FOUNDATION FORWARD COLUMN: John Stark

Published 3:03 pm Thursday, August 3, 2023

Foundation Forward, Charters of Freedom — Founding Fathers and other Influencing Citizens. How They Served Our Country

This Month: John Stark

David Streater

This is an American history educational moment of those who made a difference during the Revolutionary War era and how they served our country.

John Stark was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire, on Aug. 28, 1728. He had a limited formal education because of John’s parents, as they lived a nomadic lifestyle on the American frontier. However, his upbringing allowed John to learn “agriculture, hunting, and trapping,” making him self-reliant.

While a young man, John, his brother, and two others were returning from a hunting trip in the mountains of New Hampshire when they encountered a problem; the Abenakis tribe kidnapped Stark, while the others escaped or were killed.

John’s bravery was shown by running the gauntlet of the Abenaki men. Stark caught them off guard by running toward the gauntlet line, hugging the Bravehearts, and yelling, “I’ll kiss all your women.” As punishment, John was put to work hoeing the fields. In retaliation, he cut down their corn and beans, leaving only weeds. Ironically, John’s eccentric actions impressed the Abenakis, who accepted him as one of their own.

After John was set free, his acquired survival skills led him to be commissioned as an officer in Rogers’ Rangers. With continued experiences and achieved leadership expertise, Stark was promoted to colonel and assigned to lead the efforts at the Battles of Bunker Hill and Bennington, a transition time in the Revolutionary War.

Stark and Gen. Washington combined their forces to set the stage for the “attack on the Hessians at Trenton [just] before their [troops’] enlistments expired.” This decision led Stark and his men to be among those who crossed the Delaware River with George Washington on Dec. 25, 1776. This action allowed Stark to oversee victories at the battles of Trenton and Princeton.
John Stark is known for developing many military tactics, including having his soldiers be battle-ready in several ways. One was to tell his men they were worth more than the Hessians and other enemies.

Another was not to make Mrs. Stark and their wives battle-torn widows. Stark also introduced the patriots to camouflage to blend into the environment and discern themselves from their combatants. He also had an uncanny ability to choose when to battle and how best to prepare. Those who did not heed his advice often paid the ultimate price.

Stark was one of the longest-lived generals of the Revolutionary War, reaching the age of 93. He is recognized for attacks that cost the British a thousand lives and bestowed all British forces surrender by Gen. Burgoyne. Stark was also a court member that sentenced the British spy John André to death.

Gen. John Stark was an American hero and patriot in every sense of the word. His remarkable leadership skills led to victorious battles and convinced other sovereigns to join America in its struggle for independence. In later life, John Stark originated the axiom of Live Free or Die – Death is not the worst of evils, which became New Hampshire’s motto (Humphries, 2019). At his funeral with military honors on May 8, 1822, three cannon volleys were fired, “surrendering his arms to his God.”

Please visit your Charters of Freedom setting at 144 N. 2nd St., Albemarle. A Charters of Freedom setting consists of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They are on permanent display analogous to the Charters of Freedom in the National Archives, Washington, D.C. Please visit our website (FoundationForward.com) to learn more about all settings.
Teachers are encouraged to contact Dr. Streater for information and complementary student education materials to enhance experiential field trips to a Charters of Freedom settings. Please contact Dr. Streater (david.streater@mymail.barry.edu) for engraved legacy paver information and complementary educational materials.

Dr. David Streater is the director of education for Foundation Forward, the organization which placed life-size replicas of the United States Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, also known as the Charters of Freedom, in downtown Albemarle. He is a retired college instructor/administrator and a retired probation and parole officer/administrator. In addition, he is a criminologist with an acute history interest, served in the Navy, is a resident of Burke County and is a graduate of Pfeiffer University.