Fort Griswold

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Fort Griswold
FortGriswold wiki.JPG
River or Lower battery.
Location Bounded by Baker Ave., Smith St., Park Ave., Monument Ave., and Thames River
Groton, Connecticut
Governing body State
NRHP Reference # 70000694
Added to NRHP October 6, 1970
Classical drawing of Fort Griswold

Fort Griswold is a former American military base in Groton, Connecticut. Named after then Deputy Governor Matthew Griswold, the fort played a key role in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War. In tandem with Fort Trumbull on the opposite side of the harbor, Griswold served to defend the port of New London, a supply center for the new Continental Army and a friendly port for Connecticut-sanctioned privateers who preyed on British ships.

History[edit]

In September 1781, British troops under Benedict Arnold raided and burned New London in the Battle of Groton Heights with the objective of ending the harassment at sea. Fort Griswold had a key strategic position above the Thames River, but the British knew the fort's inner workings thanks to the turncoat (Arnold) who gave numerous secrets of American defenses to the British forces he commanded. Arnold, knowing Griswold's layout and precise position, approached the harbor from such an angle that Griswold's gun positions could never draw an effective shot on the British fleet. Arnold's troops eventually made landfall, and the fort's garrison fought back. Artillery barrages and musket fire brought (relatively) heavy casualties to each side, the fighting continuing even past commands to stop. The British eventually captured the fort and tried to destroy it, though the plan was foiled as a patriot put out the British fire before it could reach Griswold's gunpowder stores. When the British finally made it in, Colonel William Ledyard surrendered, gave the commanding officer his sword, and was killed with his own sword. Arnold only commanded a raiding party, not a conquering force, so the fort was abandoned as Arnold left New London in flames.

Later use[edit]

The fort would be rebuilt and manned in several other conflicts, but the Battle of Groton Heights was its most prominent use. It was used during the War of 1812 by United States Navy sailors commanded by Commodore Stephen Decatur when Decatur's squadron was blockaded by a superior British force in 1814.

After the American Civil War the lower battery of the fort was redesigned to mount 10-inch Rodman cannons. It was a subpost of Fort Trumbull for most of its use as a fort by the U.S. Army. It was never actively garrisoned after the Civil War and was under the care of an ordnance sergeant.

From 1863 to 1879 Fort Griswold was in the care of Ordnance Sergeant Mark Wentworth Smith, a Mexican War veteran who was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec. Sergeant Smith was 76 years old when he died and was probably the oldest soldier on active duty at that time.

After the Spanish-American War, Fort Griswold became obsolete when Fort H.G. Wright was established on Fishers Island in Long Island Sound.

Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park[edit]

The State of Connecticut now owns and operates the site as Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park. The site includes the restored earthwork battery, cannons, and a later period shot furnace and powder magazine. The grounds include several monuments and memorials to state residents who fought in different wars:

  • The Groton Monument, a granite monument dedicated to the defenders who fell during the Battle of Groton Heights. Built between 1826 and 1830, the Monument stands 135 feet (41 m) tall with 166 steps.
  • The adjacent Monument House Museum which features exhibits about the Revolutionary War and is operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Visitors can climb the monument and visit the museum from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
  • The Ebenezer Avery House, which sheltered the wounded after the battle, is a Revolutionary-period historic house museum that is open for tours on summer weekends.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°21′19″N 72°04′55″W / 41.3553°N 72.082°W / 41.3553; -72.082