29th Button Donated to the Mount Independence Museum

Editor’s note: This article is written by Jim Ross, who taught history for many years at Mount Abraham High School in Bristol, has been an avid living historian, taking part in uncounted re-enactments around the region, and has been an active Mount Independence Coalition board member for years. This is his engaging story of a British army uniform button found near the mount several years ago, and now returned. With thank Jim for his generous efforts to bring this button home.

by James Ross

After 240 years a 29th button will soon become a permanent exhibit at the Mount Independence Museum.

Each British regiment had its own number, and the 29th was the 29th regiment in the British Army. It was posted to America several times prior to the Revolution and was called the Vein Openers because of its notorious involvement with the Boston Massacre in March of 1770.  In May of 1776 it came to North America and helped to lift the siege of Quebec City begun by American General Richard Montgomery. The 29th Hat companies helped in the Battle of Valcour with many servicing the guns aboard the British fleet.  The next year the 29th Flank companies, the light Infantry and Grenadiers, fought at Ticonderoga, Hubbardton and the Battles of Saratoga.   

One day my good friend and fellow reenactor, Wes Dykeman, was fishing on the Audet Property just south of the Mount when he chanced to look down at the clay…and there was a bit of shiny material just peaking though. It was a button! There had been docks near the southern shore during the American War of Independence and it must have fallen off during that time period and laid concealed for centuries in that clay!  Well before Mount lndependence had a museum, Wes sold the button to an avid collector, Mark Humpal, of Geronimo Traders, from Cornish, New Hampshire. Wes has since moved to Tennessee and when contacted by a friend gave us Mark’s address. When told the story that the button represented, Mark sold the button back to me. 

I was always interested in why there was such variation in the button sizes. The warrant 1768 stipulated a certain size for coats and small clothes. This button carries the numerical 29 but is still smaller in size than the normal regimental coat. Perhaps this is a speculative explanation for the size variation…the button came from a campaign or fatigue coat. It would have carried the 29th inscription but the coat being cut from a previous regimental coat would have been single breasted and only a line of buttons down the front would have sufficed. The button donated has a rusted off metal shank which supports this speculation.  The location of the find speaks also of the unloading of supplies associated with the dock at the southern end of Mount Independence. Unloading was a physical task and it is not hard to think a weak shank would have given way there. I know that the battalion or hat companies were employed in such service and it would have been common practice to wear a fatigue jacket most of the time. 

Mark has several British buttons of the period but our 29th button is the only one with the provenance that connects it with the mount. The button is smaller than many of the earlier regimental buttons but we do know that from where it was found it very well be a button lost during the period of supply of the Burgoyne campaign late in 1777 by a Hat man of the 29th crewing a supply bateaux. The button will be on display at the museum this summer and the public is invited to view this exciting find when they visit the museum displays. 

It has been an honor to serve for many years as a trustee on The Board of the Mt. Independence Coalition that serves along with the Vermont Department of Historic Preservation as stewards of this most important Revolutionary War site. 

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