Categories: Benedict Arnold, Groton, Imagining Connecticut, New London, War and Defense
Fort Griswold and the Battle of Groton Heights 1781
East of the Thames River, on Groton Heights, Fort Griswold stands commanding the New London Harbor and the surrounding countryside. In the midst of the Revolutionary War, 1781, the fort was in good condition and the magazine was full, but trouble was not far away. On September 6 of that year, the British forces, commanded by Benedict Arnold, attacked New London and burned the city. A section of the British army was sent to Fort Griswold, where approximately 150 colonial militia and local men were under the command of Colonel William Ledyard. After some fighting, the British gained the advantage and approached the gate of the garrison. They opened it, and marched in, remaining in formation. After the British had penetrated the fort itself, Ledyard ordered his men to stop fighting to avoid further casualties. The British, however, continued to shoot at the now defenseless Americans. Seventy more men were murdered, including Ledyard, who according to legend was slain with his own sword after handing it over to a British officer. The entire battle lasted only 40 minutes. The fort was later used in defense preparations for at least four other wars, and the original garrison is now a state park.