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Battle of Groton Heights

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Surnames/tags: 1776 American_Revolution
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Battle of Groton Heights

The Battle of Groton Heights, (also known as the Battle of Fort Griswold or the Fort Griswold massacre), was fought September 6, 1781. The leaders of the small Connecticut militia were Lt. Col. William Ledyard and Major William Montgomery. Brigadier General Benedict Arnold and Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Eyre led the British forces.

The British planned to arrive at night by ship, sailing up the Thames to New London, on the northern shore of Long Island Sound, however the winds were unfavorable, and they didn't arrive until the dawn. There were two forts in the area: Fort Trumbull, on the New London side, and Fort Griswold, on the Groton side. Fort Trumbull had not been completed and was open on one side. Fort Griswold was finished, made of stone and with earthen defenses, however Fort Griswold did not have enough guns, ammunition, etc., to carry on an effective battle.

When the ships were spotted, Fort Griswold fired her guns twice, to signal that the enemy approached. Unfortunately, the British knew the signal, and one of the British ships fired a third shot. Three shots meant that a victorious friend approached, and this deception delayed the manning of the forts by the militias.

Benedict Arnold lead about 800 British soldiers who approached Fort Trumbull. It was very lightly manned, and following orders, the men abandoned the fort after firing only one cannon. The British took the fort and proceeded to burn the now undefended town of New London. The British soldiers destroyed goods and stores, but, due to the storage of large amounts of gunpowder, they started a fire that couldn't be controlled, and over 140 buildings were burned.

Another 800 British soldiers, commanded by Lt. Col. Eyre, had landed on the other side of the Thames, but they were delayed by vegetation and topography. An officer was sent to demand that Fort Griswold be surrendered, threatening that no prisoners would be taken if the American's did not comply. Col. Ledyard refused, stating that he would defend the fort to the last extremity.

When the battle began, there were about 150 defenders at Fort Griswold. The British attacked from two sides. The initial assault was repulsed, but the British attacked again and Col. Eyre and some of his officers were wounded. Maj. Montgomery was killed by a bayonet.

The British were able to get into Fort Griswold and open the gate from the inside, at which point the British poured in. After the surrender, the British continued to attack and killed every soldier they could. When Col. Ledyard surrendered his sword to a British officer, the officer killed Ledyard, using Ledyard's own sword. The only thing that stopped further attack was fear that the powder magazine would explode.

The British attempted to blow up Fort Griswold after the battle, but a militiaman extinguished the fuse and saved the fort. Fort Griswold is now a Connecticut state park.

At least 85 Americans were killed, 39 were wounded, and 30 were taken prisoner (most of whom died aboard prison ships.) Forty-eight British soldiers were killed and 145 were wounded.

You can find a list of those killed, wounded and taken prisoner at the bottom of this PAGE.

For further information about The Battle of Groton Heights and Fort Griswold, see:

There are also links to YouTube videos of a reenactment of the burning of New London and the attack on Fort Griswold HERE.

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