Bennington Museum Receives Grant for Battle Study
The Bennington Museum has been awarded a $5,000 Local Heritage grant from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership for educational outreach on the Battle of Bennington. The project will involve seventh grade students on the White Rocks team at the Mount Anthony Union Middle School. The two-week curriculum being developed is planned for May, and will feature the study of the Battle, a guided visit to the Bennington Battlefield in nearby New York, and the creation of art inspired by the historic victory. At the Battle of Bennington, militia from Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts soundly defeated a British raiding party sent to seize supplies that had been gathered on the site of the present Bennington Battle Monument for use by the Continental Army. The American victory on August 16, 1777, dealt a severe blow to General John Burgoyne’s invading army and contributed to his surrender at Saratoga in early October, changing the course of the Revolutionary War.
“The Battle of Bennington presents an opportunity for local students to reckon with the forces of history and historical memory. It is a subject that directly involves their civic identities and the economic health of this region,” observes Robert Wolterstorff, executive eirector of the Bennington Museum. “We are especially pleased to be partnering with teachers and staff at MAUMS to carry out this project.”
“One of the great features of this grant is that it calls for students to have creative encounters with the Battle,” comments social studies teacher Amy Moriarty. “History is where evidence meets imagination. Rather than asking students to understand the Battle solely from textbook accounts, we plan to invite them to discover it for themselves.”
The idea for the project came from Jonah Spivak, president of the Bennington Chamber of Commerce, and local historian Phil Holland, who, along with Bennington Museum director of public programs Deana Mallory, will coordinate the activities. When Spivak announced the award at a recent Legislative Breakfast, he cited it as an important first step in preparing for the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Bennington and the founding of Vermont in 2027.
The Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership is one of 49 federally designated National Heritage Areas that award grants in support of initiatives that make heritage relevant to local interests and needs. Although most of Bennington County lies in the Hudson Valley, Otter Creek rises in the town of Peru and flows through East Dorset on its way to Lake Champlain, thus making all towns in Bennington County eligible for the grants. It was down the Champlain Valley that Burgoyne came with his army in the summer of 1777, only to receive a surprise welcome from Bennington that proved fatal to his campaign.