Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, at 34A Bedford Street in Concord, Massachusetts, is the final resting place of New England literary giants and prominent transcendentalists like Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. The architecture firm of Cleveland and Copeland designed Sleepy Hollow in the rural style in 1855, with winding paths and a natural, wooded setting. Thousands make a pilgrimage here looking for inspiration, and many leave behind pencils, notes, and other tokens of appreciation.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was a writer and transcendentalist philosopher known for his book Walden and essay “Civil Disobedience.” In these works, he outlined his philosophy of simple living, pacifism, and the abolition of slavery. Some have described him as an anarchist for his conclusion, “That government is best which governs not at all.”
In contrast to the transcendentalists also buried on “Author’s Ridge”, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was a dark romantic writer known for The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables. Dark romantics believed humans are naturally prone to sin and self destruction. Hawthorne is considered one of America’s greatest novelists.
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If patriot-turned-traitor Benedict Arnold’s reputation wasn’t already bad enough, the massacre of American forces at Fort Griswold earned him a particularly reviled place in American historical memory.
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The Battle of Fort Griswold (or Battle of Groton Heights) was fought on September 6, 1781 in Groton, Connecticut, between the American garrison commanded by Lt. Col. William Ledyard and British forces commanded by Patriot-turned-loyalist Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold and Lt. Col. Edmund Eyre during the Revolutionary War. The battle was a British victory; Fort Griswold was seized and New London burned, but the British did not achieve any long term gains. The British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia a month later effectively ended the war in the Continental US.
Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold’s raid on New London, Connecticut was an attempt to divert General George Washington from attacking Lord Cornwallis’s army in Virginia. Arnold, who was from the area, believed Fort Griswold, across the Thames River from New London, was only partially constructed and would not be difficult to seize. By the time he realized his mistake, Lt. Col. Edmund Eyre’s assault force had already engaged the fort and it was too late to recall them.
Eyre attempted to persuade the fort’s 150 defenders to surrender, but they vowed to fight. The first British assault was scattered by artillery. Major William Montgomery then stormed the fort at a sparsely-defended point, but was killed by a freed slave named Jordan Freeman. Montgomery’s men opened the gate from the inside, and the garrison attempted to surrender.
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Colonial history is alive in the small Connecticut town of Ridgefield, where visitors can still see a British cannonball embedded in a wooden post in a former local tavern.
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The Battle of Ridgefield was fought on April 27, 1777 between American Colonial forces commanded by Maj. Gen. David Wooster and Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold and British forces commanded by Maj. Gen. William Tryon around Ridgefield, Connecticut during the Revolutionary War. The battle was a tactical success for the British, but their actions galvanized Patriot support in Connecticut. Enrollments in the Continental Army soared, and the British limited their operations in Connecticut to coastal raiding.
In spring, 1777, New York Royal Governor Maj. Gen. William Tryon landed on the Connecticut coastline with 1,500 regulars and 300 loyalist militia with the objective of destroying a military supply depot in Danbury, Connecticut. It took too long for colonial militia to muster to save the depot, and on the morning of April 27, the British torched Patriot homes in Danbury and moved south toward Ridgefield.
Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold, with approximately 500 men, erected barricades throughout Ridgefield, while Maj. Gen. David Wooster pursued the British with 200 men. Wooster harassed their rear guard, but at one point the British put up a stiff defense bolstered with cannon. Wooster reportedly called out, “Come on my boys! Never mind such random shots!” moments before being mortally wounded.
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Tour the claustrophobic tenement where the famous author fell in love with his future wife and published his second book.
Edgar Allan Poe is among my favorite authors, but his life wasn’t without controversy. As a young man, Poe enlisted in the U.S. Army and served several years before applying to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Before going to West Point (and subsequently getting booted out), he stayed at the home of his widowed aunt Maria Clemm, where he met her ten-year-old daughter Virginia Eliza Clemm.
Their narrow red brick duplex stood at No. 3 Amity Street in Baltimore Maryland. Today, it is the Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum. Poe lived in this house with the Clemms for approximately one year before attending West Point. Besides his aunt and her daughter, Maria’s ailing mother and possibly her 14-year-old son Henry also lived there (Henry died at a young age at an unknown date).
Touring the small rooms and claustrophobic passages to the second floor and the attic, I can’t imagine what it was like with four people living there without electricity, air conditioning, or plumbing. Despite these conditions, Poe managed to publish Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems in 1829.
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How an effort to shut down a newspaper in Edgar County, Illinois led to one of the Civil War’s most violent home front riots.
In February 1864, the raging gunfire of the American Civil War echoed far from Edgar County, Illinois, yet the conflict seemed fearfully close to home. In the small east-central Illinois town of Paris, elements of the 12th and 66th Illinois Volunteer Regiments were on leave, visiting friends and relatives. “In a social way everything had been done to make their visit a pleasant one,” wrote the local Daily Beacon News, but not everyone welcomed the presence of the soldiers.
Democrats opposed to the war and to the policies of the Lincoln Administration, known as copperheads by their critics, were afraid furloughed volunteers would force them to take loyalty oaths or attempt to shut down the newspaper office of the Paris Times, a Democratic periodical.
Earlier that month, Union soldiers had paid a visit to Amos Green, editor of the Times (and a “Jeff Davis patriot” according to some), after locals in the nearby town of Kansas had reported that between 100 and 150 armed “butternuts” were converging on Paris on his orders. Under the watchful eyes of the soldiers, Green swore an oath and pledged a sum of money to prove his loyalty.
In the middle of February, a soldier named Milton York, scion of a local family known for its abolitionism and its support for the Republican Party, shot and seriously wounded an outspoken copperhead named Cooper. According to one account, the sheriff of Edgar County, William S. O’Hair, attempted to arrest the soldier, but one of York’s compatriots prevented him at the barrel of a rifle from doing so. According to the Mattoon Independent Gazette, York was eventually arrested, but the court released him on a technicality and he rejoined his regiment.
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