Battle of Groton Heights

The New London raid of Benedict Arnold on 6 September 1781 included reduction of two forts defending the mouth of the Thames River, Fort Trumbull on the west and Fort Griswold on Groton Heights. The latter, defended by Lt Col William Ledyard with about 140 militia, was a square fort with stone walls 12 feet high, a fraised ditch, and outworks. Fort Trumbull was not designed for defense against an attack by land, so its small garrison of 24 men under Capt. Adam Shapley delivered one volley of musket and cannon, spiked their eight guns and reinforced Fort Griswold. "The British attack on the latter position was led by Lt. Col. Edmund Eyre, who landed on the east side of the river with two British battalions, the 3rd Battalion of New Jersey Tories, a detachment of German light infantry (jaegers), and some artillery. Total strength was about 800. "Fort Griswold resisted repeated assaults for about 40 minutes. Eyre was mortally wounded in the first attack, and his second in command, Maj. Montgomery, was killed on the parapet while leading another effort. A bas-relief at Old Fort Griswold, used as the frontispiece of Benjamn Quarles' study, _The Negro in the American Revolution_, shws the barefoot Negro servant of the fort commander killing Montgomery with a spear. (This Jordan Freeman and another Negro orderly, Lambo Lathan, were killed later in this action.) Christopher Ward in his standard work on the Revolution says Montgomery was killed by Capt. Shapley. "The odds were too great, however. How the subsequent massacre occurred is not known. It is said that Ledyard was stabbed with his own sword after surrendering it to a Tory officer, whereupon an American officer stabbed the latter, after which the victors bayoneted a great many of the vanquished. "Benedict Arnold reported 85 Patriots killed at Fort Griswold and 60 wounded, most of them mortally. The Americans reported about 75 killed, only 3 of them before the surrender. None of these figures are reliable, but Arnold's own losses of about 50 killed and 150 wounded indicate the severity of the fighting around Fort Griswold. They also tend to explain why the attackers continued their bayonet work after the Patriots wanted to quit. "Arnold's raid on New London achieved no military purpose except to blacken his name further. It was the last British action in the North except for those in the far-off Mohawk Valley of New York some six weeks later. "The 20 acre state park contains portions of the stone fortification and earthworks. A 135-foot monument on the hill near the fort was dedicated in 1830 to the victims of the massacre and lists their names. - NPS



Y/M/D Description Place
1781/09/06 General Benedict Arnold burns down the Old Town Mill during his raid on New London. The mill will soon be rebuilt on the original site. Winthrop Mill, New London, CT
1781/09/06 Benedict Arnold attacks Fort Griswold. Fort Griswold, Groton, CT
1781/09/06 Benedict Arnold attacks Fort Trumbull, raids and burns New London, Connecticut Fort Trumbull, New London, CT
1781/09/06 Benedict Arnold leads British troops in burning down the original New London Harbor Light. New London Harbor Lighthouse, New London, CT

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