UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.
MAGAZINE OF HISTORY
NOTES AND QUERIES
Ixtra Number No. 15
THE NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN,
INCLUDING THOSE OF RUFUS AVERY,
STEPHEN HEMPSTEAD AND THOMAS
THE DARTMOOR MASSACRE - f^ - e -\ I. H. W.
410 EAST 32D STREET, ," . NEW YORK
Fiom " Harper s Magazine." Copyright, 1!M)4, by Harper & Brothers.
GATEWAY OF OLD WAR PRISON, DARTMOOR
To accompany Extra Number 15 of the Magazine of History ivith Notes and Queries.
THE NARRATIVE OF
OF THE CAPTURE OF FORT GRISWOLD, THE MASSACRE THAT
FOLLOWED, AND THE BURNING OF NEW LONDON,
CONN., SEPTEMBER 6, 1781.
WITH THE NARRATIVES OF RUFUS AVERY
AND STEPHEN HEMPSTEAD,
NEW LONDON, CONN.
NEW AND REVISED EDITION, INCLUDING THE NARRATIVE
OF THOMAS HERTTELL, 1832.
(Being Extra No. 15 of THE MAGAZINE OF HISTORY WITH NOTES AND QUERIES.)
Reproduction of original Title Page as near as possible
CAPTURE OF GROTON FORT,
MASSACRE THAT FOLLOWED,
SACKING AND BURNING OF NEW LONDON,
September 6, 1781t by the British Forces, under the
command of the
TRAITOR BENEDICT ARNOLD.
BY RUFUS AVERY
Eye witnesses of the same.
TOGETHER WITH AN
EDITOR S PREFACE
Personal narratives of private soldiers of our Revolution are
invaluable, though as short as they are few in number (not a dozen
in all are known to the writer) .
This little volume, which bears no place of publication, was
probably published at New London. It includes the names of the
killed and wounded at the capture of Fort Griswold, and we have
added the account of Thomas Herttell, taken from the New York
Sun of , 1832 (it has only once appeared in book form, and that
many years ago).
As Rathbun has been accused of "doctoring" Avery s narrative,
we print the latter s account, after Rathbun s version, taken from
what is said to have been the only copy made from the original
MS. Yet we find even in this some variations. Rathbun prob
ably thought a more "hifalutin" style would help the sale of his
Whoever reads the Narratives which follow, will feel himself in
debted to Mr. Rathbun, the proprietor of the work, for the inde
fatigable industry, with which, for several years, he has employed
himself in collecting the materials. When more than seventy
years of age, he found himself in poverty; and as a measure of re
lief he conceived the plan of this publication, which he has now the
happiness of presenting to the patronage of a discerning public.
He has often been forced by the necessities which a destitute old
age, infirm health and a sick family imposed on him, to solicit the
charities of the beneficent for his relief. Now he has the pleasing
consciousness of offering to his fellow citizens a work which will
no doubt nurture the spirit of patriotism wherever it may be circu
lated; while the moderate profits which he anticipates will relieve,
at least to a good degree, the wants of his old age. He justly feels,
in the opinion of the writer of this Preface, that his patrons will
find themselves doubly repaid by the value of his book, and at the
same time experience the satisfaction of saving one of the last sol
diers of the American Revolution from the pain of begging his
daily bread. The Narrative of Mr. Rathbun, with which the
volume opens, will still further disclose the claims which he has on
the patronage of all who value the blessing of a free government.
The Narrative of Mr. Avery has never before been given to the
public, and will be found to contain the most interesting incidents
of the capture of Groton Fort, expressed in the descriptive and
glowing language of an eye witness.
The other articles need only be read to be highly appreciated.
They are thought to add much to the value of the work.
The whole presents to the public a connected view of many
8 ORIGINAL PREFACE
minute particulars respecting the events of the fatal 6th of Sep
tember, 1781, which have never before appeared in print; and
though history has recorded the outlines and monuments stand to
perpetuate the sanguinary facts, those who read this account will
have an impression of that day which none but an actor in the
scene can impart.
Fathers, read it to your children, and early impress on their
minds a love for Freedom, and teach them to detest a traitor like
Arnold, and to scorn the inhuman and dishonorable conduct of
the frenzied villain who murdered our brave Ledyard with his own
sword after surrendering!
For the perusal of the young, it is especially appropriate, as
what they can obtain from history will be explained to their under
standings, and when those in the vicinity tread the ground of New
London and Groton, they will feel as if a voice echoed from the
now peaceful hills, inspiring them with new ardour and zeal for
their rights as freemen, and boldness in defending their country
from foreign invasion.
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN
I WAS born in Colchester, Connecticut, in 1765. When six
teen years of age, I joined as a volunteer a company of
militia, belonging to my native town, and marched to the
relief of New London, intelligence having just reached us of an
attack on that place by the British, under the conduct of the trai
tor Benedict Arnold. We left home to the number of about one
hundred men, early in the morning of the 7th of September, 1781,
the day after the battle. On our arrival in New London we wit
nessed a scene of suffering and horror which surpasses descrip
tion. The enemy were not to be found, but they had left behind
them the marks of their barbarism and cruelty. The city was in
ashes. More than one hundred and thirty naked chimneys w r ere
standing in the midst of the smoking ruins of stores and dwelling
houses. Very little property had escaped the conflagration except
a part of the shipping, which on the first alarm was sent up the
river. But though the city was destroyed it was far from being
deserted. Numerous companies of militia from the neighborhood
were pouring into the town; and the inhabitants, who had fled
from their burning dwellings, were returning to gaze with an
guish on the worthless remains of their property. Women were
seen walking with consternation and despair depicted in their
countenances, leading or carrying in their arms their fatherless
and houseless babes, who in a few short hours had been bereaved
of all that was dear on earth. Their homes, their provisions, and
even their apparel were the spoils of the enemy or lay in ashes at
their feet. Some were inquiring with the deepest distress for the
mangled bodies of their friends, while others were seen following
the carts which bore their murdered fathers, husbands or brothers
to the grave. More than forty widows were made on that fatal
10 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
day. Never can I forget the tears, the sobs, the shrieks of woe
which fell from the kindred of our brave countrymen, who then
gave their lives to achieve our national independence. It was my
melancholy duty to assist in the burial of the dead, which brought
me directly into the midst of these heart-rending scenes where the
wife first recognized her husband, the mother her son, the sister
her brother, in the body of a mangled soldier so disfigured with
wounds and clotted with blood and dust, as to be scarcely known!
Often on my visits to New London have I walked near the spot
where I helped to inter my slaughtered countrymen; and though
many years have since rolled away the recollection is still fresh in
my mind, awakening anew the strong feelings of sympathy I then
felt, and rousing into activity the love of my country.
I recollect several interesting facts, connected with the capture
of Fort Griswold and the burning of New London, which, I be
lieve, are not mentioned in the narratives of Messrs. Avery and
After the capture of the fort and the massacre which followed,
the enemy laid a line of powder from the magazine of the fort
to the sea, intending to blow up the fort, and complete the destruc
tion of the wounded within and around it. Stillman Hotman,
who lay not far distant, wounded by three strokes of the bayonet
in his body, proposed to a wounded man near him to crawl to this
line and saturate the powder with their blood, and thus save the
magazine and fort, and perhaps the lives of some of their com
rades, not mortally wounded. He alone succeeded in reaching
the line, where he was found dead lying on the powder which w r as
completely wet with his blood. I do not find his name among the
killed in the list of Mr. Avery.
Another fact of a different character was currently reported at
the time and deserves to be recorded to the deeper disgrace of the
infamous Arnold. He had a sister living in New London, with
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 11
whom he dined on the day of the battle, and whose house was set
fire to, as is supposed, by his orders, immediately afterwards.
Perhaps he found her too much of a patriot for his taste and took
this step in revenge.
The next year, 1782, I was led by the spirit which the scenes I
had witnessed in New London had fanned into a flame, to leave
my father s house and the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, and to
enlist as a private in the Connecticut State troops. Never shall
I forget the impressive circumstances under which I took the sol
dier s oath. With five others of my townsmen, who enlisted with
me, I was marched into the meeting house on the first Monday in
April, it being freeman s day, and there in the presence of a large
concourse of people, we swore to discharge our duty faithfully.
We were ordered to Fort Stanwich, in Stamford, Connecticut,
where I remained during all but the last month of my term of
service. Here I was subjected to the usual hardships of a mili
tary life. Many a time have I been out for several days on scout
ing parties, sometimes to the distance of twenty-five miles. These
were not only attended with fatigue, cold and hunger, but with
no little peril of life. On one occasion a rifle ball passed through
my hat and cut away the hair of my head, but a kind Providence
A party of fourteen men, under Lewis Smith, were surprised
by a body of mounted troops to the number of sixty, by whom
they were ordered to surrender. Lewis Smith perceiving the hope
lessness of resistance against such an overwhelming force, inquired
of the British officer in command, whether if they should surren
der, they would be treated as prisoners of war. The answer was,
yes ; but no sooner had they lowered their muskets, than the enemy
shot them down.
As a specimen of the hardships to which the private soldier in
time of war is constantly liable, I may mention the following.
12 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
One evening the orderly sergeants passed around among the men
and with a whisper commanded us to equip ourselves without
noise; and then we were marched out of the fort to a woods two
miles distant, and ordered to lie down on the frozen ground, where
we passed a bitter cold night with only a single blanket and our
overcoats to protect us. We afterwards learned that this step
was taken to avoid the enemy, who it was reported were that night
to attack the fort with an overwhelming force. From such ex
posures and hardships as these my constitution received a shock,
from which I have never recovered. The sickness of my father
was considered a sufficient reason for giving me a discharge; and
after eleven months service I left Stamford for Colchester. On
reaching home I was immediately taken sick, and for six months
was unable to do any business. From that time mingled mercies
and misfortunes have attended me. The infirmities thus con
tracted in the service of my country disabled me from arduous
manual labor, and much of my life has therefore been spent in
trade and other light employments. My heaviest misfortune,
however, has been the sickness of my excellent wife, who for forty
years has been confined to her bed, and for whose medication and
comfort, with the other expenses of my family, the earnings of
my industry have proved insufficient, especially since the infirmities
of old age have come upon me. But of none of these things do I
complain. They are wisely appointed, and have been greatly al
leviated by the kindness of a generous community. I mention
them for the sole object of interesting my countrymen in my
present eif ort to supply my wants through this little book.
NARRATIVE OF RUFUS AVERT
CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF THE TRANSACTIONS AT NEW LONDON
AND GROTON, ON THE 6TH SEPTEMBER, 1781, IN HIS OWN WORDS
I HAD charge of the garrison the night previous to the attack.
The enemy had not yet appeared near us, nor did we expect
them at this time more than ever; but it is true "we know
not what shall be on the morrow." About three o clock in the
morning, as soon as daylight appeared, so as I could look off, I
saw the fleet in the harbor, a little distance below the light-house;
it consisted of thirty-two in number, ships, brigs, schooners and
sloops. It may well be imagined that a shock of consternation,
and a thrill of dread apprehension flashed over me. I immediately
sent for Captain William Latham, who was captain of said fort,
and who was near by. He came and saw the fleet, and sent notice
to Colonel Ledyard, who was commander of the harbor, and also
of Forts Griswold and Trumbull. He ordered two large guns to
be loaded with heavy charges of good powder, &c. Captain Wil
liam Latham took charge of the one which was to be discharged
from the northeast part of the fort, and I had to attend the other,
on the west side, and thus we as speedily as possible prepared to
give alarm to the vicinity, as was to be expected in case of danger,
two guns being the specified signal for alarm in distress. But a
difficulty now arose from having all our plans communicated by a
traitor! The enemy understood our signal was two regular guns,
and they fired a third, which broke our alarm, and caused it to sig
nify good news or a prize, and thus it was understood by our
troops, and several companies which were lying back ready to
come to our assistance in case of necessity were by this measure
deterred from coming. The reader may well suppose, though
time would not permit us to consider, or anticipate long, yet the
sense of our helplessness without additional strength and arms,
14 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
was dreadful; but the trying events of the few coming hours we
had not known! Colonel Ledyard now sent expresses from
both forts, to call on every militia captain to hurry with their com
panies to the forts. But few came: their excuse was that it was
but a false alarm, or for some trifling alarm. The enemy s boats
now approached and landed eight hundred officers and men, some
horses, carriages and cannon, on the Groton side of the river, about
eight o clock in the morning; and another division on the New
London side, below the light-house, consisting of about seven hun
dred officers and men. The army on [the] Groton bank was di
vided into two divisions. Colonel Ayres 1 took command of the
division southeast of the forts, consisting of about half, sheltering
them behind a ledge of rocks about one hundred and thirty rods
back. Major Montgomery with his division about one hundred
and fifty rods from the fort, behind a high hill. The army on
New London side of the river, had better and more accommodat
ing land to march on than that on Groton side. As soon as their
army had got opposite Fort Trumbull they divided, and one part
proceeded to the city of New London, plundered and set fire to
the shipping and buildings, the rest marched down to Fort Trum
bull. Captain Adam Shapley, who commanded, seeing that he
was likely to be overpowered by the enemy, spiked his cannon and
embarked on board the boats which had been prepared for him
in case of necessity; but the enemy were so quick upon him that
before he and his little handful of men could get out of the reach
of their guns, seven men were badly wounded in the boats. The
remaining one reached Fort Griswold, where, poor fellows, they
met a mortal blow.
Ayres and Montgomery got their army stationed about nine
o clock in the morning. When they appeared in sight, we threw
a number of shots among them, but they would immediately con
trive to disappear behind their hills. About ten o clock they sent
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 15
a flag of truce to demand the surrender of the fort. When the
flag was within about forty rods from the fort, we sent a mus
ket ball in front of them and brought them to a stand. Colonel
Ledyard called a council of war, to ascertain the minds of his of
ficers and friends about what was best to be done in this momen
tous hour, when every moment indicated a bloody and decisive
battle. They all agreed in council to send a flag to them. They
did so, choosing Captain Elijah Avery, Captain Amos Staunton,
and Captain John Williams, who went immediately to meet the
British flag and receive their demand, which was to give up the
fort to them. The council was then inquired of what was to be
done, and the answer returned to the British flag was, that "the fort
would not be given up to the British." The flag then returned to
their division commanded by Ayres, but soon returned to us again ;
when about a proper distance our flag met them and attended to
their summons, and came back to inform Colonel Ledyard that
the enemy declared that "if they were obliged to take it by storm,
they should put the Martial Law in full force," that is, "what they
did not kill by ball, they should put to death by sword and bayo
net!" Colonel Ledyard sent back the decisive answer, that "we
should not give up the fort to them, let the consequences be what
While these flags were passing and repassing, we were ex
changing shots with the British at Fort Trumbull, as they had got
possession of it before the battle commenced in action at Fort
Griswold. We could throw our shot into Fort Trumbull without
any difficulty, but the British could not cause theirs to enter Fort
Griswold, because they could not aim high enough. They had got
possession and in use, some of our best pieces and ammunition,
which were left in Fort Trumbull when Captain Shapley left it
and retreated. About eleven o clock in the morning, when they
perceived what we were about to do, they started with both their
divisions, Colonel Ayres advancing with his in solid columns. As
16 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
soon as they reached the level ground, and in a proper range, we
saluted them with an eighteen pounder, then loaded with two bags
of grapeshot. Captain Elias H. Halsey was the one who directed
the guns, and took aim at the enemy. He had long practiced on
board a privateer, and manifested liis skill at this time. I was at
the gun with others when it was discharged into the British ranks,
and it cleared a very wide space in their solid columns. It has
been reported, by good authority, that about twenty were killed
and wounded by that one discharge of grapeshot. As soon as the
column was broken by loss of men and officers, they were seen to
scatter and trail arms, coming on with a quick step towards the
fort, inclining to the west. We continued firing, but they ad
vanced upon the south and west side of the fort. Colonel Ayres
was mortally wounded. Major Montgomery now advanced with
his division, coming on in solid columns, bearing around to the
north until they got east of the redoubt or battery, which was east
of the fort, then marching with a quick step into the battery.
Here we sent among them large and repeated charges of grape-
shot, which destroyed a number, as we could perceive them thinned
and broken. Then they started for the fort, a part of them in
platoons, discharging their guns; and some of the officers and men
scattering, they came around on the east and north side of the fort.
Here Major Montgomery l fell, near the northeast part of the fort.
We might suppose the loss of their commanders might have dis
mayed them, but they had proceeded so far and the excitement and
determination on slaughter was so great, they could not be pre
vented. As soon as their army had entirely surrounded the gar-
i Montgomery was killed with spears, or boarding pikes, in the hands of Captain Adam
Shapley, and the negro Jordan Freeman; and Lambo Latham, the second negro patriot
of the day, killed a British officer, and was himself killed, receiving thirty-three bayonet
There was no "negro pew" in that fort, although there was some praying as well as
fighting. William Anderson, of New London, 1853 (The Colored Patriots of the Revolu
tion, by W. C. Nell, 1855.)
In 1805 or 1806, an Irish gentleman came to New London and disinterred Montgomery s
skull to re-inter it in the family cemetery in Ireland.
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN BATHBUN, ETC. 17
rison, a man attempted to open the gates; but he lost his life in a
moment, before he could succeed. There was hard fighting and
shocking slaughter, and much blood spilt before another attempt
was made to open the gates, which was at this time successful; for
our little number, which was only one hundred and fifty-five of
ficers and privates (the most of them volunteers), were by this
time overpowered. There was then no block house on the parade
as thef^e is now, so that the enemy had every chance to wound and
kill every man. When they had overpowered us and driven us
from our station at the breastwork into the fort, and Colonel Led-
yard saw how few men he had remaining to fight with, he ceased
resistance. They all left their posts and went on to the open
parade in the fort, where the enemy had a fair opportunity to
massacre us, as there were only six of us to an hundred of them!
This, this was a moment of indescribable misery! We can fight
with good hearts while hope and prospects of victory aid us ; but,
after we have fought and bled and availed nothing, to yield to be
massacred by the boasting enemy, "tries men s hearts!" Our
ground was drenched with human gore; our wounded and dying
could not have any attendance, while each man was almost hope
less of his own preservation; but our country s danger caused the
most acute anxiety. Now I saw the enemy mount the parapets
like so many madmen, all at once seemingly. They swung their
hats around, and then discharged their guns into the fort, and then
those who had not fallen by ball, they began to massacre with
sword and bayonet. I was on the west side of the fort, with Cap
tain Edward Latham and Mr. C. Latham, standing on the plat
form, and had a full view of the enemy s conduct. I had then a
hole through my clothes by a ball, and a bayonet rent through my
coat to my flesh. The enemy approached us, knocked down the
two men I mentioned, with the breech of their guns, and I ex
pected had ended their lives, but they did not. By this time that
division which had been commanded by Montgomery, now under
charge of Bloomfield, unbolted the other gates, marched into the
18 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
fort and formed into a solid column. I at this moment left my
station and went across the parade, towards the south end of the
barracks. I noticed Colonel William Ledyard on the parade
stepping towards the enemy and Bloomfield, 2 gently raising and
lowering his sw r ord as a token of bowing and submission; he was
about six feet from them when I turned my eyes off from him,
and went up to the door of the barracks and looked at the enemy
who were discharging their guns through the windows. It was
but a moment that I had turned my eyes from Colonel L. and saw
him alive, and now I saw him weltering in his gore ! Oh, the hell
ish spite and madness of a man that will murder a reasonable and
noble-hearted officer, in the act of submitting and surrendering!
I can assure my countrymen that I felt the thrill of such a horrid
deed, more than the honorable and martial-like war of months!
We are informed that the wretch wiio murdered him, exclaimed,
#s he came near, "Who commands this fort?" Ledyard hand
somely replied, "I did, but you do now:" at the same moment
handing him his sword, which the unfeeling villain buried in his
breast! The column continued marching towards the south end
of the parade, and I could do no better than to go across the
parade before them, amid their fire. They discharged three pla
toons, as I crossed before them at this time. I believe there were
not less than five or six hundred of the British on the parade and
in the fort. They killed and wounded every man they possibly
could, and it was all done in less than two minutes! I had noth
ing to expect but to drop with the rest; one mad-looking fellow
put his bayonet to my side, swearing "by - - he would skipper
me!" I looked him earnestly in the face and eyes, and begged
him to have mercy and spare my life! I must say, I believe God
prevented him from killing me, for he put his bayonet three times
into me, and I seemed to be in his power, as well as Lieutenant
Enoch Stanton, who was stabbed to the heart and fell at my feet
2 The Bromfield or Bloomfield was doubtless Stephen Bromfield of the 40th. In the
British Army List, for 1781, he is " Blomfield," and in that for 1732, " Bromfield."
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 19
at this time. I think no scene ever exceeded this for continued
and barbarous massacre after surrender. There were two large
doors to the magazine, which made a space wide enough to admit
ten men to stand in one rank. There marched up a platoon of
ten men just by where I stood, and at once discharged their guns
into the magazine among our killed and wounded, and also among
those who had escaped uninjured, and as soon as these had fired
another platoon was ready, and immediately took their place when
they fell back. At this moment Bloomfield came swiftly around
the corner of the building, and raising his sword with exceeding
quickness, exclaimed, "Stop firing! or you will send us all to hell
together!" I was very near him when he spoke. He knew there
must be much powder deposited and scattered about the magazine,
and if they continued throwing in fire we should all be blown up.
I think it must before this have been the case, had not the ground
and everything been wet with human blood. We trod in blood!
We trampled under feet the limbs of our countrymen, our neigh
bors and dear kindred. Our ears were filled with the groans of
the dying, when the more stunning sound of the artillery would
give place to the death shrieks. After this they ceased killing
and went to stripping, not only the dead, but the wounded and
those who were not wounded. They then ordered us all who were
able to march, to the N. E. part of the parade, and those who
could walk to help those who were wounded so bad as not to go of
themselves. Mr. Samuel Edgcomb Jr. and myself were ordered
to carry out Ensign Charles Eldridge, who was shot through the
knee joints; he was a very large heavy man, and with our fasting
and violent exercise of the day we were but ill able to do it, or
more than to sustain our own weight; but we had to submit. We
with all the prisoners were taken out upon the parade, about two
rods from the fort, and ordered to sit down immediately, or they
would put their bayonets into us. The battle was now ended. It
was about one o clock in the afternoon, and since the hour of eight
in the morning, what a scene of carnage, of anxiety, and of loss had
20 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
we experienced. The enemy now began to take care of their dead
and wounded. 3 They took off six of the outer doors of the bar
racks, and with four men at each door, they brought in one man at
a time. There were twenty-four men thus employed for two
hours, as fast as they could walk. They deposited them on the
west side of the parade in the fort, where it was the most comfort
able place, and screened from the hot sun which was pouring down
upon us, aggravating our wounds and causing many to faint and
die who might have lived with good care. By my side lay two
most worthy and excellent officers, Captain Youngs Ledyard and
Captain Nathan Moore, in the agonies of death. Their heads
rested on my thighs, as I sat or lay there. They had their reason
well and spoke. They asked for water. I could give them none,
as I was to be thrust through if I got up. I asked the enemy,
who were passing by us, to give us some water for my dying
friends and for myself. As the well was near they granted this
request; but even then I feared they would put something poison
into it, that they might get us out of the way the sooner; and they
had said, repeatedly, that the last of us should die before the sun
set! Oh, what revenge and inhumanity pervaded their steeled
hearts! They effected what was threatened in the summons, sent
by the flag in the morning, to Colonel Ledyard, "That those who
were not killed by the musket, should be by the sword," &c. But
I must think they became tired of human butchery, and so let us
3 Arnold s report to Clinton shows that the British lost five officers: Lieutenant-Colonel
William Montgomery, 54th regiment; Captain George Craigie, 40th regiment; Lieutenant
Henry Williams Smith, 40th regiment; Ensigns Thomas Hyde and Archibald Willock, 40th
regiment, besides forty-six non-commissioned officers and privates killed and one hundred
and twenty-nine wounded.
In addition, the Connecticut Gazette of Sept. 21st, said " Seven or eight dead bodies
floated ashore on Groton Neck, and three elsewhere." This would make the total loss two
hundred and seven and shows Fort Griswold to have been one of the bloodiest of en
counters of the Revolution, in proportion to the numbers engaged.
The Major " Ay res " referred to so often was Edward, of the 40th regiment. He was
not killed, though badly wounded.
It is worth noticing that the 54th was (or had been) Andre s regiment; and that
Simcoe may have been present, as he was of the 40th.
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 21
live. They kept us on the ground, the garrison charged, till about
two hours had been spent in taking care of their men; and then
came and ordered every man of us that could walk, to "rise up."
Sentries were placed around with guns loaded and bayonets fixed,
and orders given that every one who would not, in a moment, obey
commands, should be shot dead or run through! I had to leave
the two dying men who were resting on me, dropping their heads
on the cold and hard ground, giving them one last and pitying
look. Oh God, this was hard work. They both died that night.
We marched down to the bank of the river so as to be ready to
embark on board the British vessels. There were about thirty of
us surrounded by sentries. Captain Bloomfield then came and
took down the names of the prisoners who were able to march
down with us. Where I sat I had a fair view of their movements.
They were setting fire to the buildings and bringing the plunder
and laying it down near us. The sun was about half an hour high.
I can never forget the whole appearance of all about me. New
London was in flames ! The inhabitants deserted their habitations
to save life, which was more highly prized. Above and around us
were our unburied dead and our dying friends. None to appeal
to for sustenance in our exhausted state but a maddened enemy
not allowed to move a step or make any resistance, but with loss
of life and sitting to see the property of our neighbors consumed
by fire, or the spoils of a triumphing enemy I
Reader, but little can be described, while much is felt. There
were still remaining, near the fort, a great number of the British
who were getting ready to leave. They loaded up our large am
munition wagon that belonged to the fort with the wounded men
that could not walk, and about twenty of the enemy drew it from
the fort to the brow of the hill which leads down to the river.
The declivity is very steep for the distance of thirty rods to the
river. As soon as the wagon began to move down the hill, it
pressed so hard against them that they found they were unable to
22 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
hold it back, and jumped away from it as quick as possible, leav
ing it to thrash along down the hill with great speed, till the shafts
struck a large apple tree stump, with a most violent crash, hurting
the poor dying and wounded men in it in a most inhuman manner.
Some of the wounded fell out and fainted away; then a part of
the company where I sat ran and brought the men and the wagon
along. They by some means got the prisoners who were wounded
badly, into a house 4 near by belonging to Ensign Ebenezer Avery,
who was one of the wounded in the wagon. Before the prisoners
were brought to the house the soldiers had set fire to it, but others
put it out and made use of it for this purpose. Captain Bloom-
field paroled, to be left at home here, these wounded prisoners,
and took Ebenezer Ledyard, Esq. as hostage for them, to see them
forthcoming when called for. Now the boats had come for us who
could go on board the fleet. The officer spoke with a doleful and
menacing tone, "Come, you rebels, go on board." This was a
consummation of all I had seen or endured through the day. This
wounded my feelings in a thrilling manner. After all my suffer
ings and toil, to add the pang of leaving my native land, my wife,
my good neighbors, and probably to suffer still more with cold
and hunger, for already I had learned that I was with a cruel
enemy. But I was in the hands of a higher power over which
no human being could hold superior control and by God s pres
ervation I am still alive, through all the hardships and dangers
of the war, while almost every one about me, who shared the same,
has met either a natural or an unnatural death. When we, the
prisoners, went down to the shore to the boats they would not
bring them near, but kept them off where the water was knee deep
to us, obliging us, weak and worn as we were, to wade to them.
We were marched down in two ranks, one on each side of the boat.
The officer spoke very harshly to us, to "get aboard immediately."
They rowed us down to an armed sloop, commanded by one Cap-
4 The blood stains on the floor of this house were visible up to 1881, as Avery (who died
in 1828) enjoined upon his family not to efface them.
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBTJN, ETC. 23
tain Thomas, as they called him, a refugee Tory, 5 and he lay with
his vessel within the fleet. As soon as we were on board, they hur
ried us down into the hold of the sloop, where were their fires for
cooking, and besides being very hot it was filled with smoke. The
hatch-way was closed tight, so that we were near sufiocating for
want of air to breathe. We begged them to spare our lives, so
they gave us some relief by opening the hatch-way and permitting
us to come upon deck, by two or three at a time, but not without
sentries watching us with gun and bayonet. We were now ex
tremely exhausted and faint for want of food; when after being
on board twenty-four hours, they gave us a mess of hogs brains;
the hogs which they took on Groton banks when they plundered
there. After being on board Thomas s sloop nearly three days,
with nothing to eat or drink that we could swallow, we began to
feel as if a struggle must be made, in some way, to prolong our
existence, which after all our escapes, seemed still to be depend
ing. In such a time, we can know for a reality how strong is the
love of life. In the room where we were confined were a great
many weapons of war, and some of the prisoners whispered that we
might make a prize of the sloop. This in some way was over
heard and got to the officer s ears, and now we were immediately
put in a stronger place in the hold of the vessel; and they ap
peared so enraged that I was almost sure we should share a deci
sive fate, or suffer severely. Soon they commenced calling us,
one by one, on deck. As I went up they seized me, tied my hands
behind me with a strong rope-yarn, and drew it so tight that my
shoulder-bones cracked and almost touched each other. Then a
boat came from a fourteen-gun brig, commanded by one Steele.
Into this boat I was ordered to get, without the use of my hands,
over the sloop s bulwarks, which were all of three feet high, and
5 The Tory part of Arnold s force was a detachment of two organizations a party
of the "American Legion" (commonly known as the Refugees) commanded by Lieut.-
Col. Upham one of the officers, Captain Samuel Wogan, was wounded, and the Third
Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers, Alexander Van Buskirk, commanding.
24 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
then from these I had to fall, or throw myself into the boat. My
distress of body and agitated feelings I cannot describe; and no
relief could be anticipated, but only forebodings of a more severe
fate. A prisoner with an enemy, an enraged and revengeful
enemy, is a place where I pray my reader may never come. They
made us all lie down under the seats on which the men sat to row,
and so we were conveyed to the brig; going on board, we were or
dered to stand in one rank by the gunwale, and in front of us
was placed a spar, within about a foot of each man. Here we
stood, with a sentry to each of us, having orders to shoot or bayo
net us if we attempted to stir out of our place. All this time we
had nothing to eat or drink, and it rained and was very cold. We
were detained in this position about two hours, when we had lib
erty to go about the main deck. Night approached and we had
no supper, nor anything to lie upon but the wet deck. We were
on board this brig about four days, and then were removed on
board a ship commanded by Captain Scott, who was very kind to
the prisoners. He took me onto the quarter deck with him, and ap
peared to have the heart of a man. I should think he was about
sixty years of age. I remained with him until I was exchanged.
Captain Nathaniel Shaw came down to New York with the
American flag, after me and four others who were prisoners with
me, and belonged to Fort Griswold, and who were brave and fine
young men. General Mifflin 6 went with the British flag to meet
this American flag. I sailed with him about twenty miles. He
asked me many questions, all of which I took caution how I an
swered, and gave him no information. I told him I was very sorry
that he should come to destroy so many, many brave men, burn
their property, distress so many families and make such desola
tion. I did not think they could be said to be honorable in so
doing. He said, "We might thank our own countrymen for it."
I told him I had no thanks for him. I then asked the General if
e We have been unable to identify this British officer. (ED.)
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 25
I might ask him a few questions. "As many as you please." I
asked him "how many of the army who made the attack upon New
London and Groton were missing? As you, sir, are the commis
sary of the British army, I suppose you can tell." He replied,
"that by the returns there were two hundred and twenty odd miss
ing, but what had become of them he knew not." We advanced,
and the flags met and I was exchanged and permitted to return
home. Here I close my narrative; for, as I was requested, I have
given a particular and unexaggerated account of that which I
saw with mine own eyes.
Orderly Sergeant under Captain William Latham.
RUFUS AVERY S NARRATIVE
(From the original Ms.)
As I belonged to the garrison at Fort Griswold when Benedict
Arnold s army came to New London and Groton on the sixth of
September, 1781, and made their attack on both places, I had every
opportunity to know all the movements through the day and time
of the battle. I am requested to give a particular account of the
conduct of the enemy. I had charge of the garrison the night be
fore the enemy appeared anywhere near us, or were expected by
anyone at that time to trouble us, but about three o clock in the
morning, as soon as I had daylight so as to see the fleet, it
appeared a short distance below the lighthouse. The fleet con
sisted of thirty-two vessels in number ships, brigs, schooners and
sloops. I immediately sent w r ord to Captain William Latham,
who commanded the said fort and who was not far distant. He
very soon came to the fort and saw the enemy s fleet, and im
mediately sent a notice to Colonel William Ledyard, who was com
mander of the harbor, Fort Griswold and Fort Trumbull. He
soon arrived at the garrison, saw the fleet, then ordered two
large guns to be loaded with heavy charges of good powder. Cap
tain William Latham took charge of one gun that was discharged
at the northeast part of the fort, and I took charge of the gun on
the west side of the fort, so as to give a "larum " to the coun
try in the best manner it could be done. We discharged
then regular "larums." Two guns was the regular "larum," but
the enemy understood that, and they discharged a third gun similar
to ours and timed it alike, which broke our alarm, which discour
aged our troops [from] coming to our assistance. Colonel Wil
liam Ledyard immediately sent out two expresses, one from each
fort, to call on every captain of a militia company of men, to hurry
them to our relief; but not many came to our assistance. Their
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 27
excuse was that they supposed it to be only a false alarm. The
discharge of the third gun by the enemy entirely changed the
alarm. It was customary when a good prize was brought into the
harbor, or on the receipt of any good news, to rejoice by discharg
ing three cannon; and this the enemy understood. They landed
eight hundred officers and men, and some horses and large guns
and (gun) carriages on the beach at Eastern Point, Groton side
of the river, about eight o clock in the morning, and on New Lon
don side of the river below the lighthouse on the beach seven hun-
dren officers and men at the same time. The army on the Groton
side was divided into two divisions, about four hundred in each
division. Colonel Eyre took command of the division southeast of
the fort, about one hundred and thirty rods from the fort, behind
a ledge of rocks. Major Montgomery took command of his divi
sion about one hundred and fifty rods from the fort, behind a
high hill of land. The army on New London side of the river
found better and more accommodating land for marching than
on Groton side, and as soon as they got against Fort Trumbull
they separated into two divisions. One went on to the town of
New London, and plundered and set fire to the shipping and build
ings, and the other division marched directly down to Fort Trum
bull. Captain Shapley, who commanded the fort, saw that he was
likely to be overpowered by the enemy, spiked up the cannon and
embarked on board his boats, which were prepared for him and his
men if wanted ; but the enemy were so quick upon him that before
he and his small company could get out of gunshot in their boats,
a number of his men got badly wounded. Those who were able to
get to Fort Griswold reached there, and most of them were slain.
Colonel Eyre and Major Montgomery had their divisions stationed
about nine o clock in the morning. As soon as they appeared in
sight we hove a number of shot at them, but they would endeavor
to disappear immediately. About ten o clock in the forenoon they
sent their flag to demand of Colonel Ledyard the surrender of the
fort. The party with the flag approached within about forty rods
28 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
of the fort, and we discharged a musketball before them and
brought them to a stand. Colonel Ledyard called a council of war
to take the minds of his fellow-officers and friends as to what was
to be done. They agreed to send a flag to meet theirs, and chose
Captain Elijah A very, Captain Amos Stanton and Captain John
Williams. They immediately met the British flag, and received a
demand to give up the fort to them. Our flag soon returned with
the summons, which was to deliver the fort up to them. Inquiry
was made of the council as to what must be done, and the answer
was sent to the British flag that the fort would not be given up.
Their flag went back to Colonel Eyre s division and soon returned
to within about seventy rods of the fort, when they were again met
by our flag, which brought back to Colonel Ledyard the demand
if they had to take the fort by storm they should put martial law in
force; that is, whom they did not kill with balls should be put to
death with sword and bayonet. Our flag went to the British flag
with Colonel Ledyard s answer that he should not give up the fort
to them, let the consequence be what it might. While the flags
were passing between us we were exchanging shots w r ith the British
at Fort Trumbull, of which they had got possession before the
commencement of the battle at Fort Griswold. We could heave a
shot into Fort Trumbull among the enemy without difficulty, but
they could not raise so high as to come into Fort Griswold. Hav
ing obtained possession of our good powder and shot left by Cap
tain Shapley in the fort, they used it against us. About eleven
o clock in the forenoon the enemy found out what we were deter
mined to do. Both divisions started ; that of Colonel Eyre came on
in solid column. As soon as he got on level ground we were pre
pared to salute them with a gun that took in an eighteen pound
ball, but was then loaded with two bags of grapeshot. Captain
Elias Henry Halsey directed the gun and took aim at the enemy.
He had practiced on board of privateers, and he did his duty well.
I was present with him and others near the gun, and when the shot
struck among the enemy it cleared a wide space in their solid
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 29
column. It was reported on good authority that about twenty men
were killed and wounded by that charge of grapeshot. As soon as
the enemy s column was broken by their loss of officers and men,
they scattered, and trailed their arms and came on with a quick
march and oblique step toward the fort, inclining to the west.
During this time we hove cannon and musket shot among the
enemy. Colonel Eyre s division came up to the south side and west
side of the fort, where he was mortally wounded. 1 Major Montgom
ery, who started with his division at the same time that Eyre did
to come to the fort in solid column, inclined to the north, until they
got east of the redoubt or battery which is east of the fort, when a
large number of them came very quick into the battery. Our
officers threw a heavy charge of grapeshot among them, which de
stroyed a large number. They then started for the fort, a part of
them in platoons, discharging their guns as they advanced, while
some scattering officers and soldiers came round to the east and
north part of the fort. As soon as the enemy got round the fort
one man attempted to open the gate. He lost his life. There was
hard fighting some time before the second man made the trial to
open the gate, which he did. Our little number of one hundred
and fifty-five officers and soldiers, most of whom were volunteers
when the battle began, were soon overpowered. Then there was no
blockhouse on the parade as there is now, and the enemy had every
opportunity to kill and wound almost every man in the fort. When
they had overpowered us and driven us from our stations at the
breastwork of the fort, Colonel William Ledyard seeing what few
officers and men he had left to do any more fighting, they quit
their posts and went on the open parade in the fort, where the
enemy had every opportunity to massacre us, as there was about six
of the enemy to one of us. The enemy mounted the parapet seem
ingly all as one, swung their hats around once, and discharged their
guns, and them they did not kill with ball they meant to kill with
the bayonet. I was on the west side of the fort with Captain Ed-
i A mistake he survived, to die many years later.
30 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
ward Latham and Mr. Christopher Latham on the platform; had
a full sight of the enemy s conduct and within five feet of these two
men. I had at that time a ball and bayonet hole in my coat. As
soon as the enemy discharged their guns they knocked down the
two men before-mentioned with the breech of their guns, and put
their bayonets into them, but did not quite kill them. By this time
Major Montgomery s division, then under the command of Cap
tain Bromfield (the other gates having been unbolted by one of the
men) marched in through the gates and formed a solid column.
At this time I left my station on the west side of the fort and went
across the south part of the parade towards the south end of the
barrack. Colonel William Ledyard was on the parade, marching
towards the enemy under Captain Bromfield, raising and lowering
his sword. He was then about six or eight feet from British officer.
I turned my eyes from Ledyard and stepped up to the door of the
barrack, and saw the enemy discharging their guns through the
windows. I turned myself immediately about, and the enemy had
executed Colonel Ledyard in less time than one minute after I saw
him. The column then continued marching toward the south end
of the parade. I could do no better than to pass across the parade
before the enemy s column, as they discharged the volleys of three
platoons, the fire of which I went through. I believe there was
not less than five or six hundred men of the enemy on the parade
in the fort. They killed and wounded nearly every man in the
fort as quick as they could, which was done in about one minute.
I expected my time to come with the rest. One mad-looking fel
low put his bayonet to my side and swore "by - he would skipper
me." I looked him very earnestly in the face and eyes, and asked
for mercy and to spare my life. He attempted three times to put
the bayonet in me, but I must say I believe God forbade him, for
I was completely in his power, as well as others that was present
with the enemy. The enemy at the same time massacred Lieuten
ant Enoch Stanton within four or five feet of me. A platoon of
about ten men marched up near where I stood, where two large
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 31
outer doors to the magazine made a space wide enough for ten
men to stand in one rank. They discharged their guns into the
magazine among the dead and wounded and some well ones, and
some they killed and wounded. That platoon fell back and an
other platoon came forward to discharge their guns into the outer
part of the magazine where the others did. As they made ready to
fire Captain Bromfield came suddenly round the corner of the
magazine, and very quickly raised his sword, exclaiming "stop
firing! You ll send us all to hell together." (Their language
was bad as well as their conduct; I was near him when he spoke.)
Bromfield knew, there must be, of course, much powder scattered
about the magazine and a great quantity deposited there; but I
expect the reason it did not take fire was that there was so much
human blood to put it out. They did not bayonet many after they
ceased firing their guns. I was amongst them all the time, and
they very soon left off killing, and then went stripping and rob
bing the dead and wounded, and also those that were not wounded.
They then ordered each one of us to march out to the northeast
part of the parade, and them that could not go themselves from
their wounds, were to be helped by those that were well. Mr.
Samuel Edgcomb, Jr., and myself were ordered to take Ensign
Charles Eldredge out of the magazine. He was a very large,
heavy man, who had been shot in the knee joint. We poor pris
oners were taken out on the parade about two rods from the gate
of the fort, and every man ordered to sit down immediately and
if not obeyed at once the bayonet was to be put into him. The
battle was then finished, which was about one o clock in the after
noon; the enemy began to take care of their dead and wounded.
The first thing they did was to take off six of the outer doors of
the barrack, and with four men to a door would bring in one man
at a time on each door. There were twenty-four men at work
about two hours, as fast as they could walk and deposit them on
the west side of the parade in the fort, where it was the most com
fortable place they could find, while we poor prisoners were put in
32 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
the most uncomfortable spot on the parade in the fort, where the
sun shone down so very warm on us that it made us feel more un
happy. Some of the wounded men lay dying. Captain Youngs
Ledyard and Captain Nathan Moore were among the number. I
sat on the ground with the other prisoners and these two fine men
lay on the ground by me, Ledyard s head on one thigh and Moore s
head on the other. They both died that night. While I was
with them they had their reason, and requested water for their
thirst. I asked of the enemy water for my brother prisoners to
drink, as well as for myself. They granted my request. The
well was within two rods of us. I watched them when they brought
the water to me for us to drink, to see that they did not put any
thing in it to poison us ; for they had repeatedly said that we must
all die before the sun went down, because that was in the summons
sent to Colonel William Ledyard, that those who were not killed
by the musket ball should die by the sword and bayonet. But
happy for us that was alive they did not offer to hurt any one man,
and they said that was a falsehood. They kept us on the ground
in the garrison about two hours after the battle was over, and then
ordered every man that was able to walk, rise up immediately.
Sentries with loaded guns and fixed bayonets were placed around
us, with orders to shoot or bayonet anyone that did not obey the
officer. I was obliged to leave two dying men that were resting
on me as they lay on the ground beside me. We marched down
on the bank by the river so as to be ready to embark to go on
board the British fleet. Then, about thirty of us, every man was
ordered to sit down, and as at other times was surrounded by
sentries. Captain Bromfield came and took the names of the
wounded who were able to march down with us. I sat where I
had a fair view of the enemy s conduct. The sun was about half
an hour high, and they were setting fire to the buildings and bring
ing down plunder by us as we were placed at the lower part of the
village. At the same time a large number of the enemy between
us and the fort were getting ready to quit the ground. They
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 33
loaded up our very large, heavy ammunition wagon that belonged
to the fort with the wounded men who could not go themselves,
and about twenty of the soldiers drew it out of the fort and
brought it to the brow of the hill on which the fort stood, which
was very steep and about thirty rods distance. As soon as the
enemy began to move the wagon down the hill, they began to put
themselves in a position to hold it back with all their power. They
found it too much for them to do; they released their hold on the
wagon as quick as possible to prevent being run over by the wagon
themselves, leaving it to run down the hill with great speed. It
ran about twelve rods to a large apple-tree stump, and both shafts
of the wagon struck very hard and hurt the wounded men very
much. A great number of the enemy were near where the
wagons stopped, and they immediately ran to the wagon and
brought that and the wounded men by where we prisoners were
sitting on the ground, and deposited them in the house nearby,
that belonged to Ensign Ebenezer Avery, who was one that was
in the wagon when it started down the hill. Some of the enemy
had set fire to the house before the wounded prisoners were placed
in it, but the fire was put out by some of the others. Captain
Bromfield paroled the wounded men who were left, and took
Ebenezer Ledward, Esq., as a hostage for them left on parole, to
see them forthcoming if called for. By this time the enemy s
boats came up to the shore near where we prisoners were. The
officers spoke with a doleful sound: "Come you rebels, go on board
the boats." That touched my feelings more than anything that
passed for the day. I realized that I should have to leave my dear
wife and my good neighbors and friends, and also my native land,
and suffer with cold and hunger, as I was in the power of a cruel
foe or enemy ; but I was still in the hands of a higher Power, which
was a great consolation to me, for I am sensible that God has pre
served my life through many hardships, and when in danger of
losing my life many times in the wars, etc. When we prisoners
had marched down to the shore, the boats that were to receive us
34 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
were kept off where the water was about knee deep, and we were
marched down in two ranks, one on each side of the boat. The
officer that had the command very harshly ordered us to "get on
board immediately." There were about twelve prisoners in a boat.
They rowed us down to an armed sloop commanded by one Cap
tain Thomas as they called him, a refugee Tory, who lay with his
vessel within the fleet. As soon as they put us on board the sloop
they sent us down in the hold of the vessel, where they had a fire
for cooking which made it very hot and smoky. They stopped up
the hatchway, making it so close that we had no air to breathe.
We begged that they would spare our lives, and they gave us some
relief by opening the hatchway and letting one or two of us come
on deck at a time during the night, but with sentries with guns and
bayonets to watch us. They did not give us anything to eat or
drink for about twenty-four hours, and then only a mess made of
hog s brains that they caught on Groton bank, with other plunder.
While we were on board Thomas sloop we had nothing to eat or
drink that we could hardly swallow. This continued about three
days. There were a number of weapons of war where we were
placed in the vessel, and some of the prisoners whispered together
that there was an opportunity to make a prize of the sloop. This
somehow got to the officers ears, and they immediately shut us all
down in the hold of the vessel. I felt very certain that we would
have to suffer, for they seemed so enraged that they appeared to
have an intention to massacre us all. They soon got ready, and
began to call us upon deck one by one. As I came up they tied
my hands behind me with strong rope yarns, binding them to
gether; and winding the rope yarn so hard as to nearly bring my
shoulder blades to touch each other. Then they had a boat come
from a f ourteen-gun brig commanded by a Captain Steel, by name
and nature. I was ordered to get over the side of the sloop with
out the use of my hands, the bulwarks above the deck being all
of three feet in height, and then I had to fall into the boat that
was to carry us to the brig and was made to lay down under the
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 35
seats on which the rowers sat, as though we were brutes about to
be slaughtered. After we were put on board the brig we were
ordered to stand in one rank beside the gunwale of the vessel, and
a spar w r as placed before us leaving about one foot space for each
man to stand in, with a sentry to nearly every man, with orders
to bayonet or shoot anyone that offered to move. They kept us in
that situation about two hours in the rain and cold, with very thin
clothing upon us, and then gave us liberty to go about the main
deck, and were obliged to lie on the wet deck without anything to
eat or drink for supper. We were on board the brig about four
days, and then put on board a ship commanded by Captain Scott,
who appeared very friendly to we prisoners. He took me on
the quarter deck with him. He was apparently about sixty
years of age, and I remained with him until I was exchanged.
Captain Nathaniel Shaw came down to New York with the
American flag [of truce] after me and four young men that
were made prisoners with me that belonged to the garrison
at Fort Griswold, and during the time of the battle behaved
like good soldiers. General Mifflin 1 came with the British flag to
meet the American flag. I sailed with him about twenty miles in
the flag-boat. 2 He asked me some questions, but I gave him little
or no information, and told him I was very sorry that they came
to destroy so many good men and cause so much distress to fami
lies and desolation in the community, by burning so much valuable
property; and further, that I did not believe they would gain any
honor by it. He replied we might thank our own countrymen for
it. I told him I should not. I then turned to the General and
said: "Will you answer me a few questions?" "As many as you
please, Sir," was his reply. I made many inquiries, and asked
1 No such name appears in the British army lists.
2 The mention by Avery of " sailing twenty miles in the flag-boat " probably refers to
the incident noted in the Connecticut Gazette of September 01, 1781:
"Monday ... a flag sailed from hence with five of Arnold s burning party that
were taken prisoners here; the flag overtook the fleet at Whitestone, and returned here
last Sunday with five lads that were taken at Fort Griswold. *
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
him how many of the enemy was missing that were engaged in
the attack on Groton and New London, remarking: " Sir, I ex
pect you can tell, as you are the Commissary of the British army."
He said, "I find in the returns that there were two hundred and
twenty odd missing, but I don t know what became of them."
Here I conclude the foregoing particular account from my own
personal knowledge of the British attack and capture of Fort
Griswold, and their brutal conduct at New London and Groton,
and also of their barbarous treatment of the prisoners who fell into
their hands. RuFUS AVERY>
Orderly-Sergeant, under Captain William Latham, who com
manded the Matross Company at Fort Griswold, Sept. 6, 1781.
KILLED AND MORTALLY WOUNDED OF GROTON
Lieut.- Col. William Ledyard
John P. Babcock
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
Luke Perkins, Jr.
Thomas Starr, Jr.
1 Solomon Tift
OF NEW LONDON
William Bolton Eliaday Jones
Jonathan Butler Peter Richards
Richard Chapman Daniel Williams (15 years old)
John Clark John Whittelsey
James Comstock (75 years old) Stephen Whittelsey
OF LONG ISLAND
(Probably the same man Elias Henry Halsey.)
Jordan Freeman Lambo Latham (not "Sambo")
61 British were buried at Groton.
NARRATIVE OF STEPHEN HEMPSTEAD
THE author of the following narrative of events entered the
service of his country in 1775, and arrived in Boston on
the day of the battle of Bunker Hill. He was at Dor
chester Point, was on Long Island at the time of the retreat of the
American army arid was also a volunteer in the fire ships that
were sent to destroy the Asia, eighty-four-gun ship, and a frigate
lying above Fort Washington. In this attempt they were unsuc
cessful, although grappled to the enemy s vessel twenty minutes.
For the bravery displayed by them they received the particular
thanks of the commanding officer, in person and in general orders,
and forty dollars were ordered to be paid to each person engaged.
He was afterwards wounded by a grapeshot while defending the
lines at Harlem Heights, which broke two of his ribs. He con
tinued in the service, and was again wounded on the 6th of Sep
tember, 1781. He is now more than seventy-six years of age.
He formerly resided in New London. He enjoyed the reception
of General Lafayette in that place during his last visit to this
country, and has within a few years written this account in full,
On the morning of the 6th of September, 1781, twenty-four
sail of the enemy s shipping appeared to the westward of New
London harbor. The enemy landed in two divisions, of about eight
hundred men each, commanded by that infamous traitor to his
country, Benedict Arnold, who headed the division that landed on
the New London side, near Brown s farms; the other division,
commanded by Colonel Ayres, 1 landed on Groton Point, nearly
opposite. I was first sergeant of Captain Adam Shapley s com
pany of State troops, and was stationed with him at the time, with
about twenty-three men, at Fort Trumbull, on the New London
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 39
side. This was a mere breastwork or water battery, open from
behind, and the enemy coming on us from that quarter we spiked
our cannon, and commenced a retreat across the river to Fort
Griswold in three boats. The enemy was so near that they over
shot us with their muskets, and succeeded in capturing one boat
with six men commanded by Josiah Smith, a private. They after
wards proceeded to New London and burnt the town. We were
received by the garrison with enthusiasm, being considered experi
enced artillerists whom they much needed ; and we were immediately
assigned to our stations. The fort was an oblong square, with bas
tions at opposite angles, its longest side fronting the river in a
N. W. and S. E. direction. Its walls were of stone, and were
ten or twelve feet high on the lower side and surrounded by a
ditch. On the wall were pickets, projecting over twelve feet;
above this was a parapet with embrasures, and within a platform
for the cannon, and a step to mount upon, to shoot over the para
pet with small arms. In the S. W. bastion was a flagstaff, and
in the side near the opposite angle was the gate, in front of which
was a triangular breastwork to protect the gate; and to the right
of this was a redoubt, with a three-pounder in it, which was about
one hundred and twenty yards from the gate. Between the fort
and the river was another battery, with a covered way, but which
could not be used in this attack, as the enemy appeared in a dif
ferent quarter. The garrison, with the volunteers, consisted of
about one hundred and sixty men. Soon after our arrival the
enemy appeared in force in some woods about half a mile S. E.
of the fort, from whence they sent a flag of truce, which was
met by Captain Shapley, demanding an unconditional surrender,
threatening at the same time, to storm the fort instantly, if the
terms were not accepted. A council of war was held, and it
was the unanimous voice that the garrison were unable to defend
themselves against so superior a force. But a militia Colonel who
was then in the fort and had a body of men in the immediate
vicinity, said he would reinforce them with two or three hundred
40 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
men in fifteen minutes, if they would hold out; Colonel Ledyard
agreed to send back a defiance, upon the most solemn assurance
of immediate succour. For this purpose, Colonel - started,
his men being then in sight; but he was no more seen, nor did he
even attempt a diversion in our favor. When the answer to
their demand had been returned by Captain Shapley, the enemy
were soon in motion and marched with great rapidity, in a solid
column, to within a short distance of the fort, where dividing the
column, they rushed furiously and simultaneously to the assault
of the S. W. bastion and the opposite sides. They were, how
ever, repulsed with great slaughter, their commander mortally
wounded, and Major Montgomery, next in rank, killed, having
been thrust through the body whilst in the act of scaling the walls
at the S. W. bastion, by Captain Shapley. The command then
devolved on Colonel Beckwith, 1 a refugee from New Jersey, who
commanded a corps of that description. The enemy rallied and
returned the attack with great vigor, but were received and re
pulsed with equal firmness. During the attack a shot cut the hal
yards of the flag and it fell to the ground, but was instantly re
mounted on a pike pole. This accident proved fatal to us, as the
enemy supposed it had been struck by its defenders, rallied again,
and rushing with redoubled impetuosity carried the S. W. bastion
by storm. Until this moment, our loss was trifling in number,
being six or seven killed and eighteen or twenty wounded. Never
was a post more bravely defended, nor a garrison more barba
rously butchered. We fought with all kinds of weapons and at
all places, with a courage that deserved a better fate. Many of
the enemy were killed under the walls by throwing simple shot
over on them, and never would we have relinquished our arms had
we had the least idea that such a catastrophe would have followed.
To describe this scene I must be permitted to go back a little in
my narrative. I commanded an eighteen-pounder on the south
side of the gate, and while in the act of sighting my gun a ball
i A mistake. Beckwith was a British officer. He may have meant Van Buskirk.
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 41
passed through the embrasure, struck me a little above the right
ear, grazing the skull and cutting off the veins, which bled pro
fusely. A handkerchief was tied around it and I continued at
my duty. Discovering some little time after, that a British sol
dier had broken a picket at the bastion on my left, and was forc
ing himself through the hole, whilst the men stationed there were
gazing at the battle which raged opposite to them, I cried, "My
brave fellows, the enemy are breaking in behind you," and raised
my pike to despatch the intruder, when a ball struck my left arm
at the elbow and my pike fell to the ground. Nevertheless I
grasped it with my right hand, and with the men, who turned and
fought manfully, cleared the breach. The enemy, however, soon
after forced the S. W. bastion, where Captain Shapley, Captain
Peter Richards, Lieutenant Richard Chapman and several other
men of distinction, and volunteers, had fought with unconquer
able courage, and were all either killed or mortally wounded, and
which had sustained the brunt of every attack.
Captain P. Richards, Lieutenant Chapman and several others
were killed in the bastion; Captain Shapley and others wounded.
He died of his wounds in January following.
Colonel Ledyard, seeing the enemy within the fort, gave orders
to cease firing, and to throw down our arms, as the fort had sur
rendered. We did so, but they continued firing upon us, crossed
the fort and opened the gate, when they marched in, firing in pla
toons upon those who were retreating to the magazine and bar
rack rooms for safety. At this moment the renegade Colonel
Bromfield 1 commanding, cried out, "Who commands this garri
son?" Colonel Ledyard, who was standing near me, answered,
"I did, sir, but you do now," at the same time stepping forward,
handed him his sword with the point towards himself. At this
instant I perceived a soldier in the act of bayoneting me from be
hind. I turned suddenly round and grasped his bayonet, endeav-
iBloomfield or Bromfield.
42 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
oring to unship it, and knock off the thrust but in vain. I having
but one hand, he succeeded in forcing it into my right hip, above
the joint and just below the abdomen, and crushed me to the
ground. The first person I saw afterwards was my brave com
mander a corpse by my side, having been run through the body
with his own sword by the savage renegade. Never was a scene of
more brutal, wanton carnage witnessed, than now took place.
The enemy were still firing upon us in platoons and in the barrack
rooms, which were continued for some minutes, when they discov
ered they were in danger of being blown up, by communicating
fire to the powder scattered at the mouth of the magazine, while
delivering out cartridges; nor did it then cease in the rooms for
some minutes longer. All this time the bayonet was "freely used,"
even on those who were helplessly wounded and in the agonies of
death. I recollect Captain William Seymour, a volunteer from
Hartford, had thirteen bayonet w r ounds, although his knee had
previously been shattered by a ball, so much so that it was obliged
to be amputated the next day. But I need not mention particular
cases. I have already said that we had six killed and eighteen
wounded previous to their storming our lines; eighty-five were
killed in all, thirty-five mortally and dangerously wounded, and
forty taken prisoners to New York, most of them slightly hurt.
After the massacre they plundered us of everything we had,
and left us literally naked. When they commenced gathering us
up together with their own wounded, they put theirs under the
shade of the platform and exposed us to the sun in front of the
barracks, where we remained over an hour. Those that could
stand were then paraded and ordered to the landing, while those
that could not (of which number I was one), were put in one of
our ammunition wagons, and taken to the brow of the hill (which
was very steep, and at least one hundred rods in descent,) from
whence it was permitted * to run down by itself, but was arrested in
i This does not agree with Avery s story.
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 43
its course, near the river, by an apple tree. The pain and anguish
we all endured in this rapid descent as the wagon jumped and jos
tled over rocks and holes is inconceivable; and the jar in its arrest
was like bursting the cords of life asunder, and caused us to shriek
with almost supernatural force. Our cries were distinctly heard
and noticed on the opposite side of the river (which is a mile wide) ,
amidst all the confusion which raged in burning and sacking the
town. We remained in the wagon more than an hour, before our
humane conquerors hunted us up, when we were again paraded
and laid on the beach, preparatory to embarkation. But by the
interposition of Ebenezer Ledyard (brother to Colonel L.), who
humanely represented our deplorable situation, and the impos
sibility of our being able to reach New York, thirty-five of us were
paroled in the usual form. Being near the house of Ebenezer
Avery, who was also one of our number, we were taken into it.
Here we had not long remained before a marauding party set fire
to every room, evidently intending to burn us up with the house.
The party soon left it, when it was with difficulty extinguished
and we were thus saved from the flames. Ebenezer Ledyard
again interfered and obtained a sentinel to remain and guard. us
until the last of the enemy embarked, about eleven o clock at night.
None of our own people came to us till near daylight the next
morning, not knowing previous to that time that the enemy had
Such a night of distress and anguish was scarcely ever passed
by mortal. Thirty-five of us were lying on the bare floor stiff,
mangled and wounded in every manner, exhausted with pain,
fatigue and loss of blood, without clothes or anything to cover us,
trembling with cold and spasms of extreme anguish, without fire
or light, parched with excruciating thirst, not a wound dressed nor
a soul to administer to one of our wants, nor an assisting hand
to turn us during these long tedious hours of the night; nothing
but groans and unavailing sighs were heard, and two of our num-
44 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
her did not live to see the light of morning, which brought with it
some ministering angels to our relief. The first was in the person
of Miss Fanny Ledyard, of Southold, L. I., then on a visit to her
uncle, our murdered commander, who held to my lips a cup of
warm chocolate, and soon after returned with wine and other re
freshments, which revived us a little. For these kindnesses she
has never ceased to receive my most grateful thanks and fervent
prayers for her felicity.
The cruelty of our enemy cannot be conceived, and our renegade
countrymen surpassed in this respect, if possible, our British foes.
We were at least an hour after the battle, within a few steps of a
pump in the garrison, well supplied with water, and, although we
were suffering with thirst they would not permit us to take one
drop of it, nor give us any themselves. Some of our number,
who were not disabled from going to the pump, were repulsed
with the bayonet, and not one drop did I taste after the action
commenced, although begging for it after I was wounded of all
who came near me, until relieved by Miss Ledyard. We were a
horrible sight at this time. Our own friends did not know us
even my own wife came in the room in search of me and did not
recognize me, and as I did not see her, she left the room to seek
for me among the slain, who had been collected under a large elm
tree near the house. It was with the utmost difficulty that many
of them could be identified, and we were frequently called upon
to assist their friends in distinguishing them, by remembering par
ticular wounds, &c. Being myself taken out by two men for this
purpose I met my wife and brother, who after my wounds were
dressed by Dr. Downer, from Preston, took me not to my own
home, for that was in ashes, as also every article of my property,
furniture and clothing but to my brother s, 1 where I lay eleven
months as helpless as a child, and to this day feel the effects of it
i The Hempstead house was one of the very few spared by the British, it is said be
cause finding dinner on the table, they sat down to eat.
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 45
Such was the battle of Groton Heights; and such, as far as my
imperfect manner and language can describe, a part of the suffer
ings which we endured. Never for a moment have I regretted
the share I had in it; I would for an equal degree of honour, and
the prosperity which has resulted to my country from the Revolu
tion, be willing, if possible, to suffer it again.
NAMES OF THE HEROES WHO FELL AT FORT
SEPTEMBER 6TH, 1781.
Colonel William Ledyard, Groton.
David Avery, Esq., do.
Captain John Williams, do.
Captain Simeon Allyn, do.
Captain Samuel Allyn, do.
Captain Elisha Avery, do.
Captain Amos Stanton, do.
Captain Elijah Avery, do.
Captain Hubbard Burrows, do.
Captain Youngs Ledyard, do.
Captain Nathan More, do.
Captain Joseph Lewis, do.
Lieutenant Ebenezer Avery, do.
Lieutenant Henry Williams, do.
Lieutenant Patrick Ward, do.
Lieutenant John Lester, do.
Ensign Daniel Avery, do.
Sergeant John Stedman, do.
Sergeant Solomon Avery, do.
Sergeant Jasper Avery, do.
Sergeant Ezekiel Bailey, do.
Sergeant Rufus Hurlburt, do.
Sergeant Christopher Avery, do.
46 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
Sergeant Eldridge Chester, Groton.
Sergeant Nicholas Starr, do.
Corporal Edward Mills, do.
Corporal Luke Perkins, Jr., do.
Corporal Andrew Billings, do.
Corporal Simeon Morgan, do.
Corporal Nathan Sholes, do.
Daniel Chester, do.
Thomas Avery, do.
David Palmer, do.
Sylvester Walworth, do.
Philip Covel, do.
Jedediah Chester, do.
David Seabury, do.
Henry Woodbridge, do.
Christopher Woodbridge, do.
Elnathan Perkins, do.
Luke Perkins, do.
Elisha Perkins, do.
John Brown, do.
John P. Babcock, do.
Nathaniel Adams, do.
Waite Lester, do.
Samuel Hill, do.
Joseph Moxley, do.
Thomas Starr, Jr., do.
Moses Jones, do.
Belton Allyn, do.
Benjamin Allyn, do.
Jonas Lester, do.
Thomas Miner, do.
Andrew Baker, do.
Joseph Wiger, do.
Samuel Billings, do.
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 47
Eli Jones, Groton.
Thomas Lamb, do.
Frederick Chester, do.
Daniel Davis, do.
Daniel D. Lester, do.
Captain Adam Shapley, New London.
Captain Peter Richards, do.
Benoni Kenson, do.
James Comstock, do.
Richard Chapman, do.
John Holt, do.
John Clarke, do.
Jonathan Butler, do.
John Whittelsey, do.
Stephen Whittelsey, do.
William Bolton, do.
William Comstock, do.
Elias Coit, do.
Barney Kinney, do.
Captain Elias Henry Halsey, Long Island.
Lieutenant Enoch Stanton, Stonington.
Sergeant Daniel Stanton, do.
Thomas Williams, do.
Lamb Latham, (Colored).
Jordan Freeman, do.
NAMES OF THE WOUNDED, PAROLED AND LEFT AT HOME
BY CAPTAIN BLOOMFIELD.
Captain William Latham, wounded in the thigh, Groton.
Captain Solomon Perkins, in the face, do.
Captain Edward Latham, in the body, do.
Lieutenant P. Avery, lost an eye, do.
Lieutenant Obadiah Perkins, in the breast, do.
48 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
Lieutenant William Starr, in the breast, Groton,
Ensign Charles Eldridge, in the knee, do.
Ensign Joseph Woodmaney, lost an eye, do.
Ensign Ebenezer Avery, in the head, do.
John Morgan, shot through the knee, do.
Sanford Williams, shot in the body, do.
John Daboll, shot in the head, do.
Samuel Edgecomb, Jr., in the hand, do.
Jabish Pendleton, in the hand, do.
Asahel Woodworth, in the neck, do.
Thomas Woodworth, in the leg, do.
Ebenezer Perkins, in the face, do.
Daniel Eldridge, in the neck and face, do.
Christopher Latham, in the body, do.
Christopher Eldridge, in the face, do.
Amos Avery, in the hand, do.
T. Woodworth, in the knee, do.
Frederick Wave, 1 in the body, do.
Elisha Prior, in the arm, do.
Sergeant Daniel Stanton, in the body, Stonington,
Corporal - - Judd, shot in the knee, Hebron.
William Seymour, lost his leg, Hartford.
i This should undoubtedly be Moore.
DESERTION OF BENEDICT ARNOLD FROM WEST POINT
BENEDICT ARNOLD, it is well known, was a native of
Connecticut, and, by his knowledge of the situation of this
seaport and fortress was capable of conducting the Brit
ish up to its shores, which, it is probable they would not have haz
arded had they not had a good pilot.
It may be instructing to those in a distant part of the country,
into whose hands these pages may fall, to observe, that New Lon
don is one of the best seaports in Connecticut, with a most excel
lent harbor, being but about three miles up the mouth of the
Thames, which falls into Long Island Sound, which has a broad
communication with the ocean. The Thames is a water commu
nication between New London and Norwich fourteen miles north.
It flows in a valley between the two elevated portions of land,
New London on its west side, and Groton on its east. The land
on the east of this stream rises to a sublime elevation, command
ing a fair view of nearly the whole sound; on this hill stood the
Fort Griswold of which our narrative describes the capture; and
on its site is now erected a splendid monument, inscribed with
the names of the brave heroes, who gave their lives to save their
The following particulars of Arnold s escape from the demands
of justice, and the manner in which he effected his desertion, were
obtained from an eye witness, and serve still further to explain
the whole transaction.
Mr. Ebenezer Chase was a private in the New Hampshire mili
tia, which relieved the line of Pennsylvania, at West Point in
1780, when those troops were veteran and were needed elsewhere.
Mr. Chase, with several others, being off duty, was on the shore
50 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
of the Hudson when Arnold deserted. When General Washing
ton assigned the command of West Point to Arnold, he left the
barge in his possession. A temporary hut was erected on the east
shore, for accommodation of the four oarsmen who managed the
barge. On the morning of his desertion, Arnold rode down from
his headquarters, to the shore, very fast, threw the reins to his at
tendant, and ordered the barge to be manned. He directed his
course towards the Point; but, on reaching the middle of the
river, the boat was observed to take a different direction and
move dow r n the stream with great rapidity. The explanation was
afterwards thus made by the barge men. "He hoisted a flag of
truce, and told them to pull for the Vulture (British sloop of
war) , saying he had business with the captain. He promised
them if they would row him down to the Vulture w r ith speed, he
would give each of them a guinea and a gallon of rum. On near-
ing the sloop, and being within range of her guns, he opened his
plan to them, saying, "I have served the ungrateful scoundrels
long enough;" and declaring if they would go with him, they
should have double pay, and they should be made officers in the
British service." One of them replied that "he did not understand
fighting on both sides."
"Then," said Arnold, "you are prisoners!" Arnold ascended
the deck and was received by the marines with presented arms;
he then ordered his men to come on board, as prisoners of war.
One of them said, "It was a shabby trick, as they had toiled so
hard to get along, now to refuse the promised reward, and make
them prisoners." The English Captain heard this, and stepping
forward, observed, "General Arnold, I command this vessel, and
while I walk this quarterdeck, no such mean transaction shall take
place here." Then addressing the boatmen continued, "My good
fellows, I respect your principles of honor, and fidelity to your
country, although you are enemies to your King; you shall have
the liberty to go or stay as you choose." Here (taking from his
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 51
purse the money), "are your promised guineas; steward, put up
four gallons of rum for these men." The boatmen thanked the
gallant sailor, for his generosity and justice, and returned in
safety to headquarters, and reported the proceedings to General
Washington, who had just returned to camp. Arnold, during
the conversation on board, retired to the cabin enraged and cha
This statement was made by Chase about a fortnight before his
death, in 1831. He also stated that he saw the unfortunate
Andre going to execution. The cause of Arnold s desertion was
that the poor deluded Major Andre was taken; information being
sent him by the person himself. Arnold manifested an inveterate
hatred of his country, as his succeeding conduct evidently exhib
ited, till the close of hostilities. After the war, he went to
England, where he was despised, and died chagrined and
wretched. It is related, that the unfeeling wretch called on the
widowed mother and sister of his unfortunate victim (Andre) an
nouncing his name to the servant: but they returned answer that
"they had no desire to see him."
ANECDOTE OF MRS. BAILEY
IT will be interesting to the reader to hear that there still lives,
on Groton banks, the zealous old lady who gave her flannel
petticoat, in the emergency of the capture of the fort. She
is a real heroine of the "old school," and at this advanced age, re
hearses that event with all the enthusiasm of youth. She is much
interested in all the subjects which agitate the political world, and
possesses considerable correct information. She is visited by the
great, and indulges their curiosity by telling the oft-repeated tale,
\vhich she does with a pathos, that excites admiration. And so
novel is the fact, though recorded on historic page, that many re
quest her to relate it that they may have to say, "I have seen Mrs.
Bailey 1 who gave the petticoat." She says, "In the heat of ac
tion there came a soldier, rushing into my apartment, saying for
God s sake give us some flannel for cartridges! "I will," said
I. "Here is a blanket, tis all I have," but that moment recol
lecting her garment, she hastily unpinned the same, and handed it
to the man, "who flew to his post," &c. Thus she has immortal
ized her name, as a zealous lover of her country.
i The local Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which has Fort Gris-
wold in its care is named the ANNA WARNER BAILEY Chapter.
For a portrait of Mrs. Bailey, who died in 1851 at the age of 92, see Lossing s Field-
Book of the Revolution. (Eo.)
EULOGY ON GENERAL WASHINGTON
WASHINGTON, whose immortal name stands re
corded on the historic page, first and greatest of men,
and who led the American forces through the eight
years most trying struggle, now lies mouldering with the dust of
Mount Vernon; and his choice spirit is with God. We think there
could never be combined in one man, so many excellent and supe
rior qualities as signalized our venerated Commander-in-Chief,
a great hero, a most wise and judicious counsellor in war and in
peace, a pleasant friend and neighbor in his domestic retreat,
a Christian, possessed of the finest feelings of humanity and
mercy. Washington was a man of prayer. Often, during the
war, and particularly when preparing for an attack, he was seen
by his Aids and attendants to retire and pray; imploring the as
sistance and direction of the God of Justice, and His omnipotent
arm of defence against oppression.
His peculiar humanity and sympathy, appeared in the case of
the unfortunate Andre. He deeply regretted the necessity of
putting to death that fine officer in the flower of his days; and,
too, w r hen he was not the malicious instigator, but only the agent
for another s crime. It is related that Washington often sent
him a meal from his own table while he lay in prison; and at his
melancholy execution, where thousands flocked for curiosity and
to gaze unfeelingly on that appalling spectacle of human woe, the
benevolent, the noble-hearted Washington, and his guards w r ould
not appear. General Washington s name and virtues ought to
be enshrined in the hearts of his countrymen, as the rolling ocean
of time will soon eradicate from Mount Vernon and from earth,
the last of his family; for he had no descendants. He married
a Mrs. Custis, a widow, and bequeathed the most of his estate to
his nephew, Colonel Bushrod Washington.
But we are led to believe that all the virtues which constituted
a George Washington, died not with him. No, our country has
54 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
now on the stage of political action, the veteran heart, the judicious
mind and ardent lover of freedom and independence. And in
case of an invasion of a foreign foe, it would be found that the
sons inherited the blood of their fathers, and that Bunker Hill,
and Groton, and New London s ashes were not forgotten.
Hail to the land whereon we tread,
Our fondest boast;
The sepulchre of mighty dead,
The truest hearts that ever bled,
Who sleep on glory s bed,
A fearless host.
Let foreign navies hasten o er,
And on our heads their fury pour,
And peal their cannon s loudest roar,
And storm our land;
They still shall find our lives are given,
To die for Home!
Advance, now, ye future generations! We would hail you, as
you rise in your long succession to fill the places which we now
fill, and to taste the blessings of freedom and independence, which
we now are passing through. We bid you welcome to this pleas
ant, but dear-bought land of your fathers. We bid you welcome
to the healthful skies and verdant fields of New England. Wel
come to the benevolent and very hospitable hearts and homes, of
the pleasant villages of New London and Groton. View, and
read on the recently erected monuments the names of those who
bled for your safety; and let the recollection of the scenes sketched
in the preceding pages, aid your sympathetic reflections. The
soil is respread with the pleasant verdure of many peaceful years;
the gore is absorbed in the earth, and the placid and beautiful
Thames, which was disturbed with the rushing of a host of ene
mies and stained with the life-drops of the slain, now rolls onward
in peace, to its home in the ocean. So have passed away the pre
ceding generations, till 1841 finds but few remaining who can
say, they saw the battle of 76, or of 81.
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 55
Let us cherish sentiments of humanity and universal philan
thropy, and detest war, for the sake of extending power or of
enlarging our territories beyond the limits of justice and right;
but prove our attachment to the cause of good government, and
civil and religious liberty, by unwearied efforts in defence of our
country and a strict adherence to our invaluable Constitution: re
membering the motto of our esteemed Washington, "United we
stand, divided we fall."
War and peace contrasted, must fix on the hearts of persons of
sensibility, an abhorrence and heart-sickening dread of the for
mer, and a love for the latter. Our hearts recoil at the recital of
the foregoing slaughter, of but a few short hours; what, then
must have been the sanguinary view of the numerous battles, dur
ing eight years hostilities, including the dreadful carnage at Lex
ington, the struggle at Yorktown; and at Bunker Hill! On
that once fair rising ground, where the turf looks blackened by
fire, yesterday stood a noble mansion; the owner had said in his
heart, "Here will I spend the evening of my days, and enjoy the
fruits of my labor: my name shall descend with my inheritance,
and my children s children shall sport under the trees that I have
planted!" But alas! the devastation of an enemy has swept away
in a moment, the toil of years; wasted, not enjoyed: and if he es
cape with his life, the remaining years of his age are desolate; but
far more severe the affliction caused by the shrieks of woe, the cries
of anguish, resounding from the roadside, or some miserable shel
ter, of a dying wife and helpless babes imploring protection!
The soothing rites of burial are denied, and human limbs are
trodden into the earth by human feet! Such a scene set before
our minds, is an unpleasant picture; what then, is the reality?
May Heaven preserve us from knowing by experience; and long
may America be in reality, the "Land of the Free" justice be
dispensed to all; law sit steady on her throne, and the sword be
but her servant.
56 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
THE FEMALE WHIG OF 76
Composed by Rosanna Sizer, at the age of sixteen years; at the time Danbury was
burnt, at the commencement of the Revolutionary War.
King George the Great Tyrant, as we understand,
Sends over his troops to conquer this land;
But our men are resolved to die in the cause,
Before they submit to be under his laws.
Our brave Liberty men, who stand for their right,
Most honorably they do go forth to fight;
But they are afraid when they are all gone,
There will be no/ie left to raise them bread-corn.
Though they go to war they need not for to fear,
We ll do as much work as though they were here;
For to carry on business, I ll now tell you how,
We women must go out and follow the plough.
We ll plough up the ground and the seed we will sow,
And when it is time then the grass we will mow,
And since that the men are obliged to be gone,
The girls must go out to hoeing the corn.
We will pull all the flax as soon as twill do,
For there is need enough of it, there is such a crew
That they are almost naked for the want of clothes,
And there is none to be bought as we suppose.
And when at the time of our harvest comes on,
Then into the fields to reaping we ll run;
We ll reap all the grain and will pick all the corn,
And never give out till our work is all done.
When we have got in the grain then we ll thrash out
And then make some bread for our soldiers to eat;
And since there is not much rum in the land,
We will have some good cider all ready at hand.
Then we ll go to spinning and spin up the flax,
And make soldiers shirts for to put on their backs;
We ll spin all the wool as fast as we can,
And makes coats and blankets for every man.
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 57
Now there is a number of Tories that dwell all around,
A parcel of villains in every town,
They do not deserve to have human respect,
Because that their country s good they reject.
These Tories go creeping and skulking around,
Contriving to ruin both country and town;
Their equals on earth they are not to be found,
Tis hoped they will soon have a berth under ground.
For we ll work the harder and raise the more flax,
To make halters enough for to stretch all their necks;
We ll spare no pains for to get them all hanged,
For surely they are a great curse on the land.
When they are all hanged then we hope to have peace,
And in a short time that these wars they may cease,
For we see that the force of Great Britain s not much,
For this they have proved by hiring the Dutch.
Now to our brave heroes that have the command,
Hold out with good courage your foes to withstand!
We hope in a short time you will conquer them all,
For the pride of Great Britain must soon have a fall.
THOMAS HERTTELL S ACCOUNT
For the Sun.
NEW YORK, , 1832.
Colonel John Fellows:
SIR In answer to your inquiries in regard to the conduct of the British
troops which stormed Fort Griswold, at Groton in Connecticut, during the Revo
lutionary War, it may be proper to premise, that being at New London at the
time of its capture and conflagration by the British forces under the command
of that infamous traitor, General Benedict Arnold, on the 6th of September,
1781, I was an eye witness of the attack on Fort Griswold, on the east side of
New London harbour. Though a minute detail of all the interesting occurrences
connected with that affair may not be necessary to the object of your inquiry,
I deem it proper to embrace the present occasion to note, among others, some
matters which I have not seen recorded in any history of the war of the Revo
58 NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC.
That portion of Arnold s forces which invested Fort Griswold was variously
stated at a thousand to fifteen hundred men; (the British said eight hundred,)
and were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Eyre. Their incursion, early in
the morning, was so sudden and unexpected that only 178 militia (officers in
cluded) were enabled to reach the fort, before it became necessary to close the
gates. The enemy divided into two columns, made the attack simultaneously on
the east and west sides of the fort. That on the east was led on by Lieutenant
Colonel Eyre, who fell on the first assault. That on the west was commanded
by Major Montgomery, who was killed near the close of the action. Three
times did the British columns advance in close order, with trailed arms, and on
a run at full speed, with their officers in their rear to oblige them to keep their
position, and to goad them on; and three times did they quail before a little
band of brave, but disciplined republican soldiers, who caused "death and de
struction" in "a lead and iron tempest," exultingly to revel in blood and carnage,
through their frittered and flying ranks. Here the conflict seemed to be drawing
to a close. The fort ceased firing, and nothing was seen of the enemy but a few
officers riding to and fro, endeavoring to rally the scattered fragments of their
broken columns. The men, dismayed and disheartened, had taken shelter,
some behind rocks some in holes some behind hillocks, and others lay flat,
under cover of the undulations of the ground ; and none appeared standing within
sight and reach from the fort. They had ceased firing, except as if in despair
and despite, a single musket was occasionally discharged from the lurking place
of a skulking fugitive. A random shot from one of those accidentally cut the
halyards of the flagstaff, and the colors were consequently, by a brisk southwest
wind, blown outside of the fort. This unfortunate occurrence scarcely gave
plausibility to the falsehood immediately proclaimed by the British officers, "that
the fort had struck;" or in their polished and more common phrase, "the damn d
Yankees had struck their colors." Thus deceived, and drawn from their hiding
places, a fourth attack ensued, and though more irregular, protracted and bloody
than either of the preceding, was finally successful. But a dear bought victory
it was ! The loss of the British was more than double the whole number of
Americans who were in the fort ! !
Considering the great disparity of the conflicting forces; a few undisci
plined citizens and farmers, many of whom had never before been in battle, or
had never seen a gun fired in anger ; engaged with more than four times their
own number, of veteran, regular, disciplined troops ; a more obstinate, determined,
resolute and gallant defence perhaps never before occurred in any nation; a
more protracted, hard fought and bloody battle probably was not fought during
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN RATHBUN, ETC. 59
our revolutionary struggle; and certainly none which reflected more honor on
American bravery, or more dishonor on British troops.
On entering the works the officer, on whom had devolved the command of
the remnant of the British forces, demanded, "Who commands this fort?" The
gallant Colonel Ledyard, advancing, answered, "Sir, I had the honor once, but
now you have!" and presented the hilt of his sword to the victor; who demanded,
"Do you know the rules of war?" "Certainly," said Colonel Ledyard. "Then,"
replied the savage victor, "you Rebel, prepare for death;" and immediately, with
Colonel Ledyard s own sword ran him through the body ! ! A general massacre
by the British then ensued, after which seventy or more of the dead and badly
wounded of the Americans were collected and laid side by side on their backs,
and deliberately and brutally bayoneted again !
One young man, a nephew of Colonel Ledyard, was discovered secreted in
the gun-room, covered with wounds; but who saved his life by bribery! Only
one man (John Clark, of New London) was killed before the enemy had entered
the fort; when the British had lost nearly half of their troops. And only one
man of the Americans (and he by stratagem) escaped without a wound. To
complete the work of cruelty and death, the remaining wounded Americans, some
of whom might have survived, were thrown into waggons and precipitated down
the hill on the summit of which the fort is situated, towards the river. Some
were instantly killed, others were badly injured, and but few, if any, survived
this act of wanton brutality; and certainly no individual American who de
fended the fort and escaped death, was indebted for his life to the magnanimity
or humanity of British officers or men. In concurrence with the general and
deep indignation excited by the above mentioned cruelties of the enemy, General
Washington gave orders to General Wayne to retaliate on the British garrison at
Stony Point; disobedience of which order was overlooked and excused on ac
count of its humanity. 1
I could add many other interesting details of occurrences which took place
on the memorable occasion above noted, and which would honorably contrast the
bravery and humanity of American citizen soldiers with the savage brutality of
the mercenary myrmidons of the British king, George III. I presume, however,
the above is sufficient for the object of your inquiry.
Very respectfully, Yours,
1 An error Stony Point was captured two years before. (ED.)