Live Free or Die



The first time I heard the words, Live Free or Die was when Kathy Mai shared about driving through New England with Terry when God had sent them to pray for the nation. They were in a great war and she looked up and saw those words on the state sign as they entered New Hampshire. She said to Terry, "Boy if that isn't the truth?!" Recently I asked Kathy about that experience and she said, "It is like the Spirit of God burned those words in my heart, and they are still burning there today." It seems those words are reverberating across the nation today.


Live Free or Die is the state motto of New Hampshire, adopted by the state legislature in 1945. The words originated with New Hampshire's most distinguished Revolutionary War hero, General John Stark. His wartime comrades were holding a 32nd anniversary reunion of the 1777 Battle of Bennington in Vermont and because of failing health, General Stark declined the invitation to attend; however he sent a written toast which in full is as follows:


"Live Free or Die; Death is Not the Worst of Evils"


The next year he was sent a similar invitation which included the statement:


"The toast, sir, which you sent us in 1809, will continue to vibrate with unceasing pleasure in our ears, Live Free or Die; Death is Not the Worst of Evils."


General Stark's family came from Ulster-Ireland. His father, Archibald Stark was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1697 and when he was a young boy he moved with his father to Londonderry in northern Ireland. He married Eleanor Nichols whose family also came from Scotland. Along with fellow countrymen, they came to America in 1720. The next year they settled with a scotch-irish community in (what is now called) Londonderry, New Hampshire.


John Stark was born August 28, 1728 in Londonderry, New Hampshire. He grew up as a frontiersman and while trapping in April 1747 John, his brother William, neighbors David Stinson and Amos Eastman were ambushed by Indians. David Stinson was killed, William escaped and John and Amos were carried off to Canada. He was made to run the gauntlet and one written account tells that the Indians were so impressed with his courage and bravery that they made him a member of the tribe. Six weeks later, William and a group of colonists rescued the two prisoners, paying a ransom for them.


John became an accomplished military leader, serving in Roger's Rangers* during the French and Indian War. He fought at Bunker Hill, Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Trenton, Bennington and Saratoga. He was fourteen years in active service and held commissions from lieutenant to brigadier general. He received a personal thank you from the commander-in-chief, George Washington. Historians have found little personal writings, except for his ledger book, therefore they have had to rely on what friends and acquaintances shared about the man, his personality and his experiences. He didn't hold public office and his accomplishments as an excellent general and military tactician aren't well known, because often times the credit was given to someone else. He was considered "rough around the edges", blunt spoken to the point of rudeness and didn't always take orders; consequently he was passed over for advancement at times.


John Stark lived to his 94th birthday. He was reported as the last surviving Continental general of the American Revolution.


In reading about General John Stark, I would conclude he was a simple, honest man; strong willed and had "an intolerance for fools", one person wrote. He obviously had a keen intelligence, assessing the situation he was in and understanding and anticipating his enemy's moves. An acquaintance, Luther Roby, writing in 1831 described Stark as:


"about middle size, extremely well proportioned and in his youth remarkable for vigor, activity and (endurance). . . a man of kindness and hospitality which throughout his life he extended to all his broken down companions in arms . . . His manners were frank and open, though tinged with an eccentricity, peculiar to himself and useful to society.  He had the reputation of a man of honor and integrity, friendly to the industrious, and enterprising -- severe to the idle and unworthy. . ."


It seems obvious that John Stark has a place along side many others whom God raised up to found this nation. Rev. Dr. Macintosh, a cleric of Scots-Irish descent who settled in the Philadelphia area wrote :


"The plantation of the Scot into Ulster kept for the world the essential and the best features of the lowlander. But the vast change gave birth to and trained a somewhat new and distinct man, soon to be needed for a great task which only the Ulsterman could do; and that work which none save God, the guide, foresaw was with Puritan, to work the revolution that gave humanity this republic."



* Rogers' Rangers was an independent company of rangers attached to the British Army during the French and Indian War. The unit was informally trained by Major Robert Rogers as a rapidly deployable light infantry force tasked with reconnaissance and conducting special operations against distant targets. Their military tactics were so bold and effective that the unit became the chief scouting unit of British Crown forces in the late 1750s. The British valued them highly for gathering intelligence about the enemy. Later, several members of Rogers' Rangers became influential leaders in the American Revolutionary War and a large number of ex-rangers were present as patriot militiamen at the Battle of Concord Bridge. (Wikipedia)



Sources:; A Report on John Stark, by Elizabeth Adams;;; Wikipdia

Contributed by Kathryn Currier

posted January 22, 2010



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