Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

December 07, 2020

Dan Keefe | Brian Nearing
(518) 486-1868 |

State Parks Adds to Legacy of Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site

Ohio Descendant of German Soldier Wounded in 1777 Revolutionary War Battle Donates Historical Replica Cannon

11-acre Site Expansion Offers Further Interpretive and Recreational Opportunities

Another 11 acres has been added to the Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site, an important Revolutionary War battlefield that also recently received a replica of a historic cannon donated by an American descendant of a badly wounded "Hessian" soldier who survived thanks to an act of battlefield compassion.

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation acquired two parcels to add to the 416-acre historic site in Rensselaer County that marks a 1777 battle between several thousand patriot and British forces, which included loyalist and German troops.

"This battlefield is an important part of New York's role in the American Revolution," said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. "Our acquisition of more of this battlefield protects and expands this heritage. And the generous donation of this cannon by a descendant of someone who fought here helps bring that history to life, particularly of the somewhat misunderstood story of the German troops who were there."

This new Parks land, located on Cottrell Road near Route 67 in the town of Hoosick, was purchased using $27,000 from the state Environmental Protection Fund. The land was part of the site of loyalist fortifications captured in the patriot victory, which helped set the stage for the key American success in the Battles of Saratoga.

Among the British forces at Bennington were so-called "Hessian" troops, who were soldiers from several regions of modern-day Germany raised by royal rulers who leased them out to fight alongside the British.

One of those Germans - Johann Michael Kasler - was wounded in the battle, and afterward shot a second time by a patriot soldier as he lay wounded helplessly on the ground. According to tradition, a compassionate patriot soldier named Peter Howe witnessed the second shooting and took Kasler to a doctor, who saved his life. Kasler recovered and remained in America after the war. His descendants later moved to Ohio.

Michael Kasler, one of those ancestors now living in that state, donated a replica three-pounder British cannon, a model that would have been on the battlefield, to State Parks for display near the place to honor his ancestor who survived serious wounds to his leg and both lungs that his surgeon initially believed would prove fatal.

Kasler said, "I have donated this in the memory of Johann Kasler, and for all his descendants. I hope it helps bring to light more of the story of how these German soldiers came to be part of the American Revolution and dispel some of the myths from that time."

During the Revolution, more than 30,000 German soldiers - about half from the region of Hesse-Kassel in north-central Germany - were sent to America by rulers who leased them to British King George III. Such auxiliary troops were needed to strengthen British forces attempting to suppress the rebellion, and these German soldiers eventually formed a substantial share of total British forces.

Thousands of Germans, including captives like Johann Kasler, chose to remain in America after the war, pursuing the opportunity to start new lives and families in a country where they were no longer royal subjects and could purchase land cheaply, something that was difficult in Germany.

Thousands of Americans today can trace their ancestry to these Germans, who during the Revolution and afterward were portrayed in a highly negative light by patriot accounts as a means of rallying public support for the war. Modern historical reinterpretations have presented a more complex view of these soldiers, some of whom were conscripts rather than willing recruits, and whose service was sold to fill the coffers of German principalities.

According to tradition, after Kasler had recovered, he was able with the aid of a Vermont militia captain to identify the soldier who had shot him as he lay wounded. The captain then threw the assailant out of a Bennington tavern, threatening to publicly flog him with a beech branch if he was "ever seen within five miles of Bennington again."

The cannon donated by Michael Kasler was cast at Gilmor Ordnance in Old Fort, Ohio, through consultation with State Parks historians, the Saratoga National Historical Park and the Bennington Museum. A British three-pounder cannon captured during the Battle of Bennington, now on display at the museum, was the model for the reproduction.

The 11 acres of land being added to the battlefield was the site of a portion of the "Tory Fort," a breastwork defended by about 200 loyalist soldiers who were defeated by patriot forces in fierce combat.

In addition to its historical value, this new acreage is expected to offer expanded recreational opportunities, including picnicking and fishing on the Walloomsac River. The land will also be available for the staging of historical reenactments on the site.

An interpretive panel on the history of Tory Fort, funded through a grant from the not-for-profit group Parks & Trails New York, will be placed at the location by the Friends of the Bennington Battlefield. In 2015, evidence of the site's historic significance was found during an archaeological survey supported by the not-for-profit American Battlefield Trust.

The Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site was dedicated in 1927. During the last decade, more than 220,000 people have visited the battlefield.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails and boat launches, which were visited by a record 77 million people in 2019. A recent university study found that spending by State Parks and its visitors supports $5 billion in output and sales, 54,000 private-sector jobs and more than $2.8 billion in additional state GDP. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. Also, connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.