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
Website Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park
NRHP reference # 70000694
Added to NRHP October 6, 1970
Classical drawing of Fort Griswold

Fort Griswold is a former American defensive fortification in Groton, Connecticut named after Deputy Governor Matthew Griswold. The fort played a key role in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War, in correspondence with Fort Trumbull on the opposite side of the Thames River. Griswold served to defend the port of New London, a supply center for the Continental Army and friendly port for Connecticut-sanctioned privateers who attacked British ships.[1] The 17-acre site is maintained as Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.[2][3]

History[edit]

Revolutionary War

Construction of the fort was begun on 5 December 1775 in response to the outbreak of the American Revolution. It was completed in 1778 and was also called "Groton Fort".[4] It is located high on a hill with the ability to bombard ships entering the Thames River or the city of New London. About 100 feet below the main fort is a battery for additional guns which was originally built during the Revolutionary War and improved in the late 19th Century.

In September 1781, British troops under Benedict Arnold raided and burned New London in the Battle of Groton Heights. The British were well informed of the layout of the fort, and Arnold approached the harbor from such an angle that the fort's guns could not engage his fleet. His troops eventually made landfall and encountered resistance, and artillery barrages and musket fire brought somewhat heavy casualties to each side. The British eventually broke into the fort, and Colonel William Ledyard surrendered by handing his sword, hilt-first, to the commanding British officer—who took the sword and immediately thrust it through Colonel Ledyard. Arnold abandoned the fort soon after and left New London in flames.[5]

Later use

The fort was 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 three-ship squadron was blockaded by a superior British force in 1814.

In the 1840s, the fort's lower battery was rebuilt for 20 guns, initially 32-pounder and 24-pounder cannons.[6]

After the American Civil War, the lower battery of the fort was redesigned to mount 10-inch Rodman guns. It was a subpost of Fort Trumbull for most of its use by the U.S. Army, although it was never actively garrisoned after the Civil War and was under the care of an ordnance sergeant. It was in the care of Ordnance Sergeant Mark Wentworth Smith from 1863 to 1879, a Mexican-American War veteran who was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec. Sergeant Smith died in 1879 at the age of 76, the oldest active duty enlisted soldier in the history of the U.S. Army.

Fort Griswold became obsolete after the Spanish–American War when Fort H. G. Wright was established on Fishers Island as part of the Harbor Defenses of Long Island Sound.

State park

The State of Connecticut has owned and operated the site as Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park since 1953.[2] This 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 is a granite monument dedicated to the defenders who fell during the Battle of Groton Heights. It was built between 1826 and 1830 and stands 135 feet (41 m) tall with 166 steps.
  • The adjacent Monument House Museum 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 sheltered the wounded after the Battle of Groton Heights. It is a Revolutionary-period historic house museum that is open for tours on summer weekends.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Fort Griswold". Michael Meals. Retrieved October 4, 2005. 
  2. ^ a b "Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park". State Parks and Forests. Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. August 18, 2016. Retrieved September 20, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Appendix A: List of State Parks and Forests" (PDF). State Parks and Forests: Funding. Staff Findings and Recommendations. Connecticut General Assembly. January 23, 2014. p. A-1. Retrieved September 20, 2016. 
  4. ^ Roberts, Robert B. (1988). Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States. New York: Macmillan. pp. 119–120. ISBN 0-02-926880-X. 
  5. ^ Constance Luyster, Administrative Trainee, State Historical Commission (July 30, 1970). "Fort Griswold" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form. National Park Service.  and accompanying photographs
  6. ^ "History of Fort Griswold". Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park Foundation. 
  7. ^ "Avery House". Avery Memorial Association. 

External links[edit]

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