New Hampshire's most
Gen. John Stark, the hero
of Bunker Hill and Bennington, was the right
man in the right place at the right time. His
early training with his father in heavy farm
work and lumbering operations, his later practice
in hunting and trapping, his capture by the Indians
and his study of their language and customs,
all led to his success as a member of Rogers'
Rangers in the French and Indian Wars. This in
turn fostered the soldierly quality of leadership
that he showed so strongly in the Revolution.
He developed an ability to foresee what the enemy
would do and to forestall him, thus gaining distinction
among Revolutionary officers. Stark's life encompassed
the whole revolutionary period, and he was instrumental
in the cataclysmic events that produced a free
and independent nation.
John Stark was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire,
August 28, 1728. When he was eight years old he
moved with his family to Derryfield (Manchester),
his home for the remainder of his long life.
Rodgers' Rangers & Molly
He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in
Rogers' Rangers attached to Col. Blanchard's regiment
at the outbreak of the French and Indian Wars.
In 1758, hearing of his father's death, he obtained
a leave of absence to come home to help settle
the estate. At this time he was a frequent visitor
to the Page homestead in Dunbarton and on August
20, 1758, he and Elizabeth Page were married. From
that time on, she was known as Molly Stark. The
couple settled in the Page home but after a few
weeks of inactivity, Stark eagerly responded to
Gen. Amherst's request to build a road from Crown
Point to Fort No. 4, Charlestown.
It soon became apparent that resentment of the
British was building. The rangers, a rough and
independent lot, were consistently made to feel
inferior to the British. Army discipline was severe
and unyielding and the rangers were in no mood
to endure it. In 1760, the French capitulated and
Stark, after a dispute with his superiors, was
glad to come home to build up the family property.
His father's estate settled, he bought the land
his brothers and sisters had inherited and became
sole owner of a substantial estate. He and Molly
were now living with his mother in Derryfield (Manchester).
Resentment of British soldiery following the
French and Indian Wars came to the surface as King
George imposed more and more taxes on the colonies.
The Stamp Act of 1765, the Boston Massacre of 1770,
the tea tax resulting in the Boston Tea Party of
1773-all were sparks helping ignite the conflagration
which would soon envelop the colonies.
War Breaks Out
The Battle of Lexington and Concord was
the opener, followed by the Battle of Bunker Hill on
June 17, 1775. Stark was a formidable antagonist
in that battle and following it was attached to
the Continental Army under
George Washington . He took part in the New
Jersey campaign and commanded the right wing at
Knowing how New Englanders would ally to Stark's
call, Washington sent him home to recruit new troops.
Stark was in a cheerful and optimistic mood as
he travelled around the settlements, talking to
farmers and townsmen as he recruited replacements
for the troops. But the calm was abruptly shattered
when word reached Stark that Col. Enoch Poor of
the Second New Hampshire Regiment had been promoted
to brigadier general. This was the last straw for
Stark, whose limited patience had run out. It was
not the first time he had been passed over for
lesser men with less experience but with more social
graces and more tactful tongues. He appeared before
the Exeter Legislature and resigned his commission,
receiving their vote of thanks for his services.
In spite of urgent efforts to get him to reconsider,
Stark remained adamant, though he pledged immediate
assistance to New Hampshire should it be needed.
After four months as a private citizen, Stark
was asked by the Exeter Legislature to accept a
commission as brigadier general of the New Hampshire
militia He agreed on condition he be answerable
only to New Hampshire. This proved to be wise.
When ordered to join Schuyler at Saratoga, Stark
refused and went instead to Bennington. The Battle
of Bennington, often called the turning point of
the war, led directly to the Battle of Saratoga
where Burgoyne was defeated.
The war dragged on for six more years. Stark
sometimes took part and sometimes, when cold weather
settled in, went home to recuperate from the attacks
of rheumatism that were to plague him the rest
of his life.
Retirement In Manchester
John Stark House in Manchester, NH from
1908 photo. (Library of Congress American Memories
At the close of
the Revolution, he settled down on the
home farm. He and Molly now had ten children,
five boys and five girls, having lost one daughter
in infancy. In 1783, John Stark was ordered to
headquarters by Washington, given the personal
thanks of the Commander-in-Chief and the rank
of Major General by brevet.
Molly Stark died of typhus in 1814, aged 78.
John was 86. He lived to his 94th year and died
May 8, 1822, reportedly the last surviving Continental
general of the Revolution.
By Isabel Tarant
Originally published in "NH: Years of
Revolution," Profiles Publications and the NH Bicentennial
Copyright © 1997 SeacoastNH.com. Updtated
John Stark's grave in Manchester, NH from a pastoral turn-of-the-20th
century postcard (SeacoastNH.com Image
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