inside sources print logo
Get up to date New Hampshire news in your inbox

FISHER: Thank John Stark for Your Freedom, America!

Having a beer? Enjoying a cookout? Accidentally setting your neighbor’s roof on fire with bottle rockets? Again? (Sorry, Millie!)

If you like any part of the 4th of July or, heck, any of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, you ought to thank the one man who made it all possible: John Stark.

Some people like to give credit to George Washington, but they shouldn’t. That man didn’t even have his own teeth. His big 4th of July happened in 1754 when he blundered into losing the battle of Fort Necessity (Fort Necessity!) and had to quit in shame. 

Thomas Jefferson? He could write a nice phrase, sure, but could you count on him when you’re pinned down by Redcoats? Not likely, not unless he thought there was wine at the front. Plus, Jefferson loved France. Is that what you want us to become? France?

The less said about total perv Ben Franklin, the better.

No, every patriotic American ought to spend at least a minute between hotdogs thanking John Stark. The original Cranky Yankee spent his life saving dullard commanders from their poor choices, winning the crucial victory in the War of Independence, and then going back to his farm because he hated phonies.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, Stark was already a legend. He was basically Rambo during the French and Indian War and did everything Roberts Rangers got credit for, while Richard Roberts spent his time being a genocidal maniac.

Stark and a bunch of New Hampshire militia ran (some literally) to save the rebels at the Battle of Bunker Hill, which happened on Breed’s Hill because even then there was nowhere to park in Boston.

The rebels were getting pinned down by British guns, and Redcoats were about to land troops in a spot where they could wipe out our boys. No one was brave enough to risk confronting the oncoming British, and rebel soldiers were milling around like a road crew filling a pothole.

Stark, like most Granite Staters, was used to getting stuff done.

Stark led his men through gunfire to a position where they could set up a defense. Stark and his 1st New Hampshire Regiment wiped out a third of the Redcoats coming at them and forced the British to abandon that landing spot. When it came time to retreat, the 1st New Hampshire Regiment provided cover fire. The British won the battle, but thanks largely to Stark, they lost more than 1,000 soldiers compared to 400 rebel casualties. 

Absent that day was Colonel Enoch Poor, who kept his 3rd New Hampshire Regiment back in New Hampshire. (Seacoasters, man. What can I tell you?) Stark hated the “Exeter Crowd” and clashed with political elites and Poor. And while the connected dandies in the Continental Army loved guys like Poor, they needed guys like Stark. 

Stark and his Granite State boys were pressed to help rescue the Continental Army during the retreat from Canada because, for some reason, sweaty Ben Franklin managed to alienate everyone in Montreal. My guess it was his winning manner with women. “M’lady, pleafe fend nudef!”

Next, Washington got Stark to help him as he floundered around New Jersey like a drunk guy looking for a WaWa’s. It’s time to face facts: Washington was rubbish as a field commander. He got the job leading the Continental Army because he was tall and looked good in a uniform. So long as he didn’t smile.

It’s no coincidence Stark was there when old George finally managed to score some wins. Crossing the Delaware, the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, all that happened while Stark was there adding spine to Washington’s outfit.

For his troubles, Stark got passed over for promotion in the Continental Army while fancy lads like Poor got upgraded. Disgusted, Stark went home to his farm. 

But when the British began their invasion from Canada that could have decisively ended the war in favor of the inbred German monarch, who got tapped to defend New Hampshire? It wasn’t Enoch Poor!

Stark agreed to command a group of New Hampshire rock farmers on one condition: He wouldn’t take any orders from the Continental Army. Guys were literally dropping their plows and leaving church in the middle of service to sign up when they heard Stark was in command.

His outfit wore civilian clothes and looked ragtag and undisciplined. But the thing about New Hampshire colonists is they were all gun nuts who loved to shoot and who were good shots. Some things don’t change. 

Stark brought his boys to the Battle of Bennington, which took place in New York because, even then, no one wanted to spend time in Vermont. British General “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne had sent an expedition to look for horses and food, as the most powerful military in the world seemed to have missed some details in planning their invasion. 

Before the battle, Stark told his men they were going to win, or “Molly Stark sleeps a widow.” The British grocery expedition of vicious German mercenaries and crack Redcoats then got absolutely curbed by Stark and his 1,400 rednecks. New Hampshire guys do not like disappointing women.

Stark’s win left Burgoyne and his army in rough shape when they got to Saratoga. At one point, the British thought about retreat only to realize they’d run into Stark and his band of guys born too soon to put stickers of Calvin peeing on things on their trucks. 

Saratoga was the turning point in the War for Independence. The British invasion from Canada failed and, after that the Continental Army got a big boost from the French. I know. The French weren’t really helping us so much as they were trying to get revenge for Agincourt. 

At the end of the war, Jefferson went to France to act French; Franklin went to France to act like Jefferson; and Washington practiced being tall until they made him president. Stark went back to his farm.

Years later, in 1809, Stark declined an invitation to give a toast at a reunion party for veterans of the Battle of Bennington. He said he was too old for the trip, but I think he just didn’t like parties. Instead, he sent a letter to his men extolling democracy and the American Republic, warning about the British, and ending with the all-time banger: “Live Free or Die — Death is not the worst of evils.” 

So when you light up your backyard this 4th (Shoot, sorry Millie!) remember John Stark, the Brit-killing machine who loved America, loved his wife, loved shooting, and had no time for weasels.