BENNINGTON — It’s not clear at this time whether it was an act of vandalism or an act of God that disarmed Maj. Gen. John Stark’s statue at the Bennington Monument, but the blade to his sword has been recovered.
The blade to the sword — the handle and guard still securely in Stark’s right hand — was reported missing at about 4 p.m. on Thursday by Marylou Chicote, administrator for the monument. On Friday morning, Pownal resident Christopher Wright, administrator of the Bennington Blotter Facebook page, received a message from Rowland George on that account that led to the sword’s recovery Friday morning.
“(George) said, ‘Check between the feet,’” Wright explained. “About quarter to 10, I got ahold of Marylou … I said, ‘Take a walk out there, and take a look.’”
After trudging through the couple of feet of snow left from the massive storm earlier this week, sitting on top of the boulder he stands upon, concealed — and perhaps put there by — Mother Nature’s mid-March gift to Southern Vermont, Chicote discovered the missing sword.
It's unknown when it went missing, but Chicote said locals remembered seeing it there on Monday. She said it was brought to her attention that the beloved statue was missing a piece of his weapon by passers by.
“(It was) neighbors that walk there. You get to know the people that walk the circle,” Chicote said. “It was Sue MacDonald. She stopped in yesterday afternoon and said ‘You know, the sword’s gone again.’”
This isn’t the first incident involving the sword, which went missing in June 2020, as well.
“It was taken before. It was returned like two or three days later, stuck right in the ground. ... My thought was some mother looked under her son’s bed and said, ‘You take that back right now,’” she added with a laugh.
Chicote expressed regret over the possible misunderstanding and calling the police in, and conceded that the previous incident might have made her assume the worst again.
“Anyway, it was there. I might have jumped to conclusions thinking it was stolen, when it might have just fallen down in the storm.”
Chicote said the statue was erected in 1999, and that there had been no issues with the sword prior to the June 2020 incident.
Cpl. Daniel Ferrara of the Bennington Police Department said the blade won’t be back on the statue immediately.
“We’re going to take it back as evidence and determine whether a crime did or didn’t happen,” he said.
“We’re happy the sword has been recovered,” Lt. Camillo Grande of the BPD added. “We’ll take a look at how this came about, and we look forward to getting the sword back to General Stark.”
Robert Wright, who owns Custom Castings in Randolph, welded the sword back onto the statue in 2020. The craftsman stands by his work, but says he's bothered that the weld didn't hold, and is making the trip down to do it again when the sword can be reattached, and that he'll do it for free.
"I'm not sure what caused it to fall off, but it should have taken quite a bit," Wright said. "But I'm going to make good by it this time for sure. ... Good people down there, good story (of the statue), and I really liked the park and want to make sure it's taken care of."