Fort Griswold Home Page

The current photo is from the 200th anniversary commemoration battle: Americans defend the fort

 

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Some basic information about Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park (From the pamphlet that is handed out at the Park by the Connecticut DEP)
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PRIVATEERS



"During the Revolutionary War, New London harbor on the Thames River was home port for many privately owned armed ships that preyed upon British supply vessels and merchant ships. The privateers were licensed by the State of Connecticut according to the rules established by Congress. Each year they increased in number and captured more British shipping. Their exploits peaked with the taking of the Hannah by the Minerva in the summer of 1781. Seizure of the Hannah's rich cargo, which included personal supplies for the British officers, stationed in New York City, helped prompt the events that soon followed.

New London's bulging warehouses brought great wealth to adventurous ship owners and merchants, but they were a potential target for enemy reprisal. From the earliest days of the war, state officials had seen the need for harbor fortifications, but construction proceeded slowly. By 1781 the largest structure on the New London side, Fort Trumbull, was still unfinished and vulnerable to attack from land.

FORT GRISWOLD

East of the river on Groton Heights, a completed work, Fort Griswold, commanded the harbor and the surrounding countryside. It was somewhat square with projecting fortifications on two corners and a projection on the east side. A deep trench surrounded the fort on three sides. The lower walls were faced with stone and were topped with a barrier of cedar pickets projecting outward. Above this was an earthen wall with openings (embrasures) for cannon. A tunnel-like passageway (sally port) led to a covered ditch, which ended at a battery for cannon southwest of the fort. A V-shaped earthen mound protected the gate at the north end. Barracks for 300 men paralleled the innermost wall and the magazine was set into the southwest bastion near the flagpole. The fort was in good condition and the magazine was full in 1781.

THE BURNING OF NEW LONDON

Late that summer, the British generals were anxious to distract Washington who was then marching south. They decided to create a diversion by attacking an important northern supply center, New London, and, with the same stroke, destroy the "Rebel pirate ships". The command of the expedition fell to Benedict Arnold who had deserted the American cause the year before, and who, being a native of nearby Norwich, knew the harbor area well.

At sunrise on September 6, 1781, the people of the town were awakened with the news that a large force of British Regulars had landed on both sides of the river's mouth and were coming upon them fast. They could do nothing but flee. A number of rigged ships in the harbor caught a favorable breeze and escaped upstream, but the rest were trapped. The 800 men led by Arnold into New London met only scattered resistance as they set about the task of destroying the "immense" stockpile of goods and naval stores kept there. Buildings, wharfs and ships were soon in flames. One hundred and forty-three buildings, nearly all the town, were consumed.

THE BATTLE OF GROTON HEIGHTS

Tangled woods and swamps slowed the British force of 800 that landed on the east side of the Thames River. A battalion of New Jersey loyalists responsible for moving the artillery could not keep pace with the Regulars who came within striking distance of Fort Griswold at 10 a.m. Meanwhile, the fort had been garrisoned with about 150 colonial militia and local men under the command of Colonel William Ledyard. Colonel Ledyard and his officers, expecting reinforcements momentarily, elected to defend the post against the superior force. Colonel Eyre, the British commander, sent forward a flag demanding surrender. Ledyard refused. The demand was made again and Eyre threatened that if he were forced to storm the fort, no quarter would be given to its defenders. The response was the same.

The British force immediately spread their ranks and advanced on Fort Griswold. As they neared the ditch, they were met with an artillery barrage that killed and wounded many, but the seasoned and disciplined troops continued their charge. Some tried to gain the southwest bastion but they were repulsed and Colonel Eyre was badly wounded. Under heavy musket fire, another group dislodged some pickets and by hand to hand combat reached a cannon and turned it against the garrison. Another party led by Major Montgomery charged with fixed bayonets. They were met with long spears and the major was killed. A few of the Regulars managed to reach the gate and open it and the enemy force marched in, in formation. Seeing this, Colonel Ledyard ordered his me to stop fighting, but some action continued on both sides.

American and British accounts of the subsequent events are at odds. The American version holds that after Ledyard gave up his sword in surrender he was immediately killed with it and that a massacre ensued. Before the "massacre" it is claimed that less than ten Americans had been killed, but when it was over, more than eighty of the garrison lay dead and mutilated and more than half of the remainder were severely wounded. The British version makes no mention of the massacre or the manner of Ledyard's death. The entire battle had lasted only 40 minutes.

AFTERMATH

Major Montgomery was buried in the fort's parade ground. The other British dead were placed in unmarked graves and their wounded were carried down the steep hill to the river. The American wounded were placed on a heavy artillery cart, which as it was being moved down the hill broke away and smashed into a tree causing terrible suffering. The bleeding wounded men were then carried to the nearby Avery house. Prisoners who were able to walk were placed aboard ship. As evening approached, the British troops embarked leaving a detachment behind to lay a powder train from the full magazine to the barracks and then burn the barracks. This attempt to destroy the fort failed when a patriot put the fire out. Arnold reported his losses for the expedition at 51 dead and 142 wounded. Many of his wounded men and prisoners soon died aboard the ship.

LATER WARS

Fort Griswold was the scene of military defense preparations in at least four other wars. The water battery was rebuilt and rearmed several times but the fort itself retains its original form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to see a map handout of the Park.

THE GROTON BATTLE MONUMENT AND MUSEUM

This granite monument was dedicated in 1830 to the men who had defended Fort Griswold. In the centennial year, 1881, the top was enclosed and the monument was increased to a height of 134 feet.

MONUMENT AND MUSEUM HOURS

Memorial Day through Labor Day
Open daily, 10-5

EBENEZER AVERY HOUSE

This colonial house is located on the park grounds, west of the fort. Many Avery men were killed and wounded during the battle. After the battle on the heights, the story goes that some of the wounded soldiers were put in a wagon by the British and rolled down the hill. Occupants of the house brought the soldiers in and tended to their wounds; there is a sign on the house to this affect. It was moved from its original location on nearby Thames Street in 1971.

The Avery Memorial Association and its period contents are either on loan by members or owned by the Association own the house.


Season: June-Labor Day
Hours: Saturday, Sunday
1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m."

PARK HOURS
All year: 8:00 a.m. - sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OTHER INFO


There is no admission (cost to visit)  to the park, the Monument, Museum, or Avery House. Donations accepted.
Parking is on the streets of Monument Street and Park Avenue.
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection administers the park. The park can be reached for information at:

57 Fort Street
Groton, CT. 06340
1-860-445-1729

Regular meetings at the Monument House (Museum):

The Anna Warner Bailey Chapter (1893) of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) meets every second Thursday of the month at noon (12:00 PM). Next meeting date is: October 13, 2005.

 

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Fort Griswold related links

Photo Archives of Past reenactments/living history events – There are 5 photo pages, and on each is a full sized photo so be prepared for a bit of a with for each one.

Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park Foundation, Inc.

 

List of Fort Griswold Defenders

(2 image files, each 80 KB) the list is from Fort Griswold Battlefield
State Park Foundation, Inc. 1997 Calendar, 1995, 1996. This list can
be found written in stone on the ground floor (inside) of the Groton
Battle Monument and on the Memorial Gate.

THE BURNING OF NEW LONDON, ON THE 6TH OF SEPTEMBER, 1781

From the Connecticut Gazette, Records about the raid on New London & Groton. The page was created by Alan Shields

Fort Griswold Tour via pictures

Come take an online picture tour of Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park! (created by Mike Meals).

Fort Griswold Defenders - Surviving homes and last resting places

This page has information on the Fort Griswold defender's surviving
homes and known defender's last resting places. Information will be
added As I can put it in. (created by Mike Meals). (The flags antimated US flag
that are next to the name are my virtual flag placing on the
graves on holidays. (Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July
(Independence Day), anniversary of the Battle of Fort Griswold
(September 6) The animated flag graphics will only be upon these
days, but the load time of the page will be slower on the mentioned
days.

His Majesty's 40th Reg. of Ft. -  a recreated unit  of the 40th Regiment of Foot. The 40th was involved in the assault on Fort Griswold.

 

4th Battalion New Jersey Volunteers, Captain Samuel Hayden's Company

4th Battalion New Jersey Volunteers, Major Robert Timpany's Company

The Loyal American Regiment

Hesse-Kassel Jaegers Korps, in the American Revolution - An example of what kind of unit were Jagers (Jagers participated in the Groton-New London raid on both sides of the river).

HESSIAN FAQ

WWW.REVWAR.COM

These pages that I create & maintain have many links and information on the Revolutionary War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Created: Thursday, May 30, 1996, 19:17
last updated: Tuesday, October 04, 2005

These pages are created by me,

Michael Meals, about the historic Revolutionary Site of Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park in Groton, CT. I want to thank all those who are helping me with these pages. The pages are dedicated in memory of all (British & American) who were involved in the raid on New London/Groton and in the Battle of Fort Griswold/Groton Heights on September 6, 1781.