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Stonington Remembers Its Extraordinary Battle

In August of 1814, the tiny village of Stonington scored an unlikely military victory by repelling the might of the British Navy. This weekend, the town celebrated the bicentennial of that extraordinary battle.

Credit Harriet Jones / WNPR
The flag the people of Stonington defended in 1814 was sewn by the women of the Congregational Church, with 16 stars and 16 stripes, a design never authorized by Congress.

After being pounded with cannon fire from four fully armed warships for some three days, the defenders of Stonington, wielding just two cannons, sank one of the British ships and forced the attackers to flee. Two hundred years later, the village is still proud of its heroic feat.

A full weekend of events, including a reenactment of the battle marked this 200th anniversary. It all wrapped up with a parade through the Borough, past the landmarks that commemorate the battle including those two famous cannons. 

Senator Richard Blumenthal called it a living history lesson. "Today is a symbol of American resilience and resoluteness," he told the crowd gathered on the green. And he noted that much has changed in the intervening 200 years. "Our foe then — perhaps our greatest ally now — the British. And now I think we owe the British a round of applause for their friendship and their steadfast alliance with us."

His tribute was graciously accepted by the British naval attache to the U.S., Commodore Richard Allen, who marched in the parade alongside the commander of the New London sub base. 

Credit Harriet Jones / WNPR
106-year-old Anna Coit of North Stonington was the Grand Marshal for the Bicentennial Parade

But the day belonged to another great survivor, Anna Coit. In 1914, at the age of six, she was taken by her family to see the centennial celebrations of the battle of Stonington.

"Everybody came out, they didn’t miss anybody that day — and of course I was thrilled," Coit remembered. Now at age 106, she was back for the bicentennial, this time as Grand Marshal of the parade. "I’m surprised how much is the same, and I think it’s been very pleasant," she said.

Much was the same — but not everything. "The time before they didn’t have automobiles," said Coit, "so they came out in horses and buggies, and more horses and more horses."

Herself a writer and historian Coit provided an extraordinary living link with the past on an already historic day.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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