For May Day weekend we decided to visit the historic water-powered Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, which is only open on Saturdays in the spring and fall. Earth’s energy has shifted again as this hemisphere begins traveling closer to the sun in the brighter half of the year. All the mill’s windows and doors were wide open so it felt pretty safe (covid-wise) to go inside and see what the process of sawing wood was like in the late 1800s.
The finely cast and machined 19th century model is about four inches wide and has an operating gate and rotating runner. ~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill website
After watching the saw operating for a minute we went outside, down some huge stone steps and into the lower level to see the turbine in action.
And then we went back upstairs to see more of the sawing.
It was quite loud and the whole building vibrated while the saw was operating.
My father, when he was still alive, had visited this place after it was restored and opened to the public in 1975. He often said he wanted to take me to see it some day. Sadly, that never happened, but he was very much on my mind as we looked around and listened to the operators tell us about its history and how it worked.
After our trip back through time we decided to take a walk around Sawmill Pond and see what visual treats the brightness of spring had to offer.
And then, for me, a new life bird! I heard it singing and looked up into the nearest tree and there it was! What a nice surprise, the last sort of thing I was expecting to find on this day. 🙂
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina: Widespread common migratory breeder mid-April to November; rare and local in winter; in areas with short grass and trees, residential neighborhoods, parks, open upland forest. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
Thank you, little chipping sparrow, for singing so sweetly that I couldn’t miss seeing you!
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
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.
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)
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
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.
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)
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.
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
So far this winter has given us only very cold days alternating with unseasonably warm days. Without a blanket of snow, everything looks barren and oddly exposed. Last January was the snowiest month ever in Connecticut history and it made for some very nice pictures! But now that we have a new camera there is no inspiration to get out there and put it to good use, but we decided to give it a try anyway.
Close to home is Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park. War is not my favorite subject, but this is the site where, on September 6, 1781, the traitor and Connecticut native Benedict Arnold led the British on a raid during the Revolutionary War. About 150 colonial militia and local men under the command of Col. William Ledyard were outnumbered. The British demanded surrender but Ledyard refused at first. There were heavy losses on both sides. The last picture tells how it ended.
The first picture was taken outside the dirt and stone wall surrounding the top of Fort Griswold. The second picture is Tim standing in a trench leading up to the top of the fort. The picture above is the entrance to a tunnel leading in to the highest part of the fort, and the picture below was taken inside the tunnel.
Through the tunnel now, in the picture below we are standing inside of the stone and dirt wall, which is taller than us, looking toward the Thames River and New London.
In the next picture we have climbed up the wall and are looking down at the Thames River and New London on the other side. British troops had set most of New London on fire, and from here the men from Groton must have seen all the fires burning and the British ships in the river…
It was a gruesome battle — aren’t they all? The British made it to the top in spite of many casualties… It’s sobering considering what happened here.
I took all these pictures with my gloves on — it was cold! — and I can’t remember which settings I was using on which shot. Clearly I am going to have to wait until spring to practice with the camera outside. Will have to see what I can learn about using it inside while I’m waiting for warmer weather!