William Columbus Ferril.

The Connecticut quarterly (Volume 2) online

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By the time Gen. Garth was ready to advance, the New Haven people had
massed their forces at West Bridge ; the Derby and other militia were pouring
in, and Capt. Hillhouse, with many college boys among his volunteers, was
near enough to engage the British vanguard and drive it back upon the main.
Old President Daggett was in waiting for his own little historic fray, and
Bradley's men stood in readiness to remove the planks of the bridge, after
Hillhouse's orderly retreat across it, and to cannonnade the British descent of
Milford hill so warmly as to cause their long detour, of five miles, in the burn-
ing sun, to the next ford at Westville, or Hotchkistown. The attempt of the
patriots to drag their guns across the fields, and head off the British as they
entered from the Derby road, failed for lack of time. The Americans could
only fire down upon the enemy as they mounted the steep ascent from West-
ville, and stubbornly contest every foot of ground to the entrance of the town.

While such were the deeds on the west side, no less brave ones were being
enacted on the eastern shore. A small company of East Haven men, with a
single cannon, disputed, as long as was reasonable, the approach to the shore,
at Lighthouse point, of Tryon's men, who came on in boats, each carrying in
the bow a gun. Half a mile from the shore, the line divided, making one land-
ing east of the Point and another in Morris Cove. As the eastern division
landed, a British officer fell as Lieut. Campbell had fallen on Milford hill.
The patriots retreated along the beach to join their comrades, who had made
a stand with two guns at the knoll before mentioned. These, in turn, had to
retreat when the British forces joined on the shore of the Cove, and Gen.
Tryon, taking possession of the bluff, directed the marines to protect the
march of the soldiers, while he signalled to Sir George Collier to move up the


fleet in order to silence the guns of the Fort, which were, in his own words,
causing him " some little annoyance." As soon as the British had forced their
hotly contested march to the point on the highway leading to town, where a
side road makes off to the Fort, they halted. Gen. Tryon ordered a party for-
ward to capture the field piece, which Lieut. Pierpont had been serving from
the field near the fort, and also to storm the fortifications. The fighting on the
road above was resumed, the Americans falling back to Beacon Hill, where
they hoped to make a stand, but overpowered by numbers, they had to retreat
to the Saltonstall and Branford hills. The enemy took possession of and en-
camped about Beacon Hill.

Meanwhile, the small garrison of nineteen men at the fort, augmented by
a few neighbors, diligently served their guns, under the command of Capt.
iloulthrop and Lieut. Bishop. But their scanty ammunition was soon ex-
hausted. They then spiked and dismounted their guns, and retreated along
the shore, but were- made prisoners by skirmishers before they could come up
with their own forces. Silent guns and an empty fort met the storming party,
whose occupation of the works was the signal for the men-of-war and trans-
ports to move up as quickly as possible, because the tide was falling. Such
determined resistance had prevented the meeting of the admiral and the two.
generals until nearly two o'clock. At that hour the ships lined the whole
length of the harbor, and the men-of-war lay on spring cables, with guns run
out, waiting the signal to shell the town. The signal was not given. Their
reception had been too hot ; the chances of foraging or of cattle raiding, the
objects of their visit, were not good ; the soldiers were plundering and were
already so drunk and unmanageable that the marines were forbidden to
land for their .share of the spoils. The Americans were increasing by hundreds,
in the outskirts of the town. The British found it impossible to hold the bridge
on the east side, and during the next morning Gen. Tryon was forced to yield
the stand on Beacon Hill to one thousand Americans under Gen. Ward. These
immediately brought field pieces and kept up a constant fire on the anchored
ships. The result was that the enemy judged best to quickly embark their
troops, and they weighed anchor that evening, after having burnt the public
stores and buildings, and seized all the artillery and ammunition they could
find. Their last act was to send back a boat to fire the barracks of the Fort
which they saw at once reoccupied. .

Immediately after the invasion, the state ordered stronger works to be
thrown up on Beacon Hill ; twelve hundred and fifty men were distributed to.
the posts between the Connecticut River and Stratford ; Branford, Guilford
and Saybrook received a special guard, and ninety-four men and officers were
ordered to the Fort. In May, 1781, Black Rock was reported as unfit to station
men in, but capable at small expense of being made defensible, and "to afford
the Necessary Means, which may also have a happy Influence to quiet the fear
of the Inhabitants." A recjuest for two brass pieces, together with horses to
draw them, to take the place of the old, heavy and unwieldly cannon was con-
curred in and ^"100 were forwarded to begin the repairs.

In 1782 the guard at the fort consisted of three officers and nineteen
privates. At the close of the war New Haven was required to keep three
cannon, mounted and under the care of the commanding officer of the Gover-
nor's Guards.



The raid for a few cattle, in 17S1, on West Haven, was the only other visit
of the enemy to the vicinity.*

From the close of the Revolution,'the old fort sank gradually into decay,
and in the early years of the century illustrated the Anti-Federal policy,
always opposed to the old adage, " In the time of peace prepare for war."

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Online LibraryWilliam Columbus FerrilThe Connecticut quarterly (Volume 2) → online text (page 30 of 46)