where a battle has been fought

1.19.21 ~ Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park
Groton, Connecticut

Near the end of December we found the graves of a couple of Revolutionary War soldiers on a walk in Stoddard Hill State Park. Debbie, one of my readers, mentioned that they don’t have graves that old where she lives in Illinois. So, although I much prefer nature walks, I decided we could change things up a bit and take a history walk. Because of Debbie’s comment I have a new appreciation for the historic Battle of Groton Heights that took place right here in my town. (Link is for history buffs.)


This is the historic site where, on September 6, 1781, British Forces, commanded by the infamous Benedict Arnold, captured the Fort and massacred 88 of the 165 defenders stationed there. The Ebenezer Avery House which sheltered the wounded after the battle has been restored on the grounds. A Revolutionary War museum also depicts the era. Fort Griswold was designated as a state park in 1953.
~ Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park website

Col. Ledyard memorial

There is some doubt about the details of this story. The shirt and vest Col. Ledyard was wearing when he was killed had tears in the side, suggesting a bayonet wound is what caused his death, not his own sword in the hands of a British officer.

parade ground in the fort
dried seed pods on the wall

Critical acumen is exerted in vain to uncover the past; the past cannot be presented; we cannot know what we are not. But one veil hangs over past, present, and future, and it is the province of the historian to find out, not what was, but what is. Where a battle has been fought, you will find nothing but the bones of men and beasts; where a battle is being fought, there are hearts beating.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers)

dried seed pods on the wall
a door in the fort wall
looking down at the lower battery, seen from the new viewing platform
USCGC Eagle docked across the Thames River at Fort Trumbull in New London

The 295-foot Barque Eagle is the flagship of the U.S. Coast Guard. She serves as a training vessel for cadets at the Coast Guard Academy and candidates from the Officer Candidate School. The Eagle is the only active-duty sailing vessel in America’s military, and one of only two commissioned sailing vessels, along with the USS Constitution.
~ US Coast Guard Academy website

Tim at entrance to the tunnel through the wall of the fort
Tim at exit of the tunnel through the wall of the fort

From the tunnel we followed a trench down the hill. The trench hid the soldiers from enemy fire as they moved between the fort and the lower battery.

view from the trench
looking down the trench, it turns to the left ahead
after the turn, getting closer to the end
powder magazine, built in 1843
looking up at the fort, the trench zig zags to the right

Off to the side on the lower battery is the restored Ebenezer Avery house. It was moved to this location from a nearby street in 1971.

In the old times, women did not get their lives written, though I don’t doubt many of them were much better worth writing than the men’s.
~ Harriet Beecher Stowe
(The Pearl of Orr’s Island: A Story of the Coast of Maine)

Anna Warner Bailey

Sometimes I think that historical houses should be named after the wives and daughters who lived in them, to honor them, as they very likely spent more time working there than the men who were out and about in the world.

But on a plaque outside this house I found a picture of Anna Warner Bailey (1758-1851) and the note that she was one of the first women to tend to the wounded after the battle. When I got home I found this online: Our Petticoat Heroine by Carol Kimball

We’ll have to wait until the pandemic is over before we can tour the house. I discovered a bit of synchronicity, we happened to be visiting this place on the 170th anniversary of Anna Warner “Mother” Bailey’s death. And there is a house named for her close by, where she had lived.

entrance gate and Groton Monument, seen from lower battery

The Groton Monument was built between 1826 and 1830, and is the oldest monument of its type in the country. Built of granite quarried locally, the Monument stands 135 feet tall with 166 steps.
~ Fort Griswold Battlefield website

We will also have to wait until the pandemic is over before we can tour the monument and small museum.

When I was preparing this post I noticed I already had a category for Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park. With another nod to synchronicity, it turns out Tim & I visited the fort nine years ago, almost to the day! The trench looks a little different nine years later. We had climbed up on the fort wall, which is no longer allowed. They have installed a viewing platform on the wall sometime in the past nine years. My, how things keep changing… The views of the river and city below are amazing. My old post: Fort Griswold Battlefield

28 thoughts on “where a battle has been fought”

  1. This made an impact, Barbara – esp. the photos of Tim in the opening – just as tall as the old doorway – and a thought came to me out of the blue – take it or leave it 🙂 ” Could this Anna Warned Bayley be an earlier incarnation of Barbara I wonder”
    To walk through that trench -for some reason my mind has a lot of massacres in it, so I walked with you there
    thank you so much!
    and – did you ever seen the movie “1917”?

    1. I have not seen “1917” but will see if I can find it. We just watched a good movie “Far from Men” (“Loin des hommes”) this weekend. It has subtitles but I found it very moving. How people get swept up in wars and conflicts they want no part of — it arouses my compassion for people caught in those situations. Interesting thought about me and Anna Warned Bayley, somehow I doubt it, though. It was hard to imagine the sights and sounds of war in that trench — everything was so still that day.

  2. Thanks for the tour and the variety. Although l loved the pics of the dried seed pods, I left wondering about the amount of history that is right at our first tips – that is in our own area – that we actually miss or do not acknowledge beyond it’s presence. Nonetheless, this post is from the archives of my old blog – a touch of history of my area that is a bit unexpected for Cincinnati … and a story you may enjoy. https://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/on-the-headstones-story/ …. and without obligation to read.

    1. This pandemic and social distancing has caused us to explore our town and county like never before. It’s funny, in the past we would take our visiting guests to see the prominent local tourist attractions, like Mystic Seaport, Mystic Aquarium and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, but there was never time to explore the smaller nature and history areas. Thanks for the link — I will try to visit your old post when I finish catching up with everyone here!

        1. I’ve never visited the Coast Guard Academy even though I used to drive by it several times a week. Honestly, I didn’t even know it has a visitor center. (Now I do.) Sometimes we see the US Coast Guard Band practicing marching and playing on the front lawn. My sister teaches at Connecticut College, across the street.

  3. Interesting post, Barbara, and wonderful shots to share. When we’ve visited different historical battle grounds and forts over the years, my mind would wander, thinking about the rough and tough times people went through back then with absolutely no technology, poor weather conditions, lack of food, and the surprise enemy attacks. The stories untold. We’ve come a long way, baby. Are we better off now than back then? Sometimes I wonder…..

    1. Thank you, Donna. We certainly have come a long way, haven’t we? Our lives may be longer now, but not necessarily better. Our personalities haven’t evolved that much, at least from studying family history it seems like people have the same old conflicts, struggling over property, acceptable behavior and beliefs. Sometimes I say if it wasn’t for people suing each other and leaving detailed wills we’d know nothing about their daily lives!

  4. Thanks for sharing this. I am wondering if you can feel the war energy of a place like this, or if that’s dissipated over the years. Does it feel peaceful there, or troubled? Just wondering!

    1. Good question, Kathy, and it got me thinking. I didn’t feel any energy there, it felt barren. Except for those seed pods which I couldn’t ignore or leave out of the post, even though they were way off topic. 🙂 You made me think, I must be sensitive to tree energy because in the woods I am keenly aware of their presence all the time. There were no trees at the fort… hmmm…

  5. The Groton Monument fascinates me. You’d think there would have been ones like it here in the US before 1826. I see many old tombstones in that shape.

    I find visiting old forts to be equal part history, equal part fiction. I enjoy seeing them but you never know how accurate the stories are. Great photos, btw.

    1. You made me curious, Ally. I found a list of obelisks in Wikipedia. In this country there are two older obelisks, but they aren’t big enough to have steps inside:
      Constitution Obelisk, St. Augustine, FL – 30 feet tall, completed 1814
      Patriot’s Grave, Arlington, MA – 19 feet tall, completed 1818

      If the list is correct, our monument is is the oldest obelisk tall enough to have steps inside:
      Groton Monument, Groton, CT – 135 feet tall, 166 steps, completed 1830

      Then come:
      Bunker Hill Monument, Charlestown, MA – 221 feet tall, 294 steps, completed 1843
      Lincoln Tomb, Springfield, IL – 117 feet tall, completed 1865
      Dauphin County Veteran’s Memorial Obelisk, Harrisburg, PA – 110 feet, completed 1876

      Finally, the Washington Monument, Washington, DC (555 feet, completed 1884) is both the world’s tallest predominantly stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk.

      Now I’m even more motivated to climb those steps and look about when the pandemic is over!

      1. Great research, very interesting. Thanks for doing this. I walked up [and down] the Washington Monument when I was a young girl. It was a long, long trudge to the top as I recall. 😯

        1. You’re welcome, Ally. We almost walked up the Washington Monument with our kids once upon a time, but we lingered too long at some of the other museums on the National Mall that day… 🙁

  6. Barbara, I’m thrilled you took my suggestion to heart — what an interesting post this is! Illinois didn’t become a state until 1818, so anything from the 1700s feels like ‘history’ to me. The only battlefield I’ve visited was Vicksburg and oh, my, that was eerie. I swear, you can still hear the shouts, cries, gunfire, and such — despite moments of utter silence. This must feel similar. I’m struck by the height of that tunnel — and I have to assume it was low either because men were shorter back then or because they intended for it to be nearly hidden. On a side note, do you know if they took the Griswold family name from Christmas Vacation from this historic site??

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this post, Debbie! I imagine this Revolutionary War battlefield is very small compared to the ones from the Civil War. I’ve never been to Vicksburg but I’ve been to Gettysburg and Manassas when I was a child and sadly don’t remember enough about them. Sounds like it would be a very moving experience now that I’m older.

      The Griswolds are an old New England family, arriving in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1639, settling in Windsor, Connecticut in 1646 and spreading out all over Connecticut. The fort is named after Matthew Griswold, governor of Connecticut from 1784 to 1786. Before that he was deputy governor from 1769-1784.

      According to Wikipedia: “Griswold was a strong supporter of the colonists’ cause during the American Revolution. He served on many committees that oversaw troop movements, military appointments, provisions, and defense; he especially focused on defending American ships and the Connecticut shoreline. According to family legend, Griswold twice evaded British soldiers as they searched for him, an important target, in his own home.”

  7. This was very interesting Barbara. I can remember my parents taking me to Old Fort Henry when we still lived in Canada and I was a kid, but haven’t been to any forts around here. I like the picture of Tim at the entrance and exit of tunnel, especially the one standing in front the best. Tim has to bend a little as people were so much shorter in those days. Even the doors you notice it. It sounds like an enjoyable way to enjoy some history on the rare occasion you decided to stray from nature.

    1. Happy you found my detour into history interesting, Linda. Since I’m short, I walked through the tunnel with no problem. 🙂 I would have been right at home back in those days! Still, it’s hard to imagine life back then with all the things we take for granted. Every time we lose power I think about going through life without just about everything we use every day. I hope we humans continue developing better sources of clean energy and that life 250 years from now will be as different, in a good way, as things were 250 years ago.

      1. I did find it interesting Barbara. We have Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit, maybe ten miles from me, but it is in a state of disrepair and they have had fundraisers to repair the main buildings and barracks, but I don’t even think they allow people to tour there anymore as it’s not safe. That’s too bad. I feel the same way. We are too dependent on electricity, even internet. I finally settled in here after a long day, staying late again at work and my internet went out. Not the end of the world of course, but it’s just one more thing we rely on and “feel we can’t live without” – in my case, I don’t have a smartphone and work from home, so it becomes problematic. I loved the “Little House on the Prairie” TV series, but can’t really see myself living that way.

        1. Speaking of the internet, our governor announced that he plans to introduce legislation to make broadband internet more accessible to Connecticut residents. I like how he recognizes it an essential utility.

          “These days, access to the internet means access to healthcare services, educational opportunities, and jobs. Thousands of people in our state to do not have access to what has now become an essential utility. We must treat access to the internet similar to the way we treat access to all of our utilities because in the modern world lack of internet access means people are held back from advancing economically, and it can even put their own health at risk. Unless we address our unserved broadband challenges in our urban, suburban, and rural areas, we will not have equitable access for all and achieve the economic recovery that we need.”

          1. That is great news Barbara. They had a plan like that for some rural areas in Michigan a few years back and I’m not sure they implemented it. I only remember it because Comcast took the lead in getting it done and they are my ISP I agree with you. With more and more schools and workers using internet, fast internet now is essential. I don’t think the workplace will ever be the same as it was pre-pandemic.

          2. So true, things will never be the same and better connectivity will be a positive thing that comes out of this pandemic. I know we’ve been grateful for the telehealth appointments we’ve had with our doctors this year, being able to talk to our doctors by video call instead of risking an office visit.

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