Vermont Humanities

The Black Presence at the Battle of Bennington

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Speakers Bureau

Image of black soldier on horsebackIt will probably come as a surprise to most Vermonters that one of the 30 men killed at the Battle of Bennington, a member of Seth Warner’s Continental regiment of Green Mountain Boys, was black. His name was Sipp Ives, and he was recruited into Warner’s ranks from the town of New Providence in the northern Berkshires in 1777, the year of the Battle. Nor was he the only patriot of African descent who played a role in the fighting and its aftermath.

Military records in combination with early town histories furnish the primary sources for this presentation. Original discoveries, notably in the unpublished work of historian Lion G. Miles, to which he has given me access, in combination with scholarship old and new, from William C. Nell’s Colored Patriots of the American Revolution (1855) to more recent studies of the role of African Americans in the Revolutionary War and the early history of Vermont, paint a more diverse picture of Vermont’s iconic battle and its Green Mountain Boys than that depicted in most histories – an exception being the mural “Prisoners Taken at the Battle of Bennington” by Leroy Williams (1938) in the Bennington Museum, which depicts a black youth on horseback triumphantly leading tied-up Tories on the Bennington town green.

This presentation is also concerned with historical memory and how it is preserved and constructed. Images of pension records, muster rolls, and maps, as well as works of art, will be shown to illustrate the talk. A version of this talk was presented at the Bennington Museum on Feb. 2, 2019. An abbreviated version of the Sipp Ives story was published on VT Digger on February 17.

Image: Prisoners Taken at the Battle of Bennington by Leroy Williams. Credit: Bennington Museum, Bennington, Vermont.

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About the Presenter

Image of Phil Holland

Phil Holland

After returning to Vermont in 2014, Phil self-published a booklet on Robert Frost’s years in Bennington County, as well as a general-interest book on the Battle of Bennington and the Bennington Monument.

Talks by Phil Holland

Image of painting of black soldier on horseback.

The Black Presence at the Battle of Bennington

It may come as a surprise that one of the 30 men killed at the Battle of Bennington was black. This illustrated lecture tells the story of Sipp Ives and other black patriots who played a role in the fighting and its aftermath.

Vermont Humanities*** April 30, 2019