother William, who had Stark's division of Rangers leading the been present at the surrender of TiconderWithin three hundred yards of the oga and Crown Point-who had assisted intrenchments his advanced guard were at the capture of Louisburg, and had fought fired upon by a party of French; their with Wolfe at Quebec-in a fit of pique comrades came up to their support, and the joined the royal standard. But John never enemy were driven in. The light infantry for a moment wavered. When the comnow moved up to their right, and the ba-mittees of safety were organized in 1774, teaux men to their left. In the mean time he became a member of one of those bodies
the main body of the army was forming. At ten o'clock the rangers were ordered to drive in the advanced guard of the French, preparatory to a general assault. The regulars moved up to the breastworks and attempted to storm them, but without success. They persisted for four hours, but finding it impossible to carry the works the British general-in-chief ordered a retreat. Stark and his rangers were employed till late in the evening in bringing up the rear. It was a bloody and disastrous day, no less than seventeen hundred regulars, and three hundred and fifty provincials being killed or wounded. A general retreat was now ordered, and by the evening of the next day the whole army had returned to their camp on the southern shore of Lake George. At the close of this campaign Captain Stark obtained a furlough, and shifting his forces from the fields of Mars to those of Venus, entered into an engagement with a dearer foe than "that sweet enemy, France," as Sir Philip Sydney says in his sonnet. To speak less poetically, he married. His affiancée was a Miss Elizabeth Page, the daughter of Captain Page, of Dunbarton.
None but the brave deserve the fair.
We hear nothing of Captain Stark from the close of the Seven Years' War till the breaking out of the Revolution, a period of sixteen or seventeen years. It is to be presumed, however, that he passed his life peacefully and happily on his farm, occasionally fighting over his old campaigns with his neighbors and companions in arms. Unlike many of the latter, when it became evident that a conflict must take place between the colonies and the mother country, he felt no hesitation as to the side he should join. From the first his mind was made up to fight for his native land. One after another his old friends went over to
for the town in which he lived. The news of the battle of Lexington found him, as it did Putnam, ready for the fight. Ten minutes after he heard of it he had directed the volunteers of his neighborhood to rendezvous at Medford, near Boston, and was on his way thither at full speed. He was speedily followed by about twelve hundred men, who concentrated themselves at Medford. The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts organized them into two regiments, one of which was placed under the charge of Stark, who was unanimously elected a colonel. On the glorious 17th of June, his regiment formed the left of the American line on Bunker's Hill. They were posted with a detachment of Connecticut troops under Captain Knowlton, behind the rail fences and the mound of grass, of which the latter had formed a temporary breastwork between Mystic Hill and the road, as described in the account of the battle in the life of Putnam. The Americans at this point were opposed by the British right wing, which, curious enough to relate, was commanded by Lord Howe, a brother of the Lord Howe who was the friend of Stark in his Canadian campaign, and who fell, the reader will remember, on the plains of Ticonderoga. What memories of the past must have rushed through the mind of the old ranger when he saw the brother of his former friend the enemy of his native land! As I have before described the battle I need not dilate on the part which Stark performed in it; suffice it to say, that the British recoiled three times before the terrible fire of his men, who retreated, when retreat was inevitable, in such order that they were not pursued. On no part of the field was the execution greater than where the New Hampshire regiments were stationed. An anecdote is related of Stark, to whom came a re