The Legend of the Bennington
The Bennington flag’s recognizable design is well known—its telltale “76”, seven-point stars, and white outermost stripes have become iconic in American culture as a symbol of the American Revolution.
Bennington, a small town in Vermont, was a key location during the Revolutionary War—it held many necessary supplies and resources, like ammunition, draft horses, and cavalry.
During the summer of 1777, British forces invaded the region, intent on capturing these supplies. Unbeknownst to them, however, United States general John Stark and 1,500 militiamen were stationed there too. When the British entered the area, General Stark rallied his troops and led them to battle with the famous cry, “There are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!”
The Bennington flag—said to have been created by the general’s wife, Molly Stark herself—flew overhead as they rushed into battle.
As the battle raged on, reinforcements arrived for both sides—including the Green Mountain Boys, along with their famous flag. With the reinforcements, Stark’s men answered his call, defeating the British forces in a monumental victory.
The Battle of Bennington proved to be a key result leading up to the Battle of Saratoga, the first defeat of a British general in the Revolutionary War. This crucial victory gave the American rebels hope and severely weakened the British army.
As the legend goes, the Bennington flag was carried off the battlefield by Nathaniel Fillmore, grandfather of President Millard Fillmore. The flag was then passed down from generation to generation, a reminder of the revolution and the price paid for freedom.
There is no doubt that the Battle of Bennington took place, and little doubt that the flag of the Green Mountain Boys flew during that same battle—but the Bennington flag’s inclusion may be more myth than reality.
Upon close inspection, experts determined that the original Bennington flag was made with machine-woven fabric—a technique not created until the 1800s, years after the famous battle.
This evidence suggests that the Bennington flag wasn’t present during the battle—rather, it was likely created to commemorate the American Revolution, then wrapped into the battle’s story over time.
That shouldn’t make it less meaningful, though. Flags take on the meaning, stories, and values of the people that look up to them, and the Bennington flag has come to signify a turning point in the American Revolution. Whether it was present at the Battle of Bennington or not, it holds a special place in America’s history.