Battle of Bennington debate still rages

MONTPELIER — The Battle of Bennington was vigorously defended on the Senate floor Tuesday as the chamber sought to commemorate another Revolutionary War battle.

Sen. Dick Sears

Sen. Dick Sears

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, rose to amend a House resolution commemorating the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Hubbardton. It was the resolution’s final “whereas” clause that drew Sears’ ire. It states that “the Battle of Hubbardton was the only Revolutionary War military engagement fought in Vermont, as the Battle of Bennington, despite its name, occurred in nearby New York…”

Sears rose to amend the resolution by stripping out the clause. Historians seem to agree that the battle was fought across the border in Walloomsac, N.Y., on Aug. 16, 1777, about 10 miles west of Bennington — the first town chartered in what is now Vermont but were previously disputed New Hampshire land grants.

“Quite frankly, they didn’t call it the battle of White Creek,” Sears said, referencing a nearby town across the state border in New York. “They didn’t call it the battle of Hoosick.”

“They called it the Battle of Bennington,” Sears added in his vigorous defense of the town.

Sears noted that the Battle of Bennington, which is commemorated each year with a state holiday, was given that name when the battle occurred.

“They were actually in Vermont, or they didn’t care where they were. They were protecting the munitions that were in Bennington,” he said. “If you look at the sign at the battlefield, it says the Battle of Bennington.”

Sears did concede that “New Yorkers stole part of Vermont that would be part of Bennington right now, when the lines were drawn.”

“We want to certainly celebrate the battle of Hubbardton, but not at the expense of the Battle of Bennington,” Sears said.

Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, an amateur historian, rose to express his concern that the Senate was “attempting to rewrite history on the fly here.”

Sen. Joe Benning

Sen. Joe Benning

“I’m holding my nose, but perhaps I’ll support this as well,” he said.

Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, said he would support Sears’ amendment because it only removed some language.

“It does not actually explicitly say that the Battle of Bennington was fought in Vermont, it simply takes out language that says it wasn’t,” he said.

Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, did not seemed amused by the debate. She said she would vote no and gently chided her colleagues for spending time on such a resolution.

“It’s a trend in the Senate that we’re doing more and more resolutions. Resolutions, by and large do very little,” she said.

The Senate approved Sears’ amendment on a voice vote, with a handful of discernible “no” votes. The Senate then approved the resolution.

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