Military History

RISING ABOVE RANK

Benedict Arnold and John Stark were among the greatest fighting men of the American Revolution, yet both were passed over by Congress for promotion when less worthy warriors received the ranks they sought. The rancor of the insult turned Benedict Arnold from the hero of Saratoga into the traitor who tried to sell West Point to the British. John Stark may have remained angry, but he never strayed from the Patriot cause. Indeed, he may have saved the members of the Second Continental Congress from traitors’ deaths on the gallows had Britain won the war.

Stark, the second-born son of Scotch-Irish immigrants in New Hampshire, seems to have come into the world with a warrior spirit and a deep sense of clan loyalty. Hunting and trapping along the Baker River in the White Mountains in late April 1752 as a young man of 23, he was captured along with friend Amos Eastman by an Abenaki war party. Stark was able to warn older brother William, who escaped, but their friend David Stinson was killed. (Would-be rescuers later found his body stripped and scalped.)

When the Abenakis got Stark and Eastman back to their village in Quebec, they forced the two “Yengeese” to run the gauntlet between two lines of club-wielding warriors, each while holding a ceremonial pole adorned with the skin and feathers of a loon. Eastman held his pole aloft and endured the beating, falling exhausted at the far end. Stark followed. But as he made his way down the line, he kept his attackers largely at bay with wide sweeps of the pole. The bemused elders were so

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