Connecticut in the American Revolution



Toward the close of April, 1777, Governor Tryon, with almost two thousand British and Tories, sailed up the East River and Long Island Sound, from New York, landed on the Connecticut shore at Compo, between Fairfield and Norwalk, and proceeded toward Danbury, where the Americans had gathered a large quantity of stores. He was accompanied by Generals Agnew and Erskine. They reached the town on the 25th of April (1777), destroyed the stores, burned the village, and cruelly treated some of the inhabitants. The militia of the neighborhood flew to arms in large numbers, under the leadership of Generals Wooster, Arnold, and Silliman. Perceiving this, and fearing his retreat might be cut off, Tryon retreated to Ridgefield. Near that village a sharp skirmish ensued, in which Wooster was killed and Arnold narrowly escaped capture. His horse was shot dead under him. Arnold could not extricate his foot from the stirrup, and fell with the animal. Seeing this, a Tory ran forward, with his bayonet at a charge, exclaiming, "Surrender! you are my prisoner!" "Not yet!" shouted Arnold, as his foot became free at that moment, and he sprang to his feet. Drawing his pistol, he shot the Tory dead, and flying swiftly on foot to a dense swamp near by, followed by many British bullets, he escaped unhurt. For his gallantry on that occasion, the Continental Congress ordered a horse, richly caparisoned, to be presented to Arnold. Tryon spent the night in the neighborhood, and the next morning hastened to his ships, annoyed all the way by the gathering militia. At the place of re-embarkation, his troops were fearfully galled by cannon-shot from a battery of Lamb's artillery managed by Lieutenant-Colonel Oswald. They had already skirmished severely at a bridge; and they escaped a final capture, only by the good offices of Erskine at the head of the marines who were landed from the vessels, and who beat back the wearied Americans. About sunset the fleet departed. The Americans had lost during the invasion about one hundred men, and the enemy about three hundred. Tryon's atrocities on that occasion were never forgotten nor forgiven by the sufferers.

It is related that when the British approached Danbury, an old citizen resolved to save a piece of cloth which was at a clothier's at the south end of the village. He had just mounted his horse with it, when the British advanced-guard approached. Three light-horsemen started in pursuit. The old man's animal was not so fleet as theirs. Drawing near to him, one of the troopers cried out, "Stop, old Daddy, stop! We'll have you!" "Not yet!" cried the citizen. At that moment his roll of cloth unfolded, and fluttering like a streamer behind him, so frightened the pursuing horses that he got several rods ahead, and escaped.

The Americans, also, spurred by resentment, took similar aggressive action. Late in May, Colonel Meigs crossed Long Island Sound from Guilford, Connecticut, with one hundred and seventy men in whale-boats, and at two o'clock in the morning of the 23d, attacked a British provision-post at Sagg Harbor, at the eastern end of Long Island. They burned a dozen vessels; also stores and their contents; made ninety men prisoners, and with these reached Guilford the next day at a little past noon, without losing a man. For this exploit, the Congress voted thanks to Colonel Meigs and his men, and a sword to the commander.





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