My name is Hiland Hall. I am a former Governor of Vermont and the State of Vermont’s first historian.
In August of 1777 one of Britain’s most successful generals was in need of military and food supplies that were held in a Storehouse in Bennington. The British march southward from Canada in an attempt to cut New England off from the other Colonies had been delayed by the military actions at Mount Independence and Hubbardton. General Burgoyne never reached the storehouse in Bennington, instead he was defeated by Brigadier General Stark and approximately 2,000 mostly untrained volunteers aided by Seth Warner and the Green Mountain Boys. The Battle that took place on August 16th, 1777 was a major defeat for the British and came to be known as the Battle of Bennington. The Battle of Bennington caused Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga and was the turning point of the American Revolution.
This battle may have been lost in history had I not fought to memorialize the battle with a significant structure to stand in the place of the storehouse. I had to fight and lobby for the design. I formed a committee and in 1875 I became the founding president and Chairman of the Bennington Battle Monument Association; with our chief goal being the design and construction of a monument to honor this famous Revolutionary War Battle. It took the design committee nine years to decide on an ‘artistic’ design, a sculptured memorial with figures clustered to tell the story. Not the monument I envisioned, their design was for a monument much too small to honor such a great event in our history.
I needed to outwit the design committee and I went public, circulating petitions, writing letters and giving speeches advocating for a monumental monument. Finally by July of 1885 a new advisory committee recommended an approach that would be ‘massive and lofty’ and not dwindle into an obscure art gallery. The newly favored design was over 300 feet high, tapering to a point from a base 37 feet square and anchored on bedrock; a powerful architectural symbol that would be tall enough to stand out against the mountain behind it, seen for miles and beckon people to come and learn about the significant Revolutionary War Battle of Bennington.
Although I did not see my dream come true, a 306’ stone obelisk towers over Bennington. The cornerstone was set August 16th, 1887 and the stonework completed two years later in 1889; it is constructed of a blue gray limestone, all stone on stone with no framework. I learn now that there is an elevator to take visitors up 200’ for a spectacular view of three states. Amazing, the elevator is the highest in all of Vermont!
I see people coming up the Monument Avenue drawn by this beacon of a tower they see from the highway, wondering what it is and why it dominates the skyline of this small Vermont town. It is a great joy to hear the many languages spoken by visitors who come from around the world to picnic on the lawn, admire the view, or even get married, united in their dreams for the future. Here young and old, learn of the Battle of Bennington and how it influenced the final outcome of the American Revolution. A monumental memorial to how John Stark, Seth Warner and the Green Mountain Boys, and an army of farmers, merchants and common folk defeated a regiment of highly trained British regulars in pursuit of freedom.