Page images

Enemy's March to Danbury. Entrance into the Village. Anecdotes of Holcomb and Hamilton. Officers' Headquarters.

proceeded through Weston, by Reading Church, over Hoyt's Hill and through Bethel;" and so expeditious was their march, that the people of Danbury were not warned of their approach until they were within eight miles of the town. Then all was confusion and alarm. Although the chief object of the invaders—the capture or destruction of the military stores —was understood, the Revolutionary party felt a presentiment that the expedition was fraught with cruelty and woes. Some fled, with the women and children and a few movable effects, to the woods and adjacent towns, while others remained to watch and guard the sick and aged who could not depart. There was a small militia force of only one hundred and fifty in the town, under,Colonels Cook and Huntington, when the enemy approached’—too few to attempt resistance. When Tryon entered the village at the south end, Huntington and his troops, who were mostly without arms, retired across the Still River at the north, and, making a circuitous march under cover of night, joined the Americans at Bethel.” Tryon established his head-quarters at the house of a Loyalist named Dibble, at the south end of the village, and near the public stores. Generals Agnew and Erskine made their head-quarters in a house near the bridge, at the upper end of the main street, now owned by Mr. Knapp. All the other houses in the village were filled with British HEAD-quantens of AGNEw AND ERskINE.” troops at night. As soon as the enemy entered the town they began to insult and abuse the people, but com

At this place the enemy was brought to a halt by a single resolute American named Luther Holcomb. Wishing to give the people of Danbury as much time as possible to escape, or prepare for resistance, he rode to the brow of a hill over which the invaders were about to march, and, waving his hat, and turning, as if to address an army behind him, exclaimed, “Halt the whole universe! break off into kingdoms?’ It was a mighty-host whose obedience he evoked. Tryon was alarmed. He caused his army to halt, and, arranging his cannon so as to bear upon the supposed opponents, sent out flanking parties to reconnoiterFinding himself in danger of being surrounded, Holcomb put spurs to his horse and retreated to Danbury.

* On hearing of the approach of the enemy, Colonel Cook sent to General Silliman for arms and ammunition. The messenger was Lambert Lockwood, who, coming suddenly upon the British troops near Reading Church, was made a prisoner. Tryon recognized him as a young man who had given him aid when his carriage broke down while passing through Norwalk. On that account he took Lockwood under his protection, but, in his hasty retreat from Danbury, left him to take care of himself. Tryon was writing a protection for him when he was informed that the Americans were coming. The governor dropped his pen and seized his sword, and the protection remained unwritten.

* When the British approached, a citizen named Hamilton resolved to save a piece of cloth which was at a clothier's at the lower end of the village. He had just mounted his horse with the cloth, and fastened one end to the saddle, when the British advanced guard appeared. Three light horsemen started in pursuit of Hamilton, whose horse was less fleet than theirs. Drawing near to him, one of the troopers exclaimed, “Stop, old daddy, stop We'll have you.” “Not yet,” said Hamilton, and at that moment his roll of cloth unfurled, and, fluttering like a streamer behind him, so frightened the troopers' horses that the old man got several rods the start. The chase continued through the town to the bridge at the upper end. Several times the troopers would attempt to strike, but the cloth was always in the way. The pursuit was finally abandoned, and the old man escaped.

* This house is on the south bank of Still River, at the north end of the main street. It was built by Benjamin Knapp, in 1770, and was owned by him at the time of the invasion. His birth-place is also standing, on the north side of the river. They were among the few houses not burned. At the bridge seen on the right the British planted a cannon, and kept a strong guard there until their departure. This house is now (1848) owned by Noah Knapp.


Imprudence of some Citizens. Retaliation of the British. Destruction of Stores and of the Village.

mitted no great excesses. Had the inhabitants who remained kept quiet, the town might have been saved from conflagration; but four men,' whose feelings were wrought to the highest pitch by the free use of liquor, madly placed themselves in a large and valuable dwelling near the court-house, belonging to Major Starr, and, as the van of the British army approached, fired upon them several times from the windows, without effect. The exasperated troops rushed into the house, seized the men, thrust them into the cellar, and burned the building over their heads. The unhappy men perished in the flames, victims of most egregious folly.

The public stores were now attacked. The Episcopal Church was filled with barrels of pork and flour as high as the galleries, and two other buildings were also filled with provisions. One of them, the barn of Mr. Dibble, is still standing, on the southwest side of Main Street, at the lower end of the town. The American commissioners made use of it without his consent. Being a Tory, his barn was spared, and all the stores in it were saved. Those in the church were taken into the street and destroyed. The liquors were freely used by the soldiery, and they passed the night in drinking and carousing.

As yet, the torch had not been applied. The sky was cloudy and the might was intensely dark. Having marched a greater portion of the preceding might, the troops were much exhausted by fatigue and want of sleep. Those who remained awake were intoxicated, except a few sentinels. The force of two thousand men that landed at Compo was reduced, in reality, to three hundred ; and could the American generals at Bethel have known the exact state of things in the hostile camp, they might have annihilated the invaders. Tryon was on the alert, and slept but little. He was apprised by a Tory scout of the gathering of the militia at Bethel. Knowing the present weakness of his army, he resolved on flight, and accordarm go, ingly, before daylight on Sunday morning, his troops were put in marching order.

1777. Fire-brands were applied to every house in the village, except those belonging to

Tories. These had been marked with a conspicuous cross the previous evening. At the dawn of day the enemy marched toward Ridgeway, while for miles around the country was illumined by the burning village.”


Dibble's BARN.

“Through solid curls of smoke the bursting fires
Climb in tall pyramids above the spires,
Concentering all the winds, whose forces, driven
With equal rage from every point of heaven,
Wheel into conflict, round the scantling pour
The twisting flames, and through the rafters roar;
Suck up the cinders, send them sailing far,
To warn the nations of the raging war.”

Joel BARLow.”

* Joshua Porter, Eleazer Starr, Adams, and a negro. * Robbins's Century Sermon. * This is quoted from the Columbiad, a long epic—the American Revolution its theme. The author was one of the poets of the Revolution whose writings have outlived them. Dwight, Trumbull, Humphries, Hopkins, and a few other men of literary reputation in Connecticut, were his friends and associates. He was a native of Reading, Connecticut, where he was born in 1755. He was the youngest in a family of ten. He graduated at Yale College in 1778. He recited an original poem on taking his bachelor's degree, but it possesses little merit. Four of his brothers were in the Continental army, and during his collegiate vacation he went to the field as chaplain. He was in the battle at White Plains, and displayed good courage in several minor engagements. He married the daughter of the Hon. Abraham Baldwin, of New Haven, and in 1783 removed to Westford, where he commenced the publication of the “Mercury.” He was admitted to the bar in 1785, and the same year, at the request of several Congregational ministers, prepared and published an enlarged and improved edition of Watts's version of the Psalms, and added to them a collection of hymns, several of them his own. His “Vision of Columbus” was published in 1787. It was dedicated to the unfortunate Louis XVI. In London and Paris it was reprinted, and received considerable applause. He was engaged, with the literary friends just named, in publishing a satirical poem called the Anarchiad, which had considerable influence. In 1791 he published in London his “..Advice to the Privileged Orders,” and, the fol- . Washington, known afterward lowing year, The Conspiracy of as “Kalorama.” The Columthe Kings. He had some corre- o-o-o: biad, the original Vision of Cospondence with the French Na- lumbus greatly altered, was pub


Estimated Damage. Revolutionary Men. Levi Osborn. Joel Barlow. The Sandemanians.

Nineteen dwellings, the meeting-house of the New Danbury Society, and twenty-two stores and barns, with all their contents, were consumed. The exact amount of military stores that were destroyed is not known, but, from the best information that could be obtained, there were about three thousand barrels of pork, more than one thousand barrels of flour, four hundred barrels of beef, one thousand six hundred tents, and two thousand bushels of grain, besides many other articles, such as rum, wine, rice, army carriages, &c. A committee appointed to appraise the private losses estimated the whole amount at nearly eighty thousand dollars. On inquiring for men of the Revolution in Danbury, I was referred to three, all of whom I had the pleasure of seeing. I first called upon the venerable Levi Osborn, then a september. eighty-six years of age.a. He resided in Danbury when the village was burned, 1848. and remained, amid the jeers of Tories and the insults of the invaders, to protect an aged and sick parent. He is a leader of the sect of Sandemanians, of the division known as “Osbornites.” His naturally strong mind was yielding to the pressure of bodily infirmities, yet he still lives, an honored representative of the men of 1776. After sketching Knapp's house, printed on page 403, I walked down to the old burialground, toward the lower part of the village, where the remains of many of the men of the

tional Assembly, and, on going to Paris, was honored by the gift of citizenship, and made France his home. His time was devoted chiefly to commercial pursuits, by which he amassed a fortune. He traveled some on the Continent, and in Piedmont wrote a poem called “Hasty Pudding,” the most popular of his writings. Returning to Paris in 1795, he was appointed by Washington consul at Algiers, with power to negotiate a treaty of commerce with the dey, and with Tunis and Tripoli. After an absence of seventeen years, he returned to the United States, and built a splendid mansion on the bank of the Potomac, near

lished in 1808, in a splendid quarto, richly illustrated. Its merits have been variously estimated, some regarding it as a fit companion of the Iliad, Æneid, and Paradise Lost, and others allowing it only a small share of merit. Mr. Barlow had prepared to write a history of the United States, in 1811, when the design was frustrated by his being appointed minister plenipotentiary to the French government. In the autumn of 1812 he was invited by the Duke of Bassano to a conference with Napoleon at Wilna, in Poland. He traveled thitherward without halting to rest. The fatigue and exposure brought on an inflammation of

the lungs, which caused his death, at an obscure village near Cracow named Zarnowica, on the 2d of December, in the fifty-fourth year of his age. He has been charged with abjuration of Christianity, but the accusation rests solely upon inferences. In private life he was pure and greatly beloved, and his public career was without spot or blemish.--Allen's Biographical Dictionary; Griswold's American Poets.

* This small sect derives its name from its founder, Robert Sandeman, a native of Perth, in Scotland. He came to America in 1764, and in Boston and Danbury organized societies in accordance with his peculiar religious notions. His doctrines were similar to those of Calvin, and his distinguishing tenet was, that “faith was a mere intellectual belief—a bare belief of the bare truth.” Like other founders of sects, he claimed to belong to the only true Church. His followers meet on the Sabbath and Thursday afternoons of each week, and, seated around a large circular table, each with a copy of the Scriptures, the men read and comment on them as they are moved by desire. The females are silent. The attending congregation not members are mere spectators, and the worshipers seem not to notice their presence. They have prayer and singing, after which they go to the house of one of the members, and partake of a feast of love. Their morals are of the purest kind, and their influence in society is exceedingly salutary. The two divisions are known as the Baptist Sandemanians and the Osbornites. The former practice baptism, the latter do not. Of late years none have joined them, and death is . their number. There are a few in England. Mr. Sandeman died at Danbury in 1771, aged fifty-three years. His grave is marked by a handsome marble slab, bearing his name and an epitaph.


Obscurity of Wooster's Grave. Resolves of Congress. A centenarian Loyalist. Treatment by his Neighbors.

Revolution rest, and among them those of the brave General Wooster, who fell, as we shall presently observe, while gallantly opposing Tryon and his marauders on their retreat from Danbury. Not even a rough stone of the field marks his grave, and no man living can now identify it! The fact is a disgrace to the people, past and present, among whom he fell in battle; and the government, whose representatives, with grateful appreciation of his services, long ago voted money to erect a monument to his memory," is guilty of positive ingratitude in so long withholding the paltry sum, while the long grass is weaving a web of utter obscurity over his dust. From the cemetery I strolled down the winding road along which Tryon entered Danbury, and, returning, called to see the venerable Joseph Dibble, then in his hundredth year. He lives with a nephew, near the same spot where he resided when Danbury was burned. He is the Loyalist who, with his father, entertained Governor Tryon while he remained at Danbury. He was a Loyalist in principle, and adhered to the royal cause in accordance with his convictions of right as an orderloving, law-obeying citizen. He was not armed against his Whig neighbors, and took no part in the cruelties which his guest sanctioned, but simply gave “aid and comfort to the enemy” while there. But the outrages committed by the men whom he sheltered and fed drew upon himself much of the odium that belonged to them, and for many years he was greatly despised by the sufferers. One night he was taken from his bed by some of his neighbors in disguise, to a deep place in the little river near the village, where they ducked him several times during the darkness. He expected that they would leave him under water with the fishes at the last immersion, but there was as much funny mischief as serious malice in his tormentors, and, to his great joy, they released him on dry land just as the first hue of light in the east appeared. Time softened the asperities of feeling, and

* On the 17th of June, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution, “That a monument be erected to the memory of General Wooster, with the following inscription: “In honor of David Wooster, brigadier general in the army of the United States. In defending the liberties of America, and bravely repelling an inroad of the British forces to Danbury, in Connecticut, he received a mortal wound on the 27th day of April, 1777, and died on the 2d day of May following. The Congress of the United States, as an acknowledgment of his merit and services, have caused this monument to be erected.’” Resolved, “That the executive power of the state of Connecticut be requested to carry the foregoing resolution into execution, and that five hundred dollars be allowed for that purpose.”—Journals of Congress, iii., 197.

It has been erroneously asserted that the money was subsequently put into the hands of General Wooster's son, and that it was squandered. This is not true, as the Journals of Congress will show. A bill for the purpose passed the House of Representatives in 1822, but, in consequence of the numerous similar petitions that were presented after the passage of the resolution by the Lower House, the Senate did not concur. Ezra Foote, Esq., a citizen of Danbury, aged eighty-four years, informed me that he could so nearly identify the grave of Wooster as to pronounce it with certainty to be one of two graves, situated, as I ascertained by measurement, twenty feet northeast of the grave of Sandeman. General Wooster was not in the Conti. mental service at the time of his death. Conceiving himself neglected, he had resigned, and was appointed the first major general of militia in his native state.


Tory Guide. Night Ride toward Ridgefield. Return to Daubury. Ridgefield. Military Movements

for half a century he has lived among his old neighbors and their descendants, a worthy and respected citizen. The two guides who piloted the army to Danbury did not fare so well; they were obliged to flee. After the war, Benedict returned to Danbury for the purpose of residing there, but the people at once prepared to ride him out of the town upon a rail, and he fled. Jarvis went to reside in Nova Scotia. Many years afterward he returned pri. vately to Danbury, to visit his relations. His presence being known, some citizens prepared tar and feathers for him. They surrounded his father's house, and demanded his person. His sister concealed him in an ash-oven, where he lay until the search was over and the party gone, when he left the town, and never returned. Mr. Dibble was too nearly a wreck to give me any clear account of Revolutionary matters in that vicinity, and it was with much difficulty that he could be made to understand my object in wishing to sketch his portrait and obtain his autograph. He is a bachelor, and assured me seriously that he intended to remain one all the days of his life. I be sements, lieve he is still living—an old bachelor indeed. 1850. I also called upon Ezra Foote, Esq., one of the patriarchs of the village. Although eightyfour years of age, his erect figure, firm voice, and clear, intelligent eye gave him the appearance of a man of sixty. After half an hour's pleasant and profitable conversation with him, on Revolutionary topics connected with the locality, I returned to the hotel, and prepared to depart for Ridgefield, nine miles distant, after supper. For two or three hours a strong southeast wind had been piling the driving scud from the ocean in huge cumulous masses along the northwestern horizon, and, when darkness came, it was intense. I had hired a conveyance, and a young man to accompany me from Danbury to Norwalk, by the way of Ridgefield, and, in the midst of the gloom and the rain that began to fall, we left the village. For a little while the beaten road was visible, but, when the light dust became wet with showers, not a trace of the track could be seen. The young man became alarmed, and urged me to turn back. I was too anxious to reach New Haven by Sunday to be easily persuaded, and, borrowing a tin lantern from a farmer whom he knew, we endeavored to grope our way. The perforations of the lantern were “like angels' visits, few and far between,” and the light that stole through them was just enough to make “darkness visible.” After tilting half over by the road side once or twice, and being assured by my companion that there was a “dreadful ugly place in Sugar Hollow, a mile or two beyond,” I consented to turn back, on condition that he would be ready to start at peep of day. He promised, and at nine in the evening we were again in Danbury. At dawn we started for Ridgefield. The rain had ceased, and the clouds were dispersing. We had a delightful ride over the broken, but fertile country, and before ten o'clock I had visited the place where Wooster fell, and where Arnold made his escape, and made sketches of the localities. Let us for a moment follow the British on their departure from Danbury, and the Americans in their opposing maneuvers. Tryon, doubtless fearing that he might be cut off on his retreat directly back to his shipping at Compo, marched toward Ridgeway, a parish in the town of Ridgefield, and north of that village. This movement was probably made to deceive the Americans into the belief that he intended to return by land through West Chester, and then, by a sudden turn, push for the shipping along the least guarded route. When this movement was made known to the American generals, they divided their forces into two parts. The largest division, consisting of about four hundred men, under Silliman and Arnold, proceeded to take post in front of the enemy, while Wooster, with the other division of two hundred, was left to hang upon and annoy their rear. After proceeding to Ridgeway, the enemy turned southward toward Ridgefield,' their route from Danbury thus forming the two sides of a scalene triangle, of which the present direct

* The tract of land called Ridgefield was named by the Indians Candatowa, which signifies high ground On some of the hills near the village Long Island and the Sound may be seen for a distance of forty miles. Twenty-five of the inhabitants of Norwalk purchased the ground of Catoonah, the chief sachem, in 1708, and the first settlement was made the following year.

« PreviousContinue »