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Live Free Or Die-American Revolutionary General John Stark

Updated on December 22, 2021

Early Life Of John Stark American Revolutionary.

Born on August 28th 1728 in Londonderry, New Hampshire now known as Derry, New Hampshire. The son of Scotch/Irish immigrants.

By the age of eight John Starks father Archibald Stark took his wife Eleanor Nichols and family to settle in Derryfield, now Manchester, New Hampshire where he would call home for the remainder of his life.

John Stark a brash independent young man kept to his New England roots of Saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Which later in life would make others look at him as somewhat of a second class citizen.

With little to no formal education John Stark as a youth learned the value of hard work as a farmer and working the lumber mills alongside his father.

Spending his free time learning the valued skills of both hunting and trapping this would serve him well in future years as one of Rogers Rangers and an American Revolutionary Commander .

Abenaki Tribe

Abenaki Tribe circa 1752
Abenaki Tribe circa 1752

Early Adventure Of John Stark.

While on a hunting and trapping trip along a tributary of the pemigewasset river on April 28th of 1752. John Stark with his brother William and friends David Stinson and Amos Eastman were attacked by warriors of the Abenaki tribe.

Starks brother William managed to escape the attack but his friend David Stinson was killed. Stark along with Amos Eastman were taken prisoner and brought north into Canada by the warrior.

With the Abenaki tribe both Stark and Eastman were made to run the gauntlet a known custom by some tribes it is were the prisoners are made to run through a line of warriors wielding sticks striking you along the way as you moved down the line towards it's end.

Turning the tide on the warriors Stark charged the first Abenaki in the line and took the stick from him and began striking him with it. Stunned at this move the tribes chief was impressed with the bravery of it making Stark an adopted member of the tribe.

In the spring of 1753 an agent from the Massachusetts Bay government was sent to Canada to negotiate the ransom of prisoners.and for $163 Spanish dollars he was able secure the release of both Stark and Eastman.

Robert Rogers Leader Of Famed Rogers Rangers.


John Stark Time With Rogers Rangers.

Formed in 1755 by then Captain Robert Rogers during the French and Indian War as a company in the provincial forces of the colony of New Hampshire.

John Starks initial introduction to the military was with then Captain Robert Rogers and his famed Rangers fighting as an irregular scouting force for the British Crown.

Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in Rogers' Rangers attached to Col. Blanchard's regiment of the British Army. John Stark would soon show his determination and courage to both Rogers and his British commanders.

Even though the Rangers were known to be one of the British Armies more effective fighting forces, they were often looked down upon as second class citizens by the regulars of the British Army.

Never one to suffer fools these attitudes toward him and the colonist would plant the seeds of decent, that in later year give rise to the American Revolution.

In just one of the many battles that now Major Rogers and John Stark would take part in would encompass the type of leader that John Starks would become famous for.

During the battle known as the Battle on Snowshoes around Fort Carillon in upstate New York. In January of 1757 Rogers and his force of 74 Rangers were attacked by a much larger force of nearly 250 French and Native fighters.

With one Captain already killed in the attack and Major Rogers wounded Lieutenant Stark took command of the remaining Rangers during the day long battle. With 26 killed, captured or wounded the Ranger fought on killing 116 of the French led forces.

After the battle Rogers, Lieutenant Stark and the remaining Rangers marched all night towards the closest English post. But soon the wounds and fatigue and cold would force Lieutenant Stark and two other Rangers to volunteer and trek the 40 remaining miles to Fort William Henry to obtain aid for the remaining Rangers. All of which Lieutenant Stark's would accomplish by that evening. For his courage and leadership Lieutenant Stark's would be promoted to the rank of Captain with the Rangers.

In 1759 British General Jeffery Amherst ordered Major Robert Rogers and his Rangers to move north from old fort #4 in the Connecticut River Valley and mount an attack on the Abenaki Indians living in and around St. Francis Quebec Canada. Remembering his time spent with the Abenaki's years before Captain Stark's who by now was Rogers second in command of the Rangers refused to take part in the attack against his adopted family and the Abenaki tribe.

After the attack on St. Francis Captain Stark's in 1760 resigned from the Rangers. He returned to his wife Elizabeth Molly Stark which he had married two years earlier in 1758 and his home in Derryfield New Hampshire.

Battle Of Lexington And Concord.


Seeds Of Decent Birth Of An American Revolutionary

The thirteen colonies of North America during the 1760s and early 1770s where a lightning rod for discontent with the policies levied upon them by the Crown towards it's subjects.

And on the early morning of April 19 1775 all of the pent up anger exploded in the Massachusetts colony towns of Lexington and Concord.

Hearing the news of the battle and it's outcome, On April 23rd 1775 John Stark resumed his life in the military as a Colonel in the newly formed 1st New Hampshire Militia Regiment.

Always the man spoiling for the next fight the new Colonel John Stark's proceeded to gather up as many volunteers as possible. His ability to inspire men and gain there respect from his time with Rogers Rangers Colonel Stark's was able to quickly muster a fighting force of 400 men in just 6 hours.

John Stark's New Hampshire Militia And The Battle Of Breeds Hill.


One Fresh Man In Action Is Worth Ten Fatigued Ones.

During the night of June 16th 1775 as the British planned there next move. The colonials quietly began digging the trenches and building defenses on breeds hill overlooking Charlestown and Boston harbor.

As the sun came up on the morning of the 17th June 1775 the lookouts on the HMS Lively noticed the building on top of Breeds Hill and opened up fire upon the Colonials.

Called up as reinforcements by commander Artemas Ward stationed on Breeds Hill. Colonel John Stark's and his now 1000 New Hampshire militia moved from where they has gathered in Medford 1 mile away towards the battle that was now heating up.

Coming to the narrow strip of land connecting Charlestown to the rebel positions known as Charlestown neck. Barely 30 yard wide and under withering cannon fire Colonel Stark's and Reed maneuvered there troops safely to there positions atop of Breeds Hill.

Surveying the battlefield Colonel Stark's quickly noticed a weakness on the colonials left flank and moved his troops to cover building a crude stone and rail defense all the ways down to the waters edge.

Hammering a stake some 40 yards in front of their position Colonel Stark's directed his men not to fire before the British crossed this point. Deploying his men 3 deep behind the hastily built defenses Colonel Stark's and his men used a technique he had learned from his days with the Rangers of rotating his lines as they shot allowing them to reload and maintain fire upon the enemy.

As the first wave of the Royal Welch Fusiliers attacked the colonials stood and opened fire as one. Inflicting huge casualties upon the British killing 90 in the first volley. After a second and third attack by the British they retreated choosing to focus on points in the Colonials line where they would receive cover of cannon fire.

Inflicting nearly 70% casualties upon the British Colonel Stark's and his men held the flank saving the day for the colonials. After numerous attempts the British finally forced the colonials to retreat from the field. But not before they had received heavy casualties of nearly 50% of the 2400 original attacking troops. With especially high loses to the officers and commanders of the attacks.

Directing the fire as the colonials left the field of battle it is thought that if not for the brave defense by Colonel Stark's and his New Hampshire militia of the left flank on Breeds Hill that day the outcome might have been very different.

Trenton and Princeton

Battles Of Trenton and Princeton.

After the Battle of Bunker Hill the Colonial Army was in need of experienced commanders. Colonel John Stark's and his New Hampshire Militia were commissioned into the regular Continental Army.

There first action was to support the retreat of the army from Canada after there defeat by the British. In late 1776 Colonel Stark's and his troops moved south to join George Washington and his main army where they would take part in both the Trenton and Princeton battles.

These were the only two times that Colonel Stark's would fight along side of General Washington during the whole war.

Colonel John Stark

Baby Born Yesterday

After the battles of Princeton and Trenton Colonel John Stark's was asked by General Washington to return home and try to raise more troops to help the cause.

Upon his return to New Hampshire Colonel Stark's learned that in his absence another Colonel named Enoch Poor who had refused to march his troops south to take part in the battle of Bunker Hill, had been promoted to the rank of Brigadier General by the New Hampshire legislature surpassed by Poor's regiment as 1st New Hampshire regiment that had not even taken part in any battles.

While in Exeter New Hampshire, Colonel Stark's never one to shy away from a scrap with the elites of the day or even General Washington, made one of his famous statements "It is indeed a great honor to address such an august and powerful body that can make a baby born yesterday older than a baby born last month."

Angering many of the legislators that because of his blunt nature had promoted Colonel Stark's subordinates to ranks higher that his own. Stark decided that enough was enough so on March 23, 1777, Stark resigned his commission in disgust.

Battle Of Bennington

John Stark's Hero Of Bennington

After four month the New Hampshire legislature relented and offered John Stark's a commission as a Brigadier General of the New Hampshire Militia.

Agreeing to accept the commission under one circumstance that he and his men be independent of the Continental Army and answer only to the New Hampshire Legislature.

The newly commissioned Brigadier General gathered close to 1750 New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts militiamen dressed in there own clothing and providing their own firearms. They marched to what is now Manchester New Hampshire.

Refusing to obey General Benjamin Lincoln of the Continental Army, who was another general that he believed was unrightfully promoted over him. John Stark's and his militia were allowed to operate independently against the rear of General John Burgoyne's British Army.

His battle plan was put into action on August 17, 1777, when he rallied his forces with one of his famous Stark speeches: "There they are, men. We'll beat them before night or Molly Stark's a widow." He was very successful: with two-thirds, or 1,200, of the British troops killed, wounded, or captured, while the equal-sized American troops lost less than 100.

Major John André

The Aftermath Of The Battle Of Bennington.

After Stark's and his men cut off General Burgoyne and his troops from getting supplies and reinforcements after the Battle of Saratoga at a place know known as Stark's Knob.

This first major defeat of a British Army convinced the French that the Americans were worthy of military aid.

Congress finally commissioned John Stark's to the rank of brigadier general in the Continental Army in October 4th 1777. During the winter of 1777-8 as General Washington and his troops froze at Valley Forge.

General Stark's and his men returned home to protect there homes and properties from local politicians that would seize the properties of troops that were away to sell them for revenue. Paying his men's salaries from his own means.

General John Stark's towards the end of winter, he arrived with his fresh, well-wintered troops and encouraged the ragged forces under Washington to continue. Taking part in the capture of Fort Edwards cutting off General Burgoyne and forcing him to finally surrender.

He was the commander of the Northern Department three times between 1778 and 1781. General John Stark's also sat as a judge in the court martial in September 1780 that found British Major John André guilty of spying in the conspiracy of Benedict Arnold to surrender West Point to the British.

"Live Free Or Die" An American Original.

A Man Of Unswerving Principles.

After the war John Stark's retired and returned home to Derryfield, New Hampshire. It was written of John Stark's by his biographer Howard Moore "A man of unswerving principles, he retired to private life when the independence of his country had been won and became the only true Cincinnatus of them all."

Unlike others The General never sought political office or tried to make policies. Thought of by many that did seek national glory as uneducated, uncouth and unrefined John Stark's, was is and should always be remembered for being one thing a brilliant General and battlefield tactician.

At a gathering in 1809 of the Battle of Bennington veterans which because of his worsening health General John Stark's now 81 years old could not attend. A letter that he had written was read to his men and in it General Stark's made this statement in closing "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils." .

A fitting statement from a man to the men that risked everything to give to so many the freedoms that we all enjoy to this day. Nearly forty years after the battles ended, his service to his country finished. General John Stark's finally died at the age of 94 on May 8, 1822, one of the last of the old generals only to be survived by General's Sumter and Lafayette.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 jaymills


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