Home to Defenders: Connecticut’s Historical Forts

It’s no secret that New England holds many places of historical significance and at least two can be found right down the road from us: Fort Trumbull and Fort Griswold.

Fort Trumbull, located in New London, CT, has been home to defenders of our nation for nearly three centuries. The first Fort Trumbull was built to protect the New London Harbor from British attack and later served as part of the country’s coastal defense system. The masonry fort (the third) that stands today was constructed between 1839 and 1852. On this site, Revolutionary War soldiers fought the British, Civil War recruits trained for battle, and Coast Guard Cadets and Merchant Mariners trained for service. Here 20th century scientists developed SONAR, the undersea war technology that made us masters of the sea.

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Fort Griswold Battlefield is the site of one of the last battles of the American Revolution fought here in Groton, CT. On September 6, 1781, a British force of 800 soldiers overwhelmed the fort and massacred 88 of the 186 Connecticut militiamen stationed here. An additional 35 defenders were wounded. The Americans were commanded by Colonel William Ledyard. The British were commanded by Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, a son of Connecticut, who had fought in the American Continental Army but defected to the British Army.

The first defensive structure constructed at this site was the river battery (row of cannons) about halfway up the slope between the Thames River and the fort. Built in 1775, they were followed later that year by the construction of this earthen walled fort at the top of the hill, 125 feet above the river. The fort was completed in September 1781 shortly before the battle. The original battery served in conjunction with the battery at Fort Trumbull on the New London side of the river to protect the port of New London from naval attack.

Down the slope from the Fort is the home of defender Ensign Ebenezer Avery. Many of the Americans were part of the local militia but had little battlefield experience. As the men raced to Fort Griswold, women and children fled town with the few valuables with they could carry. Despite their small numbers and inexperience, only 3 Americans died during the Battle of Groton Heights, while the enemy lost one-quarter of their men. As the British stormed the fort they continued their attack and refused to accept the surrender of the Americans. By the end of the massacre 123 men were killed or wounded. Fifteen families had multiple family members killed or wounded in the post-battle attack. The Avery Family suffered the most losses with 9 killed and 3 wounded, including Ensign Ebenezer Avery, a tailor who lived in this house. The survivors who could walk were taken prisoners-of-war. After the British had taken care of their dead and wounded, they transported the 35 wounded Americans to Ebenezer Avery’s house and left them there unattended. On their way to their ships the British set fire to Groton. It was dark when the women returned. Two doctors arrived to tend the wounds. Thirty-eight women were widowed, and more than 100 children were left fatherless. Twenty-one buildings were destroyed by fire, including the homes of survivors.

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The Avery House: Relocated from a few blocks north, once served as a hospital for the 35 wounded Americans after the battle on Sept. 6th, 1781.

*This location was maintained as a military site through WWII. Fort Griswold was designated as Connecticut’s 60th state park in 1953.*

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Lindsay View All →

Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!

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