Gen. John Stark (Continental Army)

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Maj. Gen. John Stark, Sr

Birthplace: Londonderry, Rockingham, New Hampshire
Death: May 08, 1822 (93)
Manchester, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States
Place of Burial: Manchester, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Archibald Stark and Eleanor Stark
Husband of Elizabeth Stark
Father of Maj. Caleb Stark (Continental Army); Archibald Stark; John Stark, Jr.; Sarah Blodgett; Mary Stickney and 20 others
Brother of Col. William Stark; Isabel Stark; Archibald Stark; Mary Stark; Jean Stark and 2 others

Occupation: Brigadier General in the American Revolutionary War, Major general
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Gen. John Stark (Continental Army)

A Patriot of the American Revolution for NEW HAMPSHIRE with the rank of MAJOR GENERAL. DAR Ancestor # A108966

Gen. John Stark 1728-1822

Parents: Archibald Stark 1697-1758 and Eleanor Nichols 1702-

Wife Elizabeth "Molly" "Page

Children John Starks's eleven children include:

  • Caleb Page (12/3/1759; m. Sarah McKinstry)
  • Archibald (5/28/1761-8/11/1791)
  • John (4/17/1763; m. Mary "Polly" Huse)
  • Eleanor (3/4/1765-8/20/1767)
  • Ellen/Eleanor (6/30/1767; m. Isaac Babson, m. Thomas Coombs)
  • Sarah (6/11/1769; m. William Blodgett)
  • Elizabeth (8/10/1771; m. John G. Cameron)
  • Mary "Molly" (9/9/1773; m. Benjamin Stickney)
  • Charles (12/2/1775-disappeared at sea 1796)
  • Benjamin Franklin (6/16/1777; m. Elizabeth Cushing)
  • Sophia (6/21/1782; m. Samuel Wallace Dickey)

Gen. John Stark Park Location: North River Road

History of Stark Park researched and written by: Alysha C. from Manchester Memorial High School Class of 2011.

Historic Stark Park is named in honor of New Hampshire’s own hero, General John Stark. General Stark was born in Derry, NH, in 1728. He was kidnapped by the local Abenaki Indians at the young age of twenty four, was forced to run the gauntlet, and was later ransomed for $103. Stark later emerged as a distinguished soldier and indispensable leader in the Revolutionary War by leading the New Hampshire regiments in the famed Battle of Bunker Hill. Unfortunately, Stark was passed over for promotion in the Continental Army due to political enemies. Infuriated with the government, Stark retired from the army for a time and lived with his wife Molly on their farm. However, when the war efforts needed Stark, he was there.

In 1777 General John Stark was given independent command of New Hampshire’s forces at the Battle of Bennington with orders to raise forces for the “annoyance of the enemy.” General Stark’s troops stopped British supplies and troops from connecting with the main army at Saratoga, New York, which led to an American victory later that year. British historian Trevelyan summed it all up when he said, “Bennington proved to be the turning point of the Saratoga campaign, which was the turning point of the war.” It was New Hampshire’s own John Stark that proved a key figure in America’s fight for independence. Stark lived the remainder of his life in Derryfield (modern day Manchester) until his death in 1822 at age 93.

John Stark’s fighting spirit gave words to our state motto in 1809: “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.”

Stark Park is built around the original Stark Burial Plot, on land that was once part of the Stark family farm. This is the resting place of John Stark, his wife, and a few of their children – one can still visit the headstones today.

Caleb Page/Molly Stark House: Gen. Stark lived with his wife in the home she grew up in, which was built by his father-in-law. Gen. Stark's first son, Caleb, who served in the Revolutionary War with his father, was born there.


John Stark (August 28, 1728 – May 8, 1822) was a New Hampshire native who served as a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He became widely known as the "Hero of Bennington" for his exemplary service at the Battle of Bennington in 1777.

Early life

John Stark was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire (now part of Derry) in 1728. When he was eight years old, he and his family moved to Derryfield (now Manchester), where he lived for the rest of his long life. Stark was married to Elizabeth "Molly" Page, with whom he had 11 children including his eldest son Caleb Stark.

On April 28, 1752, while on a hunting and trapping trip along the Baker River, a tributary of the Pemigewasset River, he was captured by Abenaki warriors and brought back to Quebec but not before warning his brother William Stark to paddle away in his canoe, though David Stinson was killed. While a prisoner of the Abenaki, he and his fellow prisoner Amos Eastman were made to run a gauntlet of warriors armed with sticks. Stark grabbed the stick from the first warrior's hands and proceeded to attack him, taking the rest of the warriors by surprise. The chief was so impressed by this heroic act that Stark was adopted into the tribe, where he spent the winter. Alternatively, in The Invasion Within, Axtell describes how colonists were often abducted by Indians and inducted into their tribes as members through such a ceremony of running the gauntlet.

The following spring a government agent sent from Massachusetts to work on the exchange of prisoners paid his ransom of $103 Spanish dollars and $60 for Amos Eastman. Stark and Eastman then returned to New Hampshire.

French and Indian War

Stark served as a second lieutenant under Maj. Robert Rogers during the French and Indian War. As a member of the daring Rogers' Rangers, Stark gained valuable combat experience and a detailed knowledge of the Northern frontier of the American colonies.

General Jeffrey Amherst, anticipating the conquest of Quebec, ordered Rogers' Rangers to journey from Lake George to the Abenaki village of St. Francis, deep in Quebec. The Rangers went north and attacked the Indian town. Stark, Rogers' second-in-command of all ranger companies, refused to accompany the attacking force out of respect for his Indian foster-parents residing there. He returned to New Hampshire to his wife, whom he had married the previous year.

At the end of the war, Stark retired as a captain and returned to Derryfield.

American Revolution

Bunker Hill

The Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, signaled the start of the American Revolutionary War, and Stark returned to military service. On April 23, 1775, Stark accepted a Colonelcy in the New Hampshire Militia and was given command of the 1st New Hampshire Regiment and James Reed of the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment, also outside of Boston. As soon as Stark could muster his men, he ferried and marched them south to Boston to support the blockaded rebels there. He made his headquarters in the confiscated Isaac Royall House in Medford, Massachusetts.

On June 16, the rebels, fearing a preemptive British attack on their positions in Cambridge and Roxbury, decided to take and hold the high ground surrounding the city, including Dorchester Heights, Bunker Hill, and Breed's Hill. Holding these positions would allow the rebels to oppose any British landing (at the time, Boston proper was almost an island and the British soldiers garrisoned there would have to travel by sea to attack the outlying towns). The positions could also be used to emplace cannon which could threaten the British ships blockading the harbor (although no cannon were available to the rebels at this time). Accordingly, on the night of the 16th, they moved into position on the heights and began digging entrenchments.

As dawn approached, lookouts on HMS Lively, a 20-gun sloop of war noticed the activity and the sloop opened fire on the rebels and the works in progress. This in turn drew the attention of the British Admiral, who demanded to know what the Lively was shooting at. Subsequent to that, the entire British squadron opened fire. As dawn broke on June 17 the British could clearly see hastily constructed fortifications on Breed's Hill, and British Gen. Thomas Gage knew that he would have to drive the rebels out before fortifications were complete. He ordered Major General William Howe to prepare to land his troops. Thus began the Battle of Bunker Hill. American Col. William Prescott held the hill throughout the intense initial bombardment with only a few hundred untrained American militia. Prescott knew that he was sorely outgunned and outnumbered. He sent a desperate request for reinforcements.

Stark and Reed with the New Hampshire minutemen arrived at the scene soon after Prescott's request. The Lively had begun a rain of accurate artillery fire directed at Charlestown Neck, the narrow strip of land connecting Charlestown to the rebel positions. On the Charlestown side, several companies from other regiments were milling around in disarray, afraid to march into range of the artillery fire. Stark ordered the men to stand aside and calmly marched his men to Prescott's positions without taking any casualties.

When the New Hampshire militia arrived, the grateful Colonel Prescott allowed Stark to deploy his men where he saw fit. Stark surveyed the ground and immediately saw that the British would probably try to flank the rebels by landing on the beach of the Mystic River, below and to the left of Breed's Hill. Stark led his men to the low ground between Mystic Beach and the hill and ordered them to "fortify" a two-rail fence by stuffing straw and grass between the rails. Stark also noticed an additional gap in the defense line and ordered Lieutenant Nathaniel Hutchins from his brother William Stark's company and others to follow him down a 9-foot-high (2.7 m) bank to the edge of the Mystic River. They piled rocks across the 12-foot-wide (3.7 m) beach to form a crude defense line. After this fortification was hastily constructed, Stark deployed his men three-deep behind the wall. A large contingent of British with the Royal Welch Fusiliers in the lead advanced towards the fortifications. The Minutemen crouched and waited until the advancing British were almost on top of them, and then stood up and fired as one. They unleashed a fierce and unexpected volley directly into the faces of the fusiliers, killing 90 in the blink of an eye and breaking their advance. The fusiliers retreated in panic. A charge of British infantry was next, climbing over their dead comrades to test Stark's line—. This charge too was decimated by a withering fusillade by the Minutemen. A third charge was repulsed in a similar fashion, again with heavy losses to the British. The British officers wisely withdrew their men from that landing point and decided to land elsewhere, with the support of artillery.

Later in the battle, as the rebels were forced from the hill, Stark directed the New Hampshire regiment's fire to provide cover for Colonel Prescott's retreating troops. The day's New Hampshire dead were later buried in the Salem Street Burying Ground, Medford, Massachusetts.

While the British did eventually take the hill that day, their losses were formidable, especially among the officers. After the arrival of General George Washington two weeks after the battle, the siege reached a stalemate until March the next year, when cannon seized at the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga were positioned on Dorchester Heights in a deft night manoeuvre. This placement threatened the British fleet in Boston Harbor and forced General Howe to withdraw all his forces from the Boston garrison and sail for Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Trenton and Princeton

As Washington prepared to return south to fight the British there, he knew that he desperately needed experienced men like John Stark to command regiments in the Continental Army. George Washington immediately offered Stark a command in the Continental Army. Stark and his New Hampshire regiment agreed to attach themselves temporarily to the Continental Army. The men of the New Hampshire Line were sent as reinforcements to the Continental Army during the Invasion of Canada in the spring of 1776. With the defeat of the Continental Army in Canada, Stark and his men traveled to the New Jersey colony to meet up with Washington and fought in the battles of Princeton and Trenton.

After Trenton, Washington asked Stark to return to New Hampshire to recruit more men for the Continental Army. Stark agreed, but upon returning home, learned that while he had been fighting in New Jersey, a fellow New Hampshire Colonel named Enoch Poor had been promoted to Brigadier General in the Continental Army. In Stark's opinion, Enoch Poor had refused to march his militia regiment to Bunker Hill to join the battle, instead choosing to keep his regiment at home. Stark, an experienced woodsman and fighting commander, had been passed-over by someone with no combat experience and apparently no will to fight. On March 23, 1777, Stark resigned his commission in disgust, although he pledged his future aid to New Hampshire if it should be needed.

Bennington and beyond

Four months later, Stark was offered a commission as Brigadier General of the New Hampshire Militia. He accepted on the strict condition that he would not be answerable to Continental Army authority. Soon after receiving his commission, he was ordered by Brigadier General Philip Schuyler (of the Continental Army) to depart from Charlestown, New Hampshire, to reinforce the Continental army at Saratoga, New York. Stark refused and instead led his men to meet the Hessians at the Battle of Bennington. Before engaging the Hessian troops, Stark prepared his men to fight to the death, shouting, "There are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!"

Stark's men, with some help from Seth Warner's Vermont militia, the Green Mountain Boys, routed the Hessian forces there and prevented British General John Burgoyne from resupplying. Stark's action contributed directly to the surrender of Burgoyne's northern army at the Battle of Saratoga some months later. This battle is seen as the turning point in the Revolutionary War, as it was the first major defeat of a British general and it convinced the French that the Americans were worthy of military aid. After the Battle of Freeman's Farm Gen. Stark's Brigade moved into a position at Stark's Knob cutting off Gen. John Burgoyne's path back to Lake George and Lake Champlain.

John Stark was one of the jury that found John André guilty for spying and in helping in the conspiracy of Benedict Arnold to surrender West Point, New York, to the British.

He was the commander of the Northern Department three times between 1778 and 1781.

Later years

After serving with distinction throughout the rest of the war, Stark retired to his farm in Derryfield. It has been said that of all the Revolutionary War generals, Stark was the only true Cincinnatus because he truly retired from public life at the end of the war. In 1809, a group of Bennington veterans gathered to commemorate the battle. General Stark, then aged 81, was not well enough to travel, but he sent a letter to his comrades, which closed "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils." The motto Live Free or Die became the New Hampshire state motto in 1945. Stark and the Battle of Bennington were later commemorated with the 306-foot (93 m) tall Bennington Battle Monument in Bennington, Vermont.

Historic sites

There is a New Hampshire historic marker near John Stark's birthplace on the east side of NH Route 28 (Rockingham Road) in Derry, New Hampshire, just south of the intersection of Lawrence Road.

There is a second stone marker at the actual homestead location. Beginning on Rockingham Road in Derry, travel east on Lawrence Road for approximately 1/2 mile. Turn right (south) onto Stark Road. The marker will be on the right side in less than 1/4 mile.

John's childhood home is located at 2000 Elm Street in Manchester, New Hampshire. The home was built in 1736 by John's father Archibald. The building is now owned by the Molly Stark Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The property is open by appointment only.

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Gen. John Stark (Continental Army)'s Timeline

August 28, 1728
Londonderry, Rockingham, New Hampshire
December 3, 1759
Dunbarton, (Present Merrimack County), Province of New Hampshire
May 28, 1761
Hillsborough, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States
April 17, 1763
Hillsborough, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States
March 4, 1765
Derryfield, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, USA
June 30, 1767
Dunbarton, Merrimack, New Hampshire, United States
June 11, 1769
Hillsborough, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States
August 10, 1771
Ryegate, Caledonia, Vermont, United States
Overwharton, Stafford, Virginia, United States