Friday, April 20, 2012

Letters from the Front: The Battle of Bennington and Brown's Raid

"The Enemy attacked a part of our Men at Sill-water about thirty mile from here, wherein we lost between three and four hundred Men & from best accounts from Deserters & Prisoners since taken the Enemy lost about a thousand"

Returning to the Letters from the Front series, our next installment features an account of the Battle of Bennington, Vermont, and Colonel John Brown's raid on the British forces at Fort Ticonderoga, both of which occurred in the late summer of 1777. As British General John Burgoyne moved his troops south from Fort Ticonderoga to strike at Albany, he encountered a multiplicity of problems. One of the more pressing of these was logistical: for every day's march, his supply lines grew longer and more vulnerable, slowing down the transport of vital supplies to the head of his army. In an attempt to ameliorate this issue, recruit loyalists into his army, and strike a blow at the rebellion, Burgoyne detached a large force of Hessians and Loyalists to attack the Continental supply depot at Bennington, Vermont. This force collided with American defenders near Stillwater, NY, on August 16, resulting in a significant American victory. A few weeks later, Colonel John Brown launched a raid on the British defenders of Fort Ticonderoga, which anchored the British supply line to Montreal, disrupting the garrison and capturing a significant number of redcoats. The letter below provides striking coverage of these events. Little is presently known of the writer, Dr. John Mawney, though he may be the same physician who took part in the capture and burning of the British sloop Gaspee in 1772. For the full letter, please read below. Our thanks go to David Swain for the transcript.


Sol Feinstone Collection No. 925
Dr. John Mawney to Dr [____] Stimson, Bennington, [VT], 30 Sept. 1777
Transcribed by David Swain October 2011

Bennington ye 30th. Sept. 1777
My Dear Sir
            I this moment received your very kind favour of the 22d. Inst. pr. Doct. Wilson, by which I am agreably informd. of your good State of health & in which your  friendship is strongly expressd., the reality of which I have had instances frequent & sufficient to debar all doubts—At a time Sir like the present when I am distancd. from  most all my intimate acquaintance you may well conceive that a line from an agreable Companion & friend like your-self must be in the highest terms entertaining—You requested the particulars of an engagement which you heard had been fought here—All I can say in answer to it is from hear say—There is a current report here that on Friday sennt. The Enemy attacked a part of our Men at Sill-water about thirty mile from here, wherein we lost between three and four hundred Men & from best accounts from Deserters & Prisoners since taken the Enemy lost about a thousand, killd., wounded & taken I have this instant recd. a letter from the above mentiond. place of Coll. Brown of the 25th. Ins but he makes no mention of any engagement He says they take Prisoners more or less every Day as that they desert every opportunity
            In the night of the 18th Inst. a party of our Regt. with an additional number from other Regiments made an attack upon the Line of the Enemy near Ticonteroga in which they were easily carried with the loss of only two Men killed & five wounded. They brought off three hundred or more of the British Troops and releasd. about an hundred & fifty of our Men

[pg 1]

that were taken at the evacuation of Ticonteroga & a valuable booty in money & other articles by estimation amounting to upwards of ten thousand pounds sterling—James Nutt was one of the two that was killed—I have had a severe turn of the bilious dysentery which was the occasion of my coming to this Town but I recruit very fast & hope to Join the Regt. at still-water in three or four Days—Coll. Bullard is sick here now with a slow remitting fever which has run twenty Days & I fear will terminate in an intermittent—Give my sincere respects to my good & Esteemed friend, Wm. Cotton & your Father’s family with all inquiring friends—I have nothing farther to offer for your perusal but shall take all possible care to transmit you the easiest intelligence I can get of every thing that I can depend on—
            I am Dear Sir in truth & friendship Yr. Obt. & Humbl. Sert.
Jn. Mawney
Doctr. Stimson

[pg 2]"

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