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Archeological dig in CT may yield new information about the Battle of Ridgefield

Several hundred Connecticut militia, led by Brigadier General Benedict Arnold (above), battled the British outside of Ridgefield and the Ridgefield Historical Society received a nearly $118,000 grant to map the battle's site.
Library of Congress
Several hundred Connecticut militia, led by Brigadier General Benedict Arnold (above), battled the British outside of Ridgefield and the Ridgefield Historical Society has been awarded nearly $118,000 to map the battle's site.

The Ridgefield Historical Society received a nearly $118,000 grant to map the Battle of Ridgefield. On April 27, 1777, British troops, dispatched by commander William Howe, were leaving Danbury, where they had destroyed the military supply depot. Local militias fought with Howe’s troops, who eventually continued their march to Long Island Sound.

Word spread, and soon several hundred Connecticut militia, under the leadership of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, were waiting for the British outside of Ridgefield. The battle happened in the center of the town, and lasted two hours, according to the National Parks Service. The Connecticut force held their own, but an advance of British troops eventually overwhelmed them, and they retreated.

The grant was awarded by the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program. It will allow the Ridgefield Historical Society to conduct a second phase of archeological field tests through town. The multi-year project will map the battlefield.

The effort to map the battle was originally prompted by the discovery of bones during a house renovation. In December 2019, workers found skeletal remains under the foundation of an 18th century house in Ridgefield. According to the Ridgefield Press, Dr. Nick Bellantoni, the Emeritus State Archeologist, and his crew examined the site and determined it was a hastily dug grave during the Revolutionary War, and the bones belonged to three healthy young men, most likely soldiers. Bellantoni expects more forensic information on those remains by the end of the year.

At a press conference to announce the grant, Bellantoni said the archeology project is uncovering a lot more than “musketballs and other artifacts.”

“It’s allowing us to now find out the movements of the battle, the distribution of the troops,” Bellantoni said. “It’s going to allow us to have a better understanding of what happened here.”

Bellantoni said there is still much about the Battle of Ridgefield that is unknown.

“When you look at the historical record, one of the things we found is that it's incomplete,” Bellantoni said. “It’s inconsistent. And based on who’s telling the story, it’s biased. So, archeology is going to give us a new way of looking at this.”

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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