Ever heard of the Battle of Hubbardton? Neither had I, until this past weekend when driving south in Vermont we came upon the “brown sign.” Turns out, it is the only battle fought “entirely in Vermont” during the Revolutionary War. The “entirely” is important since within a month there was a second battle in Bennington, Vermont in the southwestern corner of the state, bordering Massachusetts and New York. Turns out, as well, that it was a pivotal battle on July 7, 1777 to forestall the British in their march from Ticonderoga, in their belief that they could contain the revolution to the rebellious New England colonies by controlling the Hudson and cutting them off from New York and all points south. Or, at least that’s what we read in the clean and informative visitor center.
I have found over many years of reading history the difficulty of conveying the unrolling of a battle through the printed word. Too many groupings, elements and terrain leave me confused. Hubbardton was no different, but they did have a relief map with lights which lit up as the taped narrator walked the observers through the chronology of the colonists holding the ridge, then giving way, but seeing a vulnerable opening in the British flank which did allow them to achieve one objective of delaying the British advance south.
Moving from that well-designed explanation to the actual site proved a setback, as we tried to imagine troop movements coming from which valley? Proceeding to which points on the ridge and down which hill and where was the log/brush fence?
It didn’t matter to us, since we were more interested in the beautiful scenery on a summer Sunday looking out over the forests and the hills. The only sounds were the wind through the trees, an occasional bird, and our voices.
It was so serene it was hard to imagine the fog of war where we standing no matter how long ago, and how quickly the battle transpired on just one morning. The fact that over 100 soldiers died where we were walking added an eerie presence to the serenity. The field becomes less a battlefield than a cemetery.
This calm proved no different from other battlefields I have visited, like Gettysburg or Little Bighorn or Isandlwana in South Africa.
We learned there is a large reenactment at Hubbardton every year, and since next year is the 240th anniversary, the congregating reenactors will reach the hundreds.
Given the deaths on the battlefield, shouldn’t there be a memorial service instead?