The Visitors Center offers a museum with public amenities, including handicapped accessible restrooms and a museum shop. The interpretive exhibit illustrates the battle, placing it in its Revolutionary War context. A large, three-dimensional fiber optic map with accompanying narrative provides a vivid account of the progress of the battle. The early stages of the battle are depicted in a diorama by Vermont artist Paul V. Winters. Artifacts discovered by archaeologists at the Hubbardton Battlefield and Mount Independence State Historic Sites bring the soldiers to life.
The highlight of the year’s annual events is the colorful annual Revolutionary War living history weekend in early July. Other special history and nature events are offered throughout the season and include a Memorial Day Remembrance, Hubbardton Military Road hike in June, moonlight star gazing with Green Mountain Alliance of Amateur Astronomers, Pittsford Ridge hike in September, and the annual Mount Zion hike in October. Teachers are invited to bring their students for educational programs and home schoolers are welcome too.
Fought in the green hills of Hubbardton in the early morning of July 7, 1777, the Battle of Hubbardton is the only Revolutionary War battle on Vermont soil and one of the most successful rear guard actions in American history. It was here that British General John Burgoyne's seasoned and well-trained Regulars met for the first time the resistance and bravery of Americans in battle. Today a visit to the beautifully preserved Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Site is peaceful and serene, with its open meadows and sweeping views of the Green, Taconic, and Adirondack mountains. The marble battle monument is one of the oldest Revolutionary War battle monuments in the United States. Visitors to this hallowed ground can take in the natural setting, tour the museum, and walk in the footsteps of history.
Military historians note that of all the Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields in the United States, the Hubbardton Battlefield is the most evocative of the period in which the battle took place. The setting and views from the battlefield are much as they were in 1777.
Prelude to a Battle
The American Revolution came to the Lake Champlain Valley region and Orwell, Vermont in earnest in the summer of 1776. American forces began construction of extensive new defenses on this rugged rocky peninsula that jutted north into Lake Champlain. Inspired by the Declaration of Independence, this site was named Mount Independence. In October, the fortifications there and across the lake at Fort Ticonderoga thrust back a planned attack by the British sailing south on the lake from Canada, but the Americans knew the British would try again.
In June 1777 British Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne began implementing his grand plan to split New England from the rest of the Colonies. The plan was for Burgoyne’s troops to head south on Lake Champlain and join two other British leaders, one of whom was traveling from the west along the Mohawk Valley and the other from the north up the Hudson River. All were to meet following their victories in Albany, New York. As Burgoyne drew near Mount Independence and Fort Ticonderoga in early July, Major General Arthur St. Clair made the tough decision to withdraw the American Northern Department Army from these forts and save his troops for another encounter under more advantageous circumstances with the British.
The roughly 4,000 American soldiers retreated as quickly as possible with little time to gather up supplies and under the cover of darkness on the nights of July 5th and 6th. Most headed southeast on foot along the rough and narrow Mount Independence-Hubbardton Military Road, with a small protective guard to the rear under the command of Col. Ebenezer Francis. Those sick or weakened boarded vessels traveling south on Lake Champlain.
The Americans Reach Hubbardton
Major General St. Clair and the main army marched over 20 miles to reach the hills of Hubbardton. There he appointed Colonel Seth Warner of the Green Mountain Boys to take command of an expanded rear guard of 1,000 to 1,200 soldiers, while the main army continued southward to Castleton. Rear guards have been a standard military security strategy to protect retreating troops. Their mission is to delay the enemy in their pursuit, force the enemy to deploy all their troops into action with the rear guard, engage the enemy in such a way as to avoid close combat, and to then withdraw safely as quickly as possible.
The Cast of Characters for the Battle
The American rear guard consisted of Colonel Warner’s Green Mountain Boys Continental Regiment and some militia; Colonel Francis leading a portion of his Massachusetts Continental Regiment and selected units from other regiments; Colonel Nathan Hale with his 2nd New Hampshire Continental Regiment; and many stragglers from other regiments and sick soldiers.
The advancing British were seasoned Regulars, superior to the Americans in training, experience, and equipment. They included Brigadier General Simon Fraser, one of Burgoyne's best line officers, and his elite Advance Corps; Major Robert Grant with his 24th Regiment of Foot; Major Alexander Lindsay leading the British light infantry; Major John Acland with the British grenadiers; and Major General Baron von Riedesel and his German Brunswick troops.
The Eve of the Battle
Colonel Warner had recently passed through the Hubbardton area on his way to build up the forces at Mount Independence and was familiar with the lay of the land and its strategic possibilities along the military road. In their retreat from Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, he and his men made preparations in Hubbardton to delay the advancing British forces. At the top of what later would be named Monument Hill, the militia cut down trees and made a tangle of canopy branches facing downhill to delay the enemy. Exhausted by their hard march and exertions, Warner decided his troops should rest before continuing south to join St. Clair's troops at Castleton.
The Battle Begins
Darkness turned to dawn the sultry morning of July 7th, 1777. At 5:00 a.m. American pickets in the saddle near Sargent Hill, to the northwest of Monument Hill, spotted approaching British scouts. The pickets fired, then moved back to join their main body. By 6:30 a.m. the first British soldiers reached Sucker Brook, to the west and below Monument Hill. Troops intended to delay the American companies of soldiers started firing. The first battle casualties were British Major Grant and 21 other soldiers.
Some of the American rear guard moved to a strategic defensive location atop Monument Hill, behind the trees they had cut down. The British attacked the hill, but were repulsed and forced back down to their former position.
The Americans returned to the hilltop and again the British attacked and were pushed back. The battle continued on as the British attempted to encircle the Americans, who consolidated their position behind a brush fence on the east side of the road to Castleton. British General Fraser realized he needed reinforcements to win the battle and sent word to von Riedesel, who was following behind, to join him.
British grenadiers, trying to keep the rear guard from retreating southward, scrambled up the rugged Pittsford Ridge mountain, well to the east beyond the fence, and formed a human barrier across the road and up the mountain. By 8:30 a.m. von Riedesel's Brunswickers had arrived, with a band playing loudly and soldiers singing hymns. They attacked the American northern flank, which was just about to trap the British on their left. In the fierce fighting atop the mountain Colonel Francis was killed. The rest of the American rear guard withdrew as best as they could over Pittsford Ridge. There was occasional gunfire along the ridge for some time, but by 8:45 a.m. the battle was over.
Results of the Battle
The American rear guard had successfully accomplished its mission, fully deploying the pursuing British, delaying them long enough so St. Clair and his main army could safely retreat southward. The rear guard soldiers also skillfully disengaged their enemy, fighting the British to a near standstill, and avoiding further American casualties and pursuit by the British. The British held the field after the fighting was over and in technical terms won the battle, but their losses were so heavy that General Fraser gave up chasing St. Clair and his army. Instead, the British stayed at Hubbardton for several days to care for their wounded and bury their dead. They left the Americans dead on the field, and brought the wounded and their American prisoners north to Mount Independence and Fort Ticonderoga.
The Battle of Hubbardton involved approximately 2,230 troops--1,000 to 1,200 Americans, 850 British, and 180 Germans fighting for the British. It resulted in the deaths of 41 American, 50 British, and 10 German soldiers. Of the 244 wounded, 96 were American, 134 British, and 14 German. The British took 234 American prisoners. Total casualties, including prisoners, were roughly 27 percent of all participating troops.
This battle was the beginning of the end for Burgoyne and his great military plan. He suffered another stunning blow on August 16th, when American Brigadier General John Stark led forces to defeat two detachments of Burgoyne's army sent to capture much needed supplies at the American arsenal in Bennington, Vermont. Soon after the Battle of Bennington Burgoyne wrote about the people of Vermont as "the most active and most rebellious race on the continent" and that they were hanging "like a gathering storm" on his left. On October 17, 1777, after the battles of Saratoga, he surrendered with his entire Army, which became a major turning point in the American Revolution.
After the Battle
Some time after the British left the battlefield to then garrison Mount Independence and Ticonderoga, some Hubbardton residents who had fled their homes returned and buried the American dead. Others collected arms left on the field. In September 1777 the Vermont Council of Safety issued an order to deliver any arms and accoutrements recovered from the Hubbardton battlefield, for which the bearers would be paid. Over time the battlefield returned to its peaceful farm use and a house was built near where the monument would be placed.
At some point in the early to mid 1800s a pole with a hand-lettered sign identifying the battle was placed on the field. By the 1850s local interest grew in honoring the Battle of Hubbardton with a permanent monument. The Hubbardton Battle Monument Association was incorporated in 1856 to raise funds, and on July 7, 1859, the new marble monument was dedicated. Area residents organized a centennial celebration of the battle in 1877, and in 1927 the Vermont State Sesquicentennial of Statehood held a major event to honor the 150th anniversary of the battle.
Public recognition of the historic Hubbardton Battlefield began as far back as 1859 when the citizens of Hubbardton and the vicinity erected the large marble monument just south of the present entrance gate. The $500 expense for the monument was borne by area residents. The 21-foot tall monument was constructed by E. J. Manley of West Rutland, Vermont, and dedicated on July 7, 1859. The ceremony was attended by nearly 5,000 people, including descendants of battle soldiers and a townsperson who was eight years old at the time of the battle. The ceremony concluded with a tactical representation of the battle. In 1875 the monument was enclosed by a handsome cast iron fence, paid for by funding from the Vermont legislature.
The monument, one of the oldest Revolutionary War battle monuments in the country, is in the area where the American rear guard made its strongest, most valient effort and where some have thought Colonel Francis to have been buried. The British respected the leadership qualities and bravery that Colonels Warner and Francis demonstrated during the conflict. Von Riedesel, a veteran of many European campaigns, especially admired these youthful American officers. When Francis' body was found after the battle, von Riedesel personally saw to it that this gallant officer received a Christian burial, with full military honors rendered by a detachment from the Brunswick troops.
The History of the Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Site
In 1937 the Vermont legislature created the Hubbardton Battlefield Commission, which began purchasing battlefield land. The Board of Historic Sites, created in 1947 by the Vermont legislature, took over the commission’s duties and that year the battlefield became one of the Vermont State Historic Sites. The beautifully preserved battlefield was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
The Visitors Center, constructed in 1970, was expanded and the museum’s exhibits updated in 1991 to honor Vermont’s bicentennial of statehood. Outside, a mown path with interpretive signs around the battlefield and down to the Selleck Cabin site were developed for the public’s enjoyment.
About Your Visit
This historic site includes a Visitor Center Museum, battle monument interpretive trail with informational signs around the battlefield, Selleck Cabin foundation, picnic tables, and a scenic setting with spectacular mountain views.
Your first stop is the museum where you may purchase your ticket and pick up your trail map and interpretive guide to the battlefield. The site interpreter is happy to talk with you and answer your questions. Take a look at the exhibit, which places the battle in its Revolutionary War context and includes period artifacts and a three-dimensional fiber optic map describing the battle.
Outdoors, walk on a mown path around the battlefield, and to the top of Monument Hill, where you can see the Adirondack Mountains in the distance, then down to the Selleck Cabin foundation.
Enjoy the wildflowers and birds. Bring a picnic and use the picnic tables or spread a blanket on the mown lawn and relax in one of Vermont’s special places. In the evening the site is a wonderful place for star gazing.
The battle monument is near the road and parking area. Enclosed by a cast iron fence, the monument is one of the oldest Revolutionary War battle monuments in the United States. Take a look at the inscribed wording on the monument and the raised crossed rifle and sword with bayonet, with “Liberty” inscribed on the upper shaft.
Walk or drive down St. John Road, and turn right on Frog Hollow Road to see the East Hubbardton Cemetery, where among the burials are town residents who were alive in Hubbardton at the time of the battle.
The nearby hiking trails on Mount Zion offer splendid views of the battlefield and surrounding countryside. This trailhead is located off of St. John Road.
In the winter, a VAST snowmobile trail crosses sections of the battlefield. The site also allows Nordic skiing and snowshoeing.