Letter from General John Stark, 1809 July 31
My Friends and Fellow Soldiers- I received yours, of the 22d instant, containing your fervent expressions of friendship, and your very polite invitation to meet with you to celebrate the 16th of August in Bennington.
As you say, I can never forget that I commanded American troops on that day at Bennington. They were men who had not learned the art of submission, nor had they been trained to the arts of war; but our "astonishing success" taught the enemies of liberty that undisciplined freemen are superior to veteran slaves.
Nothing could afford me greater pleasure than to meet your brave “sons of liberty" on the fortunate spot; but, as you justly anticipate, the infirmities of old age will not permit it, for I am now more than fourscore and one years old, and the lamp of life is almost spent. I have of late had many such invitations, but was not ready, for there was not oil in the lamp.
You say you wish your young men to see me; but you who have seen me can tell them I never was worth much for a show, and certainly can not be worth their seeing now.
In case of my not being able to attend, you wish my sentiments. These you shall have, as free as the air we breathe. As I was then, I am now, the friend of the equal rights of men, of representative democracy, of republicanism, and the declaration of independence-the great charter of our national rights and of course a friend to the indissoluble union of these States. I am the enemy of all foreign influence, for all foreign influence is the influence of tyranny. This is the only chosen spot of liberty—this the only republic on earth.
You well know, gentlemen, that at the time of the event you celebrate, there was a powerful British faction in the country (called tories), a material part of the force we contended with. This faction was rankling in our councils, until it had laid a foundation for the subversion of our liberties; but, by having good sentinels at our outposts, we were apprised of the danger. The sons of freedom beat the alarm, and, as at Bennington, they came, they saw, they conquered.
These are my orders now, and will be my last orders to all my volunteers, to look to their sentries; for there is a dangerous British party in the country, lurking in their hiding places, more dangerous than all our foreign enemies; and whenever they shall appear, let them render the same account of them as was given at Bennington, let them assume what name they will.
I shall remember, gentlemen, the respect you and the inhabitants of Bennington and its neighborhood have shown me, until I go to the "country from whence no traveller returns." I must soon receive marching orders,
Hon. GIDEON OLIN, JONATHAN ROBINSON, Esq., DAVID FAY, Esq., Committee.
NOTE. The general forwarded in this letter, as his volunteer sentiment: “Live free, or die-Death is not the worst of evils."