On September 6, 1781, British forces overtook Fort Griswold and, in an infamous move that would be recalled throughout the American Revolutionary War and long after, they killed many of the Patriots who had surrendered.
British ships had approached New London the night prior, giving Colonel William Ledyard about seven hours after the ships had been sighted to rally his men and local recruits in defense of Fort Griswold on Groton Heights. When the British landed, General Benedict Arnold took command of those on the New London side of the Thames River and dispatched Colonel Edmund Eyre to take Fort Griswold on the Groton side. While Arnold’s forces set New London ablaze, those under Colonel Eyre engaged the approximately 160 militiamen and civilians defending Fort Griswold.
Although the British suffered casualties, they overtook the fort and Colonel Ledyard commanded his men to put down their arms. He had lost 6 and 20 lay wounded. The surrender did not go well. The British ran Ledyard through with his own sword and attacked the defenders. When the melee ended, 83 Americans were dead and 36 wounded. Several of the wounded died within a few days and others were taken as prisoners.
Today, Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park commemorates this moment in Revolutionary War history with a monument and museum.