Historians, re-enactors celebrate “Breakenridge Stand-off”

250 years ago July 19, Vermonters stood up to New Yorkers and the Green Mountain Boys were born

This mural (located inside a federal building on West Street in Rutland) depicts Hampshire Grants settlers inside the James Breakenridge farmhouse in Bennington defending – on July 19, 1771 – their land claims from an Albany NY posse intent on evicting many of Vermont’s early settlers in favor of disputed land claims by colonial authorities representing New York. The Green Mountain Boys (now the Vermont National Guard) and Vermont itself trace their origins to the events of July 19, 1771.

by Tom Hughes

Six years before the Battle of Bennington, the Green Mountain Boys were born when a handful of Vermonters frustrated the plans of a posse of New Yorkers in the “Breakenridge Stand-off.” Re-enactors and historians will celebrate the 250th anniversary of this little-known but important event Sunday, July 18 in and around McWaters Park in North Bennington.

The celebration will include historical tours by local and regional volunteers, presentations by re-enactors, a grand ceremony, and more. Admission is free to all. A custom T-shirt will be available for purchase.

Tom Hughes

Years in the making, a decisive confrontation occurred on July 19, 1771 at James Breakenridge’s farm in north Bennington. A New York sheriff’s posse, including the Mayor of Albany, lawyers, magistrates, and militia clashed with the emerging Green Mountain Boys militia at Henry Bridge which crosses the Walloomsac River, stopping the serving of papers and blocking the New York surveyors. The success of Hampshire Grants settlers in resisting the New York land claims made July 19, 1771 the birth of the Green Mountain Boys – and in a sense, the birth of Vermont.

Most scheduled events will take place 1-4 pm. Public parking is located entirely in a side yard of Henry House on Orebed Road. There will be several public information tables to explore, representatives of several regional living history re-enactor organizations, interactive demonstrations and presentations, self-guided history tours, at 2 pm a very special commemoration to honor the 1771 birth of Vermont and of the Green Mountain Boys, a proclamation read by Vermont Rep. Mary Morrissey, and brief remarks from honored guest Chief Master Sgt. Adrianne Schulz, the mission group superintendent for the 158th Fighter Wing of the Vermont Air National Guard. The Vermont Army National Guard and the Vermont Air National Guard are today’s “Green Mountain Boys.”  At 3 pm, historian Robert Hoar will lead a public history walking tour from McWaters Park to the Breakenridge farm property.

 Activities for all ages will be offered 1-4 pm at McWaters Park, in the area next to the covered bridge and under the trees.  

Phyllis Chapman will share with children some fun games such as hoops and graces, quoits, and tabletop ninepins.  She will also give informal presentations about medical care in the 1770s, through displays and demonstrations of typical medicines and procedures used in the treatment of illness and injuries.  She will explain the method used for smallpox inoculation and simple surgical procedures.

Benjamin Whitcomb’s Rangers, a Vermont-based living history unit, will offer Jim Casco doing and showing the work of an armorer, Pam Monder leading game and toy play, and Michael Barbieri showing how to start a fire with flint and steel.  Several of the various reenactors will be available to demonstrate the workings of firelock muskets, the type of weapon present but not fired at the Breakenridge Stand-off.

 For grown-ups, Village Garage Distillery, which produces handcrafted spirits in the Vermont tradition, will host tastings at the corn crib barn on the Henry House property from 1-4 p.m. The original Green Mountain Boys frequented Bennington’s Catamount Tavern.

This event is the product of the cooperation of many individuals and organizations.  We acknowledge the important assistance of Bennington Area Arts Council, Bennington Boy Scout Troop 353, Bennington Historical Society/Bennington Museum, Bennington Sherriff’s Dept., Crown Point Road Association, Descendants of the Green Mountain Boys, Friends of Bennington Battlefield, GVH Studios, Hawkins House, Henry House, Vermont Air & Army National Guards, and the Village of North Bennington.

 Beginning at 1 p.m., the public may park in a designated mown area on the grounds of the Henry House, just southwest of the south end of the historic Henry covered bridge. From there it is a short walk across the bridge to McWaters Park, where there will be plenty to see, even before the public ceremony that will begin at 2 p.m.  After the ceremony, local historian Robert Hoar leads a tour from McWaters Park to the Seth Warner house and continuing, ending near the site of the Breakenridge farmhouse.

 For any updates regarding this event, the public may leave a brief voicemail message at 802-388-2967 or simply check the 1771BirthOfVermont2021 Facebook page.

Categories: History

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