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WHEN A CHARACTER FAULT IS A VIRTUE?
by Wilmer J. Miller

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John Stark, my great great great great grandfather in New Hampshire, was a member of Roger’s Rangers prior to our Revolutionary War. In 1752 he was captured by the Indians along with 2 or 3 other prisoners. The other prisoners were forced to hoe corn and do other women’s work. But stubborn John refused, and was forced to run the gauntlet between warriors and women doing their best to trip, hit, beat, and injure the victim.

John survived this torture and later was ransomed back home. When the Revolutionary War started John Stark commanded his regiment as a colonel at the battle of Bunker Hill,--- really Breed’s hill. After General Washington and his army crossed the Delaware, Colonel Stark led one of the 3 prongs of attack at the Capture of Trenton.

When General Burgoyne began the invasion from Canada, Stark accepted generalship of the state troops. He refused direct orders by other generals to join them, since he believed the enemy would first try to capture the stores at Bennington, Vermont.

Sure enough! Large British detachments, including Hessian soldiers, did come to attack Bennington. By the rebel’s hit and run tactics, the British were forced to entrench atop a hill. They dug in, placed cannon, and otherwise fortified the hill.

The next morning General Stark addressed his men before the battle. His most famous statement was in the history books for the next century.
"TODAY THE BRITISH ARE OURS ...OR ...MOLLY STARK’S A WIDOW!"

On August 16, 1777 Stark’s army won the "glorious Battle of Bennington". They made military history. It was the first time untrained soldiers, poorly armed, beat an enemy well trained and armed, and entrenched on the top of a hill and with cannon.

John Stark’s penchant for stubbornness evidently had always been that-- when he was sure that he was right, he wouldn’t budge from what he considered the correct belief or action. Disobeying other generals turned out to be a great aid in winning the American Revolution! ---a Virtue????


Newer version:

WHEN A CHARACTER FAULT IS A VIRTUE?
by Wilmer J. Miller


One of my grandfathers was named Thomas Jefferson Virgin. His last name can be discussed another time.   Four great-grandparents antecedent to him in my putative pedigree, was a famous American.   Well I think so!  His name was John Stark.   He was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire on 28 August 1728.  John Stark's mother was Eleanor Nichols from Londonderry, Ireland.  His father was Archibald Stark from Glasgow, Scotland born in 1697.   Archibald was my only direct line ancestor to go to a University he University of Glasgow.

The Stark name originally was STARR from Burgundy, France. I can infer that a mercenary soldier named Starr came from Burgundy in 1495 to Scotland.  After whatever war was going on at that time, he stayed and married into the Scottish gentry.

John Stark was a member of Roger's Rangers prior to our Revolutionary War.  In 1752 he was captured by the Indians along with 2 or 3 other prisoners.  The other prisoners were forced to hoe corn and do other women's work.  But John refused and was forced to run the gauntlet.  (Was this the first historical indication of his stubbornness as a character flaw?)  To refresh your memory the gauntlet consists of a double row of warriors and women armed with clubs, whips, and knives.  The victim runs the gauntlet between the people doing their best to hit, trip, injure and beat the victim.  Deaths from the gauntlet were not rare.

John survived this torture and later was ransomed back to his
home.  He served in the French and Indian War attaining the rank of captain.  He married a daughter of Capt. Caleb Page, Elizabeth Page, 20 Aug 1758.  He became a lieutenant in the state militia.  When the Revolutionary War started, he was definitely a rebel, although his family was split between Rebels and Tories.Across the river from Boston, John Stark commanded his regiment as a colonel at the battle of Bunker Hill, which, as most know, was really Breed's hill.  He held the left flank, which reached the water's edge.  The British did try to outflank the Americans by this route and were driven back 3 times.  But his men were running out of powder and shot.  He requested supplies from those patriots/rebels on top of the hill.  They refused because they were afraid of running out of supplies themselves.  The whole American line had to retreat.

Colonel Stark led one of the 3 prongs of attack at the Capture of Trenton, New Jersey after General Washington and his army crossed the Delaware River.  The Hessian soldiers were caught off guard and it was one of the few big victories for General Washington.

Failing to receive deserved promotion, Stark left the army and returned to Derryfield to farm.
When General Burgoyne began the invasion from Canada, Stark accepted generalship of the state troops and was asked to join the other American forces since the Rebel Generals had determined that the British were going to come down from the North and up from the South  in an attempt to divide the American rebels so that they could be conquered piecemeal.

Stark was stubborn, and had already had disagreements with the other Generals and the Continental Congress .  He trusted ONLY General Washington.  He said that the Generals' notions were a correct assessment--but that the British and Hessians were FIRST going to try to capture the military stores at Bennington, Vermont.  He refused direct orders to join them and augmented his men with local rebels.  He waited for the enemy before Bennington.
Sure enough! Large British detachments, including Hessian soldiers, did come to attack Bennington.  Stark's ragtag army was not well armed; many farmer/soldiers had no training and some had only pitchforks and similar weaponsno cannon.  The British forces were attacked by hit and run tactics and forced to entrench atop a hill.  They dug in, placed cannon, and otherwise fortified the hill.

The next morning General Stark addressed his men before the battle.  His most famous statement was in the history books for the next century.

"Today the British are ours....Or ....Molly Stark's a widow!"

August 16, 1777 Stark's army won " (to quote one Encyclopedia) the "glorious Battle of Bennington"--the only battle of that year that the Americans won.  They made military history.  It was the first time untrained soldiers, poorly armed, beat an enemy well trained and armed, and entrenched on the top of a hill and with cannon.

John Stark's penchant for stubbornness evidently had always been that when he was sure that he was right, he wouldn't budge from what he considered the correct belief or action.  In this case [disobeying other generals] it was a great aid in winning the American Revolution!  ---a Virtue????

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