Bidwell Lore: Thomas Allen and the Stockbridge Mohicans at the Battle of Bennington

Happy New Year and welcome to week 82 of Bidwell Lore! This week we share a short post about the “Fighting Parson” Thomas Allen, a name we mentioned in a couple of posts in December.

At the end of 2021, we told the story of Deborah Sampson, the first woman to fight in the US Military in the Revolutionary War, and her commanding officer General John Patterson. We also briefly mentioned a connection to the “Fighting Parson” Thomas Allen in our posts HERE and HERE. Allen has an interesting story, which we share with you below.  

Born in 1743 in Northampton, MA, Thomas Allen graduated from Harvard College in 1762, and in 1764 became the first settled minister in Pittsfield, MA, where he was ordained pastor of the First Congregational Church. He held that post for 46 years and died in Pittsfield in 1810.

Twice he served as a volunteer chaplain during the Revolutionary War and fought as a combatant in the Battle of Bennington, where he earned the name the “fighting parson.” Though there is another story that says he earned that nickname due to the habit of keeping a musket under the alter!

…Learning of the fact that British General John Burgoyne was marching on Bennington he rallied his people in the meeting house and made them a speech. “All of you who will go to meet the enemy follow me,” and away the parson went gathering volunteers all along the route. By August 15, 1,600 Americans under Bunker Hill veteran General John Stark had gathered at Bennington. The force consisted of New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts troops. The Vermont troops were led by Colonel Seth Warner and militia from Bennington and Wilmington. Last to arrive, wet with drenching rain, were volunteers from the Berkshires, led by Reverend Allen. In Edward Everett’s “Life of Stark”, Allen said to General Stark, “We, the people of Berkshire, have frequently been called upon to fight, but have never been led against the enemy. We have now resolved; if you will not let us fight, never to turn out again.” On the morning of the battle, Allen prayed that the Lord would “teach their hands to war and their fingers to fight.” The battle lasted until dark of the 16th with the British in full retreat. The patriots took 750 prisoners, 1,000 muskets and four cannons. Allen would be forever known as the Fighting Parson. [Courtesy]

Profile etching of Reverend Thomas Allen. Older man with white hair and a black, high necked coat.
Image of Thomas Allen, Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

The manner in which the volunteers were gathered is told below by E.W.B. Canning:

“Early one Sunday morning In August, ’77, our village [1] was startled by the sound of three musket shots fired in succession. On looking out, there were seen Esq. Woodbridge, then living in the present residence of Mr. Samuel Lawrence-Deacon Nash, his next neighbor, and Deacon Edwards [2], on the street corner near the latter’s house- now Mrs. Owens’s- each with a musket in his hand. So strictly was the day kept at that time, that the sight of these men so situated provoked as much astonishment as would now the discovery of a quartette of our reverend clergy prefacing divine service by a game of euchre over the pulpit cushion. Something unusual and very important must be in the wind, or these fathers of the town and church had gone daft. Matters were soon explained to the fast gathering citizens, for a courier had just brought news that the British were marching on Bennington, and that every able-bodied man was needed to repel the invasion. Anon, forth came the yeoman soldiery equipped as well as haste and alarm permitted, and took their way northward to the scene of danger With this body went Dr. Oliver Partridge [3], whom many of us remember, and who told me he dressed the mortal wound of Col. Baum [4], who commanded the enemy in that battle.” [E.W.B. Canning] [5]

The Stockbridge Mohicans also joined the volunteers at the Battle of Bennington:

A company of Stockbridge Mohicans fought with the Americans at the Battle of Bennington, and in 1782 the Stockbridge Indians were granted lands in Vermont in recognition of their services. Requesting a tract of land near the Great River and the ponds of Dunmore, Joseph Shauquethquot sachem [6] of the Moheakunnocks, or Mohicans, of Stockbridge, reminded his Brothers of the Great Green Mountains that Vermont was once Indian country:

 ‘We and our fathers were once the rightful possessor of all your country, it was a gift of the Great God to us & them; but when the belt of friendship was interchanged with our American brethren, we became one people with them, and possessed and enjoyed freely our Lands, since which we have grown smaller & smaller until we are become very small, but we would have you call to mind, brothers, how big we were once, and not hear us altogether as though we were Small.’

Instead of the Lands that Shauquethquot requested, the Stockbridges received land several miles east of Montpelier. They later sold these lands to Capt. Isaac Marsh, who founded the town of Marshfield, Vermont.” [7]

Isaac Marsh, a Stockbridge resident, was the owner of a number of parcels of Stockbridge land including one at the southwest corner of the Red Lion Inn intersection, where he operated a store and tavern. His ledgers – now at the Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives – have a number of entries reflecting purchases by the Stockbridge Indians, including Joe Pye, AKA Joseph Shauquethquot, sachem of the Stockbridge Indians.[8]

Next week we begin a story about two notorious Bidwell descendants and their connection to the Bank of England

[1] Stockbridge.
[2] Timothy Edwards, son of Rev. Jonathan Edwards (The Elms House).
[3] Brother-in-law of Jemima Bidwell Partridge, daughter of Rev. Adonijah Bidwell.
[4] In August of 1777, Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum found himself a long way from his home in Braunschweig – Wolfenbüttel, what is now a part of Lower Saxony in Germany. Duke Carl I provided nearly 6,000 of his fellow servicemen to his son’s brother-in-law, King George III of Great Britain, in order to put down the Rebellion in America. []
[5] Roundabout History at the Red Lion Inn Intersection, Rick Wilcox, 2018.
[6] Chief Shauqueatquot was also called Joe Pye and the plant Joe Pye Weed is named after him. Common Name Joe-Pye-Weed for Eutrochium Species (Asteraceae) a medicinal plant common to the Berkshires. Maybe a topic for another Bidwell Lore article?
[7] Western Abenakis of Vermont, 1600-1800 War, Migration, and Survival of an Indian People, Colin G. Calloway, University of Oklahoma Press, 1953.
[8] Roundabout History at the Red Lion Inn Intersection, Rick Wilcox, 2018.