The American Way

By John Vogel

Within Roman history lies the tale of Cinncinatus, who had served honorably in many battles, wars and conquests of Rome until he grew tired of war and retired. Years later, Rome found itself within a time of war once again, needing a leader to guide it to victory. They called upon Cinncinatus to lead not just the military but the entirety of Rome. He left his farm, led them to war, returned victorious, and quickly and quietly handed back his title of Caesar and returned to his farm.

America may not be as old as Rome, but we have a Cinncinatus.

The American Cincinnatus was born John Stark in 1728 in the Colonial Territory of New Hampshire. His early life was beyond normal for most New Englanders until 1752 when he was taken prisoner by the Abenaki tribe while out on a hunting trip. This wasn’t entirely unusual either, except for the fact that he survived initiation, which was unusual. The Abenaki lacked television, and were forced to gain their entertainment by standing across from each other, sending prisoners up the middle, and beating them—with clubs—until the prisoner died. Imagine the upset when Stark, who didn’t want to die, instead grabbed the first Abenaki tribesmen and beat him to a pulp instead. The tribe was shocked, but allowed him to live with them through the winter until a few whites offered up a trade for the white guy and brought him home.

Stark came home to his farm and his rocking chair, until the Crown called on him to serve in the French and Indian War, where he found a home serving under Robert Rodgers within his Ranger Unit. Rodgers liked anyone who avoided living life as an Abenaki piñata and commissioned him an officer, as his knowledge of the land, combat and not dying was of high value. Stark served until the day came when British High Command ordered an attack on Abenaki villages across the border. Remembering the good old days, Stark sat this one out.

Captain Stark retired from service, and returned to his farm.

In 1775, he was called upon once again to serve, this time for a bunch of ragtag Colonial leaders who were pretty sick of England. Also being sick of England, Stark agreed to suit up again. He was given the rank of Colonel, would organize and lead a New Hampshire regiment into combat against the Crown, but Stark had one condition: the militia was his and his alone to lead. Realizing they would rather not be on the receiving end of Stark’s rifle, the Colonial Army agreed to his terms, and the New Hampshire Militia went to war.

Stark gathered himself an informal army of revolution-seeking militia men. They were free of Continental Army rules and regs, were free to roam, and once this was all over, would get to go home and pick up where they left off.

The New Hampshire Militia put themselves to use at the Battle of Bunker Hill, showing up just in time to kill a shocking amount of British officers and soldiers, reinforce defensive positions, even capture a cannon, but were too late to save the high ground, as some requests for reinforcements went unfulfilled.

Foreseeing an invasion from the North, Washington offered Stark a posting in the Continental Army and had him defend the Canadian Border. Against his better judgment, Stark accepted, serving at the Battle of Trenton and Princeton alongside Washington. That was, until he found out while he was fighting in New Jersey, New Hampshire promoted Brigadier General Enoch Poor, who had failed to reinforce troops at Bunker Hill.

Colonel Stark retired, again, and returned to his farm.

It took 4 months to lure Stark back to combat, in the form of the rank of brigadier general, full control of the New Hampshire Militia, and the cherry on top, no continental army oversight. If Stark were going to give up the rocking chair again, it would be on his terms. His view was most Continental Army officers were unfairly appointed and would probably get everyone killed.

Stark went on to recruit over 1400 militia men, all basic civilians wearing basic civilian clothing carrying basic civilian rifles. These men were trappers, hunters, farmers, blacksmiths and overall normal dudes who hated soldiers wearing red and King George.

It was with this batch of normies that Stark would lead victories over General John Burgoyne and Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum. Burgoyne had ordered Baum to attack and capture an American supply cache, only to be intercepted by Stark’s militia. Baum had 1800 men of mixed Hessians, Indians, highly trained troops and other deplorables. Stark cried havoc and let loose the dogs of war. His 1400 irregulars versus 1800 highly trained regulars.

Final Score:

Baum: 207 killed, 700 captured.

Stark: 14 killed, 30 wounded.

Baum himself was fatally wounded and his men surrendered by 5 p.m.

The victory inspired the French to put down their frog legs and wine and join the battle against their common foe. Burgoyne, who wished he had those 1800 men back, lost the Battle of Saratoga. Stark helped lead the Colonies to victory, eventually calling it quits once Cornwallis surrendered.

For the 3rd time, Brigadier General Stark retired, and went back to his rocking chair on his farm, proud to raise a new flag.

In 1809, the veterans of the battle of Bennington had a reunion, in which they happily invited Brig. Gen. John Stark to join them. Being 82 and not fit to travel, Stark sent a letter in his place with the last major order he would give them:

“Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.”

Never forget that this nation was built by hunters, trappers, farmers, tradesmen and generally normal people, who carried generally normal weapons in defense of an extraordinary belief in the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Don’t surrender this dream, and if you’re going to live, live free.

Editor’s note: The lead image is Howard Pyle’s The Attack Upon The Chew House, depicting George Washington’s troops attacking a British general’s headquarters in Germantown, PA during the American Revolution.

From the FE Films Archive

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