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Saturday, July 5, 2008

General John Stark by Bruce - Part 3 of 5

Part 1   Part 2

In part 2, we saw Stark get married and his wife became known as Molly Stark. They ultimately settled in Derryfield, New Hampshire. When he got news of Lexington and Concord, Stark immediately went and joined the effort. He was named colonel of the newly formed First New Hampshire. Soon he and his regiment were at the front line.

The British attack began with an assault of light infantry of the Welsh Fusiliers on the New Hampshire position at the beach. As the front line reached the stake, Stark lowered his arm with the command to fire. The New Hampshire line erupted in a wall of fire. Over half of the fusiliers were killed or wounded with this first volley. A second volley left only five or six survivors as the remaining fusiliers continued the charge towards the American position. As the first assault was failing, soldiers of the 4th Regiment of Foot climbed over the dead Welshmen and moved toward the stone wall. The British assumed that while Stark’s men were reloading they would be able to sprint over the wall and bayonet the New Hampshire men. Unbeknownst to the British, Stark had hidden more

men with loaded weapons behind the wall. As the British approached, Stark again gave the order to fire. As the smoke cleared, dozens of British soldiers could be seen lying dead or wounded in front of the stone wall. Stark commented, “ I never saw sheep lie as thick in the fold”. With these terrible losses, the British were forced to abandon their assault on Stark’s position.

As the battle on Breed’s Hill progressed and the British gained the American redoubt on the third assault, Stark’s New Hampshire soldiers and Knowlton’s Connecticut troops challenged the British advance up Bunker Hill by conducting a fighting withdrawal. Stark’s withdrawal impressed even the British. General Burgoyne, watching the withdrawal through his telescope, commented, “that the retreat was no flight, it was even covered with bravery and military skill”. Stark’s skillful withdrawal kept many Americans from becoming prisoners of the British.

Stark’s next action was at Trenton. Stark crossed the Delaware with Washington. He was part of Sullivan’s Brigade at the south end of town. Stark was in the thick of the fight leading men against the Knyphausen Regiment. Seeing a chance to hit the Knyphausen Regiment from the flank, Stark sent Captain Ebenezer Frye and some sixteen men to attack. To everyone’s amazement, Frye returned with sixty prisoners. Stark’s aggressiveness had completely surprised the Hessians.

After Trenton and Princeton, Washington sent Stark back to New England to recruit new troops. As he traveled, Stark learned that he had been passed over for promotion. Stark was furious as a man of lesser experience, in Stark’s opinion, Colonel Enoch Poor of the Second New Hampshire Regiment had been promoted to brigadier general over him. Stark’s fury led him to appear before the New Hampshire legislature in Exeter and resign his commission while receiving a vote of thanks from the legislature for his services.

Stark’s retirement was a brief four months. Concerned over the movement of Burgoyne’s army down Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, Vermont asked New Hampshire for assistance. With the State of New Hampshire having no funds available, Portsmouth shipyard owner John Langdon stepped forward with the money to outfit a New Hampshire army for Vermont’s assistance. When asked who should command the New Hampshire army, Langdon replied, “Our friend John Stark, who so nobly sustained the honor of our arms at Bunker’s Hill, may safely be entrusted with the command, and we will check Burgoyne!” Stark agreed to lead the New Hampshire troops under the condition that the troops would be solely under his command and that he had full authority to direct operations. Stark did not want to be encumbered with having to take orders from anyone in the Continental Army. The New Hampshire legislature agreed and Stark was made Brigadier General of the New Hampshire Militia.

Continue to Part 4.

Believe me yours faithfully,

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