The Battle of Ridgefield, Connecticut

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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The 1814 Pultneyville Raid

A sharp fight sent British soldiers fleeing back to their boats when a routine raid on an American coastal town went awry during the War of 1812.

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The Pultneyville Raid was conducted by British forces commanded by Commodore Sir James Lucas Yeo on May 15, 1814 against the hamlet of Pultneyville, New York on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812. They were opposed by American militia commanded by Brigadier General John Swift. The raid ended in a close American victory, as British forces retreated with a few captured supplies.

Lake Ontario was a strategic conduit for ships and supplies during the war, and both sides sought to control it. The American government kept military store houses at various points along the lake to resupply its fleet. The British sought to capture or destroy those supplies in a series of raids. On the morning of May 14, six miles west of Pultneyville, British troops from a ship called the King George landed and kidnapped Thomas Fuller and Captain Church. They forced the men to guide them to Pultneyville in a thick fog.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. John Swift had gathered 130 volunteers and militia to confront the British. When the fog lifted the next morning, the British sent out an ultimatum demanding surrender of the supplies or they would fire on the hamlet. Three townspeople rowed out to the British ship and negotiated surrender of the supplies in exchange for assurances the residents would be unmolested. As arranged, several hundred British soldiers landed and took the supplies, however, they also began to loot local homes.

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Monmouth Battlefield State Park

In 1778, two armies slugged it out in sweltering heat in these east-central New Jersey fields. Though technically a draw, the Continental Army showed it could finally stand toe-to-toe with the best soldiers in the British Army.

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The Battle of Monmouth Court House was fought on June 28, 1778 between American forces commanded by General George Washington and Major Generals Nathanael Greene, William Lord Stirling Alexander, Charles Lee, and Marquis de Lafayette and British forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis and Lt. Gen. Baron Wilhelm von Knyphausen near Freehold, New Jersey during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was a tactical draw, with both sides exhausted after fighting the longest battle of the war in brutal heat.

After France’s entry into the war on the American side, British Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton withdrew his army from Philadelphia and retreated toward New York City, which was under British control. He sent several thousand Tory volunteers and most of his supplies down the Delaware River, while his remaining 10,000-man army marched overland. General Washington’s 12,000-man army caught up with them at Monmouth Court House.

Washington sent Maj. Gen. Charles Lee and Marquis de Lafayette forward with 5,000 men to attack Clinton’s 1,500-man rearguard. When Clinton turned Maj. Gen. Cornwallis’ forces around to strike Lee’s left flank, the Americans broke and withdrew in confusion. Just then, General Washington arrived ahead of the rest of his army and sharply rebuked Lee. He cobbled together a defensive line, but that also broke under relentless British attacks. Washington’s third line held.

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Lake George Battlefield Park

Visitors to beautiful Lake George, New York can camp and hike on a 264-year-old battlefield and see the ruins of old British and American forts.

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The Battle of Lake George was fought on September 8, 1755 between French forces under the command of Jean Erdman, Baron Dieskau and British forces under the command of Sir William Johnson and their American Indian allies commanded by Chief Hendrick Theyanoguin at the southern tip of Lake George, New York during the French and Indian War. The battle ended in British and Iroquois victory over the French, and the building of Fort William Henry.

In early September 1755, Sir William Johnson marched north from Fort Edward intending to capture the French Fort St. Frédéric at Crown Point on the western shore of Lake Champlain. Around the same time, Baron Dieskau took 222 French regulars, 600 French-Canadian militia, and 700 Mohawk allies and moved south with the aim of destroying Johnson’s base of supplies at Fort Edward. While camped on Lake George’s southern shore, Johnson learned of the French movement and sent 1,000 Colonial militia and 200 Mohawk allies to reinforce the fort.

In what became known as the “Bloody Morning Scout,” Baron Dieskau ambushed the British relief column and inflicted heavy casualties, however, the British and Mohawk warriors were able to inflict equally heavy losses on the French during their fighting retreat back to camp. Both sides lost experienced officers in the engagement. When French forces reached Johnson’s camp, the militia and their Indian allies refused to attack because the British had erected makeshift fortifications.

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Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Site

This small park and museum commemorates the only Revolutionary War battle fought in what would become the State of Vermont.

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The Battle of Hubbardton was fought on July 7, 1777 between British and German forces commanded by Brigadier General Simon Fraser and Baron Friedrich Adolf Riedesel and American forces commanded by colonels Ebenezer Francis, Nathan Hale, and Seth Warner near Hubbardton, Vermont during the Revolutionary War. The British won the battle but failed to follow up their victory.

In June 1777, British Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne headed south along Lake Champlain in one prong of a multi-pronged attack designed to split New England from the rest of the American Colonies. On July 5, the British recaptured Fort Ticonderoga after hauling artillery up to the summit of Mount Defiance. The roughly 4,000-strong American garrison fled without a fight. Major General Arthur St. Clair left Colonel Seth Warner of the Green Mountain Boys Regiment near Hubbardton with a 1,200-man rearguard while the main body continued its southern retreat.

Brig. Gen. Simon Fraser, commanding some 1,030 of Burgoyne’s most experienced troops, including German Brunswick jägers and grenadiers, was in hot pursuit. They initially surprised Warner’s rearguard in the early morning hours, but the Americans regrouped on a hill and put up stubborn resistance. Though wounded, Colonel Francis of the 11th Massachusetts Regiment directed his men to attack a vulnerable point on the British left flank.

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Great Swamp Battle Monument

A stone monument deep in the Rhode Island wilderness marks the site of the bloodiest battle of King Philip’s War.

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The Great Swamp Fight (or Great Swamp Massacre) was fought on December 19, 1675 between New England forces and their native allies commanded by Governor Josiah Winslow, Major Samuel Appleton, Governor Robert Treat, Major William Bradford, and Chief Uncas, and the Narragansett Tribe commanded by Chief Canonchet in the Great Swamp in present-day Washington County, Rhode Island during King Philip’s War. The battle was a major colonial victory, resulting in the near-destruction of the Narragansetts.

In the summer of 1675, after a breakdown in relations with New England colonists, Metacom (King Philip), sachem of the Pokanoket Indians (the same tribe that helped the Pilgrims survive their first winter), began to raid English settlements. The New England Confederation raised an army in defense, and after several raids and counter-raids, decided to strike the neutral Narragansett tribe in Rhode Island before they could join forces with Metacom.

On the chilly day of December 19th, an Indian guide led approximately 1,000 New England militia and 150 Pequot Indians through the frozen Great Swamp to a wooden palisade, which the Narragansetts had fortified for the winter. Their initial attack was poorly coordinated and beaten back, but after a long struggle, they overwhelmed the defenders and burned the fort. The Narragansetts attempted to escape, but hundreds including women, children, and the elderly, were killed. The colonists lost 70 killed and 150 wounded.

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Battlefield Tourism in Decline

At a time when American history is being fought over in the social and political arena, a sharp decline in visits to our national battlefields reveals a sad lack of public appreciation for our nation’s history.

To me, there’s something deeply important about visiting museums, forts, and battlefields, which is why I write weekly articles about historic sites and events. It’s one thing to read about a battle in a book. I’ve read dozens of books on the American Civil War, at least ten on the Battle of Gettysburg alone. But until you stand on the actual ground where those armies fought, you’ll never have a complete sense of what happened there.

Battlefields are more than just lifeless monuments and interpretive signs that tell a story. You are standing on the same dirt those armies trampled 150 years ago, that same soil over which men fought and died, whose wounds bled into that very ground. Standing on Little Round Top at Gettysburg National Military Park, you can imagine the gray columns advancing through the smoke from the perspective of a Union soldier.

That’s not something you’ll ever experience in a classroom.

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