Live Free or Die

Live free or die! The state motto for New Hampshire yes, but also John Stark’s toast to the veterans of the Battle of Bennington.
This plaque near the clock downtown shares Stark’s reply to the citizens of Bennington who had invited him to join us for the 1809 celebration of the Revolutionary War battle. Then in his 81st year, Stark writes “I can never forget that I commanded American Troops on that day in Bennington — they were men that had not learned the art of submission, nor had they been trained in the art of war. But our astonishing success taught the enemies of Liberty, that undisciplined freemen are superior to veteran slaves.” Nor did Stark forget the women; “that the ladies will be as patriotic (as the men), in furnishing every aid, as they were at Bennington in ’77, who even dismantled their beds to furnish cords to secure (the prisoners) and lead them off.”
While his advanced age did not allow him to join the celebrations in person that year, his letter and toast to the veterans of the Battle of Bennington has reverberated down through the centuries and inspires us today. We are grateful to Phil Pappas and Jeff Grimshaw for their efforts to make the letter a permanent part of our streetscape.
The complete toast: “Live free or die: Death is not the greatest of evils.”
The Battle of Bennington has been celebrated continuously since 1778 and is one of Bennington’s proudest traditions. We continue to be grateful to General John Stark and the extraordinary leadership he provided to to the nation and to Vermont.