October has come and gone as has the first week of November. Last month we hosted a number of hikes and tours, though the weather did not always cooperate. Of course, the biggest news was the presentation of the site survey results!
On Friday the Hoosick Falls Jr./Sr. High School Auditorium hosted the final public meeting on the topic. The consultants who were put to work through an American Battlefield Protection Program grant briefed those in attendance, including Town Supervisor Mark Surdam, on their methods and results.
Thanks to this survey, we now have a refined idea of the location of the dragoon breastwork, traces of which would have been destroyed in the 1920’s. Not only can we say with some certainty where the 1777 tree line was, we can even position the 3-pounder within the breastwork! At the center of the battlefield, long an enigma for lack of documentation and compromised by road and rail construction, we have traced the possible path of retreat and determined the location of a possible river ford. Disturbances in the ground would seem to indicate the presence of burials. At the Tory breastwork, we now believe that we can position and orient the fortification there and trace one path of retreat across the river.
We have also developed a better understanding of the second engagement of the battle. A key terrain feature, the Rocky Ridge, has been suggested as a position used by Americans to turn back Col. Heinrich von Breymann’s relief column. A map has been prepared identifying land in the core battle area as well as related sites.
A cache of primary sources has been collected and interpreted, including some documents not previously available or well-known from all perspectives of the battle (those of the crown forces, loyal provincials, rebels & civilians).
One of the conclusions of the historical research section of the report was that Bennington may be the earliest Revolutionary
battlefield to host a commemoration.
In addition to all this, a paper has been published demonstrating the utility of luminol blood testing on fired musket balls through work done at Bennington. It is difficult to image, but traces of human blood were still present and reacting with this specialized chemical 239 years later!
What does this all mean for the site? In the short term, parks will make the primary sources available to the public as soon as possible. Some sensitive portions of the report that could be exploited by relic hunters will have to be edited before the larger document can be shared. Be sure to keep a look out for updates.
Taking the long view, we will be using these findings to drive a larger planning process. Just how the site will be interpreted will require careful thought. At the public meeting, it was clear that the public is interested in walking clearly identified areas of the battlefield with the guidance of new signage, pamphlets and trails. An emphasis on the experience of individuals and the connection with Vermont will also clearly need to be incorporated.
Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site
5179 NY Route 67
Hoosick Falls, NY 12090