Morrison's Pensions

DAVID HOLBROOK (b. 1760), born in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, volunteered at age sixteen. He later served one term in the Continental army and four in the Massachusetts militia of Berkshire County.

It is his description of the Battle of Bennington, one of the decisive American victories, but one very poorly documented, that makes this a highly important record, particularly of the second battle with Breymann's reinforcements.

Holbrook's family had moved to East Hoosac, Massachusetts, in 1776, and after the war he moved to several New York towns, settling for good at Lafayette, Onondaga County, in 1802. He submitted this narrative in 1832 and was granted a pension.

Deponent entered the service of the United States under the following-named officers and served as herein stated. That he entered the service, aforesaid, about the first of December, 1776, at Providence, in the state of Rhode Island, in the company under the command of Captain Mason and Lt. Benjamin Freeman, in the regiment of militia commanded by Colonel Holman, as a private soldier and continued in said company little over two months. Then said Freeman gave him the command of a guard of twelve or fourteen then and sent them to Rehoboth, in the state of Massachusetts to guard an old ashery in which was said to be ten tons of powder. That he stayed and guarded said powder fifty-three days and was then relieved and went home near the last day of March, 1777.

That at the time of entering the service aforesaid this declarer resided with his father at Sturbridge, Worcester County, Massachusetts. That when he returned from the service aforesaid, his father had sold his farm and immediately thereafter removed to East Hoosac, Berkshire County, in the state last aforesaid, when on the third day of June, 1777, the declarer enlisted or volunteered under Lt. William White, a militia officer, to serve until duly discharged, and went to Bennington in the state of Vermont, where said lieutenant with his men, twenty-eight or thirty in number, stopped and guarded the storehouses a short time and then went to Manchester in the same state and then halted and remained waiting orders two or three weeks. From thence, pursuant to orders, went to Willard's Tavern in the town of Pawlet, where were some military arms which they guarded until the sixth day of July, 1777, when they were joined by a Continental captain with twenty-four or twenty-five men and sixty or seventy head of cattle for the army and went to Skenesborough, where they were met by a number of invalid soldiers who had escaped from Ticonderoga, which had been attacked by the British army under the command of Burgoyne and which was evacuated by General St. Clair. The cattle were then driven back to Pawlet and thence to Manchester, and this declarer, with a sergeant of the Continental troops and about twenty-eight or thirty men, went on and very soon met the vanguard of the British army and had a little skirmish, and while this declarer was intent upon firing upon the enemy, the sergeant and all the men except three had left him, and the British had got between, when this declarer and his three companions made their escape by running across Wood Creek upon some trees that fortunately had fallen across it. But a sergeant of the enemy pursued, and as the two hindmost of this declarer's companions were crossing on the log, he cried out to them to surrender, whereupon this declarer fired upon him, and he fell. This declarer and his three companions, after remaining in the woods all night, started in pursuit of their company and overtook them at Allen's Tavern in Pawlet, aforesaid, and went on to Willard's Tavern, aforesaid, and waited there ten or twelve days until the stores were removed and thence went on to Manchester and there remained until about the first of August, when, this declarer being sick and his father's team having come to bring a load of provisions for the army, he obtained a furlough and went home.

That he remained at home at East Hoosac aforesaid (now Adams) until the fourteenth of August. In the morning, having regained his health, and hearing the alarm that the enemy were about to attack Bennington, this declarer started immediately and got to Bennington the same night, and next morning went to the lines of the enemy and remained there watching their movements that day. And, the next day being the sixteenth of August, Capt. Enos Parker, Lieutenants Kilborn and Cook of the Massachusetts militia, belonging to Colonel Simon's regiment, selected a company of sixty or seventy men from the men who had promiscuously come together, of which this declarer was one, and marched them across the river by a circuitous route of five or six miles, mostly through woods, with all possible silence and brought them up in a piece of woods at the enemy's rear, where a line was formed and the company aforesaid formed on the right, and there, pursuant to orders, sat in silence until a signal (the firing of two muskets) was given, when the American army, upon three sides of the British encampment, made a simultaneous attack, the American army under the command of General Stark and the British army under the command of General Baum. The American army made a rush upon the British entrenchments, which being received by the British with boldness, the battle became general and desperate immediately and continued about two hours close combat without form or regularity, each American fighting according to his own discretion until the entrenchments were completely routed, and those who had not been killed and had not escaped surrendered at discretion. General Baum, being wounded, was among the prisoners.

About the time of the general rout of the British army, and [while] some of them were running to escape, Colonel Herrick of the Green Mountain Rangers rode along near where the declarer was and cried out, "Boys, follow me." And this declarer with one other ran after him about two miles to Ramplar Mills, where he stopped his horse, and drew up his piece, and fired, and then wheeled his horse and said there was a reinforcement of British coming, which was soon discovered to be from nine hundred to twelve hundred British soldiers with a nine and six-pounder and a band of music. Colonel Herrick ran his horse to give intelligence to General Stark, and this declarer and his companion, having got out of breath, ran behind a haystack and rested till the British army came along and then went out from behind "the stack and discharged their pieces at the enemy and ran. The enemy returned the fire by the discharge of a six-pounder, which gave general alarm. The Americans then ran together and formed about a mile southwesterly from the entrenchments which had been occupied by General Baum and headed the reinforcements, which was under the command of Colonel Breymann and Major Skene of Skenesborough, but the Americans, in pursuing those who escaped from the entrenchments, had got scattered and fatigued, and but few assembled at first, but kept falling in continually until a line was formed along a fence on the northeast side of the meadow in which was the haystack, aforesaid, in the edge of a piece of woods. And the British army formed a line in the meadow and extended across the road. And the firing commenced as soon as they came within musket shot, but the Americans, not being sufficiently strong to keep the ground, retreated from tree to tree, firing as they left the trees, until they came to a ravine where was a log fence, then made a halt, and held the ground. The British came up within about sixteen rods and stood. The firing then continued some time without cessation, when Colonel Warner, with the remains of his regiment, came up, and some of his men, understanding the artillery exercise, took one of the fieldpieces taken in the first engagement and formed at the right of the party in which was this declarer.

And, about the same time, an old man, with an old Queen Anne's iron sword and mounted upon an old black mare, with about ninety robust men following him in files two deep, came up and filed in in front of the company commanded by Captain Parker, in which this declarer then was. And, just as the old man had got his men to the spot and halted, his mare fell, and he jumped upon a large white oak stump and gave the command. Captain Parker, seeing the old man's company between him and the enemy, ordered his men to file in between their files, which were some distance apart, and which was immediately done, and the battle then became desperate. And immediately this declarer heard a tremendous crash up in the woods at the right wing of the American troops, which was seconded by a yell, the most terrible that he ever heard. Then he heard the voice of Colonel Warner, like thunder, "Fix bayonets. Charge."

Then the old man on the-stump cried out, "Charge, boys," and jumped from the stump and ran towards the enemy. His men, some with, and some without bayonets, followed suit arid rushed upon the enemy with all their might, who seeing us coming, took to their heels and were completely routed. As we came up to the enemy's lines, their fieldpieces being charged, a Sergeant Luttington knocked down the man with the port fire and caught hold of the limber and whirled about the piece and fired it at the enemy, and the blaze overtook them before they had got ten rods and mowed down a large number of them. Those of the Americans who had not got too much fatigued pursued and killed and took a number of the enemy (British). The Indians that survived the slaughter escaped.

This declarer, in the scaling of the breastwork of the enemy in the first engagement, put his right hand upon the top of the breastwork and threw his feet over, but his right leg was met by a British bayonet which held it fast, and he pitched headfirst into the entrenchment, and the soldier hit him a thump upon the head. But he was dispatched by the next man that came up, and this declarer was thereby relieved, and in the heat of feeling forgot his wounds. But when the enemy fled in the second engagement, he found himself exhausted and, could not pursue, the blow upon his head and the wound in his leg having occasioned the loss of considerable blood. He found himself unable to walk and was put upon a horse and carried back to Bennington, where he remained ten or twelve days, until he got sufficiently recovered from his wounds to march, when Lieutenant White, with whom this declarer enlisted, came on, and he went with him to Manchester, soon after which this declarer was taken with a fever and was sent home, where he remained sick a number of month&,. And on twelfth February, 1778, Lieutenant White came to this declarer's father's and gave this declarer a discharge, he being then very sick and not expected to recover, and was not able to do duty during the whole of the year 1778.

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